• Accokeek Foundation

Trail Treks: Birds and Blooms in Piscataway Park

The jack-in-the-pulpit, left, is just one of the spring ephemera that blooms in Piscataway Park. Right, a redbud and pawpaw tree are in bloom.

After a short winter, April has brought with it an early welcome to wild signs of spring. The once dull Pawpaw Trail is now alive with soft greens and pinks, as new growth shoots forth from the forest floor and tall trees begin to leaf out.

Spring ephemera are the first signs that warmer weather is here, although these signs do not last for long. A favorite ephemeron in Piscataway Park is the native jack-in-the-pulpit, a low-growing plant that bears green hooded flowers. Found in the leaf litter at the crest of the Pawpaw Trail, a look upwards reveals the thick pink blossoms of the redbud tree and the burgundy flowers of the pawpaw, which will in summer bear oblong edible fruit. A favorite food of squirrels and raccoons, the pawpaw played an important role in naming “Accokeek,” which is often translated to mean place of the wild fruit. Both redbud and pawpaw trees are native to North America, along with the eastern bluebirds that have taken to flitting through the Native Tree Arboretum, with their bright blue wings and ruddy red breasts.

A female eastern bluebird guards her nest. (Photo taken by member and volunteer, Bonnie Simpers.)