Thursday, April 19, 2012

Springtime Forest

 It doesn't get any better than this.

No, really.  It just doesn't.  Sixty-five degrees, clear blue sky, light wind.  Owls hooting, woodpeckers tapping, rills chuckling as they flow to the marsh from the small swamp.  Butterflies everywhere (a huge hatch of red admirals this year), and tiny spring peepers hopping through the leaf litter. 

Spring is such a fabulous time of year, and even after the mild winter we've had, it is a joy when the world begins to awaken in earnest.  Leaves emerged and flowers bloomed a month ago after several weeks in the 60's, 70's and 80's--as much as 40 degrees above average.  But the cold returned, and with it some freezing weather, and the world hung in this odd state of suspension, tiny leaves waiting for the warmth to return before resuming their growth.  I've never seen anything like it.

Because of the mild winter and early spring, our quest to remove invasive plants has needed some rescheduling.  We had to stop cutting shrubs like autumn olive and glossy buckthorn early (can't apply herbicide when the sap is rising) and start pulling garlic mustard instead.  In many places it's already blooming.

The good thing about doing this work is it gets me out into the woods when the woods are at their grandest.  There is nothing quite like those few weeks in spring when sunlight streams down through still bare trees to warm the ground and the ephemerals push out of the duff for their moment of glory.

Sensitive fern fiddleheads

We've been working in the area around the swamp for five years or so, removing garlic mustard and multi-flora rose, steadily pushing it away from what to my eye is a high quality area.  Nowhere else in these woods have I found an area so full of native plants.  Whatever the land here was used for--crops, cattle--this area around the swamp must have been too wet to plow and as a result the native plants survived.

May apple emerging
I walked an area to the east of the trail back to the marsh where I'd never been before.  Much wetter than some of the surrounding woods it was full of plants that prefer rich damp soils, like goldenseal, a plant I had not seen before.  I could hardly walk without stepping on something, and I found myself hopping from log to rock, camera in one hand and a bag full of garlic mustard in the other.  Fortunately I didn't find much of the invasive in this area--maybe it's too wet.

Horsetail rush

Rue anemone between wild geranium leaves

It's so nice to have a place to go where I can immerse myself in its the beauty, instead of feeling dread and disgust from all the invasive, non-native plants.

Canada mayflower

Northern blue violet

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