Depending on what the software lets me do, this time.
Here’s a plant I’ve seen in the wet areas, but hadn’t identified even to genus before. I’m sure this is an Echinodorus, one of the water-plantains, but not sure of the species yet. We saw it in the “swamp overflow” that had actually had water in it last week but is drying now. Photo taken the same day as the Melonette picture of the previous post, on similar very damp, somewhat sticky soil.
I’m pretty sure of the genus, because look at those bur-shapes in the background…it’s a “bur-head.” Most of the species in this genus have narrower leaves. We’ll be trying to get it to grow in the shallow middle pond of our backyard “stream.” And I think it may be E. cordifolius because of the leaf shape (sort of heart shaped, like violet leaves) but maybe one of the others.
And here’s another plant I don’t know (haven’t worked out the genus yet–there are no actual flowers left, which makes it harder) growing up maybe ten inches higher from the former water level from the Echinodorus:
It’s on the damper, lower side of the trail nearer to the area that stays wet longer. I can tell it has simple, oval, opposite leaves, and that the remains of the flower parts show they’re five-part (petal, sepal, etc.) flowers…and there are LOTS of flowers that leave five dry sepals after the flowers fall. Color and shape of flowers would really help key this one out. There’s a button bush in this area, but it was in such dark shade I didn’t try a picture of it.
Next in line is Frostweed with Queen butterflies on it (milkweed butterflies, like the monarch.) Frostweed doesn’t do well in dry years, but in a wet one like this it can even (briefly) hold its own against giant ragweed. It’s chest to shoulder high on me right now. I’ve seen two monarchs on it, but they refused to pause long enough for me to photograph them; the smaller Queens were *slightly* easier to capture. The plant is called frostweed because when the temperature drops, the winged parts of the stem break open and exude ribbons of sap
The same morning I got the better Black Vulture pictures, I took this one on the way back home, walking along the West Grass in the shadow of the Dry Woods. The creek woods are half or less as tall as eastern woods: a 60 foot tree is exceptional. That’s due to the regular droughts–the average annual rainfall is about 26-28 inches, but most years it’s a little less. The 40 inch years bring up the average. Trees in the creek woods include Ashe juniper, Live Oak, Eastern Persimmon, Green Ash, Pecan, Cedar Elm, Hackberry, American Elm, Black Willow, Carolina Buckthorn, Mexican Plum, and used to include the tallest tree around us, a huge Cottonwood. It died near the end of the five year drought, leaving no offspring. We have one or two Black Willows left, one or two American Elms left, and probably a dozen Eastern Persimmons of various sizes. We’ve planted various trees in there and lost them to drought (including a Cypress, down in the swamp, which at the time had had water in it for several years at a time.) We’re glad to have every one of those trees. One of the older Cedar Elms used to have a Red-tailed Hawk nest in it, but a windstorm took the top off some years back.
Here’s another view of the West Grass, this time from the north, looking SW along the line of the creek woods and much closer to the woods (different day, different angle but also in the morning light.) The shorter rounder “ball-shaped” trees are the Ashe junipers. This was taken from one of the mowed trails between Center Walk and the north fence…where the grass looks slightly greener or blue-green toward the upper left, the little bluestem is a lot thicker and mixed with Indiangrass and a little big bluestem…deeper, moister soil.
Both these show the variations in color that come with a “prairie” rather than a “cultivated” field…the ground hasn’t been harrowed to a plane in two decades now, and the remaining terrace berms have weathered (already had with cattle, but now with not being messed with.) There’s still a lot of KRB and Silky Bluestem (imported “improved” pasture grass) in the West Grass, but as the native grasses move back in the differences in height, color, and leaf texture have made real changes. Every difference of color or texture through the year reveals slight differences in the plant communities…a little deeper soil, a little more or less soil moisture, a slope that’s more favorable for one than another of the plant community to take advantage of. Every plant has its preferences; every plant has a slightly different rate of growth, or of withering under a hot sun, or of flowering/seeding. Completely unlike a monoculture, what you see changes from day to day as the plants respond to sun, rain, heat, cold, clouds or no clouds, wind whipping them around or stillness. The West Grass (actually each part of the place) looks different hourly from dawn to dusk, day to day…and with experience we’re more able to notice those differences and appreciate them. I feel so lucky every time I get to be out and just *look* at things.