Friday, April 15, 2016

Some Spring Views at Herrontown Woods

The unfolding of spring, slowed by cool weather, can be viewed within a short walk of the Veblen House at Herrontown Woods. There's the grand view from the cliff (careful, folks!),

and the domesticated view in front of the corncrib. Sally Tazelaar, of our Friends of Herrontown Woods nonprofit, cleared the multiflora rose that had obscured the daffodils for years.

One of my favorite views is very small and mundane-looking, belying its ecologically significance. Here's evidence that deer are browsing on the smaller shoots of winged euonymus, an all too dominating, nonnative species in some areas of the park. The winged euonymus has been outcompeting native shrubs in part because the wildlife tend not to eat it, but we've noticed that if we play the role of extinct megafauna, by cutting down the winged euonymus too big for the less-mega deer to reach, the deer will browse the resprouts and thus reduce the nonnative's unnatural competitive advantage. There's a good feeling in this collaboration with deer, though they don't seem to have developed a taste for privet or Asian photinia. For those, it's completely up to humans to do the browsing, if some semblance of ecological balance is to be restored.

Another quiet, welcome sight is water trickling out of a long-abandoned drainage pipe. It's a spring of sorts, fed by seepage from the ridge.

Typically one finds more native plant diversity in the vicinity of a spring, because it provides the stable soil moisture of a pre-drained America, where wetlands and all the native species adapted to them once prospered. Mosses, Equisetum, jewelweed, and even what looks like an iris, which would not be found in the more drought-prone, altered terrain elsewhere.

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