Monday, October 31, 2016

Wawa Grows a Prairie

Wawhat's the Wawa growing? A bit shaggy for a butch cut. The proof is in the roof. Clearly, the Wawa at the Dinky station has gone green, or tawny, depending on the season. Take the building out of the picture, and you have a prairie out in big sky country. For a botanist, the question is not how all those prairie grasses got there--Princeton University has been designing green roofs into, or onto, a number of buildings in recent years--but whether the grass is little bluestem or broomsedge. Time to pull out the ladder for closer inspection. A vegetated roof reduces stormwater runoff from the building, and also provides insulation.

Another aspect of the Dinky Station's landscaping: Most of the trees are Kentucky coffee trees and a thornless version of honey locust. Both of these species tend to leaf out late in spring and drop their leaves early in the fall. Both are relatively rare in local woodlands, in part because their seedpods were in the deep past eaten and spread mostly by America's now-extinct megafauna. They make great landscape trees, though, because they leaf out late in spring and drop their leaves early in the fall. That means they shade the pavement and buildings only during the warmest months, then generously allow the sunlight's warmth to reach the ground during fall, winter and spring. Some research might show that the trees' internal clocks and large seedpods evolved in an ice-age world of short summers and big animals with fur the length of the Wawa's roof.

The bark of the Kentucky coffee tree has a characteristic chipped appearance,

in contrast to the smooth bark of the honey locusts.

Here's a grove of honey locusts letting October sunlight reach the south-facing windows of the Dinky Station.

Found a past post about Dinky wildlife, and a post in which the vibrations of the Dinky's approach makes the trees dream of megafauna past.

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