About Me

My photo
I am a mother, a teacher, and a nature lover. I grew up on a mountain we called Owls' Knob in the Ozarks of Arkansas. The first seven years of my life were spent living in a log cabin, far from a store or streetlight, without electricity or running water. After twenty years of travel, I returned to the abondoned homestead. Now I live and work in the Ozarks and visit the mountain often. These are stories about the Ozark Wilderness written from a women deeply influenced by this special place.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Confused Producers in an Unforgettable Summer

Fiddle head on a Christmas Fern
(Polystichum acrostichoides)


      Fiddle heads usually uncoil in spring. But this year the erratic seasons have confused plants all over the Ozarks. In August and the north slopes of mountains, which usually retain moisture even in the dry months, are dusty and covered with dying plants. Ferns are the first to go since they are not drought tolerant. This summer has been so severe that we call 90 degrees cool and a summer shower a decent rain. The plants have reacted similarly. Only they did not get the memo that said it is still summer. After dying back, plants are emerging again as if it is spring. 

 
Hairy Petunia (Ruellia humilis)

        The Hairy Petunia is a beautiful wild flower that blooms from June until August most years. But June and July were so hot and dry that this flower refused to show its pretty head. Now that it is almost September, I am finding the flower all over my yard, among oak leaves that have fallen early as if it were autumn already. The seasons seem jumbled.


        Though I still feel like summer is upon us, in comparison it is cool and wet. Still, I was shocked to discover this orange mushroom growing in the crevices of rocks. August is no time for mushroom hunting. Normally a few summer showers won't bring out the fungi, but this year it may be their only chance. I found multiple puff ball mushrooms and then this brilliant orange mushroom that I have not been able to identify. If you think you know it, please comment!

New Peach Tree Leaves

 
        I have been worried about many trees, primarily the fruit trees in my yard. No fruit tree on my property produced any fruit this year, they were all conserving their energy. The peach trees looked like they were not going to make it through the summer earlier this month. Leaves fell as they do in autumn. The bare tree looked dead. However, just the other day I found it producing new leaves. I hope these new leaves will give the tree enough energy to make it through the winter. But I worry that the tree will exert too much energy creating these leaves only to shed them again in the aproaching season. Only time will tell.

Stunted White Oak Acorns

         Among trees the nonnative trees have had a harder time than most native trees. I've noticed sugar maples and northern pines, which are native to a cooler land to the north, have had a particularly hard time of it. Oaks are hardy and so well suited for the Ozarks that even a drastic change like we have seen this year has not been killing them off. However, they are not producing acorns like they should. Acorns, like leaves, have been dropping early. Even the ones that have hung on are not reaching even half of their normal size. This will certainly have serious repercussions for years to come. Acorns are a major food source for a wide variety of animals that are at the bottom of the food chain. When there is a food shortage at the producer level of the food chain, every living thing above it is effected. Even after the year has passed, we will see the ripples of this dreadful summer for years to come. Long after the heat subsides and the rains return, its effects will continue to be felt.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Naked Ladies Basking in the Hot Summer Sun


Ameryllis belladonna


     This time of year plants are retreating, not emerging. It has been a dry year, so untended gardens are failing. Any plant that is not drought tolerant is at risk this summer. Leaves are already starting to turn color and annuals are dying in the intense heat. But then, out of the dusty dirt, sprouts naked ladies or belladonna lilies.
     Their tall thin stems do not seem sufficient to hold up their cluster of large trumpet shaped flowers .They jump up so quickly you have to wonder if fairy folk poked them into yards all over town like plastic flamingos.  The flower, Ameryllis belladonna, has been cultivated since the 18th century and is native to South Africa. It sprouts from a large bulb with fleshy roots that thrive in rocky, dry soil. The sap of this plant is poisonous and can be an irritate to some people's skin, especially children's.  
     Among the withered leaves of lilacs and dying hydrangeas in my unattended flower garden, these beauties appeared. All over town I noticed them, even in the brownest of lawns. They remind me that even in the the hardest of times not all is lost; in fact, much remains and is even gained.