Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A Forest Waking Up

The seasons seem to be all messed up this year. April was the warmest ever with days popping into the 90's F. and now May feels like it's fall. For plants all my Blueberries don't know what to do, but I'm apparently getting an early crop of Raspberries. For ants, Camponotus attempted to fly, but Nylanderia which usually flies with them is behind schedule and only just now producing alates. Now that mother nature has decided it's Fall everything is slowing down.

Last week, when the weather was normal, I went for a little nature walk once again at that nature preserve I deemed to be boring. Besides a few small things to look at I stand by my earlier remark.

The only thing really flowering was this Rhododendron. I think it's, R. canescens. but I could be wrong. There were a bunch of these about but very few of them flowering. I'm sure if I went next week there would be a lot more in bloom but you're looking at the best of show when I went.

Swampy parts of the forest floor were absolutely covered in patches of ferns.

They're neat if you're into that sort of thing. Personally I don't know much about them.

I'm also not sure what these brown stems are in the middle. I always thought Ferns reproduced by spores.

I noticed a beefly along with a few other insects sun bathing in the sand or catching a drink.

Lots of butterflies prefer to get their nutrients from patches of sand and rotting fruit over flowers. I believe this is an American Painted Lady, Vanessa virginiensis.

Here is what might be an Eastern Comma or something related. I didn't get that good a look at it. Notice how the wings resemble tattered leaves while it sunbaths on the sand. Walking the trails there I spooked maybe 3 of these. Over the course of two hours really isn't saying much.

So far the only real claim to fame the nature preserve has going for it is all the hardwood trees. They're well established, everything is growing nicely, they have frogs living in the waters there, and you get to see sights like the picture above. Grape Vines never really know what they're doing when left to grow on their own. They grow around trees and eventually turn woody enough that they can support themselves. Often the oldest vines are coiled looking, in memory of the tree they used to wrap around. Usually the coils are horizontal though so this one clearly wrapped around a tree that was already fallen over.

Maybe I'm wrong but it's just not interesting to see forests with almost nothing growing in the under story. Besides the patch of ferns, a Rhododendron or two, and a few miscellaneous shrubs there was nothing growing under the trees. No patches of Trilliums, or woodland wildflowers to speak of. It's unmanaged forest land left for the weeds to slowly take over. The trails are maintained by the county but it's a shame there's so little to see there.

The Mt. Cuba Center is 600 arcs of managed land, with beautiful woodland gardens. Besides a few nonnative indulgences weeds are removed from the property and echo systems are maintained. The plants they grow there, many of them are rare, are propagated and the seedlings sold or handed out as gifts for attending their classes to fund research. It's done so much better than the nature reserve near me. If the job paid money I'd take on the task of making the place a more interesting and beautiful place. But I wonder if that's wrong of me.