Last night’s fresh layer of snow formed a condensed blanket on these Yews as the sun’s heat competed with the airs 14-degree temperature this afternoon.
Yews (Taxus) is the food of choice, sweet treat, when the deer cross border from the forest preserve into our garden. As the snow covers any remaining plant life, on the forest floor, it becomes more and more common place to have morning and afternoon visits with our neighbors. The result is tidy shrubs and contented deer.
For information on the preferred diet of deer, check out http://njaes.rutgers.edu/deerresistance/.
Though the forest floor was safe to walk on without covering my waterproof clogs in mud, moisture was sufficient for fungi escalation. Their neutral shades fashioned more distinct patterns than the previous post’s images of logs. Texture was equally observable, though left untouched by this fungi novice.
When things are all the same color with minimal variations in tone then pattern becomes the primary characteristic descriptor. Now that the weather has chilled and plants are dormant, brown is the color of many of the images I have created the past few weeks. Enjoy some of nature’s patterns easily visible this time of year.
Perspective can provide a change in focus and impression of a scene. These images show the same scene, one view from my bicycle versus a view from the ground. The first a striking scene easily visible by many, the second perception needs to viewed from a place one usually avoids on cold, wet days, the ground.
The ground level view brings to focus the layers of leaves blanketing the forest floor, adding cover and warmth for soon-to-be hibernating insects and perennials. The scene reminds me that nature’s ways are self-sufficient, needing no artificial fertilizers or canned nutrients. The cycle of life as it enters the winter season is preparing for spring’s abundantly rich renewal.
Awesome, was my first thought when reaching this area of vast golden color during my morning ride. I was somewhat surprised because until a few days ago it seemed we might not see a colorful fall. All I had seen until then were brown leaves falling from the skies. As a science teacher, I am aware of the proven technical explanations for this amazing scene; but I cannot help but appreciate the genius behind such creations. Thank you God …..again!!
The forest floor offers many stories. It’s top layer is currently full of nuts, as yet uncovered soon to fall leaves. I do not recall such a nut proliferation in the twenty seven years I have witnessed these Preserves first-hand. My concern is real, knowing that when plants are stressed and in danger their defense is to make many seeds in an effort to ensure survival of their species. This knowledge also comforts me as I realize once again that nature’s abilities to endure are indeed amazing. This has been a year of extremes in the Chicago region. We have witnessed cycles of extreme heat and drought followed by extreme rains; each taking a toll on the plants’ root systems and wildlife. Trees seem to take longer to respond to weather extremes, but the abundance of acorn and other nuts tell me that their roots have been unable to provide enough water for stable health. A story of nature’s struggle to endure.
This patch of forest floor also tells the story of “native versus invasive” or rather “disturbed land”. These images are from the street’s edge where the Forest workers were asked by neighboring residences to control the “weeds” that were growing out into the street, scratching passing cars. The weeds are unwelcome by native forest species as well as the non-native suburban residents; these Eurasian immigrants (the plants!!) have learned to survive and thrive shading out potential growth of native oak and wildflowers while also “volunteering” their presence in adjacent gardens.
Finally there is one more story yet to unfold. Seeds will soon be covered with leaves providing conditions ripe for future growth into new perennial native plants and some may develop into majestic Oak trees as well as more “weeds”. Some will have additional help from the squirrels who are busy establishing their winter food rations; any seeds left uneaten can begin their new stage of life next spring. And the stories continue.
When are flowers on a single stem made up of two distinct characteristics?
A “wet woods” is an understatement for the Harms Woods patch of Cook County Forest Preserve. At this moment one would need tall boots to take a stroll here as the excessive rains have reinforced its official wetland status. This wet footing is the ideal habitat for the European Cranberry Bush
(Viburnum opulus). Flat pancakes of white flowers draw attention in the spring; red cranberry-like berries hold visual interest in the fall. Pure white flowers fully open on the outside of the pancake cluster, while smaller cream colored flowers open in the interior. Both flower types have five petals but the inner flowers’ petals are less distinct. The larger outer flowers are sterile while the small inner flowers are fertile. A fine example of nature breaking the rules of nature.
For detailed information see: http://plants.usda.gov/plantguide/pdf/cs_viopa2.pdf
Mayapples’ blooms hide under umbrella-like leaves on the forest floor. This seemingly shsy flower appropriately named blooms in May and its fruit resembles a miniature unripe apple. For those who don’t mind kneeling on the cool, water soaked, spring land, you can see their beauty.
For more information on Mayapples see “May in April”, posted April 17, 2012.
No, I’m not a Packer’s fan nor am I an Aussie. Green and gold are frequent partners in nature. Months before the numerous sunflower varieties mimic the sun on the prairie this prairie native reaches its prime. Taking benefit of an open spot in the forest canopy as sunlight finds a patch of soil the Golden Alexander blooms. Prairie land and woodland often trade places over time. Trees reach maturity shading prairie species, followed by forest fires leaving open fields of hardy prairie species, some of which are able to lay dormant for dozens of years, followed by tree seedlings maturing to replace horizontal views with vertical heights. I find myself wondering how many prairie seeds are here in this forest floor waiting larger patches of sun to awaken them.
The Green Sweat Bee (Agapostemon texanus) on Golden Alexander (zizia aurea) bloom was an appropriate metaphor for the hot humid air of this May morning. The shaded path was insufficient relief for our walk so we retreated earlier than we might have back to the wonders of air conditioning. Named after Alexander the Great, this member of the carrot family resembles the white summer blooming non-native Queen Anne’s Lace. Both have the crown shaped floral arrangement befitting royalty. Sweat bees are valued pollinators in spite of their reputation for attraction to human sweat. Perhaps if the Packers ever leave Green Bay Wisconsin they can take up the name Green Sweat Bees, NO offense intended.