This is the story of a piece of property, in the middle of Ellicott, that was donated to the Chautauqua Watershed Conversancy. I kid you not. The Randy Allan Hendrickson Watershed Preserve is a nearly 15-acre property with swamp land and woods along a creek.
Within view of a shopping plaza on Fairmont Avenue, one of the busiest roads in the Jamestown area, I walked into the preserve. John Jablonski, executive director of the conversancy, told me to stay west of the creek, so that I didn't get lost and had easier walking. I was really tempted to cross that creek in the very beginning because it looked easier, but I did as I was told.
Initially, there were fallen trees to cross. I avoided the hawthorn and apple trees. The hawthorns have lighter-colored bark than the apples and their long thorns look nasty. After I got past that little area, though, the going got easier. Thank goodness.
Within view of a shopping plaza on Fairmount Avenue, the Randy Allen Hendrickson Watershed Preserve is a nearly 15-acre property in the middle of the town of Ellicott.
The black and red ash trees are common in swamps. Their bark is grayish, a smidgeon furrowed, and has scales that you can rub off. Look for fat twigs that aren't as shiny as those of the white ash. The bud on the end of the twig is black. The two buds surrounding the central one, unlike those of the white ash, are a little below the center bud. Ashes are the last trees to release their seeds in the autumn. If you look carefully, you can see seeds hanging in clusters. Compared to those of the white ash, these seeds are wider and have a notch at the end. Now, to make things harder, we have to figure out how the red ash is different from the black one. Think of a lamb. Leaf scars of the black ash are oval. The red ash has woolly twigs with semicircular scars when the leaves fall off. Sounds simple, doesn't it? It's not that easy when you're in nature,
Basswood is also a common tree one would see in wetlands. They often grow in clumps. The twigs zig-zag. The bud looks hump-backed. Remember ''The Hunchback of Notre Dame?'' If the squirrels haven't found them first, you might find a small nut which is the size of a pea. That has a covering which reminded Joshua Cope of a parachute. This forester wrote the original book, ''Know your Trees.'' I highly recommend that you add this to your library.
Just as identifying a tree is hard after its leaves have dropped, it is hard to identify a plant after its flower has bloomed. However, I found the plant leafs of the swamp saxifrage. They're pretty easy to identify. Just look for lance-shaped, smooth-edged leaves that are from four to eight inches long. The clincher is that form what the books call a rosette. That means that the leaves form a circle around the base of the stem. In the spring, a tall stalk with flowers appears. The colors can vary from white to green, yellow or purple. I've seen a lot of these in the conservancy's swampy properties.
Another wildflower common in wet areas is the swamp milkweed. How is this different from our familiar common milkweed? I hate to say this. I don't know. Usually, my best source for describing a flower is ''Newcomb's Wildflower Guide.'' It's no help on this species. I guess one has to see the flower in the spring to be able to compare the two. Here's the only reason I called this plant with the seed pods a swamp milkweed. I found it in a swamp. Is that scientific?
I was quite excited to see a liverwort in this preserve. It's one of the simplest plants in the botanical world and related to moss. It has been around for at least 400 million years.
That's it. Didn't I see a lot? After you get over the first few downed trees, it isn't really a hard walk. I'm going back. It's good exercise and I felt that I found a lot of neat plants considering it is winter.