Remembering Euell

Serviceberry

Remember Euell Gibbons? He was famous as a naturalist and connoisseur of wild foods in the 1960’s. His best known works were the book “Stalking the Wild Asparagus” and the commercial where he asked “Ever eat a pine tree? You know …some parts are edible.” Well, I made fun of him when I was little, but now I understand that Euell was right. There’s good eating out there—and plenty to munch on in Utah. A word of strong caution for beginning trailside snackers: Take along a professionally written plant guide or preferably a plan expert before chowing down.

If you’re in the mood for something with a bit of a punch, then wild onions are for you. They are found in open meadows especially moist ones. Wild onions feature multiple flowers on a single stalk which create a globe shaped inflorescence. Identification is confirmed by the pungent onion aroma. All parts of the plant are edible: flower, leaves and root.

While difficult to harvest, stinging nettle can be pretty tasty. The stinging nettle has minute hollow hairs filled with formic acid–the same toxin produced by red ants,–which causes a painful, red rash when the plant is touched. Early season nettles have a sweeter taste and the very top of the plant has the tenderest leaves. Pinch leaves firmly between fingers and thumb; this will crush the hairs and prevent any stinging. Saliva neutralizes the effects of the acid, so leaves placed carefully into the mouth won’t sting.

Watercress is sweet yet with an acidic aftertaste. It’s found in moving or still water and has white or pink flowers typical of the mustard family. The peppery leaves are wonderful –it’s great as a snack or on salads with other greens. It is important to rinse off watercress leaves well with clean water before eating to avoid ingesting microorganisms such as giardia.

In late summer and fall you’ll find a number of berries to eat. Eat the tangy purple elderberries as the red ones will make you sick if they aren’t cooked; Thimbleberries resemble raspberries but with more seeds—they taste like raspberries too. The thimbleberry bush is thorny with large five-pointed leaves. Oregon Grape is a low-lying plant recognizable by its yellow flowers and holly-shaped leaves. Its sour berries are edible either raw or cooked—but sweet tooths might want to add sugar. Don’t forget the juicy, purple serviceberry which is common in riparian habitats on moist, wooded hillsides up to alpine elevations.

These are just a few examples of the many edible possibilities out there. Remember to double check with an expert or a reliable guide before eating any plants that are new to you. From all of us at Stokes Nature Center: Bon Appétit!

Credits:

Photo: Courtesy WaterwisePlants.Utah.Gov: http://www.waterwiseplants.utah.gov/default.asp?p=PlantInfo&Plant=313

Text: Stokes Nature Center: Cassey Anderson

Sources & Additional Reading

Tilford, Gregory L. Edible and Medicinal Plants of The West. Mountain Press Publishing Company, Montana, 1997.

Moore, Michael. Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West. Museum of New Mexico Press, New Mexico, 2003.

The Basic Essentials of Edible Wild Plants and Useful Herbs Jim Meuninick. Globe Pequot Press, Connecticut, 1988.

Jack Greene – Many different educational hikes 2000-2008

Euell Gibbons advertising GrapeNuts, YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_XJMIu18I8Y (accessed July 16, 2008).

Euell Gibbons in the Handbook of Texas Online, s.v. “,” http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/GG/fgi38.html (accessed July 16, 2008).

The Occupants on Robin Street

The Occupants on Robin Street

Hi, I’m Dick Hurren from the Bridgerland Audubon society in Cache Valley.

Isn’t it interesting how shopping centers and housing developments are named after things that used to be: Fair Meadows Court, Rustic Drive, White Pines Lane, Riverwoods, Apple blossom Circle. There is one place that is named for its current occupants: Robin Street.

The American Robin is one of the most adapted birds to human development. It is also one of the most recognized. Robin redbreast is found not only by the stream, but in back yards, and city parks. We see them hopping across lawns, cocking their heads to see close up and picking out juicy worms. They also feast on cherries and other fruits. They can be seen and heard high in trees or on house peaks identifying their territory. Think about how they were in the past, pulling worms from a meadow and eating native berries. They actually have it better now.

They interact near us most often during breeding season. Robins build nests in trees or on sheltered ledges and platforms on buildings.

Both parents work to build the nest from sticks, thread, mud, and other available materials. The grass inner lining is soft against a woven-mud-covered bowl. Nest building is completed about 10 days before eggs are laid. The eggs are laid, one per day until a clutch of 3 or 4 fill the nest. The eggs define the pale blue-green color “Robin’s egg blue”.

The female sets on the eggs about two weeks until the young hatch blind and featherless. Mother and more often the father feeds the young. In another two weeks they are fully feathered and trying their wings. While the male feeds the young the female can be building another nest. Robins can produce 2 or 3 broods a year.

