Poison Sumac: An Autumn Beauty to Avoid

Autumn is the season for a plethora of nature-embracing outdoor activities under canopies of kaleidoscope colored leaves and restless winds. It’s the time to hike the woodlands, explore our network of cyclist friendly trails, fish, camp, share a quiet picnic on a lakeside hilltop, and kayak our beautiful lakes in a soon to be mosquito-free environment. It’s the season when young children chase after long-leaping leopard frogs hidden in moist meadows and collect colorful leaves for their parents. Autumn accelerates our hunt for wild mushrooms, with chicken of the woods being at the top of the list, and entices foragers to gather the last of the wild blackberries. We dodge falling black walnuts and bid farewell to Ruby-throated hummingbirds, Sandhill Cranes and Ospreys in these early days of autumn. Perhaps best of all, we are at the cusp of the season to embrace pumpkin-spiced everything! Continue reading

October Gold: Adventures and Situational Awareness

A view of tall trees in fall colors from across a body of water. Deep oranges, yellows, and green reflect brilliantly on top of the water.

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

October heralds the peak beauty of autumn’s colors; that alone makes this month special. We are in the season of crisp morning air, fast-moving clouds, clear night sky and the last blooms of meadow wildflowers. It’s a month of roaming raccoons, woolly bear caterpillar, owls hooting, coyotes yipping, hyper-active squirrels scurrying, restless bucks in rut and osprey departing. October means scarlet sky sunsets, first frost and sudden outbursts of short-lived snowflakes. October is truly the golden month for those that love nature’s way, and perhaps the very best time to hike and explore the wilder side of Oakland County. Continue reading

Palate Pleasing Secrets Of Staghorn Sumac

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

It was late summer in the rolling hills of Western New York State when I came upon the sun-soaked field of staghorn sumac that accelerated my path of nature education after a near stumble. Back then I was a long-haired, bearded 20-year-old. I was happy to be the nature specialist for Camp Lakeland during my summer break from college, but I was even more excited to share “nature’s lemonade” with kids on their hikes. My hair is a lot shorter now, but my foraging enthusiasm remains. This little flashback to Camp Lakeland is necessary to set the stage for this tale from the wilder side, for in the world of nature all things are connected. Continue reading

Nature’s Almanac At The Dawn Of Autumn

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

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Forget for a moment the temperature soaring into the 80s all week; today is the first full day of autumn. Summer officially ended at the exact moment the sun crossed the “celestial equator”, and the crossing of that line in space only occurs twice a year.  The September equinox happened at 10:21 EST yesterday.  Get ready to celebrate the season of apples, pumpkins, hayrides, fall festivals and hikes under kaleidoscopes of color.  Oakland County Parks, our Huron-Clinton Metroparks, and dozens of other parks in our towns and cities are ready for outdoor autumn adventure.

Even with our unseasonable warmth, seasonal changes of autumn are easy to see, and sometimes hear, in the parklands, wildlands and trails that span the county. One of the most noticeable signs is the wide array of fantastic fall fungi that is spreading their spores to expand their kingdom. Moist woodlands are spawning the rapid growth of the stunningly beautiful Fly Agaric, better known by its scientific name Amanita muscaria, a toxic species, and The Chicken of the Woods (Laetiporus sulphureus), a delectable edible delight.

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