A while back, we made a trip down to Texas to a nursery in Leander in search of some biodiversity and something that might save some trees. Of course we took the scenic route through the Ouachita Mountains and up through the Boston Mountains in the Ozarks. It added a little time to the trip, but I’ve never seen anything so beautiful as the overlooks on the Talimena Scenic Byway. I would recommend for anyone to go there. They also have a specialized kind of White Oak that is adapted to extremely dry conditions that may be useful to collect some day.
One of the major problems coming for our forests is Thousand Cankers Disease. It has the potential to wipe out every Black Walnut (Juglans nigra) in the eastern United States. The disease comes from the American Southwest, which is the native range of the Arizona Walnut (Juglans major). Because the Arizona Walnut evolved alongside the TCD fungus, it is immune to the disease. Arizona Walnut is part of the Black Walnut section called “Rhysocaryon“, which means that it can hybridize with our native walnut trees and possibly pass on immunity to this devastating disease. We brought back and planted two Arizona Walnut seedlings. When they are old enough, we will begin working on cross-pollination.
While we were there, we also got a few other plants that are native here. Getting them from the natives nursery in Texas means we will get very drought-tolerant phenotypes which should hopefully strengthen the hardiness of our current populations of these plants. We were able to get the following native (bold) plants for the forest, and non-native plants for our house landscaping in the city:
- Passiflora incarnata – Passionflower vine.
- Malus ioensis – a rare, native crabapple tree with tiny, tart Granny Smith-like apples.
- Sapindus saponaria var Drummondii - Western Soapberry Tree.
- Diospyros texana – Texas Persimmon. A small-leafed relative of our native Persimmon, this tree has dime-sized black fruits which are sometimes called Chapote (from the Native American word Chapotl). The fruit is known to leave permanent black stains on anything they fall on, including concrete.
- Cork-bark Passionflower
- Brazilian Passionflower
Lately, I’ve been drawing up plans to plant a few more moisture-loving trees on an area near to a spring on our place. This area will have some beautiful native flowering and water-loving plants including:
- Liriodendron tulipifera
- Magnolia tripetala
- Magnolia acuminata
- Wisteria frutescens
- Cladrastis kentukea
- Panax quinquefolius
- and more
The first step will be to remove the gravel that has washed in from an improperly-made logging road. The gravel and dirt that has washed into the creek bed will be returned to its original location and kept in place with fast-rooting plants like Silky Dogwood and Bluestem. Next, we’ll lay the disrupted large creek rocks back to their original location to slow water flow after big rains. After the gravel has been removed, the spring should be able to flow year-round like it used to, and supply the new plants with the water they need to thrive.
It’s been a really long time since my last post, and for anyone who was enjoying my posts in the past, I apologize. I kept thinking, “I’ll post some of these pictures soon. I’ll get around to it.” Well, I was technically correct, which is the best kind of correct.
Hopefully, I’ll resume posting now and not take such a long break from it as I did before. The next few posts will just be letting everyone know what we’ve done these past few years, and our plans for the future of our lovely little slice of the Ozarks. Stay tuned for more!
One place we love to go in the early days of Autumn is Tupelo Gum Pond. Tupelo Gum Pond is a large, water-holding sinkhole which acts as a permanent water source for a stand of unique and genetically isolated Water Tupelo (nyssa aquatica) trees. Studies have shown that the pond is thousands of years old and that the tupelos have been there almost as long. No one really knows how the trees got there as they are about 100 miles from their natural habitat, which is the Mississippi River lowlands. This stand of tupelos has been there long enough to become a genetically distinct population.
We went there expecting a nice drive down to a pristine area of tall trees with their swollen trunks protruding from brackish water. What we found was something else entirely. The first problem was the road. Someone had taken a front-loader or bulldozer of some kind and carved huge holes out of the road, placing the displaced dirt after each hole, making sort of a motocross ramp every 50 feet or so. Not only that but there were logs and root-wads purposely pushed into the road. Below are pictures of obstructions in the road. Luckily, we were able to go around these to get to the pond. When we got there we saw the second problem: It seemed that all of the bark on almost all of the trees had been stripped off somehow. I don’t know what may have happened, but if anyone happens to read this and has some idea what it may have been, please do tell. I’m very concerned that these trees will die from this girdling effect and this natural treasure will be lost for the 50 years it will take for trees of this size to grow again. The stripped bark on the large trees looks almost the same as the bark on the small beaver-eaten one pictured below.
My wife spotted this interesting Pawpaw leaf near Pulltite Cabin. I just thought I’d share. On a side note, I saw Bush Honeysuckle right next to the Pulltite Cabin…
Now that the growing season is in full swing and the blackberries at the borders of fields have already lost their flowers, you may notice that some of those thorn bushes have some flowers left, and they don’t look like regular blackberry flowers either. This is because they’re not. What you’re seeing is either a multiflora rose (yuck) or, if the flowers are pink or tinted pink a bit, a Pasture Rose (Rosa Carolina).
This plant has gorgeous pink blooms, and a long flowering period. If you find one in your pasture consider transplanting it to a garden or flowerbed instead of mowing it down. These make excellent decorative plants, and since they are a native plant, they are very hardy in our climate. Not only do they offer beautiful flowers, but those flowers form edible rose hips which are high in vitamin C.
This plant is sometimes confused with Rosa Arkansana, which has curved thorns where the Pasture Rose’s thorns are straight.
While we were out walking around our new place, we saw a familiar sight: Trillium pusillum var. Ozarkanum or the Ozark Wake Robin. Last year we found a patch of these rare flowers on a neighbor’s land while doing some seedling planting. When we reported it to the Missouri Department of Conservation, they told us that they tracked the locations of these and others of what they call “species of concern.” How neat! During our walk, we also found some Mayapples and the place I used to get Yellow Morels when I was a kid. Regrettably, we did not get pictures of those.
Last week we agreed to buy 80 acres of mostly forested land. Since the deal fell through with the other guy, we’ve not really been looking very actively. However, a deal came up that we couldn’t turn down, and we took it. I haven’t gotten any pictures of the land yet, but I will be doing so first chance I get (which is in two weeks.)
It’s exciting to finally have someplace where we can not only do what we love, but also what we want.