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Licorice Fern

Licorice Fern

The snowberries of January finally started to turn brown and shrivel in February. Marching towards the equinox, buds are swelling to release the first greens of spring. The valley forest has a magic air in March because snowberry and osoberry fringe the twiggy underbrush with a vibrant hue. The broadleaf tree canopy still has naked branches, making the underbrush foliage all the more lovely on sunny days. It’s hard not to throw off the job to walk outside when a sunny hour suddenly appears. The air is sweet and the birds are singing.

The ground layer is likewise greening up as the herbaceous perennials push up their shoots of spring. One of the most prominent in urban open areas is poison hemlock. Its foliage looks luscious, like carrots, but it is deadly. It is good reason to learn from an expert before beginning to forage for wild greens. Stick to safe ones like stinging nettle, unmistakable thanks to its stinging hairs. Harvest soon, or they will get tough and stringy. Seriously stringy: the First Peoples in the coastal zone used stinging nettle as their major source of fiber for cordage.

 

Just as the snowberry gets around to dropping seeds from branch tips in the late winter, the winter active spore plants are doing the same. Spore cases of licorice ferns on maple branches are splitting to shed spores. Moss capsules are maturing slowly from shoots of the previous season. Once spores are dispersed, by end of June, mosses go dormant.