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Archive for the ‘Trees’ Category

sweating shelf fungus

Come into the backwoods and I’ll show you something absolutely magical.  Fungi abound in this neck of the woods, but this bracket fungus is doing something I’ve not seen others do.  It’s crying.

sweat on fungus
These tears may look like raindrops, but they cover only the fungus, not the surrounding area, except for where they’ve dripped below and discolored the moss.  Present on one of the oldest, tallest spruce trees in the yard,  one can only wonder what could have caused tears to appear on this Red-belted polypore.

Old spruce tree and Red-belted polypore

Old spruce tree and Red-belted polypore

Red-belted polypores  are thought to hold anti-bacterial, anti-tumor and anti-inflammatory properties by native and oriental cultures.  If this is so, can you imagine what pharmacological mysteries their exudate droplets hold?  Since this old spruce tree reigns in a stand of smaller firs and magical  Rowan and Elderberry trees, some whimsical wonder must surely be at the bottom of this.

fairy tree entrance

Could this bracket fungus serve as an awning to a fairy door entrance into another realm?  An awning, perhaps, which sheds tears of joy when visitors arrive on the doorstep and tears of sadness when they depart.  One can only wonder.

fungal awning above fairy tree door

For more information on bracket fungi and their exudate droplets, see Red-Belted Bracket Fungi

This post is written in response to Karma’s ‘In Want of Whimsy’ Challenge.  Deadline for submissions is June 22nd.

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2014

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Cone Talk

The cones have tales to tell this fine spring day.  Do you have a minute to hear what they have to say?

old black spruce cones

Let the old gray cones speak first.  They’ve likely seen better days but are still holding on tight to the even older black spruce that bore them years ago.  Neither the young nor the old should underestimate the value of tenacity.  Hang in there baby!

spruce cone leftovers in woodpile

These spruce cone leftovers on the woodpile reveal a spot where at least one red squirrel likes to dine regularly.  Hopefully the neighborhood cats aren’t paying attention.

closed spruce cone in bog

A closed cone in a boggy area doesn’t want to expose its seeds to the wetness if there’s still a chance it can disperse them farther in drier weather.  It’s only natural for all of us, even small pine cones, to aspire to reach out to the world beyond our little neck of the woods.

open cone indicating dry forest

A spruce cone on the forest floor is already open, even though it rained heavily here a couple of days ago.  A sign of a dry summer ahead, it’s also showing an increased risk for wildfire.

speckled alder cones and seeds

Speckled alder cones have only a few seeds left in them, but are proud to say they helped feed a good many hungry chickadees this past winter.   When you hear the chickadees sing, you can thank the alders.

red spruce cones

Red spruce cones announce to the world that they’re open for business.  Pollination business that is.  Their bright red bract scales are ready to receive the male gametophytes that will produce a new crop of seeds.  They’re so spectacularly beautiful, a close-up is warranted…

red bract scales on red spruce

Green cones appear for the first time atop a tall balsam fir I transplanted as a seedling years ago while holding a baby on my hip.  It’s always a thrill when your babies start having babies of their own, whether these babies are humans or trees ;)

green balsam fir cones

Get outside and hear what nature has to say to you today.

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2013

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The trees of the Acadian forest have something to say.   Ever since the Europeans arrived here, they’ve been patient, but they’ve put up with our foolishness long enough.  It’s time for us to listen up.  This past week, forester and law student Jamie Simpson took it upon himself to help them get the word out.

I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues.
~ Dr Seuss, The Lorax

Last Friday Jamie put up a billboard between the two bridges in Halifax along much travelled Barrington Street to increase awareness of our government’s clearcutting policy.  As you can see, in this larger version of the billboard photo,  a picture truly is worth a thousand words.

Whole tree harvest cut near Upper Musquodoboit Nova Scotia ~ Photo Jamie Simpson

Despite its promises, Nova Scotia’s NDP government has done nothing to stop whole harvesting of our Acadian forests.  It’s not just wrong.  In Jamie’s words:  ‘It’s shameful.’  By allowing a loose definition of a clearcut in the fine print, despite its new policy, the NDP government continues to allow harvesters to transform more of our mixed growth forests (with the potential for partial harvesting) into mud pits.

Northern Pulp biomass harvest ~ Photo Jamie Simpson

Northern Pulp, the company that ravaged the tract of land shown above, was sold to Paper Excellence Canada, which in turn is owned by a conglomerate of Asian and European owners.  Like the Lorax in Dr Seuss’ book of the same name, perhaps we need to get angry while also retaining a seed of hope. We need to tell our government representatives that they have to be more creative in finding a solution that works both for the forests and the forest workers.  Now, before our landscape is ravaged any further.

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better.  It’s not.
~ Dr Seuss, The Lorax

For more information concerning the decline of Nova Scotia’s forests since the arrival of Europeans, see my earlier post on  The Fall of the Tall Trees.

To help Jamie get the word out, visit his website for a list of government contacts at Clearcut Nova Scotia:  What to do.  MLA Becky Kent is the representative for Cole Harbour/Eastern Passage.  Her contact information is listed here.

