They come for but one day.
If one plants enough bulbs, the visits come every day, ephemeral as each visit is.
They come for but one day.
If one plants enough bulbs, the visits come every day, ephemeral as each visit is.
Yeah, like that Gollum.
In the sun, it’s a pleasant meditation on green luminescence.
I know way too little about this thing, where it grows wild, why it evolved such unique leaves. But the sunlight passes over and through it as if they are old friends, and that gives me peace.
Spring comes earlier every year in Dallas. Our Mexican plums used to blossom in March and April; for the past three years, we’ve had blossoms well before spring even comes. Last year we had a cold snap that took the young fruit out, after a premature blossoming.
It’s a sign of creeping global warming. Every year I marvel at Al Gore’s powers to convince our Mexican plum to blossom early, part of the “global warming conspiracy” so many fear.
That is, this is a symptom of global warming that cannot be faked, that is from observation, and not from models.
With flowers on fruit trees come hopes of a bountiful harvest. Dreading the underlying meaning of such an early blossom does not change our hopes, nor the birds’ hopes, for a good plum harvest.
You really should be following Maria Popova’s Tweets, and Brainpicker.
There you’ll learn of this marvelous book:
Look at some of the photos. Wow.
Pollet’s view of the lowly ocotillo:
Does one need to have a background in botany to think tree bark is interesting, and even beautiful?
Ms. Popova said Cedric Pollet traveled the world to find these great subjects to photograph. One could do well trying to duplicate his tour.
What trees in your yard have outstanding bark? Where are your photographs?
How often do we see the forest, but miss the details of the trees?
A 39-acre donation from The Nature Conservancy and a lot of work by the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy joined to birth a new National Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina.
Welcome the Mountain Bogs National Wildlife Refuge.
The April 22, 2015, press release from USFWS:
New National Wildlife Refuge Established to Protect Some of Appalachia’s Rarest Places
April 22, 2015
Asheville, N.C. – The Mountain Bogs National Wildlife Refuge became America’s 563rd refuge today.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Deputy Director Jim Kurth visited Western North Carolina to announce the establishment of a new national wildlife refuge devoted to the conservation of southern Appalachian mountain bogs, one of the rarest and most imperiled habitats in the United States. North Carolina is home to 11 refuges; Mountain Bogs Refuge is the first one west of Charlotte.
“The establishment of Mountain Bogs National Wildlife Refuge marks a turning point in the efforts of a number of dedicated partners in preserving this unique and threatened habitat,” said Kurth. “It will provide a focal point for mountain bog conservation in the area, and highlights the importance of our National Wildlife Refuge System in preserving our nation’s spectacular biodiversity for future generations of Americans.”
“While western North Carolina has beautiful swaths of conserved public lands, mountain bogs, which are home to several endangered species, are largely unprotected,” said Mike Oetker, Deputy Regional Director for the Service’s Southeast Region. “People have worked for decades to conserve these bogs, and creating this refuge was an opportunity to build on that effort in a significant way.”
The Nature Conservancy donated an easement on a 39-acre parcel in Ashe County, the site of Kurth’s visit, which formally establishes the refuge.
“Today’s announcement is the culmination of years of work by conservation partners at the local, state and national level,” said The Nature Conservancy’s Fred Annand, who coordinates the Conservancy’s acquisition work. “Many people have worked together for years to make today a reality. Successful conservation depends on partnership, and that’s certainly the case today.”
Mountain bogs are typically small and widely scattered across the landscape, often isolated from other wetlands. Important to wildlife and plants, mountain bogs are home to five endangered species – bog turtles, green pitcher plant, mountain sweet pitcher plant, swamp pink (a lily), and bunched arrowhead. They also provide habitat for migratory birds and game animals, including mink, woodcock, ruffed grouse, turkey, and wood duck. Bogs are breeding habitat for many species of amphibians, especially salamanders, of which the Southern Appalachians have the greatest diversity in the nation. Bogs also provide key benefits to humans. They have a natural capacity for regulating water flow, holding floodwaters like giant sponges and slowly releasing water to nearby streams decreasing the impacts of floods and droughts.
In addition to The Nature Conservancy, Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy has long been active in bog conservation and has been supportive of establishing the new refuge.
“Southern Appalachian bogs are biodiversity hotspots,” said Kieran Roe, Executive Director at Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy. “But they are disappearing from our region at a rapid rate. Less than 20 percent of the mountain bogs that once existed still remain, so their protection is critical.”
