There is a low water crossing that cuts across the path. This represents one of the old drainages of Lick Creek. In dry seasons, the channel is empty, but after a good rain, enough water runs through to make a decent stream. During the very wet winters of 1990-91 and 1991-1992, this stream carried tons of sand from the upper reaches of the park and dumped it here in dunes about 4 feet deep. Much of this is gone now, but the area has always been basically sandy. Growing here is Amorpha fruitcosa, Indigobush. This legume prefers damp, sandy places.
Indigobush bears tight inflorescences of small pinkish-purple flowers.
On the other side of the water crossing is a stand of Cocklebur (Xanthium strumarium). These have proven to be of great recreational value to hikers and the bane of existence to owners of long-haired dogs.
Over the years, we have seen Cocklebur plants spring up in other parts of the park. These are progeny from burs carried afield and used in bur wars or picked from clothing and dropped along the way.
Some people call these Porcupine Eggs.
The path runs along between two sandy banks. These are covered with Dewberry, Poison Ivy, and Catbriar. There is also a young Blackcherry (Prunus serotina) growing here. It has rather shiny green, toothed leaves and racemes of small, white flowers. It is not a very common plant in our area, but we have seen others in the park.
At this point, we start to see plants indicative of a riverine habitat. River Birch, Betula nigra, is only found in association with water. Birches usually have slender, graceful habits. River Birch does not have the showy white bark of the eastern Canoe Birches and Paper Birches. It does, however, have an interesting exfoliating or peeling bark. In young trees this is often an appealing salmon or rosy tan color. Older trees are more gray.
Sycamore, Platanus occidentalis, is another riverside tree that is common here. The white bark is quite conspicuous among darker vegetation.
Up close, the patterns of gray and white peeling bark are very striking.
Sycamore has palmately lobed leaves that can grow to nearly a foot across.
At the top of the bank above the creek is a patch of Coralberry or Indian Currant (Symphoricarpos orbiculatus.) This little shrub is in the Caprifoliaceae, the Honeysuckle family.
The red to purplish fruits are showy throughout the winter, making this a plant deserving of more use in the home landscape.
One can make a sharp left turn to reach the creek, or follow the grassy path to parts unknown...
Chapter 11 - Lick Creek
Lick Creek Park Field Trip Home Page