The Garden at 485 Elm
People growing together:
a collaborative community garden in Montpelier, Vermont

Discoveries Along the River

On a beautiful September evening, naturalist Ned Swanberg led gardeners and visitors through the diverse life along the North Branch, where the Garden at 485 Elm grows.

On his way to tonight’s walk, Ned found this poor snake dead on the road. The snake had sought warmth on the blacktop and been run over.

This small traffic victim is not the ubiquitous garter snake, but a full-grown red-bellied snake. Ned contributed photos to the database via a phone app.

Male and female sumac trees growing in front of a neighbor’s home. This staghorn sumac is of no interest to birds until they’re desperate for food in the scarcity of spring.

People hear “sumac” and think, “Uh-oh, poison sumac.” Actually, poison sumac is very unusual to find. This is staghorn sumac, and one can make it into a tasty “sumac-ade” beverage.

Life along the river where road, bridge, bank, and water meet.

A dead elm tree amid living trees just off Elm Street.

Artemesia, or wormwood, was used to make the storied drink absinthe. It’s growing along this road, along with ragweed. It grows on roadsides because it can take lots of abuse. Ragweed is what people tend to have allergic reactions to, not, as is sometimes thought, goldenrod.

Fall dandelion, a different genus from spring dandelion. Each petal is actually a whole flower.

Binoculars hack: Look at objects through the “wrong” end to see them at high resolution.

Asters in two colors. This is white flat top.

Asters in two colors. This is blue New York aster.

This is a white ash tree, which will disappear from our landscapes in the next five years as emerald ash borers spread.

These Virginia creeper vines turn red to attract birds.

Purple flowering raspberry is safe and delicious to eat. Its leaves look like maple leaves.

Two kinds of ferns. Both spread with spores.

On our discovery walk, a friendly neighbor discovers us. That seemed like a good time for a poem.

This flower is called “butter and eggs,” and it’s related to snapdragons. It wants to be pollinated only by bumblebees or other native bees

Butter and eggs. Yup, that’s its name.

Finishing our discoveries back at the garden just before dusk. Ned brought wonderful books and quoted scientists such as Robert May, who said:
“To a rough approximation, and setting aside vertebrate chauvinism, it can be said that essentially all organisms are insects.”