Coltsfoot: Took a long time to gallop on scene but very happy it’s arrived.

Sixth Y workout in 9 days; almost have the four pack done. Should enough crunches and the one true exercise from hell: a plank held for the count of 250; my arms are twinging like guitar strings at the end…..but after, ran up to the Back Mountain Trail andcoltsfoot singelwhile a bit tardy, coltsfoot is finally here, the official kickoff of the natural spring as far as I’m concerned.

What is Coltsfoot?

Coltsfoot is a low-growing perennial with fleshy, woolly leaves. A member of the Asteraceae (daisy) family, coltsfoot produces a single golden-yellow flower head that blooms in spring. As the stem dies, the hoof-shaped leaves appear. The plant is native to Europe, but also grows widely in sandy places throughout the United States and Canada. Coltsfoot is collected widely from wild plants in the Balkans, Eastern Europe (Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, the former Yugoslavia), and Italy. It also has been a part of Chinese folk medicine for centuries. Its silky seeds once were used as a stuffing for mattresses and pillows. Extracts of coltsfoot once had been used as flavorings for candies.

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What is it used for?
Traditional/Ethnobotanical uses
As part of its Latin name Tussilago implies, coltsfoot is reputed as an antitussive. The buds, flowers, and leaves of coltsfoot have been long used in traditional medicine for dry cough and throat irritation. The plant has found particular use in Chinese herbal medicine for the treatment of respiratory diseases, including cough, asthma, and acute and chronic bronchitis. It also is a component of numerous European commercial herbal preparations for the treatment of respiratory disorders. Coltsfoot preparations long have been used to soothe sore throats. The mucilage most likely is responsible for the demulcent effect of the plant. A mixture containing coltsfoot has been smoked for the management of coughs and wheezes, but the smoke is potentially irritating. The mucilage is destroyed by burning; smoking the plant or inhaling vapors of the leaves steeped in water would not be expected to provide any degree of symptomatic relief. Instead, the smoke may exacerbate existing respiratory conditions. However, one source mentions coltsfoot in the form of a medicinal cigarette to help relieve asthma. Coltsfoot, in a mixture of Chinese herbs, has been evaluated in cases of convalescent asthmatics and found useful in decreasing airway obstruction. Related conditions for which coltsfoot has been used include bronchitis, laryngitis, pertussis, influenza, and lung congestion. It is one of the most popular European remedies to treat chest ailments. All early references emphasize the usefulness of coltsfoot’s mucilage for soothing throat and mouth irritation. Research reveals little or no clinical data on the anti-inflammatory action of coltsfoot. Because of its potential toxicity, coltsfoot is subject to legal restrictions in some countries.

What is the recommended dosage?

Historical use of 4.5 to 6 g/day of crude herb has been documented.

How safe is it?
Contraindications
Because of the content of hepatotoxic (toxic to the liver) pyrrolizidine alkaloids, coltsfoot is not recommended for internal use.
Pregnancy/nursing
Documented adverse effects (hepatotoxic pyrrolizidine alkaloids, risk of fatal hepatic veno-occlusive disease, abortive effects). Avoid use.
Interactions
None well documented.
Side Effects
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Allergic reactions may occur.
Toxicities
Coltsfoot has an “undefined safety” classification by the FDA. Avoid prolonged use of the plant; it may increase blood pressure and pose a risk of carcinogenicity, hepatotoxicity, or mutagenicity.

Chokeberry: Horrible name for a terrific plant

A Facebook friend of mine recently posted a photo of a shrub he couldn’t ID. I couldn’t either, but in thinking on it, it might be the mighty chokeberry, so I dug out this photo I took of it in a swampy area in Bear Creek last year.

Unfortunately this was in a swampy area and Adam said he found hchokeberry useis on a dry uphill and the fruits on his are either way overdue from last year or way underdue for this year, but it’s still a possiblility. And a plant definitely woth knowing.

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It’s a dog’s life, thanks to our feckless legislators

By Bob Quarteroni

When you run across something like this, it makes you understand that Mark Twain’s opinion of the human race was, if anything, a little too charitable: “Can any plausible excuse be furnished for the crime of creating the human race?”

Bob Quarteroni (PennLive file)

No, I would say, and this is just one more log on the fire of that proof.

Democratic state Rep.Ryan Bizzarro is again sponsoring a bill to address problems that one would have thought would have disappeared along with the cavemen. But, in our enlightened society, apparently not.

In a memorandum accompanying his bill, Bizzarro a third-term legislator serving the Erie-based 3rd House District, explains:

“A horse was beaten to death in broad daylight and captured on video. A firecracker was forced under a turtle’s shell and lit. A dog was left to die, suffering for days or weeks from illness, injury and exposure.

