Thursday, October 3, 2013

Berries in the Fall

The wildflowers are fading fast and all the critters on the mountain are getting ready for winter.  There’s plenty of food in the grasses and seeds and some of the fruits left on shrubs provide some color for the landscape. 

Rose hips on the Wild Roses (Rosa woodsii) have turned bright red and will provide a nutritious food source for the winter. They’re high in vitamin C and you can infuse them to make a tea.  With the reds and yellows in their leaves, it makes for some bright red accents in the brown mountainside!

Chokecherries (Prunus virginiana) are a big food source for birds.  These shrubs have loads of white flowers in the Spring which results in lots of dark purple berries in the late summer and fall.  They’re popular with the birds, though, and can get stripped clean early in the winter.  Chokecherries have been used in jams, but they’re pretty tart.  If you try one, you’ll feel your mouth pucker up.  Native Americans combined the berries with dried buffalo meat to make pemmican, a powerbar for their time—lots of energy and easy to keep. 

The other berry you’ll see lots of this time of year is the Snowberry.  There are a couple varieties, Symphoricarpos albus  and S. occidentallis.  both small shrubs.  As the name implies these are the round white berries you’ll see on small shrubs in shady areas of the mountain.  The flowers bloom all through summer, so the berries can be found from July on.  They aren’t so edible, however, being described as “mildly toxic”.  Although deer browse on the shrubs, I won’t be making any berry pies from them, so enjoy them for their looks!
This is a good time of year for the animals on the mountain—time to stock up.  When heavy snows come it becomes difficult to browse and find food, so now’s the time to fatten up!

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