Monday, November 10, 2008

Live and Learn (about Quercus)

The trail winds up a steep bank now, where wildflowers covered the ground each spring.
Thirteen years ago, we walked here, on Hall's Creek State Nature Preserve, before any paths had been laid out for public access.
When the tumble of rocks in the creek bed carving its way between two large tracts, was the only entrance for its study.
Mapping our findings, recording all we could, for some day, a trail to be woven for others.

Up the switchbacks we climbed this gray afternoon, soon shedding gloves too much for the heart-thumping hike, rising sharply to the ridge. It was as we had remembered from years ago—the tall oaks (Quercus sp.) all around, now casting this summer’s leaves to the thick, brown pile kicked along by our feet.
Three times, as we walked on, a large, low-flying form disappeared from feet ahead--into a mix of cedars and young Sugar Maples, just out of view. Perhaps a Barred Owl, choosing this quiet place, back beyond the oaks, above the din of passing cars from the road below.

A box turtle, barely peeking from beneath the oak-leaf blanket, sheltered close to the broken remnants of a log, years old. Though the front of his shell told of a history that involved an unpleasant encounter with the traffic beyond these woods, he is here now, safe within the boundaries. Preparing for colder days ahead.
On top of the world.

And with our hands full of leaves, of all shapes and sizes, we left him there.

To live many more seasons.
While we learn all that we still do not know
of what covers these hillsides—



The Oak Leaves of Halls Creek Woods,
Quercus sp.

Quercus sp.

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24 comments:

bobbie said...

Wonderful walk. I love the leaves i your photos.

Kay Dennison said...

I've never been to Hall's Creek -- but your photos have piqued my interest and it's now on my travel list.

Lisa at Greenbow said...

I just love trees but I feel so ignorant about how to ID them. Yes,I have books. I just have a difficult time keying them out. Maybe I should just do it more often I would get good at it.

polona said...

beautifully written. i wis i could walk with you...

nina said...

Lisa--I so understand.
I think it's interesting that you can think you have a pretty good knowledge of something ("that's an oak tree") until you TRY to key it out and find there are 15 species it could be--and they all have subtle differences!

Deborah Godin said...

Oak leaves - nothing beter to walk through in the fall. And thanks for the extra info on bullfrogs eating birds; I was amazed! You're so right about numbers and balance.

Kallen305 said...

I too like walking through leaves. I like the sound of them crinkling below my feet and the scent they give that reminds me it's fall.

I agree about your writing skills. Your descriptions make me feel as if were there walking right beside you.

Julie Zickefoose said...

I see white oak, chestnut oak, pin oak in the photos. We are on the same wavelength--only this morning, I gathered several leaves from the giant who lives by our mailbox and keyed them out to pin oak--and you were the one who got me started when you showed me your treasured giant pin oak, and I realized with shame that I didn't know what our tree really was. I'd always thought it was a red oak, but the sinuses are too deep, and too irregular. So there you go. Thank you.

Now, I bring good tidings of great joy to all naturalists. David Sibley has been working for the last several years on a Field Guide to the Trees of North America. Are y'all as ready for that as I am? And get this: Chanticleer, which published his unbelievably popular and fabulous bird guide, turned his tree guide proposal down, saying they didn't think it would sell. Imagine. Just knowing that is enough to make me buy ten copies. More power to you, David Sibley. We will be waiting, money in hand.

And more power to you, Nina!

Brenda@View From The Pines said...

You take us down such a poetic path...
Brenda

Robert V. Sobczak said...

We have "live oaks" down here in south Florida. They don't have the characteristic oak leaf shape of up north. I was always amazed up north how late they held there leaves: don't they turn brown first but hold their leaves the longest? And interesting memory of pre-trail times. That's a good memory to have, and one you can share with all the trail folks.

Marvin said...

I find the one negative aspect of learning is how it heighten my awareness of how much I don't know.

nina said...

I am guessing that the genus Quercus includes just about the largest number of species of any other tree genus. (At least it appears to, considering 39 are listed in the index of Grimm's Illustrated Book of Trees!)
There's Northern Red Oak, Scarlet Oak, Pin Oak, Northern Pin Oak, Shumard Oak, Turkey Oak, Georgia Oak, Texas Oak, Black Oak, Southern Red Oak, Cherry-bark Oak, Blackjack Oak, Arkansas Oak, Bear Oak, Water Oak, Willow Oak, Darlington Oak, Laurel Oak, Shingle Oak, Bluejack Oak, Live Oak, Sand Live Oak, Myrtle Oak, Bottom-land Post Oak, Chapman Oak, Bastard Oak, Bur Oak, Post Oak, Sand Post Oak, Overcup Oak, White Oak, Bluff Oak, Oglethorpe Oak, Swamp White Oak, Swamp Chestnut Oak, Chestnut Oak, Chinkapin Oak, and Dwarf Chinkapin Oak. And to further confuse IDs, even "professional botanists frequently are puzzled by apparent hybrids and variants."

Yes, Julie, I will jump at an opportunity to have another of Sibley's wonderful works for my bookshelf--and "Trees" may be it!

Marvin--There's no feeling quite like thinking, "ok, I'll just go home and look this up," only to find yourself mired in pages and pages of possibilities. A reminder of how intricate life on earth is, and how limited our ability to understand it.

The Tile Lady said...

Lovely post!

Dave Coulter said...

These are the best days if you like shooshing through leaves!

scienceguy288 said...

I like the eastern forest book you have in general, but it does not offer enough specifics: the Archilles heel of all general id books.

ellen b said...

Sounds like a wonderful place to explore...

Gretchen said...

Great photos.

Leslie: said...

Lovely post - thanks for sharing your walk with us. I really enjoy your way with words.

Shellmo said...

I feel dreamy and enthralled on your walk - thank you!

Rose said...

I have a quercus posted for today's ABC post, too:)
I enjoyed this walk with you...you have such a talent for creating the mood of quiet and awe in us as we read this.

Tracey said...

Beautifully written. You have a gorgeous blog. Glad I stopped in! Happy Wednesday!

AphotoAday said...

Such great designs to those leaves...
Wise old leaves...

Bear Naked said...

I really enjoy reading your blog.
That photo of the oak leaves is wonderful.

Bear((( )))

earthlingorgeous said...

Nice! I love the shot! Thanks for learning a new place again!

By the way, maybe you would like to join my bloggy anniversary giveaway :)

Earth