Month: October 2017

No More

The Vanishing Chestnut

On yonder hill
A twisted silhouette against a leaden sky
With limbs forever bare
A giant chestnut stands,

A gray ghost gesturing of years gone by.
Tassels of velvet cream no more it bears
Nor notched leaf, nor smooth brown-hulled nuts;
No rising tide of earthen drink

Stirs twigs to growth again;
No more the sleek brown sprouts are ventured forth
In quest of sun and air and life;
The very roots are dead.

The wind in its gaunt branches whines a tune
Of grief for fallen fellows of its kind:
“No more, no more, tall trees, no more,
Lone remnant of a broken line!”

Eunice Y. McAlexander–The Mountain Laurel (1983)

Splendid Carpet

Autumn Tapestry

The autumn leaves are tracing
Wild patterns in their flight,
Cascading, swirling in the wind,
Reluctant to alight.

The ground now crisply covered
In shades of red and gold,
Is like a splendid carpet,
Enchanting to behold.

This autumn beauty, soon to fade
Will feel cold winter’s sting
As all the trees now barren
Await the kiss of spring.

Glenna Wallace Moles–The Mountain Laurel (1983)

Sacred Life

A man is ethical only when life, as such, is sacred to him, that of plants and animals as that of his fellow men, and when he devotes himself helpfully to all life that is in need of help.

Albert Schweitzer–Out of My Life and Thought, An Autobiography

Natural Wonders

Here is your country. Cherish these natural wonders, cherish the natural resources… the history… the romance, for your children and your children’s children. Do not let the selfish men or greedy interests skin your country of its beauty, its riches or its romance.

Theodore Roosevelt

Helpful Hints

The following helpful hints for plant identification come from the blog of Amy Hruska at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa.
. . . note the habitat your plant species of interest is in: is it in an urban setting (and likely horticultural) or is it in the forest? It is a good idea to take note of specific geographical information, such as known landmarks, trail names, or street names. Geographical information is always useful when identifying any plant or animal.
. . . do not remove the plant. In the age of cellphone photography, you can take pretty informative pictures if you know what you are photographing. This is both for your safety and the plant’s. WARNING: one photo of your mystery plant will probably rarely be enough. Here are the type of photos you will want to take:
1. Photograph the reproductive parts. Flowers are most helpful, followed by fruits.
2. Photograph the leaves. One leaf could be made up of many leaflets. Look for a bud where a leaf meets a branch or stem to determine if it has one or many leaflets. Knowing whether a leaf is made of one leaflet (simple) or many leaflets (compound) and the arrangement of leaflets is extremely helpful. 
3. Photograph where leaves meet the stem. There are three main arrangements that leaves can have around a stem:  alternate, opposite, and whorled.
4. Take a picture of the whole plant. This is important for knowing if this mystery plant is an herb, shrub, or tree. It also provides context for where the plant is growing, bark characteristics, etc.
Amy Hruska–Blog


The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
Rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Wendell Berry–Collected Poems

Choose Wisely

Most of the trees we plant will outlive us–choose wisely; choose indigenous [i.e. native]. …It’s impossible to “deadhead” a tree; nonindigenous trees may produce seeds for a hundred years or more… Indigenous species of trees in just ten genera (oaks, willow, and cherries are the top three) provide food for well over a thousand species of butterfly and moth caterpillars. Before choosing a new tree, consider how many life forms, in addition to humans, will be able to use it over the next hundred years.

Carolyn Summers–Designing Gardens with Flora of the American East


The kudzu vine is a native of Japan and China, where it enjoys a life of ecological balance, hemmed in by the other plant and animal species that it evolved alongside. It plays its biological part, fixing nitrogen out of the air and into the soil and helping to redistribute and diffuse nutrients and energy. The kudzu story would end there if it had stayed within its home range. Instead, the vine has taken on an almost mythological aura as it has spread and smothered a vast range of land in the southern United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The fast-growing vine, in the absence of natural predators, blazes across forests, climbing and reaching for every bit of available sunlight. The leaves shade out and kill any native fauna unfortunate enough to be found underneath. This vine is a prodigious grower and its advance has yet to be stopped in any meaningful way. There are efforts underway to develop specialized herbicides to combat kudzu and some people are working on tasty ways to eat it but for now, the vine marches on.

Shea Gunther–Mother Nature Network (