An April Walk

With an historic mansion, formal gardens, wooded paths, hundreds of trees, and so much more, one walk is never enough at Cylburn Arboretum. There are many treasures, large and small, to behold in the 200-acre arboretum. We are looking forward to sharing some of them with you through this blog but we really hope you can come for a visit to enjoy them firsthand. Here are just a few things we found on an early April walk.

Cylburn is home to hundreds of trees, including many unique evergreens. If you walk along the path between the mansion and Baltimore City’s greenhouses, you’ll find a variety of gorgeous conifer specimens. If you’ve ever wondered how to tell some of them apart, here’s a great mnemonic device: Spruces are “sharp” with single pointy needles while firs are “flat and friendly” and won’t prick you. Pines have needles that always come in bundles (two, three, or five). Cones come in a variety of sizes and shapes too but look carefully – not everything you’ll see in the branches are cones.

DSCN0154On a recent tour, a round brown Praying Mantis egg sac nestled in the branches of a Cupressus arizonica (Blue Ice Arizona Cypress) looked almost like its cones.

Fun fact: The species of Praying Mantis most commonly seen in our area is the highly predatory Chinese Praying Mantis that can grow big enough to eat a hummingbird!

The conifer collection is fascinating, but don’t forget to look down as you walk along the path. Delicate flowers such as Hepatica and Trillium are peaking through the nourishing leaf litter. The closer you look, the more delicate beauties you’ll see! Daffodils, bluebells and hellebores were found in abundance early in the month as well but they’re fading fast in the warmer days.

Cylburn Tour April 7 BulbsNestled directly behind the mansion is the charming Shady Garden. Amble here and along the way enjoy Cercis canadensis (Eastern Redbud) and fragrant Viburnum. Note a large majestic Cryptomeria japonica (Japanese Cedar) providing ample shade. Although the ground beneath it is carpeted in leaves it has shed, it is a real soldier in winter storms, rarely, if ever, dropping branches. Blooming now in the garden is Mahonia (Oregon Grape Holly) with spiky leaves and yellow clusters of flowers. Other precious flowers such as Leucojum vernum (Summer Snowflakes) and Muscari (Grape Hyacinth) populate the path’s edge.

Cylburn Tour April 7 Magnolia Yellow ButterflyBeyond the mansion is a collection of Magnolia trees, beloved and best known for their gorgeous pink blossoms. The Cylburn collection includes white varieties and a yellow “Butterflies” Magnolia whose blossoms indeed look as if they’re about to take off into the air. This year, due to a “false spring” some of the trees are a bit more sparse than usual.

Did you know that it takes a tree a whole year to produce its blossoms and leaves? A false spring can cause a real energy drain on the limited stores of energy that a tree has.

Above the Magnolia be sure to look up and see a huge native Prunus serotina (Black Cherry) tree blooming in the sky. Black cherry supports 456 species of butterflies and moths. Also note the tall “Tulip Poplars” common in Maryland.

Fun fact: Although we like to call them Tulip Poplars, they’re not actually “poplars” but tulip trees that are members of the Magnolia family. If you think about the flowers they drop from the sky, it makes perfect sense!

Cylburn Tour April 7 DutchmenStroll down into the woods and you will find a plethora of tiny delights along more than three miles of paths. Be careful where you step in this virtual fairyland – you don’t want to crush the Dutchman’s Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria – pictured left), Bloodroot (Saunguinaria canadensis), Toothwort (Dentarai diphylla), or Trout Lily (Erythronium americanum) to name a few. Many of these little native beauties bloom early in spring, taking advantage of the sun before the trees leaf out. Most are ephemeral, only appearing briefly this time of year before retreating until next April.

Unfortunately, some invasive species have found a home in the woods too – you’ll note especially lesser celandine (Ficaria verna or Ranunculus ficaria).

April is also baby month at Cylburn, and all around us. In addition to plants, shrubs, and trees, the grounds and woods of Cylburn are home to abundant wildlife. We’ve recently seen a few snakes (none poisonous!) and salamanders. Don’t touch these please – they are very sensitive to our dry skin.

Here are some tips via the Department of Natural Resources for what to do if you should find a baby at Cylburn, or anywhere.

  • Baby birds will fall out of nests, hop around and whine a lot. This is normal! What’s not is a baby bird that lacks feathers and is not able to hop around. Then it is best to call a wildlife rehabilitator.
  • Contrary to popular belief, you might see fox, coyotes or raccoon mothers and babies out and about during the day – It’s not a sign of illness. It is also normal for young to be left unsupervised.
  • This is true for deer as well – Fawns can be left alone for as long as 9 hours at a time. It’s always best to leave them alone.

For more information on young wildlife, visit Maryland DNR’s website.

Come visit us for a walk, tour, or event soon! And follow this blog if you’re interested in getting an email the next time we share some news, history, or photos from Cylburn. Thank you!



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