UCF’s Green Sanctuary and Adult RE Committees sponsored a nature hike, led by botanist and UCF member Tom Wentworth on Saturday, April 17, 2021. The hike took place on the Elliott Coues Nature Trail at Fort Macon State Park in Atlantic Beach. This is a 3-mile loop trail of moderate difficulty, wandering through the maritime shrub, maritime forest, and salt marshes on the sound side of the park; on the coastal side of the park, the trail traverses the coastal dunes, providing views of the Cape Lookout lighthouse as well as the surrounding towns.
During the walk, Tom discussed native plants found along the trail. Among these was the beautiful Cross Vine with its orange trumpet-shaped flowers, a relative of Trumpet Creeper and Catalpa. Tom pointed out the useful Yaupon shrub, a caffeine-containing holly used for millennia by native peoples and now gaining popularity again as a tea; in more potent brews, Yaupon was used long ago for ceremonial purposes and as a wartime stimulant. We saw a Hercules’-Club at mile post .25, a tree with bizarre cork-based spines on its trunk. It has mouth-numbing effects when the bark or leaves are chewed, hence its other name, Southern Toothache-Tree. Along the coastal section of the trail through the dunes, we saw the Red Bay tree, a relative of the Laurel Bay used in cooking.
For many of us this is the first time we have gotten together since the church closed due to COVID-19. As well as learning about the native plants in the area, we enjoyed the beautiful scenery, listening to the birds and catching up with each other.