Northland Nature: Berries bountiful in AugustAs I wander through this magnificent month of August, I continue to find more natural phenomena. There’s a new story out here every day.
As I wander through this magnificent month of August, I continue to find more natural phenomena.
There’s a new story out here every day. Whether it is bird migration at the lake or in the woods, insect and spider diversity in a patch of milkweed or goldenrods, the latest mushrooms in the yard or new roadside wildflowers, the late summer continues to unfold in its intensity.
We not only see the happenings at this time, but also the results of earlier times. Walking in the yard and garden each day, I note the tiny frogs and toads, the product of a wet spring.
And every day, I locate many kinds of berries.
The spring was late and even though that vernal season now seems long ago, we are still seeing its effects. Berries are in great abundance right now. Some which are normally in July are still ripe and may be near those expected in August.
During many of my recent wanderings, usually walking or biking,
I have gotten into close contact with these delights of the season.
Each day I find, and often devour, the likes of red raspberries and blueberries.
These discoveries started in July, but continue into this month.
After a close look and taste of these juicy morsels, I noticed others. During recent outings, I’ve located well over a dozen kinds now ripe. Nearly all are red, blue or purple when mature.
When it comes to the formation of berries, the plants are trying to disperse their seeds. They use animals to do this job. Animals, it seems, are always in search of food.
In order to get their berries and seeds spread by the animals, they first need to be noticed. This is accomplished mostly by being bright colors and frequently with a pleasant odor. I would have walked right by the raspberries if they were green instead of red.
Next, the berries need to taste good enough so that the animals, usually mammals or birds, will eat them. Seeds inside the berries are tough enough so that they can withstand the animals’ digestive systems and emerge in the droppings still able to grow.
All these criteria appear to be met: berries are thriving and diverse in the August scene.
Raspberries are one of many reds, as are their cousins, the ground-clinging dewberries and the bushes of thimble-berries.
Thimbleberries are scattered through the region. I usually find them at the woods and trails edges. Among the large maple-like leaves are the soft berries, looking like large raspberries. I also find pin cherries, a small tree, and honeysuckles along the path.
Spring wildflowers return with red berries of rose twisted-stalk, bunchberries and bane-berry. (Strawberries may still linger here too, but not many.)
Blue and purple berries are represented by blueberries and a couple more products of spring wildflowers, blue-bead lily and sarsaparilla. Other bushes and shrubs have berries of this color too and I was able to locate ripe gooseberries with their many spines.
Some small trees are laden with berries of their own and as I biked a trail a few days ago, I noted that the chokecherries were getting ripe too. This happened to be near a few pin cherries also with mature berries. This is not usually seen since pin cherries are often a product of July.
Here too, I located juneberry. The plump purple berries were plentiful. The news of this plant being edible has not traveled fast and I find most people do not collect and eat them. Wildlife do devour them and I’ve seen juneberry trees knocked down and stripped by bears.
The most unique color seen along this trail is the white clusters of red-osier dogwoods, one of several species of dogwoods in the region.
Of this diverse group of berries that I have been finding in these August days, only a few are what we humans consider worth picking and eating, but whether we dine on them or not, they do get the attention of others and the berries get dispersed from the mother plant as planned.
By the time the chilly weather sets in, it is hard to find any of these berries. Many of the berries that I have been finding will soon be passing on from the scene, but as I look around, I notice that there appears to be much more to come.
Hawthorns, highbush cranberries, sumacs, crab apples and even apples are all showing red as the season continues to develop.
And I keep watching the green blackberries and grapes as well.
This bountiful month of August continues to produce many more berries.
Retired teacher Larry Weber is the author of several books, including “Butterflies of the North Woods,” “Spiders of the North Woods” and “Webwood.” Contact him c/o firstname.lastname@example.org.