The robin’s size and shape is so well known that they are used as a standard to compare other birds.

But its a rough life being a robin. Only 40 percent of the nests built successfully rear a brood. Of the young hatched, 25 percent live through November. Although a robin may live up to 14 years, in any given year, only about half of the robins alive will live until the next year. Lawn chemicals and uncontrolled pets are part of the robin’s equation of life and death. The population of robins turns over on average every 6 years.

Robins roost in groups, except during the season when the females are setting on the nest. Males always roost in groups. After breeding, the nestlings and females join the male flock. Flocks of robins don’t frequent backyards as much in winter as they do in the nesting season. Some robins migrate, but some also live year-round in the same location. Robins remain in flocks until the spring nesting season when they again divide up into pairs and return to parks, back yards and Robin street.

For Wild About Utah I’m Dick Hurren.

Credits:

Photo: Courtesy of National Park Service, US Department of the Interior www.nps.gov/prsf/naturescience/american-robin.htm

Text: Bridgerland Audubon Society

For More Information:

http://www.norcrossws.org/html/robins2.htm

Complete Birds of North America, Jonathan Alderfer, ed. National Geographic, 2006

http://www.learner.org/jnorth/tm/robin/NestBox.html

http://www.wild-bird-watching.com/Robins.html

http://www.dnr.state.md.us/wildlife/warobin.asp

http://wild-birds.suite101.com/article.cfm/where_do_american_robins_nest

http://www.birds.cornell.edu/AllAboutBirds/BirdGuide/American_Robin.html

The Eyes Have It

Hi, this is Holly Strand for Stokes Nature Center located in beautiful Logan Canyon.

A few years ago, I was working for World Wildlife Fund in eastern Montana. One night, we were doing a nocturnal survey of the black footed ferret, the most endangered mammal species in North America. We were counting reintroduced ferrets by riding around in a truck with a large spotlight mounted on top. When the spotlight hit a ferret, we could see the emerald green glow of its eyes as the animal looked back at the light. We’d stop the truck, walk toward the green points, and confirm the presence of a curious ferret for our census count. If the glowing eye color was something other than green we kept on driving. It was during this nocturnal safari that I learned about animal eye-shine and how it can be used by hunters as well as naturalists in finding target species.

Eyeshine occurs when light enters the eye, passes through the rods and cones strikes a special membrane behind the retina, and is reflected back through the eye to the light source. This special mirror-like membrane, called the tapetum (ta-PEA-tum), is not present in the human eye. The light-capturing system allows light to pass through the eye twice, and it is one way a nocturnal animal increases its ability to see in dim light. It’s the tapetums cause the eerie glow that we see in a housecat’s eyes caught in a light or when our car headlights surprise a deer, or badger.

The color of eyeshine varies from species to species. Most owls have red eyeshine. Coyotes as well as mountain lion shine greenish-gold. Elk and deer – varies from silver white to a light silvery green or light silvery yellow. Desert cottontails’ are red. Tiny pricks of light may signify the presence of wolf spiders or moths. Even certain fish have eyeshine.

To see eyeshine in the wild, just take a walk on a relatively dark night, and hold a flashlight on top of your head so that you are looking down the beam. Direct the beam at bushes or low vegetation. Chances are, you’ll see the pink-tinted eyeshine of spiders. Near water, look for the greenish glow of frogs’ eyes. Keep the beam directed at the eyeshine and move closer until you can spot its owner. Bigger animals like deer or raccoons will be farther away so you may want to use binoculars in combination with a light, lining up the field of view with the light beam, and then moving the two in unison. Searching for eyeshine is the perfect summer night activity, so grab your flashlight and go out and experience some real Utah night life.

This is Holly Strand for Wild About Utah.

Credits:

Photo: Courtesy of National Park Service, US Department of the Interior Wind Cave Resource Ramblings 2007 – 11

Text: Stokes Nature Center: …

Sources & Additional Reading
2001, Corben, Chris and Gary Fellers. A Technique for Detecting Eyeshine of
Amphibians and Reptiles. Herpetological Review, 32(2): 89-91.
http://www.werc.usgs.gov/pt-reyes/pdfs/spotlighting.pdf
Eyeshine. Electronic Naturalist. Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History. http://www.enaturalist.org/unit/171/qr (accessed June 2008)

Texas Parks and Wildlife. Eyeshine in Young Naturalist Series. http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/publications/nonpwdpubs/young_naturalist/animals/eyeshine/ (accessed June 2008)

Thanks to Eric Gese, USDA National Wildlife Research Center, Department of Forest, Range, and Wildlife Sciences, for his expertise.