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Posts Tagged ‘apples’

autumn leaves

Autumn brings brilliant hues that brighten up the Nova Scotia landscape.  In the salt marsh, maple leaves and red apples stand in bright contrast to the evergreens and grey waters.

red apples

Bright orange rose hips replace summer’s pink blooms on the wild rose bushes. Full of vitamin C, they’ll provide a nourishing treat for birds in the cold winter months ahead. They’re often dried for use in herbal teas.

rose hips

nightshade berriesUnlike the rose hips, the elongated nightshade berries shown at left, are NOT edible. Both the fruit and leaves of this plant are extremely toxic. Consumption of fewer than five of these berries can be lethal to children. It’s best not to eat any wild berries that grow in a similar oblong (as opposed to spherical) shape.  These nightshade plants are  numerous along the edges of the salt marsh trail and can be identified by their purple flowers during the summer months.

Nightshade was used to poison the tips of arrows by early people.  It was also used to poison political rivals in Ancient Rome and employed by MacBeth to poison troops in Scotland.

This single long stemmed red rose was found wedged between two tree trunks along Rosemary’s Way, a small path that leads off to the side before the first bridge on the trail. How it arrived in this setting is a mystery.  Besides heralding the cooler days ahead, it would appear that Autumn’s colours reveal the fiery passions that still lie beneath the surface.

red rose

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porcupine in apple tree

Although there are many apple trees growing along the Salt Marsh Trail, few people would give them a second glance.  Compared to the fruit available in grocery stores, they are far from perfect.  They’re not quite ripe either, yet many have already fallen on the ground.  How did they get there?  Strong winds might have blown them off the branches, but porcupines are also known to shake them off.

porcupine backI’ve often seen porcupines sitting in apple trees, as many as three in a tree at once.  The apples rather than the  leaves, twigs and bark of the tree are consumed.  Apple seeds are not eaten due to their cyanide content.  Although porcupines prefer nuts and acorns, if these are not available, apples will constitute a large part of their diet during the late summer and autumn.

High in carbohydrates, apples help the porcupine gain the extra weight necessary to help them survive through the winter months.  Due to the higher potassium levels in apples, their consumption will prompt porcupines to seek extra sodium in their diet.  They’ll find the salt in water plants, insects, animal bones, the outer bark of trees and sometimes the soil of river banks and sand bars.

This porcupine was sitting in an apple tree close to the Salt Marsh Trail.  I don’t know how it managed to balance its large bulky form on such a narrow branch.  As you can see, its backside holds a formidable array of quills.  An adult porcupine can have up to 3o,000 of them.  If the branch broke and it fell to the ground, this rodent would be well equipped to defend itself against predators.

porcupine front

Porcupines are more concerned with the pH of an apple’s contents rather than its looks.  They tend to choose ones that are less acidic.  Given the choice of a store-bought apple and a wild one, I wonder which the porcupine would prefer.

Almost all wild apples are handsome. They cannot be too gnarly and crabbed and rusty to look at. The gnarliest will have some redeeming traits even to the eye.

~ Henry David Thoreau

Nutritional reference:  Porcupine Nutrition Standards (pdf)

For more information on our local porcupines, see Porcupines Along Salt Marsh Trail.

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