The refuge may eventually grow to 23,000 acres, depending on the willingness of landowners to sell and the availability of funds to purchase those lands. To guide acquisition, and bog conservation in general, the Service has identified 30 sites, or Conservation Partnership Areas, containing bogs and surrounding lands. These sites are scattered across Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Clay, Graham, Henderson, Jackson, Macon, Transylvania, Wilkes and Watauga counties in North Carolina, and Carter and Johnson counties in Tennessee. The Service will look primarily within these Conservation Partnership Areas to acquire land and/or easements. For those acres that won’t be acquired, the Service will work to support private landowners in their stewardship activities. Funding to acquire land and easements would likely come from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, funded by fees collected from the sale of publicly-owned offshore oil and gas drilling leases.
While some parts of the refuge would likely be too fragile for recreation, the Service anticipates other parts could be open for wildlife-based recreation, including hunting, fishing, wildlife observation and photography, education, and interpretation.
The Service manages national wildlife refuges for the conservation of fish, wildlife and plants. In 1903 President Theodore Roosevelt created the first national wildlife refuge to protect brown pelican breeding grounds on the east coast of Florida. The Refuge System now includes 563 refuges across the nation, protecting more than 150 million acres. It’s the only system of federally-managed lands dedicated to wildlife. For more information, visit www.fws.gov/mountainbogs.
The National Wildlife Refuge System protects wildlife and wildlife habitat on more than 150 million acres of land and water from the Caribbean to the Pacific, Maine to Alaska. Refuges also improve human health, provide outdoor recreation and support local economies. Visit our home page at http://www.fws.gov/refuges. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
Our Dallas area trout lilies have all blossomed, weeks ago. Interesting that bog-bound trout lilies share so much in common with their drier land cousins a few thousand miles away.
This may become a series.
Found a good infographic today, on how to identify poison ivy — the bane of every Boy Scout and Scouter west of the Mississippi, and east of the Mississippi, too.
Poison ivy leaves turn a beautiful scarlet in the fall. This beauty prompted English ship captains dropping off colonists in New England to take the potted vines back to England.
It is my experience that, while everyone can become allergic and react to poison ivy, no one reacts on first serious exposure. If you’re in the woods, it’s good to know what this stuff is, and avoid it.
If you’re exposed, wash it off. Wash your clothes with some sort of oxidant (oxygen bleach for colors, or chlorine bleach if you don’t care); I use a 3:1 solution, water to chlorine bleach, to shower with after serious exposure. The active chemical, urushiol, remains active until it is reacted chemically or by ultraviolet light — and so a young Scout who gets some ivy sap under his fingernails can continue to spread the exposure everywhere he scratches, until his hands are really washed clean.
Study the poster, learn to identify the stuff. There’s a lot more to say.
It’s spring. The grasses are sprouting.
Texas is a good place for grasses.
Spring sunlight is spectacular on the new flowers; winter sunlight, in the afternoon, shows a different kind of spectacular.
Lindheimer’s muhly grass, Muhlenbergia lindheimeri, shows beauty from soon after it sprouts until long after it’s gone dormant. A garden is a year-around project, and joy.
History lives in those grasses, too. You can find some at the Native Plant Society of Texas’s website, and its description of Lindheimer’s muhly.
This seems pretty dumb now, but many years ago when I first heard about so many grasses called “muley,” I was puzzled about that name. I’d heard of muley cattle such as polled Herefords, but not hornless grass! Needless to say, as soon as I looked up Lindheimer muhly, I could see it is in a genus named after a Mr. Muhlenberg.
Gotthilf Hunrich Ernst Muhlenberg lived from 1753 to 1815. He was born into a prominent Pennsylvania family, and his father and brothers were influential patriots during the Revolutionary War. Because of his family’s involvement in the Revolution, Muhlenberg was on the British hit list.
While he was hiding out in a rural area away from Philadelphia during the Revolution, Muhlenberg became interested in botany. Through his extensive collections, Muhlenberg made major contributions to botany, and many plants have been named in his honor. For example, among our local flora are several species of muhly grass (Muhlenbergia) and Chinquapin oak (Quercus muhlenbergii).
Lindheimer muhly was named in honor of Ferdinand Lindheimer, the “Father of Texas Botany.” Many other plants native to the Texas Hill Country also bear the name “Lindheimer” or “Lindheimer’s.” Most of these plants were first collected by Lindheimer, who settled on the banks of the Comal River in New Braunfels in 1845.
Another entry in the Blackland Prairie Almanac, perhaps.
Press release from NASA, March 10, 2013 (links in text added here):
Amplified Greenhouse Effect Shifts North’s Growing Seasons
WASHINGTON — Vegetation growth at Earth’s northern latitudes increasingly resembles lusher latitudes to the south, according to a NASA-funded study based on a 30-year record of land surface and newly improved satellite data sets.
