Into the woods

HOLLIS – Children have always known that woodlands are full of enchantment. Adults can feel some of that magic on Wednesday mornings, during one of the wildflower hikes offered seasonally by Beaver Brook Nature Center.

The nonprofit conservation and nature education center has more than 2,000 acres of woods and fields in Hollis, Brookline and Milford.

Naturalist Rivka Schwartz knows its trails well. She has been giving wildflower walks at Beaver Brook for about six years.

About 20 people took part in the two-hour walk May 16 that started in a parking lot off Route 130 with a tasting of some wild edibles, including sautéed fiddlehead ferns and a surprisingly tasty tea made from dandelions, horsetail and violets and said to be good for arthritis.

Mid-May is a perfect time for a wildflower hunt. The lusciously beautiful pink ladies slipper and the quirky jack-in-the-pulpit are blooming, or just starting to bloom. So are dogwood and rhodura and many less well known wildflowers, including Canada mayflower, bunch berry, goldthread, dwarf ginseng, false helliobore, wild oats, rhodora and numerous kinds of violets.

Several of the participants had done a walk with Schwartz before, including Kim Witkoskie, of Nashua, who

remembers seeing wood anemonoe, trailing arbutus and rattlesnake plantain (said to be a venom antidote) on her first walk.

“I love hiking Beaver Brook,” she said. “I always see wildflowers. It’s like a treasure hunt.”

Pat Rice, of Pepperell, Mass., who knows something about wild plants herself – she is retired from the Massachusetts Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program – said she went on a walk last year.

“She knows so much. She’s an amazing resource,” she said.

Many years ago, Schwartz was attending the University of Illinois at Chicago, thinking she wanted to be a history teacher, but then got a job at the Chicago Academy of Science gift shop and realized she was interested in plants.

She went on to complete wellness coaching studies at the Mayo Clinic and studied herbal medicine at the Blazing Star Herbal School in Ashefield, Mass.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or kcleveland@cabinet.com.

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