Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Nature Trail

A recent addition to the distinctive character of Gangivecchio is a one-kilometer long nature trail known as "Il Sentiero Dell'Alloro" in Italian or "The Laurel Trail" for English Speakers. This trail follows a clear, spring-fed stream through woodlands rich in native plant species. It is a perfect place to experience something of Sicily's complex natural hertiage, do a bit of bird watching, or simply enjoy nature in a tranquil sanctuary of great beauty. Guided tours are available for small groups.

Friday, August 22, 2008


In late summer clusters of ripe blackberries are a common sight on bushes growing in dense thickets along local roads and in pasture lands. These blackberries may not be as juicy as some from other regions but the flavor is excellent and the fruits are eaten fresh or cooked to make jam or jelly. Arching, thorny blackberry stems or 'canes' grow to full length in one season and develop white to pink flowers followed by purple-black fruit the following summer.

Scientific name: Rubus caesius
Italian common name: Rovo bluastro
English common name: Blackberry

Friday, August 15, 2008

Field Horsetail

This feathery perennial grows in dense drifts along shady banks of the stream at Gangivecchio. Its slender, jointed stems are hollow, green and photosynthetic. Spores rather than seeds are produced at the stem tips. Chemicals derived from Field Horsetail are used in a wide variety of medicinal, nutritional and cosmetic products.

Scientific name: Equisetum arvense
Italian common name: Equiseto dei Campi
English common name: Field Horsetail

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Common Fennel

Sweetly scented and highly aromatic, with many culinary and medicinal uses. That's one way to describe this robust perennial we call fennel. The plant grows wild in great abundance locally. Its feathery, almost hair-like leaves have mostly fallen now, but tall slender fennel stems tipped with clusters of tiny yellow flowers and maturing seeds are still a familiar sight along sunny country roadsides and in pasture lands.

Scientific name: Foeniculum vulgare
Italian common name: Finocchio
English common name: Common Fennel

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Black Elder

Black elder trees at Gangivecchio are now heavily laden with clusters of purple-black berries. For some birds these are an important food source. When cooked, the fully ripe berries are used for making excellent jams and jellies and they are also made into wine, cordials and a number of traditional medicines.

Scientific name: Sambucus nigra
Italian common name: Sambuco
English common name: Black Elder

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Jack in the Pulpit

In spring this tuberous-rooted perennial displays a fleshy, erect flower stalk (spadix) partially enclosed by a sheath-like hood (spathe). At this dry time of year, a cluster of scarlet fruits crowded on a stem is all that remains of the plant above ground. These berries are conspicuous and attractive but are considered toxic to humans and to livestock.

Scientific name: Arum maculatum
Italian common name: Cigaro scuro
English common name: Jack in the Pulpit, Cuckoo-pint