I had a day out on the land - an increasingly rare event during the work week as I become progressively more executive and therefore bound to desks and meetings. I made the time to volunteer with a bunch of high school students clearing trails and removing invasive species along our local greenway. There was ample opportunity during the course of the day to experience what is refreshing and what is exasperating about the adolescent mindset. It was a good group of kids, all told, and time well spent.
We ended up spending most of our time uprooting invasive plants. The sweet soils of Canaan's valleys are overloaded with introduced exotics. In one small trail section we confronted masses of shrubby honeysuckles - those promiscuous Asian species that hybridize with abandon and whose only serious competition comes from other invasives, among them Japanese barberry, winged euonymous, glossy buckthorn and Asiatic bittersweet. All of these plants can tolerate shaded conditions, and in tern out compete the native flora that might otherwise have flourished.
We did, however, have the treat of seeing one of our region's autumn glories. Greater fringed gentian is considered rare and endangered in a number of states throughout its historic range and has an affinity for limestone soils in meadows or wet woods. Such conditions abound in this corner of Connecticut, though the gentian that grow in the field beyond our house can be gone for years at at time before reappearing in some other part of the meadow. Berkshire poet William Cullen Bryant penned this homage to the fringed gentian, that last blue glory of the fading year, when all around is yellow and sere.
"Thou waitest late, and com'st alone
When woods are bare and birds have flown,
And frosts and shortening days portend
The aged year is near his end.
"Then doth thy sweet and quiet eye
Look through its fringes to the sky,
Blue--blue--as if that sky let fall
A flower from its cerulean wall."
There were scores of fringed gentians in the glades and seeps along the trail, as good a reminder as any of what what all this effort to knock back the weeds is all about.