Moss, rocks, leaves, and lichen at the top of our trail. The second photo has a missing piece because that’s where my official collected rock came from. It was a disconnected section that fit right in like a puzzle-piece, but wanted to separate off on its own adventure. These rocks sit on top of a much larger rock that, like them, is very composite-y, made up of layers of all sorts of different cool quartz-y minerals and mica and all that good stuff.
The little tree sprout is from a huge chestnut oak; as you can see, it came up in last year’s old fallen chestnut oak leaves. I read that chestnut oaks like to grow on the tops of ridges, so that must be why they are only at the highest level of our property. I love finding out why specific trees (and other plants) grow in specific places. I never really thought about that before!
Today in the hammock I read a chapter of my moss book about gap dynamics, in which I learned that yellow birch thrives on the small mound of earth thrown up when another tree falls (usually as a result of windthrow). The disturbed soil, and the empty space in the forest canopy, allow the yellow birch’s seed to take hold and grow up quickly along the new column of light. The mound eventually erodes away, leaving the birch standing on stilt-like roots. I know I have seen trees in our forest with roots like that; next time I notice one, I will have to see if it’s a yellow birch! (We have a lot of yellow birch.) Also, I will remember that, without other trees falling, yellow birch would disappear, losing their position in the community of the forest. Other trees have specialized roles like these to fill, too. I wish I had a book about that!
The view lying on the hammock at the top of our trail two weeks ago, one week ago, and today. Wow, spring!
“The architecture of the surrounding forest is repeated in the form of the moss carpet…. Let your focus shift to the scale of a dewdrop, the forest landscape now becomes the blurred wallpaper, only a backdrop to the distinctive moss microcosm” (Robin Wall Kimmerer, Gathering Moss, p. 10).
“Mosses must be awash in moisture in order for the alchemy of photosynthesis to occur. A thin film of water over the moss leaf is the gateway for carbon dioxide to dissolve and enter the leaf, beginning the transformation of light and air into sugar. Without water a dry moss is incapable of growth. Lacking roots, mosses can’t replenish their supply of water from the soil, and survive only at the mercy of rainfall. Mosses are therefore most abundant in consistently moist places, such as the spray zone of waterfalls and cliffs seeping with spring water” (Robin Wall Kimmerer, Gathering Moss, p. 36).
Poikilohydric plants are remarkable in that the water content of the plant changes with the water content of the environment. When moisture is plentiful, the moss soaks up water and grows prolifically. But when the air dries, the moss dries with it, eventually becoming completely desiccated.
Such dramatic drying would be fatal to higher plants, which must maintain a fairly constant water content…. But most mosses are immune to death by drying. For them, desiccation is simply a temporary interruption in life. Mosses may lose up to 98 percent of their moisture, and still survive to restore themselves when water is replenished. Even after forty years of dehydration in a musty specimen cabinet, mosses have been fully revived after a dunk in a Petri dish. Mosses have a covenant with change; their destiny is linked to the vagaries of rain. They shrink and shrivel while carefully laying the groundwork of their own renewal. They give me faith.
(Robin Wall Kimmerer, Gathering Moss, p. 36-37).
“Mosses and other small beings issue an invitation to dwell for a time right at the limits of ordinary perception. All it requires of us is attentiveness. Look in a certain way and a whole new world can be revealed” (Robin Wall Kimmerer, Gathering Moss, p. 10).
“Life attracts life” (Robin Wall Kimmerer, Gathering Moss, p. 49). Young ferns emerging from moist moss growing on bare rock.
To perceive beauty, sometimes you need to refocus your perspective. The most easily overlooked can be the most inspiring.
More scenes on our trail today. After my photo-wander, I joined Dean in the hammock to read my moss book. It was so nice.
New spring leaves today: yellow birch, red maple, witch hazel, and chestnut oak. LOVE.
So many beautiful little leaves coming out today, tender and translucent with the afternoon sun shining through them, luminous against the bright blue sky. In the forest along our trail are witch hazel, oak, maple, yellow birch, and, at the very top, chestnut oak, all with brand-new leaves. It’s breathtaking and so ephemeral. New little ferns are unfurling also, and along the glacial rock ridge, moist with the constant drip of spring water, the moss is lush and happy, sending out its long reproductive filaments. Everywhere else, things are very dry and the moss is desiccated and cracked, dormant and unable to fertilize its eggs. We need rain!
In the hammock this afternoon. ♥
A missing patch of bark. So beautiful! I absolutely love these colors and the texture. This isn’t a peely-bark tree, or anything, either. It has quite thick, tough bark. But it’s soft and delicate underneath.
Fallen tree on our trail beautifully colored with Chlorociboria aeruginascens, aka green elfcup or green stain fungus. This stuff takes my breath away.
Did you know that red maple trees have exquisite flowers? (I didn’t!) They are tiny and up really high, so you usually don’t get to see their details unless they’ve been knocked down by wind or rain. We had a big windy rainstorm last night, and today was like a treasure hunt!
Most eastern trees flower in the summer, but not red maples; their rosy but still-leafless branches are one of the first signs of spring.