Wednesday, October 31, 2018
Pinewoods have a distinctive flora, and when I was a kid I lived near a block of remnant pine growth. There I got to know some of the distinctive plants which grew there. When we moved to the present home in 1961, I found myself surrounded by a new flora. Sadly, many of the plants once common here are now rare or gone - I blame the deer and the wildflower vandals.
But some of the disappearances are due to a different cause, the natural ageing out of a once dominant flora. Within easy walking distance of the house there is a patch of remnant pine growth. I've been visiting this spot for over a half century, if only for the memories it recalls. Only a few of the pines themselves survive, and under them a few of the plants characteristic of pine woods. Here you see two of them: the partridge berry, Mitchella repens and one of the pipsissewas, Chimaphila maculata. The partridge berry seems to be taking the changes in stride; the pipsissewa not so much so. That's not surprising: for success, the partridge berry mostly needs lack of competition from taller plants. The pipsissewa on the other hand evidently lives in association with soil fungi which themselves form relationships with the pines. When the soil fungi go, so too will the pipsissewas.
By then, I'll probably be gone, too.
It was probably fifty years ago when I first read Konrad Lorenz's King Solomon's Ring. The image above provoked a memory of one of the stories in the book. It seems that the Lorenz residence included many of the animals curious zoologists tend to accumulate, including graylag geese. The geese had the run of the ground floor of the house, and their deposits littered the floor. Lorenz's grandfather, whose vision was failing, had frequent, unsanitary encounters with these.
So when I first saw what you see in the image above, it was easy to imagine that a flock of thousands of well-fed geese had recently roosted on those ball fields.
But geese are not to blame. An aerator had recently worked the fields, and the results when wet will be just as messy as what geese leave.
When I stepped out onto the front porch the other day, I saw this draped over the front steps. It's a black rat snake, our largest local snake. But it's probably not just any black rat snake. It's probably "our" black rat snake. And if it is, it has been seen here over and over since it was a hatchling. It and"our" garter snakes can be seen in the bushes along the front of the house in April and in October. They bask in the bushes, and I'm pretty sure they hibernate at the house foundation. I've long regarded the presence of snakes as proof of a well managed garden.