“In Pennsylvania, the maximum punishment for all three is the same as a traffic ticket.

The 'Puppy Bowl' more than lived up to the hype: Bob Quarteroni

The ‘Puppy Bowl’ more than lived up to the hype: Bob Quarteroni

Long ago, preacher Henry Ward Beecher said “The dog is the god of frolic.”

“In Pennsylvania, the penalty for stealing 50 cents from someone’s car is tougher than for stabbing a dog.”

We kid you not. Stealing change out of a car is a third-degree misdemeanor and carries a jail sentence of up to a year and a $2,000 fine. Stabbing a dog is only a summary offense with a maximum penalty of a $750 fine and 90 days in jail.

Bizzarro is showing exceptional intelligence for one of our legislators (hell, room temperature intelligence for most of them would impress me) – in re-introducing the “Animal Cruelty Bill.”

Yes, oh fellow befuddled readers, the bill didn’t pass the first time around, failing to secure a final vote before the legislative session ended.

Well, in a state where it’s a crime to shoot a big game animal while it’s swimming, where it’s illegal to use dynamite to catch a fish and where it’s also illegal for a minister to perform a marriage when either the bride or groom is drunk, this kind of dynamic legislative action should come as no surprise.

All I know if someone stabbed Opie, Molly, or frequent flier Reilly, he’d have a lot more to worry about that a $750 fine, since I consider my animal friends as least as important as my human friends.

As smart as he was, George Orwell never would have seen Trump coming: Bob Quarteroni

As smart as he was, George Orwell never would have seen Trump coming: Bob Quarteroni

Sales of 1984 have skyrocketed during the last couple of weeks. George Orwell, a nation turns its lonely eyes to you

They are not clods of dirt, o pieces of offal or meat by-products that can be damaged with a shrug and a “sorry.”

So I am behind Bizzarro big time.

His bill would require that upon conviction of a misdemeanor level charge of animal cruelty, the abused animals be forfeited to an animal shelter.

t puts reasonable limitations in place for tethering a dog outside as a main means of confinement, including that they cannot be chained for longer than nine hours in a 24-hour period and cannot be tethered for longer than 30 minutes when it is under 30 or over 90 degrees.

It creates an offense of aggravated cruelty to animals which is graded as a misdemeanor of the first degree or — if it causes serious bodily injury — a felony.

Pennsylvania is virtually alone in the nation in still needing such commonsense laws.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund ranks Pennsylvania in its “bottom tier,” 44th out of 50. And Safeway, a security organization, ranks the Commonwealth even lower, 47th.

We’re 47th because Pennsylvania is one of only three states – along with Idaho and Iowa – to not provide meaningful penalties for first-time animal abusers or provide reasonable safeguards for animals.

To quote Mark Twain again, such laws are needed because the human race is not wont to do the right thing without some prodding.

“Of all the animals,”  Twain wrote in a wonderful essay entitled “The Lowest Animal,”  “Man is the only one that is cruel. He is the only one that inflicts pain for the pleasure of doing it. It is a trait that is not known to the higher animals.”

Because of that, It’s time to put teeth in the state’s animal cruelty laws.  So please contact your state representative or senator and ask him to support this bill.

Dog bless.

Bob Quarteroni, a frequent PennLive Opinion contributor, is a former columnist and editor at the Centre Daily Times. He lives in Swoyersville, Pa. Readers may email him at bobqsix@verizon.net.   

At last, possibly, maybe, could be, spring is — sort of — here at last

I’ve been desperate to find things in bloom to prove that is’ April, not February. So after the Y yesterday I crawled around — literally — on the ground at Kirby Park and found some mouse-eared chickweed and this little darling. It’s a start, even though the weather forecast for today, April 7, is 37 degrees. Yuch.little

Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 5-petals

[photo of flowers] Flowers are at the end of naked stalks that branch out at the top of the plant. Each flower is about ¼ inch across, 5 pale yellow petals and a ring of yellow stamens around a bright green bulbous center. There are 5 round green sepals between the petals that are about as long as the petals. One plant has a few to several flowers.

Leaves: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf attachment: basal Leaf type: lobed Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are both basal and alternately attached up the stem. Basal leaves are up to 2 inches long and 2½ inches wide, round to kidney shaped, have scalloped edges and stalks up to 3 inches long. Leaves attached on the lower part of the stem are often lobed in 3 or 5 parts, also with scalloped edges, and shorter stalked. Leaves at the top near the flowers are mostly long and narrow with smooth edges and stalkless or nearly so, but may be lobed. Stems are green and hairless.

