Walk on the wildflower side: DNRT springs into summer

Jun 15, 2019

Have you ever wondered what makes Dartmouth’s green spaces smell so good this time of year?

Or wondered exactly what kind of plant has been creeping into your back yard — is it poisonous or edible? Native or invasive? Prone to bugs or fungus?

Jessica Cook from Quintessential Gardens in Westport answered many of these questions on a bright Saturday morning at Destruction Brook woods.

It was the Dartmouth Natural Resources Trust’s Wildflower Walk, the last event in the land trust’s spring program, and it was packed.

More than 30 people strolled through a portion of the 280-acre property as Cook talked them through the trees, vines, brush, and flowers they came across.

“I welcome you to give me input on what you know. Because it’s a learning process,” said Cook at the start of the walk. “Generally on these walks, people have valid input or folklore or common names they can share. So I encourage you to do that.”

Cook has been leading these walks for DNRT for six or seven years.

She spoke about the invasive but beautiful rambler rose — responsible for the lovely smell — as well as native plants like tupelo, beech, and black cherry trees, jewelweed, lady slippers, lowbush blueberries, and the medicinal pipsissewa, as well as the ever-present poison ivy.

“We’re looking at all the wildflowers, whether they’re native, or introduced species, or invasive species,” Cook said.

During the walk she spoke not just about the trees and flowers but also delved into the insects and fungi that depend on them, help them, and sometimes destroy them.

“It’s nice to know that they have something like this around,” said Somerset resident Connie Brodeur. “Because I like to walk, and I like to learn things.”

“It’s terrific. She is so knowledgeable, it’s amazing,” said Dartmouth resident and DNRT member Sandy Martin, who has been coming to the DNRT walks for years. “I’m learning a lot of stuff I’ve never heard of before.”

DNRT Development and Outreach Specialist Kendra Murray noted, “We’ve really increased what we’ve done over the past couple of years.”

The land trust organization tries to run about a dozen events per season — except in the summer.

“It gets really hot, and it gets buggy,” Murray admitted. “But generally [we do] at least two a month all other seasons, even in winter.”

They’ve proven very popular.

“We’ve been selling out of all of our walks,” she said. “Something we’ve never had to do in the past is require pre-registration, because we have limited parking. And of course if we only have one walk leader, we can’t have 70 people following them.”

With a staff of only five, Murray said, DNRT won’t be adding any more events to the calendar.

“We’re still doing quite a bit,” she said. “We’re always trying different things to see what people like.”

And for those who manage to make it on the list, it’s quite an experience.

“I live in Tiverton, and we have tons of trails and land trusts,” said Cheryl Carpenter. “But we don’t have any public [walks]. Like they do maybe two times a year, but you’ve got to be part of a special group.”

“I love it,” she continued. “It’s so great to be out with nature...it just makes such a huge difference in your life.”