DISCOVER FAUNA AND FLORA ALONG THE TRIALS
While walking the Healthy Parks, Healthy People designated trails, focus as well on the diverse flora and fauna along each path.
Beech Forest Trail was resplendent this Memorial Day weekend. It was a perfect time for Rose Ann and Patrick Stimson to drive from Barnstable to Provincetown for an early afternoon walk along Beech Forest Trail, hand in hand.
The Stimsons both work at Cape Cod Hospital in Hyannis, where they met eight years ago. She is a cardiology nurse and he works for the security department.
As they walked by a pond by the trail, a fly catcher darted across the water, periodically diving for lunch. Far higher, a hawk soared across the blue sky, hidden for moments by the wide beech leaves that give this trail its name.
At times like these, it’s hard to believe that savoring the Outer Cape’s natural fauna and bird life also translates to better health.
David Weintraub, author of Walking the Cape & Islands, offers up these insights.
ATLANTIC WHITE CEDAR SWAMP TRAIL
Look for pitch pine, white oak, black oak and black cherry trees. Shrubs favoring sandy soil include bearberry, checkerberry, bayberry, scrub oak, black huckleberry, broom crowberry and salt spray rose. From the boardwalk, look for moisture-loving plants such as high brush, blueberry, swamp azalea, sweet pepperbush and winterberry.
Black-capped chickadees, blue jays and downy woodpeckers are just a few of the forest birds you may see and hear.
BEECH FOREST TRAIL
In addition to American beech trees, the trail features pitch pine, black oak, white oak, eastern red cedar, black cherry, tupelo, sassafras and maple. A rich array of shrubs include azalea, inkberry, black huckleberry, highbush blueberry, arrowwood, beach plum and bayberry.
In addition to any of the 30 or so species of warblers, you will find black-capped chickadee, tufted titmouse, eastern kingbird and gray catbird prominent along the trail.
NAUSET MARSH TRAIL
As you walk, you will encounter pitch pine, white oak, black oak, eastern red cedar, black cherry, red maple and black locust trees, as well as shrubs including bearberry, bayberry, beach plum, arrowwood, winterberry, dwarf sumac and salt-spray rose. Beside Nauset Marsh, look for sea lavender, salt hay, spike grass and saltwater cordgrass.
Nauset Marsh is a prime feeding and resting spot for migrating shorebirds, wading birds and waterfowl. From mid July through September, the marsh may be filled with plovers, yellowlegs, dowitchers, turnstones and sandpipers.
PILGRIM SPRING AND SMALL’S SWAMP TRAILS
These short trails feature pitch pine, black cherry, scrub oak, bayberry, arrowwood, beach plum, highbush blueberry, lowbush blueberry, sail-spray rose and winterberry. You also will find bullbrier, Virginia creeper, honeysuckle and wild sarsaparilla.
Look skyward for red-winged blackbirds, blue jays and sparrows.
Of course, for all the trails, poison ivy is ubiquitous. Remember: Leaves of three, shiny and viny.
All the trails have markers identifying the flora.