Fruit: Fruit type: seed without plume

[photo of fruit] The center bulb elongates to about ¼ inch long and becomes a head of green seeds. The seeds are oval, slightly flattened, and ripen to shiny brown.

Notes:

There are several members of the buttercup family with small yellow flowers, but the leaf shape is pretty unique for each species. The wide shape variation between the basal and top leaves makes Little-leaf Buttercup pretty easy to identify. The basal leaves are the first thing to sprout in the spring and resemble those of some violets.

ATVs: Machines from hell that destroy the environment: boys with loud, bad toys

The last three places I’ve wandered — Deep Hollow, the mountain trails to the top of the valley and a trail in Bear Creek — all have fresh examples of ATV destruction, deep gouges and scars in the earth, vegetation smashed, ugly scars left in their place. At Deep Hollow they’ve gouged out deep holes on the main path that are filled with feet of water. I hate these things.

The following column from a couple of years ago was only about keeping them off State Game Lands. Though it will never happen, I’d give anything to never see another one in the woods again.

Thus ends the sermon.

By Bob Quarteroni

 

Attack? Trespass? Violate?

That’s not what ATV is supposed to stand for but, sadly, far too often that’s the legacy of all-terrain vehicles on state game lands.

It’s a shame. And it’s also illegal.

It’s clear as can be on the Department of Natural Conservation and Resources “Places to Ride” web page:

“ATVs are not permitted on State Game Lands except those used by disabled hunters.”

Which was little comfort when I stood on SGL

 

While we feel sure that the vast majority ride by the rules, a small — but extremely visible — segment of the ridership have a wanton disregard for not only the laws, but for nature and for civility.

Motorcyle operators like to point out that perhaps only one percent of those riders cause any problems.

The trouble is that that one percent is so seemingly proud of what they do that they often wear “One Percenter” logos or sport the same tattoos.

Nevertheless, motorcylcists have made a clear and strong committment to not only policing their own ranks but to show, by charity “runs,” fundraisers and other similar good works, that they are law-abiding citizens and good neighbors.

The ATV community must do the same.

As the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources says, “Every ATV and snowmobile rider must be an ambassador for the sports. Please give careful consideration to your effect on the trails, environments and others. The future of your sport depends on it.”

So here’s three simple alphabetical suggestions on how to make things better.

A: Address the problem, ATV and snowmobile operators, by letting any outlaws know that they are breaking the laws and hurting the reputation of reputable riders. Peer pressure can work wonders.

T: Teach young and upcoming riders the proper way to ride, legally and safely.

V: Value the land by sticking to legal trails and paths.

The DNCR (ww.dcnr.state.pa.us) has updated its website with new maps and photos of the 968.6 milers of open trail available for public use and the hundred of miles either under construction or proposed.

 

 

 

atv

Ricketts Glen: Where You Can Ascend bodily into heaven

waterfall

Since it is almost that time again — warm — and since Ricketts Glen State Park is truly one of PA’s most beautiful sites — I dug up an old article
on the park that I wrote for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette more than a decade ago. You can tell it’s old because there wasn’t a way to post it to FB! They have also posted an online ID guide to all the park’s plants so I’m in hog heaven!

By BOB QUARTERONI

PARK A TREAT FOR THE SENSES

To be able to ascend bodily into heaven and still be back down in time for supper isn’t just a beautiful dream: It’s a reality at Ricketts Glen State Park, arguably the crown jewel of Pennsylvania’s park system.

The park, a 13,050-acre mountain expanse in the northeastern part of the state (in Luzerne, Sullivan and Columbia counties), includes the Glens Natural Area, which has been a National Natural Landmark since 1969.
If you go…
To check out when the colors peak at Ricketts Glen State Park, visit www.fallinpa.com

and click “Fall Foliage: The Big Pennsylvania Fireworks Show.” Six camcorders around the state take live photos all fall. Then the photos will be put into a time-lapse movie, and armchair hikers can watch the fall unfold from their living rooms.

For information on Ricketts Glen State Park, call 570-477-5675 or e-mail rickettsglen@dcnr.state.pa.us.

Information is also available from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Web site at www.dcnr.state.pa.us.

To get general state park information or reserve a campsite, cabin or an organized group tenting area, call toll-free 888-727-2757.

The park truly is magic, a mountain paradise of waterfalls, old growth trees, mist-scented air and plentiful wildlife.