Text copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2012.
All photos shown courtesy of Jamie Simpson.

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When you walk in the woods, do you see the forest or the trees?  Do your eyes come to rest on the bark of the closest  trunk or is your vision focused on the woods behind it?

Similarly, when you’re walking on the beach, are your eyes scanning the shore for a special shell,  a heart shaped stone or a bottle with a message in it, or are you gazing at the horizon line?

It’s easier to focus on the trees nearby if the path ahead is tangled with vegetation.  The possibility of ticks in the grass or mosquitoes lurking in the deeper woods may prompt you to take a closer look at the soft new growth on the branches  within your grasp.

If the path ahead appears clear and bright, you may be more inclined to venture into the forest.

At home or at work, I often find myself caught up in the details in my surroundings.  My eyes dart quickly back and forth looking to re-arrange or make right whatever seems out of place.  However, when daily life sometimes becomes cluttered, as the beach is with seaweed after a storm…

I lift up my eyes to focus on what’s ahead.  (One of these days I’m sure I’m going to see a mermaid sitting on top of that big stone).

Our ability to shift our focus is a gift that allows us to be happy in any circumstance.  All that’s required from us is a willingness to refocus our attention, perhaps for just a moment, before getting back to the task at hand.

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2012

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Fascinated by the play of light filtering through the trees onto the tangled undergrowth, it’s no wonder why Vincent van Gogh made so many paintings of such scenes.

Trees and Undergrowth by van Gogh

The effect of light changes from one minute to the next as clouds pass overhead and the breeze affects the movement of the leaves.  The time of day also plays a role in how warm the light will appear on foliage and bark.

Nature is always changing, never stagnant, but some environments tend to reveal that quality more than others, and it’s no surprise that it’s in those places that we most feel alive.

Undergrowth by van Gogh

In springtime, new undergrowth looks especially fresh as a myriad of tiny plants blend together to create a living mosaic.  Ferns unfurled add a lushness to the forest floor.  Carpets of green wood sorrel replace last autumn’s dried leaves.

The emergent undergrowth provides a contrast to the vertical lines of the lichen covered trees.  As saplings, these trees too were once a part of the undergrowth.  Now their ongoing competition for light forces them to soar above one another, revealing their green lushness only in the canopy.

Trees with undergrowth of young balsam firs

Although he often exaggerated the intensity of Nature’s palette, van Gogh understood the importance of  being outdoors to witness the effect of light on a landscape.  Pictures and photographs can only begin to tell the story.  Whether or not you’re a painter, the woods are waiting for a visit from you to show off their new spring growth.

Lady’s slipper orchids growing in Nova Scotia woods

 It is not the language of painters but the language of nature which one should listen to…. The feeling for the things themselves, for reality, is more important than the feeling for pictures.
~ Vincent van Gogh

Wood sorrel carpeting the forest floor

Paintings by Vincent van Gogh shown above:
Trees and Undergrowth (1887)
Section of Undergrowth with Two Figures (June 1890 Auvers)

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2012

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Sometimes it’s difficult to tell one cat from another, especially if they’re plants, not animals.

A cattail from last year looking ragged in springtime

In the spring, last year’s cattails look shabby and ragged.  An aggressive native species, colonies of this spike-like plant are commonly found in ditches and freshwater wetlands.  The soft down-like seeds are easily dispersed by the wind.  Besides being employed by birds to line nests, the down was used by First Nation’s people as a firestarter and to line moccasins and papooses.  Many parts of the plant are edible.  (For more see the Wikipedia page for Typha at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Typha) New green cattails will appear later this summer and turn brown as the season progresses.

Cattails growing in a ditch.

Cattails are often confushed with catkins, the male (and sometimes male/female) reproductive part on some trees and bushes.  Below are catkins on an alder tree.    The word ‘catkin’ is derived from the Dutch word for kitten.  In late spring, these catkins certainly look like kittens’ tails.

Male catkins on a speckled alder in May

In the next image, you can see the greenish catkins as they appeared earlier this spring, hard and closed.  Also visible on the leafless branches are small brown cones leftover from last year.  These cones hold many small seeds that are a favorite of chickadees.

New catkins on speckled alder with last year’s cones

Below are the pussywillows that are such a welcome sight in early spring.  Their soft grey fur invites petting by young and old.  As a child I recall my first grade class glueing these to an image of a kitten to provide texture and color.  It was a common craft back then when most children had access to pussywillows near their homes.

Pussywillows are a type of catkin growing on willow trees or bushes.  Eventually, they go to seed and appear quite different than when they first emerged from the branch.

By now, it’s difficult to find evidence of  pussywillows in our woods.  However, fresh green catkins can now be found on the yellow birch trees.

Yellow birch catkin

With such staggered and changing appearances, cattails, catkins and pussywillows can seem as mysterious as their feline namesake.  Perhaps that’s part of their charm.

Text and images copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2012

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