Friday, October 20, 2017

Autumn comes to Conestee / Knee High Naturalists

We attended a “Knee High Naturalists” program at Lake Conestee recently. The education program for pre-school students kicked off this summer, and the 1.5 -hour program is now seasonally offered twice a month. The program is for children ages 3 to 6, and meets near the “W2” entrance off Fork Shoals Rd.

Gaillardia still blooming

Summer programs included “Amazing Amphibians,” “Incredible Insects” and “Very Hungry Caterpillar.” The fall series is half-way through, with “Forest Floor Friends” and “Incredible Raptors” already having taken place, along with “Lovely Leaves,” the one we attended. Still to come: Spectacular Spiders, Busy Beavers, and Turkey Time. The instructor mentioned that LCNP is looking to expand the program in the spring, with a second class offered in the afternoon for those unable to make the 9:30am start time.

chicken of the woods? 

Each class involves an exploratory hike along with a book reading and/or a craft. After story time we hit the trail, looping around Henderson Farm in search of colorful foliage. The sassafras and sweetgum leaves were especially vibrant, along with the poison ivy – we let that be.

Persimmon

There were plenty of other cool finds, such as a persimmon just loaded down with fruit. If you’re not familiar with the persimmon, you should try one sometime; this native fruit is high in beta carotine and minerals such as sodium, magnesium, calcium and iron, and studies have found that they also contain twice as much dietary fiber as apples, as well as phenolic compounds thought to ward off heart disease. The rich, sweet pulp is ripe when the flesh is practically bursting through the skins, and although often too squishy to bite into without making a mess, it is easy to cut them in half and slurp out the flesh, or to make jam. Be warned, unripe persimmon will make your mouth pucker!


A bit further on was a black cherry, Prunus serotina. Another native to SC, the unpalatable fruits are not as sweet as regular cherries; their tartness makes them ideal for jam, jelly, syrups and wine. 

Black cherries

And the pecans! We find it hard to pass by a pecan tree in the autumn without picking at least a handful of nuts off the ground to snack on while we walk.

Pecan

Despite the threat of rain, it was a beautiful autumn morning at Conestee: not too warm, not too cold, tons going on. Vilis found a snake shed, and the kids enjoyed tasting and smelling their way through the park: the vinegar-y odor of the honey locust pod, the fruit loop smell of the sassafras leaf… The program ended at the Shortleaf Shelter where the children made their very own trees decked out in autumn foliage, and then we said our goodbyes and slowly headed back towards our car.

  
Knee High Naturalists at Conestee Nature Park
Where: 601 Fork Shoals Rd., Greenville, SC 29607
Cost: $10/child (or buy 3 at once to get $5 off)
For more information, and to sign up, please visit the LCNP website.

Vilis and a snake skin

For more on Lake Conestee Nature Park, please see my posts Your Guide to Lake Conestee Nature Park and Conestee's Learning Loop 3 (which covers Henderson Farm). A map of Lake Conestee Nature Park click here


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