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Blackwater Creek SabbathAfternoonNatureNerd

Updated: May 8, 2021

We enjoyed our first Sabbath at a church in over 8 months at Lynchburg SDA Church. It was so nice to walk into God's house and see people who had survived isolation during the pandemic with their faith in tact. We were greeted warmly and a family in the church took us to Blackwater Creek Natural Area on Percival's Island. There is a well established trail there that is part pavement, part gravel, and there are intriguing side trails that lead into a small forest around the river's edge. We played on the river edge with their Labrador and just spent some peaceful time visiting and listening to the water, birds and children.

This river's edge ecosystem had many plants with which I was unfamiliar and I took lots of snapshots with my favorite plant app: PictureThis. It is a quick and easy way to find information without hauling out several field guides. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE field guides, but this app is just so handy and I haven't been able to find the right field guides since we moved.

Critter found this huge vine to swing from and all the kids took a turn. When we first moved here I was worried that the large vines were Poison Ivy, since I'm sooooo very sensitive to that plant. I learned a simple trick to tell the difference between Poison Ivy and the many safe vines here in Virginia, which really should be renamed Vineginia.

So here's what I learned about how to tell if it is Poison Ivy: very large Poison Ivy vines typically found on trees are covered in hairy roots. Easy Peasy! Don't touch that stuff!

This plant had me thinking it was Stinging Nettle. So I shot it with the app and...nope. White Snakeroot. The interesting thing I found about this plant is how toxic it is. So, if your livestock eat this plant, say your milk cow, they can pass the toxicity of the plant on to humans through the milk. This has even resulted in fatalities in humans, and symptoms of "milk sickness" include: loss of appetite, muscle tremors, and even coma.

Livestock don't tend to eat it unless they have a lack of other forage or if it is in their hay. The other bit of good news is that the livestock has to consume a lot of it, and then you also have to consume a lot of contaminated meat or milk. So, not a huge threat, but if you're raising livestock, something the you do want to eradicate.

This is not a threat to household pets, unless you've got some weird pets that eat green things.

This plant got me thinking of a spiritual lesson. There are somethings in this life that won't kill us outright, they may even fuel us for a short time, but the long term effects can poison us and those whose influence we hold. Are you allowing some low level danger to thrive in your life, thinking that you aren't being harmed, all the while not knowing that you pass along the poison to someone else? Is there a screen that you spend too much time on worthless amusement that isolates someone in your family and leaves them feeling ignored? Do have that after work drink to unwind, just to find that your words flow unchecked from your mouth and hurt someone you came home to?

The Bible tells us to "strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up." Hebrews 12:1. Notice it separates the weight from sin. It may not be an outright sin, but you still need to get it out of your life. It still weighs you down, keeps you from winning in life. Ask God today what is weighing you down and then ask His help to strip it from your life. He wants you to be free!

Amur Honeysuckle was growing alongside the trail everywhere, and it smelled beautiful. As with many beautiful and abundant plants in Virginia, this is invasive. Invasive means that it moves into a natural ecosystem and pushes out species that are native. This is disruptive to the ecosystem and some or many lifeforms within that ecosystem will suffer or disappear because of the invasive species' introduction and hostile take-over.

How invasive is it? Well, it loves Virginia. It is endangered in the Amur region of China and Russia, but here in Virginia it will form very dense thickets that crowd out native species. To control it you have to either kill it when it is young, or when it is older, cut off the trunk, drill a hole and poison it and then wrap it in a plastic bag and suffocate it. Whew!

This mystic blue flower appeared in patches along the path and it's name perfectly fits it's effect. Miami Mist is in the Phacelia group of plants in the Waterleaf family, and is commonly called Scorpionweed, because the flowerhead forms a curled tail, resembling a scorpion's tail (to someone with a rather wild imagination). This is one plant I found on our walk that is native to the East Coast of North America!!! Yay for natives! According to this flower not only attracts "long-tongued bees and butterflies", but also is a host plant for "several moth caterpillars." I couldn't find much information about this plant on the web, just some basics about how it looks and that it likes to grow in wet, damp areas.

I hope you have a great week and take the time to get out in nature and listen to what God is telling you about Himself.

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