Pick only wild fruit - Leave the wildflowers alone!
For the last almost month, I've been spending a lot of time hiking around the Nantucket Islands Land Bank's Smooth Hummocks property between Miacomet Golf Club and the ocean during morning dog-walk/swimming sessions and then picking gallons and gallons of low bush blueberries to make summer pies, muffins and pancakes with and to freeze for offseason.
I've been able to watch the blueberries blanket the ground in thick bunches and then slowly thin out with the aid of myself, other foragers and believe it or not, flocks of hungry seagulls. I've also witnessed several of the wildflowers common on these sandplain grasslands that prefer the sandy, gravelly soils of Nantucket's south shore bloom including, several roses, dwarf dandelions, wood lilies, Toothed Whitetop asters and pearly everlasting. On Sunday evening, after picking blueberries in this area, I saw a friend leaving the parking lot just as I was getting there. As we chatted about how plentiful the blueberries still were and admired each other's haul, I noticed a passenger in her car clutching a small handful of wood lilies, but I thought nothing of it because Smooth Hummocks was covered with wood lilies this summer.
The next morning walking my dog there on the way to my swimming spot, I found a friend picking blueberries where I'm usually doing so during the late afternoon. When I told her of the woman who'd collected the wood lilies the night before, she got upset, telling me this species was protected on Nantucket and that people using conservation land on island shouldn't remove any plants or their parts from the land. I instantly felt stupid for not telling my friend the other night that her passenger shouldn't have picked the wood lilies, but the damage was done. My friend on Monday morning, whose vast knowledge of the plant world on Nantucket I greatly respect, reiterated that hikers on conservation land should look but not touch, taking only photographs and, as the Surfside Association bumper stickers say, "Leave only Footprints."
All this I knew and practice, minus the picking of blueberries, wild grapes, beach plums, rose hips, blackberries and beach peas, but I felt foolish and irresponsible for not protecting the fragile open spaces I spend so much time in and to which I try to direct people toward. Although the wood lily is not on the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act watch list, not even ranked as a species for which we should be concerned about its numbers, according to GoBotany.com, the habitat within which it grows on Smooth Hummocks is rare. There is roughly 1,900 acres of sandplain grasslands left on the planet, 620.8 acres of it on Nantucket and Tuckernuck, which limits the amount of space the wood lily can grow on this part of Nantucket. Of course, it does grow in the Middle Moors as well. GoBotany.com says, "Anthropogenic (man-made or disturbed habitats), grassland, sandplains and barrens, woodlands" is wood lily habitat.
My point is that while this species is not rare enough to warrant protection by the state, it's definitely protected by the Land Bank where it grows on their properties and by the Nantucket Conservation Foundation where it grows on theirs. What you, the reverent and respectful island explorer should take away from this post is that wildflowers growing on Nantucket such as the wood lily, pearly everlasting, New England blazing star, yarrow, various asters, bird's foot violet, various rose species and myriad other plants should be left alone to grow and spread their seeds so others can marvel at their beauty and learn about them.
As for this year's extreme abundance of blueberries, I carefully picked only the berries...lots and lots of blueberries!