Juneberry, beach plum, chokeberry, chokecherry, blackberry, multiflora, pasture, rugosa, Dorothy Perkins: roses all.
The first days of June on Block Island are laden with any number of wild flowering plants of the rose family (rosaceae). Beach plum’s long, thick stems of small white flowers are just now pinking and scattering to the wind. Chokeberry, a tall shrub, also with small, showy white flowers peaks around June 1 and is quickly followed in June’s parade of roses by chokecherry and black cherry trees’ long racemes of small white flowers. Next will follow a dappling of the island’s landscape with arcs and sprays of white to subtly pink flowers from any number of blackberry, raspberry and dewberry species.
The fragrance of June’s roses can hardly be overlooked. The first 10 days of the month is heavily scented with Rosa rugosa-infused wafting fog, as ocean moisture tumbles over dunes covered with white, pink and magenta beach roses.
The second 10 days of June wears the delicate ambrosia of multiflora rose. A wicked invasive species; but, for one week a year, it is a beauty of white lace draped over armatures of trees and shrubs and walls with a siren’s bouquet.
June’s rosy fragrance in the last 10 days of the month is diminished and delicate. The roses of late June include pasture roses — found inland, singly and in drier areas — a rose that has the simple beauty expected of beach rose’s country cousin. Late June also features the sudden emergence of showy pink and red rambling roses. These Dorothy Perkins roses have naturalized and are stunningly beautiful, providing the perfect contrast of color and texture against the island’s stone walls and fence lines.
For all their beauty, the roses of June provide important foodstuffs for the island’s resident and visiting fauna. Block Island’s bounty of blackberries is well known, and the competition for this luscious fruit between birds and humans can be fierce. Juneberry (a.k.a. shad bush or service berry) is among the first fruit available to avian young. A favorite of catbirds, shad berries are also eaten voraciously by young robins, cardinals and pheasants. Chokeberries ripen just in time to supplant the dwindling supply of Juneberry for newly fledged birds, and soon after, chokecherries are plentiful for both bird and human consumption. Beach plums of course are a favorite of late summer jelly makers. The rosehips of beach roses are well known as a great source of vitamin C. And the hips of pasture, beach and multiflora roses are of critical importance for feeding late fall and winter species of birds.
So, whether it is the genus Amelanchier, Prunus, Rosa or Rubus, each species claims its time to revel in Block Island air, like the parade of summer friends each claiming their favorite week of sun, shade and sea. I propose adding a Block Island full moon name: Roseate moon. With just the right light and haze, June’s full moon will blush roseate in keeping with this month of roses.
The following June events and Ocean View Foundations programs are sure to provide opportunities to observe the island’s late spring and early summer parade of roses.
June 3 and 26, at 9 p.m.: Twilight Walk & Night Sky Viewing, Hodge Preserve.
June 7 and 21, at 8 a.m.: Crazy-as-a-Coot Bird Walk, call 595-7055 for location.
June 15: Full Roseate moon.
June16: Horseshoe Crab Walk, Time and place to be announced.
June 21: Summer solstice
June 26: Ocean View Foundation’s summer schedule of weekly programs will begin. (Oceanviewfoundation.org or BI Times ad for schedule details)