To reach the park, which is 30 miles north of Bloomsburg and 30 miles west of Wilkes-Barre, take Interstate 80 east to Exit 236: Lightstreet/Bloomsburg, and follow Route 487 north. A bonus is that you’ll travel over the Twin Bridges on Route 487. This covered bridge crosses Huntington Creek and was built in 1884 for $720, which might get you a toy bridge these days. You can check out Twin Bridges — and all 23 of the state’s covered bridges — on the Web at www.columbiapa.org/coveredbridges.

Stay on 487 north until you come to the intersection with Route 118. (It is 233 miles from Pittsburgh to the intersection of Routes 487 and 118.) Here, you have a choice: Right and the option of a relatively easy hike into heaven, or straight ahead, and a drive up a very steep hill (I had to downshift to second gear in my 2001 Nissan truck to make it) to the main park headquarters, Lake Jean and trailheads that allow you to hike down the mountain trails.

Whichever way you go, you’ll be charmed by the glens, where two branches of Kitchen Creek cut through the twin gorges of Ganoga Glen and Glen Leigh, unite at “Waters Meet” and then flow through Ricketts Glen, with its giant pines, hemlocks and oaks.

Many of the magisterial trees in the area are more than 500 years old, and ring counts on fallen trees have revealed ages as high as 900 years. Diameters of almost five feet are common, and many trees tower to more than 100 feet in height. The area is the meeting ground of the southern and northern hardwood types, creating an extensive variety of trees.

As magnificent as the trees and as abundant as the wildlife, it’s the magic and the mystery of the 22 wild, free-flowing waterfalls, each cascading down rocky mist-filled cliffs, that prove most irresistible.

Each waterfall has its own charm and story to tell. The falls range from towering Ganoga Falls, at 94 feet the highest in the park, down to little 11-foot Cayuga Falls. Some flow quietly, and others roar. A few are aggressive. And almost all are wonderful for sitting near any day of the year, especially on those hot muggy days when the cool mist transports you elsewhere. Goose bumps in summer can be a very special form of magic.

While each fall has its own personality, there are two general types. Where the creek descends over thick sandstones, “wedding cake” falls result. These are the type that gradually descend a slope.

“Bridal-veil” falls, on the other hand, plunge straight down and generally have a recess at the base of the falls, along with a large pool, complete with native brook trout.

We’ve been sitting at the intersection of Routes 487 and 118 long enough. Let’s go right on Route 118, and in a mile or so we’ll reach the park entrance at the base of Red Rock Mountain.

This approach allows you to wander up into the heavenly falls or, if you aren’t up to that, it provides for a splendid — and very easy — mini-visit.

If you choose the latter, park at the first parking area on the south side of the road and walk a few feet to the half-mile Evergreen Trail, which offers a splendid view of 36-foot Adams Falls as it meanders through a majestic stand of hemlocks and white pine.

If Adams Falls is the most accessible falls in the park, it may also be the most beautiful. At Adams Falls, Kitchen Creek plunges over three cascades of 18, 20 and 25 feet. Between the individual falls, the stream rushes through deep, narrow gorges that are fluted with numerous potholes. Below the middle and lower falls are large pools eroded by the enduring water.

For the full falls experience, cross the road and hike upstream on the aptly named Falls Trail, which is actually a five-mile series of trails paralleling Kitchen Creek as it courses through the glen.

There are trail maps at a box as you head upstream. Make sure you get one and it will make your day far easier and you will be far more enlightened.

The trail starts off flat and easy and gradually turns hilly. It is rocky and muddy, and care needs to be taken.

As you hike, you’ll pass three gorgeous falls before arriving at “Waters Meet.” Many hikers choose to go this far and then turn around.

The adventurous who decide to proceed are now faced with a trail that forks into a Y. Left is Ganoga Glen, and right is Glen Leigh. Both will pass stunning waterfalls on their way to the top of the mountain, and the main park complex surrounding Lake Jean.

Halfway up both trails is the Highland Trail, which links the two glens.

There are 10 falls along Ganoga Glen Trail, and eight falls along Glen Leigh Trail.

It’s 1.8 miles from Route 118 to Waters Meet. Waters Meet to (dry) Lake Rose on Ganoga Glen Trail, near the trailhead, is 1.4 miles. Waters Meet to Mountain Springs Trail on Glen Leigh Trail is 1.4 miles and then it’s another quarter of a mile or so to a trailhead. Highland Trail, linking the two trails, is 1.2 miles long.

With all these options you can do the entire loop or several variations. All are spectacular, but be sure to allow plenty of time.

Another good choice, for groups that have more than one vehicle, is to leave one on top of the mountain and then hike up and drive back to the other vehicle at the base of the mountain. The other option is to go straight at the intersection of Routes 118 and 487 and drive to the main park entrance on Route 487, at the top of Red Rock Mountain and hike downhill.

