Jan 26, 2011

sky behind a sycamore

No native tree is as easy to recognize as the sycamore. Its bark peels in unique ways, leaving smooth white branches and trunks that can not be mistaken. Sycamore trunks and branches curl and twist. In moonlight sycamores glow; in sunlight they offer odd shapes and shades of of green and brown.

An animal you would never suspect of using camouflage: huge, mint green luna moths, wings edged in thick purple with tails and eyespots, vanish against sycamore bark. Sycamores are most abundant along streams and rivers, happy with wet roots, thirsty, and the flush of spring turns their white bark green. Moths the size of your hand can be next to invisible perched on a sycamore.

Sycamore wood burns poorly and is difficult to cut and mill. With little productive value but an ability to stabilize streambanks, sycamores are often left alone when land is logged or cleared for pasture or development. Even where most trees are gone, majestic old sycamores might remain, doing no one any good except luna moths, stream dwellers and whatever depends on stream and river water being clean.

Jan 1, 2011

lichen this

It was one of those beautiful days when everything is wet. Between wind, rain and fog, moisture creeped in every crevice from all directions. Water being that which merits the most gratitude, I see wet days as beauty, though they break limbs and topple trees. Mist feeds things like mistletoe and lichen. Water is a rare delicacy they savor, and when they get a drink on a new year's first day, it is cause for celebration.

Against wet bark, lichen glows brighter than normal. Flat, winter light and exaggerated contrast bring pale lichens to prominence, but it may not just be wet bark at work. Lichen may actually glow brighter in wet, winter weather.

Lichen is a symbiotic pairing of algae and fungus, the original pioneers of dry land. Long before there were trees, flowers or fields of grass, algae and mold grew on a stark landscape of rock, sand, dirt, but nothing that could be fairly called "soil." Soil is an end result of biodiversity, not its ancestor. Algae, moss, molds and mycelia don't need soil; soil is the graveyard of their proliferation and evolution.

Lichen likely predates most or all terrestrial plant and animal life, and a warm, wet winter afternoon may remind it of the stark, ancestral Earth where algae and mold first partnered. It may glow mint-green and grateful against gray bark.