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Paw paws and cardinal flowers: signs of autumn’s approach

If you know where to look and what to look for, signs of fall are starting to creep into Central Virginia. In my column in today’s Times-Dispatch, I write about two of those signs: paw paws and cardinal flowers. I blogged about paw paws a couple of days ago, and since then I’ve had a number of people ask me where to go look for them. Unlike in recent years, this year seems to be a banner one for paw paws. So, once you can identify a paw paw tree, you’re sure to find their edible fruit. In the past week, I’ve seen fruit-bearing trees on both the north and south banks of the James River as well as in Forest Hill Park.

 

Paw paws taste like a banana/mango hybrid

The fruit ripen on the vine (so to speak) and they ripen quickly. If you see a group that’s not yet ripe, make a mental note to come back later. Don’t wait more than a day, though, because squirrels or raccoons are sure to harvest them quickly if you don’t.

If you want to find cardinal flowers, a fun way to do it is by canoe/kayak. One option: Put in at Pony Pasture and paddle down to Nickel Bridge. There, hug the south bank where the James creates a number of channels and islands. You’ll find the beautiful red flowers on many of the banks.

Cardinal flower in bloom

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