I started the New Year with a wonderful walk in Inwood Hill Park on January 1st. I co-led the walk with David Burg. David runs Wild Metro (www.wildmetro.org), a non-profit that works to preserve and enhance natural areas around the city. We were 19 in the group, a nice mix of interests and levels of knowledge, including a few amazing birders.
Inwood is a 196 acre park located at the northern tip of Manhattan, part of the city park system. Unlike Central Park, it was not landscaped and it has a good deal more woodlands. The trails bring you to higher elevations and there are some wonderful views of the surrounding areas.
Doing a walk in the winter let's you focus on characters other than leaves and flowers. Some of our trees have very interesting and distinctive bark. Kentucky Coffeetree is one, Gymnocladus dioicus in the pea family, Fabaceae. The bark flakes the way it does on our Black cherry (Prunus serotina), but it is much lighter in color, an ash-gray.
Cherries and birches have distinctive lenticels on their trunks. Lenticels occur on the trunks of trees and act as pores, a place where gas exchange takes place between the air and the tree's internal tissues. Black birch (Betula lenta) has smooth silvery-gray bark with strong horizontal lenticels. If you scrape the twigs, you get a strong wintergreen smell. The fruit (not shown), an erect catkin, was still clinging to the tree.
Inwood has a large population of Tuliptrees (Liriodendron tulipifera). This species is one of the tallest in our area and it grows with a very straight trunk. In the photo below you can see the fruit still clinging to the tree.
As you walk along the trail, you get peeks of different views surrounding the Park.
The image below shows the Broadway Bridge, but look at the "C" on the cliff. Columbia University's rowing team can often be seen practicing in the ship canal and if I have my history correct, a former coxswain on the team got permission to paint the C on the cliff wall. I'm not sure that would be allowed these days. It would be wonderful to see it removed and be able to see the cliff-face unmarred.
The final photo I'd like to leave you with is an Eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis). Hemlock is an evergreen that is shade tolerant and it used to grow more readily in our forests. Their numbers have dwindled from forest fragmentation, of course, but also due, in large part, to the wooly adelgid (Adelges tsugae). The adelgid is a sap-sucking insect accidentally introduced from Asia. With no natural predators, the adelgid spread rapidly and devastated our stands of hemlocks. It was lovely to see this survivor.
This was towards the end of our walk when the sun was starting to set and we were enjoying the shapes of the trees in shadow. Make sure to get out there this winter and do some walks, the silhouettes of the bare trees and evergreen trees are a thing of beauty not to be missed.