In May 2001 we had the opportunity to travel to Ireland, the excuse being to visit our son who was an exchange student at Queens University in Belfast.
We did all the touristy things, including taking the ferry across to Glasgow and the train from there to Edinburgh.
Weeks before we set out for our travels, I did some genealogical snooping around because I had a strong sense that there were probably Irish roots somewhere in the family tree.
From my mother’s maiden name, Dillon, I was able to trace her father’s roots back to Henri de Leon. The man had moved from France to Ireland. I just thought to search for the name (some 14 years after my first) and find the man mentioned in Wikipedia:
Dillon is a family name of Irish origin but with Breton-Norman roots. It is first recorded in Ireland with the arrival of Sir Henry de Leon (c.1176 – 1244), of a cadet branch of Viscounty of Léon, Brittany. He arrived in Ireland accompanying Prince John (later King John) of England. The name evolved into the Irish language “Diolun” / English language “Dillon”
And so when we first moved to Floyd in 1997 and my PT clinic was in the heart of town, I’d often wander through the cemetery across from the Floyd Country Store.
Here buried in tiny Floyd VA lies Henry Dillon, from Ireland, probably connected remotely to my mother’s father’s family from Murphreesboro, TN.
Kill this. Kill that. Fishkill. Peekskill. Fresh Kills. Say what?
Okay. It’s a Dutch term meaning creek or waterway (a vestige of the area’s colonial past) and found its way into Catskill–ONE name for this dissected assortment of variously protected natural areas in New York State. The geology seemed familiar in places to me as someone familiar with the Ridge and Valley and Allegheny Plateau geology:
Geologically, the Catskills are a mature dissected plateau, a once-flat region subsequently uplifted and eroded into sharp relief by watercourses. The Catskills form the northeastern end of, and highest-elevation portion of, the Allegheny Plateau (also known as the Appalachian Plateau).
Although the Catskills are sometimes compared with the Adirondack Mountains further north, the two mountain ranges are not geologically related, as the Adirondacks are a continuation of the Canadian Shield.
Similarly, the Shawangunk Ridge, which forms the southeastern edge of the Catskills, is part of the geologically distinct Ridge-and-Valley province, and is a continuation of the same ridge known as Kittatinny Mountain in New Jersey and Blue Mountain in Pennsylvania.
The reference to the “CAT” of the region’s name is in some debate, and there have been many who argued for something less Dutch and more distinctive in contrast to the competing mountains in nearby states:
The locals preferred to call them the Blue Mountains, to harmonize with Vermont’s Green Mountains and New Hampshire’s White Mountains. It was only after Washington Irving’s stories that Catskills won out over Blue Mountains, and several other competitors.
And so Kaaterskill Falls inherited a name early on when the mountain label was still being established. It is the highest waterfall in NY state, and most likely, the most dangerous for the typical tourist to reach, as it requires a death-defying cliff-hugging scamper along a massively-busy Winnebago-traveled highway over the quarter mile that separates the parking lot from the trail at the base of the falls. Caveat emptor.
What we didn’t know until later that day was that traffic was WAY up because an impending major music festival (25k strong) near Tannersville–our original destination, aborted for less-traveled places that evening and the next day. And more on that, anon.
And it turns out that the name we gave it– “Devil Pods”– is one of the historically-used “common names” for this plant. It took us a while to finally conclude that it was indeed a plant, since the pods seem to be made of a very hard alien material rather than any botanical matter we’d ever seen.
So had concluded at first that these were actually baby Klingons, dropped at Kingston Point Park along the Hudson. But then I knew that I had seen images of this bizarre thing from the web on Planet Earth, so as we drove towards our next destination (Massawaska State Park) I attempted to ID the six (empty non-viable) pods we brought with us.
And in this I failed. But my friend’s daughter back home that evening googled “Catskills black seed” and it was the first item listed. Go figure: the range extends from Virginia to Canada. And a friend for dinner that night–a kayaker–recognized the pods immediately and with some loathing as “Water Chestnut.” And it has both a good and a bad reputation–the former, back in Asia from which this invasive derived, the latter among those who fancy open surfaces on waterways.
Also called water caltrop, water chestnut, buffalo nut, bat nut, devil pod, and ling nut, this water-rooted plant can quickly choke waterways.
“Water chestnut was first observed in North America near Concord, Massachusetts in 1859. The exact path for the introduction is unknown. It has been declared a noxious weed in Arizona, Massachusetts, North Carolina and South Carolina and its sale is prohibited in most southern states.
“Water chestnut can grow in any freshwater setting, from intertidal waters to 12 feet deep, although it prefers nutrient-rich lakes and rivers. Presently, the plant is found in Maryland, Massachusetts, New York and Pennsylvania, with most problematic populations occurring in the Connecticut River valley, Lake Champlain region, Hudson River, Potomac River and the upper Delaware River.”
I should mention that we found these botanical land mines on a sandy beach near the volleyball nets. I still think they were dropped on our planet with sinister intent. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.