Virginville historic farm offers tour of ‘good, bad & ugly of wetland plant life'

Photo by Hilda Hynes Left:Mark Dreibelbis 8th generation Dreibelbis and direct descendant of Jacob Dreibelbis, welcomes guests and introduces Dr. Frank Muzopappa.
Photo by Hilda Hynes The Dreibelbis Historic Farmís July 20 Wetlands Species Walk in Virginville provided an education on identifying plant species.

The Dreibelbis Historic Farm’s July 20 Wetlands Species Walk in Virginville provided an education on identifying unique plant species with emphasis on wetland indicator species and invasive species, or as Dr. Frank Muzopappa refers to them, “The good, the bad and the ugly of wetland plant life.”

Muzopappa, Professor Emeritus at Kutztown University and retired botanist, holds a Ph.D. in Microbiology and has lived next to the farm for the last forty years. Having extensive knowledge of the wetlands and plant life surrounding the farm, Muzopappa led the walk helping participants learn to better identify a variety of plant life while educating the group on the importance of wetlands.

While getting an up close look at several plant species, many folks were surprised to find just how many of the “weeds,” were edible. Although Muzopappa admits, not all edible species are appetizing. An example of the “edible but not tasty,” as Muzopappa calls them are the Indian Strawberries most Berks County residents spend most the summer trying to remove from their lawns.

Stepping in to offer some information on identifying Poison Ivy and other plants which help relieve itching was friend and visitor to the farm Jim Becker, former Ranger for the National Forrest Service. “The rule of thumb is, three leaves let it be.” Bravely, Becker plucked with bare hands, a small branch of poison to show closely, the purple coloration that gathers on the stem of poison where the three leaflets meet. Becker then broke open the stem of a Touch Me Not plant which secretes a clear fluid known for its ability to sooth itching caused by poison ivy and the Stinging Nettle

As the hour long walk made its way deeper into the wetlands, Muzopappa pointed out the plant life which is indicative of wetlands. Trees such as the Sycamore and Silver Maple, whose roots help to prevent erosion and hold back riverbanks. Along with plants such as Indian Hemp, Thistle, Golden Rod and Cattails, species which can be invasive but offer another very important aspect of wetland life, habitat. Habitat for wild foul, frogs, toads, bats and Barn Swallows. Perhaps, not the most favorable of animal life to humans but as Muzopappa explains, are very important to the natural balance of things. “Imagine the insect population if these animals were to disappear.”

The wetland plant species walk is just one aspect of the Farm’s mission to use the protected and historical land to educate and engage the public. The second oldest continuously family owned farm in Berks County and the original settlement of the Lenni-Lenape Indians, the grounds hold some of the richest history Berks County has offer, history the Dreibelbis Farm Association is determined share.

On Aug. 23, the Dreibelbis Farm Association would like to welcome the public to the Dreibelbis Farm Festival to do just that, share the ways of the past with those of the present. The Festival is free to the public and will offer something from the historic Pennsylvania Dutch way of life for every age group, from the very young to the very young at heart.

Reenacting all manner of things from cooking to candle making. Hayrides and the Native American display with bead making should please the kiddies while educational lectures on the Civil War, Lenni-Lenape Indians and the farm’s history should please the older crowds.

For any information on the festival or other upcoming events please visit DreibelbisFarms.org.