Archives for March 2013
Old trees, old trees! in your mystic gloom
There’s many a warrior laid,
And many a nameless and lonely tomb
Is sheltered beneath your shade . . .
Old trees, old trees! we shall pass away
Like the leaves you yearly shed,
But ye, lone sentinels, still must stay,
Old trees, to guard our dead.
Selected verses, Old Tree, by Abram Joseph Ryan, 1838 – 1886
Spring begins….. at last. A few leaves of sweet Betsy trillium, Trillium cuneatum, emerged from the rich, black soil near the stone wall a few days ago. Seemingly overnight, those few leaves turned into a clump of several plants, one with a fat bud which will soon become blackish-purple bracts. These native trilliums are all over our three-fourths acre lot, but this particular location is a first for them.
There used to be a lot of mayapples nearby. They’re disappeared, except for a few spindly plants I hope re-appear in a few weeks. Supposedly the deer eat the fruit when it’s fully ripe, so maybe that’s why the mayapples have all but disappeared. Or maybe it’s because of the gardener, who has allowed Vinca minor to get too thick there. (Can’t blame everything on deer).
So much to see right now, but the first signs of life are always the sweetest. Welcome to you, little Betsy, with the splotchly green markings.
Things are still pretty dormant here, garden-wise. I spend a lot of time looking up when I’m outside.
Odd sight near the creek this weekend: a walnut resting inside the sections of a fractured, bent-over tree. Wonder how long it’ll take the squirrels to figure this one out.
After a mentally-draining session with blogs and websites, my son and I found reprieve in a late-winter walk along Third Creek greenway in Knoxville. We parked at the Sutherland Avenue entrance and walked down a straight stretch of paving with grass clearings on either side. Groups of fat robins converged at the edge of a thicket of trees and undergrowth. There is good habitat for birds here: cover, water, and (presumably) plenty of food.
More evidence of birds, in this case woodpeckers. This tree has been foraged repeatedly for grubs and insects.
We saw bird silhouettes in distant trees, and a grouping of what appeared to be young, native beech trees with their buttery-brown winter foliage.
The creek meanders alongside the path. The view was pretty from the first vantage point when the sun was out. Unfortunately, the creek had just flooded and there was a good bit of trash and debris on the banks in some areas. The grasses and other plants (too early in the season to know what they were) had been flattened by the rising water.
The course of the stream was changed to a curving one by a process called stream re-meandering. According to this sign, the stream was dredged and straightened several decades ago because of erosion, sediment, and other problems associated with nearby development. Some people who grew up in this area say the stream was always straight. I don’t know. Unfortunately, there are still issues with the creek, as this sign will attest:
We saw a lot of bamboo, privet, and other invasive plants along this section of the greenway. It’s hard to keep invasives under control in areas such as utility right-of-ways, greenways, shoulders of highways, and other disturbed areas. At my own house, the creeks have eroded, and privet has seeded itself — with the help of birds — along the steep banks.
A happy surprise — which brought back many childhood memories – was the discovery of crawfish holes in the moist areas near the beginning of the trail. According to the sign we saw later, the holes were made by Appalachian brook crayfish (also called crawfish and crawdads). I think these were the very ones that kept making tunnels in the dam of my dad’s pond in North Carolina. He spent many an hour plugging up crawfish holes.
The trail leads to an area of thick vegetation near a railroad viaduct. The trestle is supported by thick columns, and the creek flows under some of them near the point where the greenway trail splits.
On the tracks above the greenway, a train was carrying a load of fresh lumber. The late afternoon light was reflected on the concrete below the tracks. I was so absorbed in the sound of the sparkling creek, cascading over the rocks near the viaduct, that I forgot to get pictures of people running, riding bikes, and walking.
This might have been my favorite part of the trail. I love trains — the mystery and romance of them and the evocative sound of their horns from a distance. With the train, added to the winter sunshine and rushing creek, it was one of the best-ever escapes from a computer.