Friday, March 20, 2009

The Pre-walk Walk

Audacious man that I am, I will lead a walk along the Armuchee Elementary School Nature Trail as part of the Spring Pilgrimage of the Georgia Botanical Society. This morning, in an effort to calm me, my friend Richard Ware accompanied me along the trail in preparation for the real thing on April 3. And as usual, when you are with Richard, you find something botanically interesting.

I will have three hours to show off the trail for the Botsoccers, so I wanted to know how ambitious I should try to be. This morning we started at the main entrance behind the school and headed upstream. Much of the hepatica is no longer blooming, but the streambanks are resplendant with Rue Anemone... ... And the leaf litter is decorated with thousands of little toothworts. We saw some Sweet Betsy (or toadstool trillium) getting ready to bloom. A few bluets. A Buttercup. Richard pointed out nice examples of White Oak, Southern Red Oak, Shagbark Hickory, American Beech, and other trees. He especially noticed a nice pairing of the smooth muscular bark of the American Hornbeam right next to the frayed stringy bark of the Eastern Hophornbeam.

We did not find two trees I've been hoping to find in our woods. Less than a mile down the road in a low area is the rare Nutmeg Hickory, and our mountain is known for its remnant forest of Yellow (longleaf) Pine. I'd love to find these two interesting trees at our school. No luck so far.

When we reached the end of our trail we decided to press on to the nearby old railroad bed and CCC Camp pond...

There Richard investigated the elms...... If they are native he thinks they are American Elms. But they may be imports planted there by the CCC I suppose.

We tramped around the edge of the pond to investigate the tiny stream that feeds it. I've meant to do that and was glad for the excuse. I followed Richard as he sought firm footing around the marshy margin of the pond. We heard rushing water and found a tiny (one foot by one foot) waterfall at one feeder stream. An old Red Maple in bloom leaned out...

...over the water plants that Richard wanted to investigate. He took a sample plant to identify.

Then we followed the crystal clear running water upstream. Watercress.
Lizard's Tail. Look at this rocky seep! With a manmade wall, brick enclosed...
...and ceramic pipe enclosed springs. And something interesting. Richard suspects it is Chelone glabra -- Turtlehead... won't bloom till summer.

We will definely return to this spot as the spring and summer advance, to see what other wonders this special little habitat houses.

And maybe I'll offer my April 3 guests an extension of the planned walk.

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