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Walks on Weston Conservation Land
Walk 15: FISKE TOWN FOREST
The Fiske Town Forest lies in the southeastern corner of the Jericho Town Forest. It was obtained from the heirs of Gertrude H. Fiske in 1962. It protects a portion of the recharge area of the Cambridge Stony Brook Reservoir.
PARKING: One may start this walk from either Concord Road or from Jericho Village. To park:
1) Off Concord Road. Drive down the Dead End at the north end of the bridge over the abandoned railroad and park. Follow the sidewalk to 25 feet north of the Laxfield Road entrance and cross Concord Road to utility pole # 24. Pass around an iron gate and enter a fire road. This fire road goes to the west through a pine plantation.
2) In Jericho Village. Drive west on Jericho Road parking just beyond the garage numbered 40. There is a path by the large oak situated between the two garages. This path leads to a path under the Boston Edison High Tension Line. Turn to your right (east) on a trail that passes a high tension tower and continue east. Just before the next high tension tower, there is a path on the left which leads north into the woods. Almost immediately, you come to a junction. Bear left. Soon, the path passes through a stone wall and joins the fire road which originates on Concord Road. Go left. Directions for this walk continue in the fourth paragraph below.
The time of this walk is about an hour and a quarter.
From the west side of Concord Road, enter a fire road by utility pole # 24 passing around an iron gate. This fire road starts on private land; however, residents have a right to enter the Fiske Town Forest along this route.
Follow the fire road as it descends into an area of alternating dry area and wetlands. Two foot paths join the road from the south (left). These paths come from Jericho Village.
In the region of the foot paths, red maple and red oaks become more common. The forest floor is covered by low blueberry and many wildflowers. In Spring, there are Canada mayflower or wild lily-of-the-valley (Maianthemum canadense) and starflower (Trientalis borealis). In early July, partridgeberry (Mitchella repens) blooms. From June through the first heavy frost, knotweeds or smartweeds (Polygonum) are in bloom; and, from mid-August to frost, sharp-leaved, mountain, or whorled Aster (Aster acuminatus) is in bloom. The most common fern in this area is evergreen, leatherleaf or marginal woodfern (Dryopteris marginalis) which remains green all year although it may burn out in the heat of summer or dry out in the cold of winter. The tall mid story shrub with black berries is a buckthorn (Rhamnus sp.).
Soon the fire road is flanked on both sides by stone walls. The road crosses Cherry Brook and enters the Fiske Town Forest. Ninety feet after crossing the brook, there is a path which we will use on our return. Continue on the fire road for 30 more feet to reach junction A. At the junction bear right and continue some 350 feet to junction B. At this second junction, take the woods path to your right leaving the fire road. The shrubs growing under the bracken are low blueberry. Few berries are found on these bushes because either insufficient light reaches the floor of the forest or they are eaten as soon as they ripen.
The path rises and passes through a stone wall. To the right, in a patch of Canada mayflower or wild lily-of-the-valley, there is also a clubmoss, running pine or Christmas green (Lycopodium complanatum). In this area, there is also a boulder covered with sphagnum moss. The sphagnum completely covers the boulder and is usually sopping wet illustrating one property of sphagnum moss; that is, it can hold eight times its volume of water even when it is above the surroundings.
Further on, the path starts to drop down a small slope. On the left-hand side of the path, there are many pipsissewa or prince's pine (Chimaphila umbellata) which is a member of the wintergreen family. It flowers at the beginning of summer and its flowers resemble umbrellas. On the right side, there is a clubmoss, tree clubmoss (Lycopodium obscurum), which resembles a six inch high, thickly branched pine tree topped by oversized erect cones.
You will reach a "Y" in the path. Bear to your right, avoiding the path going left which passes through a stone wall. Continuing along the path you soon come to junction T. Again, avoid the path to your left and go to your right passing through a stone wall. Just beyond the wall, there is an area with lots of haircap moss. The path again rises as it heads to the south and passes many clumps of haircap moss. Haircap moss is a bryophyte and is a nonvascular plant. It lacks true foliage, true roots, a highly developed internal circulation system, and a cuticle, the waxy outer layer that helps higher plants resist water loss. On the floor of this moist forest, water loss is not a problem. Look carefully at the haircap moss to see the thin capsule-bearing stalks that resemble a head covered by an old-fashioned sunbonnet. These stalks rise from a lower section that resembles a tiny juniper tree. Strange as it may seem, you are seeing two different stages of the plant living at the same time. The upper portion (the stalk and capsule) is the spore-producing generation. When the spores are released and fall upon moist ground, they give rise to the lower portion which develops gametes (sex cells) which fuse in the soil to produce a new spore-producing generation (the stalk and capsule).
In the Phylum Bryophyta (mosses and liverworts), the gamete-forming generation forms the plant which attracts our notice and unless we look carefully, we readily miss the spore forming generation. However, in the flowering or vascular plants, the spore forming generation forms the eye-catching flowers that gardeners cherish; while the gamete-forming generation does its thing hidden within the pistil of the flower.
Many people see ferns all their life without realizing that these plants are only the spore-forming generation and only half of the full life cycle. The gamete-forming generation consists of a microscopic structure called the prothallus which is impossible to see amongst the leaf litter of the forest floor. (Many ferns also reproduce asexually by underground rhizomes. This route results in clones of the mother plant and avoids all that stuff about generations and sex.)
The path drops down again and passes through a stone wall. In this area, one can find the two clubmosses, running pine or Christmas green and tree clubmoss. Here, among the ferns are found cinnamon, Massachusetts, and New York fern. Cinnamon fern (Osmunda cinnamomea) is one of the most common ferns in our area found mainly in moist, shady places. It is usually three or more feet high, coarse in appearance, and growing in arching circular clusters. Marsh fern (Thelypteris palustris) is a common fern about eighteen inches in height and about six inches wide. New York Fern (Thelypteris noveboracensis) is more delicate than marsh fern and it leaves are tapered at both ends. (Remember, New Yorkers burn their candles at both ends.)
The path soon reaches the fire road. Turn to your left and head back toward Concord Road. If you are going to Concord Road, remember to bear left, avoiding the trails to the right. On the other hand, to return to Jericho Village, bear right on either of the two paths, cross the rail bed, and then turn right going to the high tension tower and the path into Jericho Village.