Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Spicy Bush

Some kids can name every type of truck. Some kids know each and every Polly Pocket doll name.
My kids are learning their nature, which my husband says makes them look like big nerds, but I think makes them look pretty cool.
A few months ago, we were taking a walk at a local state forest preserve and met up with a friend who frequently walks there for exercise. We decided to do one loop together, and because we usually point out plants and animal signs along the way, my kids (then 3 and 5), did their normal thing.
"Hey, mom, pointy leaves equals red oak!" "Ooh, jack in the pulpit!" "Did you hear that blue jay?" And so on.
Needless to say, she was very impressed that a three-year-old knew more than she did.
But our favorite (and the most impressive plant in their eyes) is the spicebush. Found in rich, damp soils all over the eastern US, it has these spectacularly scented leaves. It's a lemony scent, and you can use the leaves, berries and twigs to make a tea. (Just make sure it's from an unsprayed spot and use lots of honey to sweeten it!)
We're not big wild tea drinkers, but every time we walk this loop each kid is allowed to grab one leaf to carry and squish up in their fingers. They sniff it every few steps until by the end of the trail it's just a green gooey pulp and their little hands smell like lemon for hours.

I always wonder if that friend is still walking that loop for exercise, and if she ever grabs a spicebush leaf when she walks by. I know we can't pass on up without getting our lemony fix.

Visit this site for more information on the spicebush:
http://www.dnr.state.oh.us/forestry/trees/spicebush/tabid/5419/Default.aspx

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