So many folks in my neighborhood (Zone 8b) spend quite a lot of electricity and/or gasoline getting their fallen leaves in bags and onto the street curb these days. Not a lot of analog rake noises abound. And, here in my native deep South, the Live Oaks are the cause of so much local activity.
This candid culprit makes no apologies as it delivers a raucous leaf explosion this time of year. We love them so much whilst they herald the first day of Spring for us by shedding almost every dang brown leaf they have on board. With this kind of flotsam in an Oak lined drive….well, I get excited about the fallen leaves. They are so full of Nitrogen. Click here and here for all the great news!
If ever there were a Southern tree, this guy would be in line. And, my oh my, what a messy boy he is, too. This is the loot from just this morning! The genus classification of Sweet Gum is Liquidambar, named for the amber liquid that is resin that oozes from this valuable hardwood tree. And, even though I forget and walk barefoot past his territory in my back yard and shout “ouch!” from the seedpod and watch every Thanksgiving to Christmas as his leaves cover my garden, I still love him.
This is just the cover of the Philip Jodidio authored Patrick Hruby illustrated Taschen published awesomeness…
Or, Tilia japonica, to be exact. Not to be confused with Tilia cordata or Tilia europa…though, this nearly perfect plant grows in so many different cultures of the world that I find myself falling in love with it for it’s open mindedness. My great friend Mark and I strolled along this romantic path together in Tokyo and this is the photograph that he snapped. Imagine my surprise to find this London like boulevard of Linden in Asia. The Linden is truly egalitarian and upright and social (can be crowded and planted quite close to another one) and healthy. It is no wonder so much of the world’s greatest writers have penned homages to this one. Here is a poem in the
about the Linden just for you.
I don’t know how many Americans would recognize this grove at this distance to be a quintessential Pecan grove, but, most Southerners do. We live amongst so many of these deciduous trees and pull the fruit of them from our windshield wipers all Fall and Winter long. Every time the breeze kicks up, Pecans fall all over our landscape and our grandmothers bake pies. This particular grove is part of Brookland Plantation in South Carolina’s Lowcountry. And, I always find the leafless fields in the cold season to be a lonely and lovely sight. I came across a really fantastic article here from the American Forests website, written by a botanist named Jeff Ball, that points out that the word pecan comes from the Algonquin tribe of American aboriginal/First Nations inhabitants to mean the nut so hard as to require a stone to crack. Maybe the Algonquins didn’t run across the Sumner Paper Shell variety or maybe that variety is a modern grafting product and didn’t exist when the tribe was pounding the nut wondering what they should call it. Mainly, I sit around and ponder the reason there is such a nasty, bitter slice in between so tasty and wonderful a prize. And, of course I can get into a conversation about the pronunciation…So how do YOU pronounce the word? It still is unsettled with me.
Yes, yes, yes…I see them. Those oaks ARE beautiful! But, really, I do want to talk about that mud puddle. Because, I want to talk about Mud Daubers. This unbelievably beautiful view is off the front porch of Rochelle Plantation’s main house. That direction we are looking is the finest selection of coastal plain of the South Carolina Santee River Delta I can find and I am lucky enough to get to wake here and have some coffee and walk about. We are looking East towards Bulls Bay, ultimately leading to the Atlantic Ocean. Very close to being beneath sea level, too. So, the bugs around these parts are plentiful and varied and important and some can be super cool and interesting. Like, the Mud Daubers, or Dirt Daubers, or Sphecidae Wasps, a category of thread-waisted wasps that build their nests from mud and cling them to the side of the cabin. Or, porch. Or, bury them up in the bow of your jon boat. These wasps abound around Rochelle. I have seen their nests all over the joint. They fly down to that particular mud puddle there after a rain and navigate their tiny bodies to the rim and collect their material for home building. They are non-aggressive to humans. No need to fear. What they really want to eat and feed their young and store in their tubular larders are Black Widows. Dang, can you say “Thank you?”
I shot this photograph while touring the coastal plain of South Carolina. The Longleaf pine, Pinus palustris, is the probably the most majestic of the natives of the forest of the savanna reaching heights of 100 feet. The natural resistance to forest fires creates this particular habitat above of wide open spaces and pine needle beds. Early settlers of the states released their hogs to feed beneath these trees and the hogs took to the environment nibbling away at the saplings causing a disruption in the ecosystem. This disruption and endangerment to the tree, introduced by man, has consequences that continue today. One emergency that comes to mind is the endangered Red-cockaded Woodpecker, which is dependent upon this beauty for her seeds. But, don’t stop here if you are reading this post. There is so much interesting information available on the web including Wikipedia about this tree. The Longleaf Alliance might make a better read on this subject than my attempt here today, as well. Please go see.