Wednesday, October 31, 2018

A vanishing ecosystem

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. 

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