Sunday, June 15, 2014

Wood is Good

If it weren't for The Summer of a Thousand Cheeses, I might not know how important this issue is to the American artisan cheese world. Wish I could be in Vermont for the "Wood Is Good" meeting tomorrow afternoon.



Here are a couple of links to catch you up on the story if you haven't been following it.


 

Monday, January 27, 2014

A Striped Mud Turtle

A striped mud turtle (Kinosternon baurii), pictured above, seen crossing through our back yard this afternoon. This species, restricted to the southeast, wanders farther from water than most mud turtles. By the way, our back yard is muddy after heavy rains, but is normally quite dry, as it was today. Temperatures were in the seventies, but may get near freezing overnight tomorrow.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

A Palm Tree


I've been watching what I believed was a dwarf palmetto (Sabal minor) that came in as a volunteer near the corner of our house. It seemed to be getting larger and larger, and for a while I wondered whether it might be a real palm tree--a cabbage palm (Sabal palmetto). Then I thought it was probably just a large specimen of the dwarf species, and dismissed the idea that it might be a cabbage palm--until a few days ago. We're planning some major re-landscaping in the front yard, and the landscaper suggested that he plant native needle palms (Rhapidophyllum hystrix) in this area. "Why not leave the dwarf palmetto where it is, and surround it with needle palms?" I said."That's no dwarf palmetto," he said, "it's a cabbage palm."

"Then we should probably transplant it," I said. "No," he replied (and here's a factoid!). "Palms don't transplant when they're small. That's why you see large trees planted, often propped up with boards; they need to have enough stored energy in their trunks to replace the roots damaged in transplanting."

Saturday, October 5, 2013

A New Oak

The vegetation of Cedar Key and nearby areas that were once sand dunes is called "scrub," with scrubby oaks and occasional pines being the most common kinds of trees. Sand live oak and myrtle oak are the two most frequent species, but a third one, Chapman's oak, is said to be commonly present also. For the past few years I've been trying to learn this one, but haven't been able to convince myself that I had seen one.

In the past couple of days it appeared that I might have to lead a nature walk in the Cedar Key Scrub state reserve as part of the Nature Coast Paddling Festival (the nature walk won't be happening, at least not soon). Looking at a species list, Chapman's oak is reported to be present on the property. I decided to look up photos, so I would know one if I encountered it. When I saw the photos, the plants looked very familiar--so familiar, in fact, that I realized one is growing right here in our one-tenth acre lot.
Chapman's Oak (Quercus chapmanii)



Why had this one given me so much trouble? Part of the problem had to do with myrtle oak (Quercus myrtifolia), and the variations it shows in leaf form.

Myrtle oak leaves on mature branches


Myrtle oak leaves as they often appear on sprouts

I had been thinking that the leaves of what turned out to be Chapman's oak were a third, possibly stressed, form of myrtle oak. Also, this unimposing and apparently obscure tree wasn't recognized as a separate species until A.W. Chapman, M.D. first described it in 1860.  

Now I know the third member of the trio, and have the further satisfaction of having all three kinds of scrub oaks right here in our yard.

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Youngest Dryas?


Recently, in my readings about geological--and particularly glacial--history, I came across the term Younger Dryas. This curious name, I learned, applies to a period about 11,000 years ago when glaciers were melting, the climate was warming, and conditions we returning to those we now would consider normal. A relatively brief return to cold conditions at that time was apparently caused by huge amounts of glacial melt water entering the North Atlantic, and blocking warm equatorial waters from reaching Europe. The name Younger Dryas refers to this brief backsliding. The resulting cool temperatures promoted an outbreak in southern Europe of a cold-loving arctic/alpine plant in the genus Dryas. The "younger" name relates to the fact that there were earlier "older" cooling periods in which the little plants expanded their range southward. The combination of names was lent to the later of the unexpected cool periods, and the little Dryas octopetala plant achieved geological fame.

Scanning my photos from last May, I came across the image of the little flower shown above, made somewhere after Acebo and before Molinaseca. Could this be the legendary Dryas, I wondered. Alas, a bit of research indicated that it almost certainly is not. The Dryas of geological fame appears to be Dryas octopetala, and the little flower I photographed obviously has five, rather than eight petals. Also, It appears that the current range of the genus Dryas does not include Spain.

Does anyone know the identity of the plant I photographed? Surely not Dryas octopetala, it appears that it too could be a relative of Dryas, and a member of the Rosaceae--the rose family.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Cooperative Heron


Hardly a day goes by on our morning walks around Gainesville when we don't see one of these, and usually several of their distant relatives also. Now and then one, like this guy, seems to want to pose for us. Okay, in all likelihood he is mesmerized by a fat tadpole, and couldn't care less about us. Even so, I couldn't resist taking his picture.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

A Day Fit for Frogs


Following recent heavy rains, the humidity was extreme on today's shortened walk. Several kinds of frogs responded by calling, something most usually do after dark. First there was the "!glug" of bronze frogs, then the "click, click" of cricket frogs. Almost together squirrel treefrogs sounded off with their rasping calls, and green treefrogs (image above) chimed in with their call, which reminds some of the sound of cowbells. Pig frogs joined the fray with their namesake snorts. A while later I heard the high-pitched buzz of a narrow-mouth frog calling from a puddle beside the path. There may have been other species whose calls I don't recognize. Missing this morning was the booming call of bullfrogs, which we hear most days, often from storm sewers, where their sound is widely transmitted and weirdly amplified.