Monday, February 27, 2012

The Story a Spicebush Tells

You can still find a few of these dead stems of spicebush standing in Princeton's preserves, pockmarked with holes reminiscent of cholla cactus wood we used to find in the deserts of the southwest. They tell a remarkable story of a forest understory's rebirth.

Seven years ago, instead of this cluster of healthy stems you would have seen one old stem too tall for the deer to reach, and a dense cluster of tiny stems eaten nearly to the ground. Soon, those old stems, which singletrunkedly kept the shrubs alive back when deer browsing pressure was high, will have rotted back into the ground amidst the crowd of younger stems that now, with reduced deer numbers, can grow to maturity. The many healthy, multi-stemmed spicebush serve as monuments to those single stems that kept the bushes alive through a period of ecological imbalance.

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