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Gone Fishin’ and Plant Lookin’ Part II

by Mary Jasch

Mothers Day 2013

“There’s nothing better than taking a momma fishing on Mothers Day. The only thing missing is we’re not getting liqoured up,” announces Lance as we trudge down the Paulinskill Trail next to the Paulins Kill in northwestern New Jersey.

I spy wild flowers on this half-mile walk on this defunct rail, now trail, to a favorite trout fishing spot on the banks of the river: patches of geranium, wild strawberries which immediately bring yummy memories, the beautiful but badly mannered hesperis plus common fleabane, yellow hawkweed, pink Tartarian bush honeysuckle and the exquisitely fragrant and nutrient-laden autumn olive.

Down the eroded embankment onto the floodplain, skunk cabbage - Nature’s “hosta” - and impatiens, viburnum and Virginia creeper against soft hemlock begin to soothe the spirit. In Nature, everything seems beautiful.

We stash our gear and I realize I’ve forgotten everything about fishing, so Lance puts a hook on the line, then a worm. Now I figure out how to cast. After several tosses, I remember it’s all wrist action. But I notice the plants such as sagittaria digging its roots into the river with pointed arrow-shaped leaves (reminiscent of tropical nepthytis) striking upward. Ducks eat them and people can too.

Lance caught and threw back two sunnies but no luck with trout so on to another of our favorite spots along the Paulins Kill we go. (That’s why it’s called “fishing,” not “catching.”)

Down the embankment we scramble to where the river bends and, being a meandering stream, has washed away soil leaving great holes to hop over. The only remaining soil clings to the root structures of trees.

It’s funny how Nature is the ultimate opportunist. These root-based micro-habitats grow veritable miniature gardens. Are they real fairy gardens? Here grow dark blue violets, bright yellow buttercups, sensitive fern, Nature’s hostas and viola! Solomon seal on the thickest greenest grass that would be the envy of any homeowner – all without chemicals. Plus you can peek through the holes at the river rolling under it all.

The floodplain here where the river bends is wide. Here on more solid ground iris, Sagittaria and grasses rise, while further from the river on slightly higher ground matted multiflora rose, box elder, bush honeysuckles galore – pink, yellow/white Morrow and white amur help form a shrub layer up to where the trees grow on yet higher ground along the trail’s embankment where the New York Susquehanna & Western Railroad once steamed and whistled through.

No fish here either but plenty of plants in their habitats. We head back up the trail and catch some yellow iris along the way.

Violet Viola papilionacea
May apple Podophyllum peltatum
Yellow hawkweed Hieracium pratensis
Buttercup Ranunculus acris bn
Sensitive fern Onoclea sensibilis
Smooth Solomon’s Seal Polygonatum biflorum
Multiflora rose Rosa multiflora
Skunk cabbage Symplocarpus foetidus
Box elder Acer negundo
Tartarian honeysuckle Lonicera tatarica
Morrow’s bush honeysuckle Lonicera morrowii
Amur bush honeysuckle Lonicera maackii
Wild Geranium Geranium maculatum
Wild strawberries Fragaria virginiana
Dame’s rocket Hesperis matronalis
Common fleabane Erigeron philadelphicus
Autumn olive Elaeagnus umbellate
Wild impatiens / jewelweed Impatiens biflora
Nannyberry Viburnum lentago
Virginia creeper Parthenocissus quinquefolia
Hemlock Tsuga canadensis
Duck potato Sagittaria latifolia
Yellow iris Iris pseudacorus

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