Falling in Love with Weston’s Marian Case Nature Classroom

While ostensibly helping out on the Stewardship Saturday event on Saturday (DIE KNOTWEED!) with a bunch of our hunters, I actually just took my machete and ran away. Which sounds more dangerous than it was–I was off in search of reported evil knotweed at the Marian Case Nature Classroom, a place near and dear to my heart. If you haven’t been there, now is the time, especially if you love plants and trees and bugs and kids. Not in that order. Well, maybe in that order.

While I didn’t find any knotweed, I did find lots of wonderful things –one of which is poison ivy so always be aware of that little friend. Since poison ivy is technically a native, and birds love its berries, it survives on the periphery. But forget that stuff…what is this? A HUGE stand of milkweed, nature’s present to butterflies. Why is there such a huge stand of milkweed in an open oasis of a forest? No one knows.

Once the milkweed discovery was made, it was open season for exploration of the classroom environs. It was a beautiful incredible weekend and there is no better place to explore it than our own Weston lands. If you want more insight into the general area of the Case Estates, you can read more about it in a past Owl.

In case you didn’t know, the Owl cheats on many a tree and plant identification with the app Seek. It can usually figure out what I am pointing the phone’s camera at, and then the competitive side of me likes to keep track of how many observations of plants I have. Over the 20 minutes I spent at Case, I netted another nine plants and five trees, not including the towering white pines which are just obvious, no?

Of the trees, oaks and maples are peaking through and competing with the white pines for sun. American chestnuts are trying so hard–dying back when they get to a certain size, but reaching out again. A tiny honey locust sapling, a mighty black oak is not so mighty yet, but stretching out its big oaky leaves. Farther down the path towards the Legacy Trail, I have marked and silently cheer for a tiny star magnolia sapling that refuses to be crowded out.

Of the plants and “weeds”, you can find Bird’s-foot Trefoil, goldenrod, common hemp-nettle, and the unfortunately named Devil’s Beggarticks. Really you could have chosen “devil” or “beggar” or “ticks” but did you have to saddle that little plant with three pejoratives? No. Many of you know that this area of Case Estates is filled with lady’s slippers in June– comical to some, beautiful to others.

Goldenrod

After writing this up, I am going to send this on to Susan Erickson, who is the K-5 science and history curriculum specialist, and a major fan of getting our kids outside. The tree stumps await the kids and their wonder. The piles of forgotten Land’s Sake firewood are ready for hands to knock off the top layer, and watch the tiny creepy-crawlies run for cover. There is magic in these woods, and I would believe that Marian Case herself occasionally takes a wander through her former lands.

Nature is not neat, nor is its classroom

The Marian Case Nature Classroom is located at Case Estates, the 62.5 acre parcel the town agreed to buy in 2016. The classroom area was reclaimed with the help of Weston Forest & Trail Association, many volunteers including the middle school community service club, chips donated by Weston Landscape and stumps found nearby or carried in by the WFTA trails manager.

You can find it by parking at the Community Center and walking up Legacy Trail until you will see a small green arrow pointing to the right.

On non-school-days/hours, you can also park at Woodland’s parking lot and head up the back way.

Blue dot starts route at Woodland School parking lot, green dot is starting from Legacy Trail

Get outside!

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