An international team of university and NASA scientists examined the relationship between changes in surface temperature and vegetation growth from 45 degrees north latitude to the Arctic Ocean. Results show temperature and vegetation growth at northern latitudes now resemble those found 4 degrees to 6 degrees of latitude farther south as recently as 1982.
“Higher northern latitudes are getting warmer, Arctic sea ice and the duration of snow cover are diminishing, the growing season is getting longer and plants are growing more,” said Ranga Myneni of Boston University’s Department of Earth and Environment. “In the north’s Arctic and boreal areas, the characteristics of the seasons are changing, leading to great disruptions for plants and related ecosystems.”
The study was published Sunday in the journal Nature Climate Change.
Myneni and colleagues used satellite data to quantify vegetation changes at different latitudes from 1982 to 2011. Data used in this study came from NOAA’s Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometers (AVHRR) onboard a series of polar-orbiting satellites and NASA’s Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instruments on the Terra and Aqua satellites.
As a result of enhanced warming and a longer growing season, large patches of vigorously productive vegetation now span a third of the northern landscape, or more than 3.5 million square miles (9 million square kilometers). That is an area about equal to the contiguous United States. This landscape resembles what was found 250 to 430 miles (400 to 700 kilometers) to the south in 1982.
“It’s like Winnipeg, Manitoba, moving to Minneapolis-Saint Paul in only 30 years,” said co-author Compton Tucker of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.
The Arctic’s greenness is visible on the ground as an increasing abundance of tall shrubs and trees in locations all over the circumpolar Arctic. Greening in the adjacent boreal areas is more pronounced in Eurasia than in North America.
An amplified greenhouse effect is driving the changes, according to Myneni. Increased concentrations of heat-trapping gasses, such as water vapor, carbon dioxide and methane, cause Earth’s surface, ocean and lower atmosphere to warm. Warming reduces the extent of polar sea ice and snow cover, and, in turn, the darker ocean and land surfaces absorb more solar energy, thus further heating the air above them.
“This sets in motion a cycle of positive reinforcement between warming and loss of sea ice and snow cover, which we call the amplified greenhouse effect,” Myneni said. “The greenhouse effect could be further amplified in the future as soils in the north thaw, releasing potentially significant amounts of carbon dioxide and methane.”
To find out what is in store for future decades, the team analyzed 17 climate models. These models show that increased temperatures in Arctic and boreal regions would be the equivalent of a 20-degree latitude shift by the end of this century relative to a period of comparison from 1951-1980.
However, researchers say plant growth in the north may not continue on its current trajectory. The ramifications of an amplified greenhouse effect, such as frequent forest fires, outbreak of pest infestations and summertime droughts, may slow plant growth.
Also, warmer temperatures alone in the boreal zone do not guarantee more plant growth, which also depends on the availability of water and sunlight.
“Satellite data identify areas in the boreal zone that are warmer and dryer and ¬¬other areas that are warmer and wetter,” said co-author Ramakrishna Nemani of NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif. “Only the warmer and wetter areas support more growth.”
Researchers did find found more plant growth in the boreal zone from 1982 to 1992 than from 1992 to 2011, because water limitations were encountered in the latter two decades.
Data, results and computer codes from this study will be made available on NASA Earth Exchange (NEX), a collaborative supercomputing facility at Ames. NEX is designed to bring scientists together with data, models and computing resources to accelerate research and innovation and provide transparency.
For more information and images associated with this release, visit:
– end –
Pollan asks a provocative question: Do we force plants to do our bidding when we breed them, or are we being manipulated by them?
Pollan is the author of Botany of Desire, a great book. There is a PBS production based on the book.
It’s a TEDS Talk, of course
Birds do it, bees do it, even educated fleas do it. Plants do it, too, but often with the help of animals.
Here are some of the most glorious pictures of sex you’ll ever see, filmed by Louie Schwartzberg. Anyone who has ever tried to take a good photograph should marvel at these shots, and the skill and artistry and luck it took to get them:
What will we do if the bees vanish?
http://www.ted.com Pollination: it’s vital to life on Earth, but largely unseen by the human eye. Filmmaker Louie Schwartzberg [of Moving Art] shows us the intricate world of pollen and pollinators with gorgeous high-speed images from his film “Wings of Life,” inspired by the vanishing of one of nature’s primary pollinators, the honeybee.
Nature Notes #16 from the good people at Yosemite National Park: Sky Islands.
Throughout the Sierra Nevada, high flat plateaus are found at elevations around twelve and thirteen thousand feet. These isolated sky islands are the home to unique plant communities that are found nowhere else.
It took me a couple of tries to figure it out — last week when I told people Kathryn and I were off to Colorado Bend State Park to spend time on the river, several people commented about how much cooler it would be there.