Once there, on the trail from dry Lake Rose down, the first waterfall, 37-foot Mohawk, is less than a quarter of a mile from a trailhead.

Driving to the top of the mountain also means cooler and crisper air and allows you to take advantage of all the other park opportunities, including Lake Jean where you can swim, fish or boat.

Because of the perpetual mist from the falls and the muddy and rocky nature of the trail, this can be a hard, and downright dangerous, hike. In fact, the Ricketts Glen State Park Recreational Guide lists the Falls Trail as “very difficult,” and warns that “hikers on the Falls Trail should be in good physical condition, wear sturdy boots and use caution due to slippery/wet conditions and steep trail sections.”

This is especially important when traveling in the more remote sections of the park or when hiking during bad weather or in the spring or winter, when the trail can be muddy or icy.

If all this sounds too challenging, there are nine other named trails in the park, ranging from “easy” Beach Trail at 0.8 miles to 4.6-mile Cherry Run Trail, rated “moderate” and blazed with orange triangles.

And you aren’t restricted to hiking at Ricketts Glen, which is a full-service park, with everything from 120 tent and trailer campsites, some available year-round, 10 modern rental cabins and a 150-person organized group tenting area open from April to October.

Swimming is available at Lake Jean at its 600-foot beach during the summer while the park remains active in winter with cross-country skiing opportunities, snowmobile trails, ice climbing, ice fishing and winter camping.

There’s even a nine-mile network of bridle trails that horse owners will enjoy.

Not bad for a park started by a former private!

In 1861, Robert Bruce Ricketts enlisted as a private in the U.S. Army and fought for the Army of the Potomac, famously leading Battery F during the Battle of Gettysburg. Ricketts rose rapidly through the ranks and was discharged as a colonel.

Col. Ricketts at one time owned or controlled 80,000 acres of land in the area. His heirs gradually sold their holdings to the state, and recreational facilities were first opened in 1944.

The original plan was for a national, not a state, park, and the area was approved as a national park site in the 1930s.

World War II brought an end to that plan, but not the beauty of the falls, which can be enjoyed any day of the year.

However, the falls are clearly at their most beautiful during the flaming fall foliage season, in mid-October, and this is no secret. If possible, plan your visit for a weekday, when crowds are likely to be significantly smaller.

Bob Quarteroni is a free-lance writer from Upper Montclair, N.J.

Despite the rain, fog and mud, spring beauties are only a few weeks away

spring beauty useConsidering how wet I was yesterday after the Y (well, a shower), then a uncooperative Opie, treating the rain as if it were acid pellets, then about 90 minutes lashed by rains at the Pheasant Fields I had nothing dry left so figured, screw it and went down to the River to see the progress of the spring breauties (pic from last year). About two weeks yet I’d say. though in full bloom are the homeless encanpments which I would have photo’d except all the lenses, on my face an on the camera, were fogbound. so it goes.

Spring beauties are small low-growing wildflowers that are found in a star-like cluster of five white to light pink flowers. Closer examination of the petals will reveal an array of fine pink stripes and a pleasant floral fragrance. The dark green, grass-like leaves are both narrow and linear, and are usually found in pairs. Foliage continues to grow after bloom and may eventually reach close to a foot tall before the leaves disappear in late spring as the plants go into dormancy.

One reason for why the spring beauty is so common is its ability to survive in areas that have suffered land degradation such as livestock grazing and partial tree removal. Many other native woodland wildflowers don’t fare as well under these conditions. The spring beauty however, can thrive in yards with just a few trees present and be quite prolific. When spring beauties and other wildflowers are absent from woodlands, this is a sure sign of severe degradation from plows or bulldozers in the past.

Beautiful and Tasty?

According to the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, spring beauties are not only beautiful spring ephemeral, but a tasty spud-like vegetable. The tubers, or the fleshy underground stem or root that provides nutrition to the plant, are a half inch to two inches in diameter, and are often compared to radishes or small potatoes. They taste, however, much sweeter than the average spud – more like a chestnut than potato – and are rich in nutrients including potassium, calcium and vitamins A and C.

Learn about the Children of Indiana Nature Park, and be inspired to start your own journey with nature!

Spring beauty tubers are best harvested when the flower is in full bloom. Though you may be tempted to grab a few bunches on your next hike, wildflowers should be left in the wild to be enjoyed by all. Instead plant this wonderful native and edible plant in your own backyard. As a native perennial, spring beauties are quite easy to grow and maintain. Whether baked, roasted or eaten raw, spring beauties are a yummy and unique snack that looks just as good in your garden as they do on your plate.