City Creek Nature Notes – Salt Lake City

October 18, 2016

October 18th

Hidey Poison Ivy

6:45 p.m. When driving from my home towards the canyon, trees in the domesticated Avenues are now turning and when driving towards Guardhouse gate along Bonneville Drive, all of the Gambel’s oaks have turned. In the far distance on the high west slopes of canyon, groves of Gambel’s oak all look grey and possibly leafless. Towards evening a storm band held back by the heat of the day moves over the canyon and on to the Wasatch Front mountains. The wind comes and goes in pulses, and this strips more leaves off of the trees in an incremental process. As one runs up canyon, if you are lucky, one of these pulses of wind blows twenty or thirty leaves off of a tree, and you then run through a gentle falling “rain” of of leaves. After-work runners and bicyclists, who exercise with purpose and efficiency, have come and gone, and I am alone as I reach Pleasant Valley at mile 1.5. The lower half of the canyon, the part that I am in, is dark and foreboding under the front clouds, while the Black Mountain is in the light of the setting Sun. I am treated to a display of swiftly changing light and darkness as the Sun descends. The upper canyon is in mist, while a single light cloud moves at 30 or 40 miles per hour over the top of Black Mountain. While jogging out in twilight, I surprise two mule deer as they are crossing the road. It is only three days to the start of the main deer rifle hunt.

Western poison ivy along the road has all turned. Poison ivy is a chameleon plant. In the canyon, western poison ivy dominates along the stream bank above the flood line along with scouring rush horsetails (Equisetum hyemale), and now almost all the ivy has changed from its earlier bright red to bright yellow and then to a light-brown. Western poison ivy has an oval leaf that stands either singly or in groups of three on the end of a straight three or four foot tall stalk. Eastern poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) is also present in the canyon. Eastern poison ivy has the star-shaped, jagged-edge tri-leaves, and grows in creeping flats. This is the ivy that most of us associate with the words “poison ivy”. It is also present in the canyon, but more frequently in the spring. Now, in the autumn across from picnic site 6, one spread of Eastern poison ivy at the base of a Boxelder tree blazes red, and only one vine climbs up and wraps around the trunk displaying bright red leaves. At only one tree in the lower canyon, Western poison ivy has climbed up along the tree’s trunk to a height of ten or more feet, and its tri-oval leaves hang mimicking its Eastern cousin, the vine.

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