What? West of Killeen about an hour, ten miles of dusty road outside of Bend, Texas (population 1,637), Colorado Bend is not cooler than Dallas. It was over 100° F every day we were there, stayed well above 90° most of the nights.
Our well-wishers were geographically confused. They thought we were headed to the Colorado River in Colorado, not the Colorado River in Texas, which is not the same river at all. I didn’t bother to check the temperatures in Colorado, but one might be assured that it was cooler along the Colorado River in Colorado than it was along the Colorado River in Texas.
It was a return trip. We stumbled into the park 16 years ago with the kids, for just an afternoon visit. The dipping pools in the canyon fed by Spicewood Springs captivated us. It took a while to get back, and then the kids were off doing their own thing.
So, just a quick weekend of hiking/camping/kayaking/soaking/stargazing/bird watching/botanical and geological study. Park officials closed the bat caves to human traffic in hope of keeping White Nose Syndrome from the bats; we didn’t bother to sign up for the crawling cave tour through another.
What did we see? Drought has a firm grip on Texas, especially in the Hill Country, especially outside of Dallas. The Colorado River is mostly spring fed; many of the springs are dry. No water significant water flowed through the park while we were there — kayak put-ins have been reduced to the downriver-most ramp, and the bottom of the boat launch ramp is three feet above water. Gorman Falls attracts visitors and scientists, but the springs feeding it are about spent this year — just a few trickles came over the cliff usually completely inundated with mineral-laden waters.
Drought produces odd things. The forest canopy around the park — and through most of the Hill Country we saw — is splattered with the gray wood of dead trees, many of which at least leafed out earlier this spring. The loss to forests is astonishing. Deer don’t breed well in droughts; deer around the campsites boldly challenge campers for access to grasses they’d ignore in other seasons. One ranger said he hadn’t seen more than about three fawns from this past spring, a 75% to 90% reduction in deer young (Eastern White Tail, the little guys). Raccoons are aggressively seeking food from humans, tearing into tents and challenging campers for food they can smell (lock your food in the car!). Colorado Bend is famous for songbirds, including the endangered Golden Cheeked Warbler, and the elusive, spectacular painted bunting. But the most commonly-sighted birds this year are turkey vultures, dining on the young that didn’t make it healthy into the summer and won’t survive until fall.
Warming denialists’ claims of “not so bad a drought” ring out as dangerous, wild delusion. (By actual measurement, Texas average rainfall the past nine months was 8.5 inches, the driest ever recorded in Texas, shattering the old record drought of 1917).
Great trip. Kathryn’s menu planning was spectacular. The old Coleman stove — a quarter century old, now, with fuel almost that old — performed like a champ even without the maintenance it needs (later this week). Other than the hot nights, it was stellar.
Stellar. Yeah. Stars were grand. It was New Moon, a happy accident. A topic for another post, later. Think, “Iridium.”
So posting was slow over the weekend. How far out in the Hill Country were we? Neither one of us could get a bar on our phones. We were so far out the Verizon Wireless guy was using smoke signals.
Thoreau was right, you know.
Too, too close to the truth:
Tip of the old scrub brush to Kenny, freezing in Beijing with no heat in his apartment.
Great mysteries of science, history and spirit call to us: How do the monarch butterflies do it?
Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) fly north from their enclave in Mexico every spring, stopping to lay eggs on milkweed plants. After a migration of several hundred miles, that first group that left Mexico dies off. Their offspring hatch in a few days, devour the milkweed, make a chrysalis, metamorphose into butterflies, then fly farther north, where they repeat their parents’ behavior: Lay some eggs, and die. Within three generations, they’ve spread north into Canada.
Then the fourth generation does something so strange and wonderful people can’t stop talking about it: They fly back to Mexico, to the same trees their great-great-great grandparents left. There they sip some nectar, get some water, and spend a lot of time hanging in great globs, huddling over the winter, to start life for generations of monarch butterflies the next spring.
Sometimes in Texas in October, we can see clouds of monarch butterflies winging south. If we’re lucky, they stop to visit our backyards and gardens, and we might provide some water and nectar to urge them homeward. Kathryn, of course, plants the stuff the monarchs like, to help them, and to give us a chance to see them.
Monarch habitat in Mexico is under severe stress and threat. Late storms and early freezes decimated monarch populations over the last decade [yes, that’s the proper use of “decimated;” look it up]. Human plantings are more critical to the monarch butterflies than ever before.
Two years ago Kathryn and I spent a September morning outside the library at Lawrence University, in Appleton, Wisconsin, watching monarchs sip nectar from local flowers for their journey. Those same butterflies — we hope — passed through Texas a couple of weeks later.
Two weeks ago . . . well, see for yourself: