At this point you must decide whether to proceed ahead on the extremely steep Ravine Trail or turn right onto the gradually sloping Shortcut Trail. As you look ahead on the Ravine Trail you see four yellow poplar trees which are easily recognizable by their stick-straight massive trunks.
The leaves are the most distinctive feature of the yellow poplar. They are large and lobed into a tulip flower shape. Looking up into the poplar crowns the leaves will probably be fluttering in even light breezes as they spin about on their long petioles. The yellow poplar is a fast growing, soft wooded tree whose branches and trunks are easily broken under the force of wind storms. Looking around this coming section of the Trail you will see a number of broken and fallen yellow poplars. A yellow poplar forest constantly re-sculpts itself as the larger, more brittle trees break and fall thus opening up the sunny gaps in the canopy required by the yellow poplar seeds for their germination and subsequent seedling growth.
Also take note of the tall tree with dark, deeply grooved bark and very high spreading crown located to the right of the trail just before the trail split. This is a black walnut tree: one of the scarcest and most commercially valuable trees in the eastern hardwood forest. The black walnut produces an edible nut that is encased in a thick green or brown husk. There may be some husks on the ground around the walnut tree but take care handling them, though, because of the black dye that is found in the husks. Many animals eat these walnuts including squirrels, turkeys, raccoons and bears.
Up ahead on the right of the Ravine Trail are two young sugar maple trees. The five-lobed, toothed leaves of the sugar maple are the very recognizable symbols found on the Canadian national flag. Sugar maples are an abundant species throughout the hardwood forests of the Nature Trail. They grow slowly but can live for several hundred years and thus will come to be a dominant component of many hardwood forest systems. Sap collected from large, mature sugar maples in the early spring is the source of natural syrups and sugars. Thirty two gallons of sap must be collected and cooked down to form a single gallon of maple syrup.
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This page was last updated on July 8, 2009