Natural History Notes

Thursday, March 25, 2010

yep, fifth snow

From around six until perhaps midnight last Saturday, it snowed. There was a moderate northwest wind in the early evening, picking up to a real gale overnight, so the snow was tightly plastered to the north sides of trunks. A few trees, like these, ended up looking like birches.

The fruit trees were all in pretty full bloom, peach and Chickasaw plum, with the Mexican plum getting started. I was quite worried for the crop, as the temperature got down to at least 28°. These Mexican plum flowers, like many, have a hood of snow.

These are the little plum-thicket bush plums (these on the tank dam). The flowers are about half as big as those on the Mexican plum trees. The stamens are fewer, with colorful orange pollen.

At the tank gate, the wet soil had melted most of the snow as it landed. Larger white areas are snow; the little white dots are fallen plum and pear petals. The petals are often referred to poetically as covering the ground like snow, but not usually beside snow.

In the backyard the peaches were pink mists within the snow in the cloudy dawn. But to my pleased surprise, in the early afternoon when the temperature had gotten up to nearly 40° and the snow was about gone, the peach flowers were still just as pink, with no brown edges. Seems like all the pistils made it through just fine. Peach pies and plum jelly after all!

And it's been extremely interesting to experience all these different varieties of snowfall, in one weird winter. But really, enough is enough. These pictures were taken on March 21, "the first day of spring," and we had better not have a sixth snow.

Just sayin'.

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Saturday, March 20, 2010

yipes! more snow?

Cloudy with a 50 percent chance of snow. Windy. Snow accumulation up to 1 inch. Lows in the lower 30s. Northwest winds 20 to 30 mph with gusts to around 40 mph. Wind chill readings as low as 18 to 23.
Cloudy. A 30 percent chance of snow in the morning. Windy. Snow accumulation up to 1 inch. Total snow accumulation up to 2 inches. Highs in the mid 40s. Northwest winds 20 to 30 mph with gusts to around 40 mph. Wind chill readings as low as 19 to 24.

Just when the plums and the peaches are all in bloom. Bah, humbug!

Can only hope it will be a degree or two warmer than they say.

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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

pictures of little plants

This is a very image-heavy post, already out-of-date, because I took the photos a week ago, and spring is springing apace! Click on any photo for an enlarged view.

This Jackson Pollack-like closeup of the budding plum thicket shows only buds; now it's in bloom. In this photo it is still a complex mass of gray twigs, bearing pale green blobs of buds.

Walking down the lane, I observed that the sporophyte generation of the local bryophytes is about mature.
The mosses and liverworts have to do their genetic recombination at a time when the sperm can swim through the surface moisture on the plant to get to the archegonia structures where the egg cells are -- no bees to carry pollen for them! So this cycle definitely cannot happen in July -- late winter is their time.

Now the gametes have met and fused, the diploid spore-producing part of the life cycle has grown, and the spores are about to be released to drift to a new potential home.

Water on the plant surfaces has actually not been a problem this season. The greenish spot in the left center of this view of the wet, privet/greenbriery thicket by the pot-holey lane, when examined closely, is a puddle full of filamentous algae. This shows that it has beet continuously wet for a long time. Where'd the algae come from? Beats me. I'm not an expert on the drought-survival strategies of the local algae.

A few days after this picture was taken, this submerged green patch of algae had multiplied its mass and floated up to make a bubbly mat on the surface.

Poking up through the dry oak leaves by the lane in the low woods are the first leaves of the white violets. Amy tells me today that the plants I sent to her in Houston are beginning to bloom, and are sturdy plants with a dozen leaves or more. This one has a ways to go — I believe it has five little leaves so far. Isabel always looked for them by her birthday, March 27, in Cooke County; here they are usually in bloom by mid-March. Not this year, though, I don't think.
[edit — 25 March — three or four plants have flowers]

Here is the runoff water merrily trickling around, over, and through the old cookstove "erosion control." More non-vascular plants are evident, though I haven't worked my way through the privet and briers to get a close look.

I have noticed several of these bright orange fungi on dead twigs on the woods floor recently. Several lichens are also evident here.

And finally I saw some actual flowers on the walk, these tiny bluets. I need to look them up; I think they are an introduced "weed," not a native. But anyway they have flowers, which I was longing to see.

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Monday, March 01, 2010

spring more off than on, so far

For the last ten days, I have been staying mostly out at Red-bird Ridge, so I have saved up several days worth of notes till I had time on the internet:

20 Feb
winter honeysuckle full bloom
quince has fat buds, a couple open
Mahonia is as pretty as it ever is, in ‘full flower’
elms in fl but probably hurt by freeze
chickasaw plum buds size of ball pin heads

no henbit or veronica; but there are dandelions, some peppergrass, and a comp with little closed yellow cylindrical fls - rosettes with 9” stems

7pm, frogs singing

21 Feb
thunderstorm 8:30 am
50°s or 60°, very humid
norther 4pm, lower 30°s overnight
The ephemeral drainage stream is chuckling & gurgling over its waterfalls around the old cookstove erosion control
Matt’s corner up to the corral is all marshy; from corner south to Oakridge Lane it’s dry except that a culvert and a little earthwork are needed by the roughleaved dogwoods.

There are two dozen bees in the winter honeysuckle.

23 Feb
36°, cloudy at noon just like yesterday. ready for SPRING!

24 Feb - ditto

26 Feb
Cloudy and chilly all week -it FELT chilly even if maybe it got up to 50. Friday morning a tiny bit of sun around 8 am. But then cold front came in, misty drizzle mixed with a bit of snow and getting colder all through benthic collection -- miserable. There was a mockingbird singing away in the shrubbery by the EESAT doors when I went in, but he changed his mind.

Alabaster got out into garage and under door and gone, about 8pm, but showed up on DR windowsill a while later and condescended to come in. Fire in kitchen is not nearly as warm as in living room. The beautiful cantilevered masonry construction just SUCKS up heat. The living room shallow firebox, the convection tubes, and the wood floor all contribute to a much warmer experience.

27 Feb, Saturday
Cloudless sky, up in 50s well before noon, as if yesterday had never been!

Monday March 1
So much for that little tiny hint of spring. Sunday was cloudy all day though not cold, but certainly not the 70° it got to on Saturday! Then in the wee hours this morning it set in to rain, and it has been cloudy, 40°, and raining unceasingly today (3pm now). Chilly and miserable. Marmalade cooking inside; that smells sunny at least.

Aside from the elms, that seem to have survived getting snow on their flowers, there seems to be nothing native in bloom yet. The chickasaw plums are getting closer. The appearance of the plum thickets, seen at a distance, is altered by all the fat little light-colored buds clustered along the stems.

In the grass yesterday or Saturday I have seen henbit, peppergrass and a little long-podded white-flowered crucifer, chickweed, dandelions of course and another little yellow composite. Out in the pasture in the very short-nibbled areas are tiny bluets. The japonicas are coming out, and the winter honeysuckle is in very full bloom with a good number of bees, at least in the sun on Saturday. The last one went home about 6pm. I didn’t see any in the cloudy weather yesterday, but I didn’t look till after 5pm.

Oh, yes, and there are daffodils! One of the February Golds in the yard has come out, triumphing over overcrowding and yaupon shade. And there are three spiky-petaled pale ones Kristi Heckman must have planted, around the young oak outside the shop.

Yesterday afternoon the puddles in the road and the marshy area in the woods where we are clearing, north of Matt Moazami’s corner, were about dry. That was then; now they’ll be awash again.