Sunday, April 21, 2013

April 21, Earth Day, Prairie Grove Cedar Glade, TVA Nature Loop

Hidden down a dirt county road in Lawrence County is Alabama's largest cedar glade, Prairie Grove Glades. We've been in love with cedar glade ecology since our years living in middle Tennessee and considered this quite the find when we discovered it back in March of 2010.

Esther was nice enough to come over to my desk and help me identify several of these- but there are two that remain a mystery. (Feel free to comment if you recognize them.)

Blue-eyed grass

Long-leafed Summer bluet

Reindeer moss next to a mystery plant

Moss of some kind- Warning: do not Google for "kinky moss"
Identified 4/24 as "Pleurochaete squarrosa"

Alabama glade cress
Here are the two that we could not identify. This little purple dude...
UPDATE 4/24: I believe this is small skullcap.

And this, the mystery plant that has yet to bloom. This is the same one next to the reindeer moss above. You'd think with leaves like that it would be easy to find, but no.

Purple topped Nashville breadroot

Wood sorrel

I found this and one like it nested inside some moss. I don't know if it's a structure of the moss itself or some foreign organism. I'm waiting to hear back form my moss expert on this one as Google wasn't much help.

Stonecrop (pink sedum)


UPDATE 4/24: I found this site from Vanderbilt University as a great resource for cedar glade plant identification. Tennessee and Alabama share many of the same plants and ecologies.

Older pictures of the glade:
March 2010
November 2010

Prairie Grove at Google Maps

Our primary location of the day was the TVA Nature Loop in Florence where we were to attend an "herb hike". The actual experience was less hike and more a 30 yard meander and frankly I did not learn a new thing. I'll not name names, but our host was ill-prepared and inaccurate; something that can be hazardous when it comes to identifying herbs for eating or medicinal usage. Our host was clearly a little flustered and I learned later that they had been drafted at the last moment. Regardless, proper identification of a plant and knowing which parts of the plant that are edible is key. Take the may apple, for example. The flesh of the fruit is edible but the seeds and roots are poisonous.

I much more enjoyed walking around with Esther, our friend KT, and our daughters on our own self-led walk through the native plants than the planned event. I know I learned more.

Wild geranium

May apple

Greek Valerian 




Wild ginger "little brown jug"

Pictures from the day here, y'all.
TVA Nature Loop at Open Street Maps (better trail mapping than Google in this case)

Sunday, April 14, 2013

April 13th and 14th: Tishomingo State Park and the Natchez Trace

Tishomingo State Park and the surrounding countryside is, in my mind, all the reason you'll ever need to visit Mississippi. Located right off the Natchez Trace, and only about 45 minutes from Florence, Alabama, the park is known for its beautiful stone outcroppings and the picturesque swinging bridge over Bear Creek.

We arrived on Saturday around early afternoon and set up our pop-up, "Poppy" at the end of the camping road in the big loop to be next to our friends and further away from most other campers. After had arrived and the various forms of shelter were in place I made a quick geocache find nearby. I have to give the hider credit for the cute log book. It's nice to see some level of effort put into caches.

The log book from a geocache near our campsite

Sapling covered in pine pollen (maple?)

False garlic

Bird's foot violet

Chandler befriended a moth. **WARNING: SAD STORY** This is an Eastern tent caterpillar moth- you know all those big silk tents that appear every year that are full of worms. In their wild hedonistic youth they gorge themselves silly day and night (three meals a day, like us) until one day they form a cocoon from which will emerge the moth. In their one single day of life, the females will mate and lay eggs then die. Such was the fate of this moth that Chan named "Marcus". She stayed with it until the end and then gave it a proper moth burial. 


RIP Marcus
This was also Nia's maiden camping voyage and her chance to prove herself useful as "traveling dog". They jury is still out on that, but she's young. We have to remind ourselves that she is only about five months and still very much a puppy. Nia got to hang out with New Best Buddy Mars, the poodle. Mars is no teacup. Nia was not intimidated and they played by running and wrestling next to and in the water. This was something we also discovered this trip- Nia is very much the swimmer. She will fetch and retrieve anyting thrown into the water and is completely willing to paddle out over her head. That long tail of hers has a function- rudder.

One of the few pictures that was not a complete blur of fur

The night sky presented us with a view of Orion, Taurus, the Pleiades (cluster to the right and down of the moon) and Jupiter (bright spot above the moon). 

The next morning Esther and I drove down a bit to spot on the Trace to view and take pictures of the Spring wildflowers.

Assassin beetles mating on ragwort

Fringed phacelia

Ladybugs eating aphids

Southern green stink bug (related to the assassin beetles above)

Most everybody in our group
During a moment of great excitement, Esther pointed out what would be my First Snake of the Year. This year's award goes to this lovely cotton mouth/water moccasin. And sure, why not kick the year off with a venomous snake? We all gathered around to see and followed it (with our eyes) into its hidey-hole. The poor thing was more afraid than we were. Well, maybe.

On our way home we paused along Cypress Creek and at Rock Spring beaver pond.

Spider mite

Crossing stones near Rock Spring

The impressive beaver dam at Rock Spring
Nia took a dip in the thick black mud below the beaver dam so we encouraged her to chase after a few more sticks in the creek before loading back into the van. She was nice enough to leaf-dry after her swim.

Pictures of the trip are here for the 13th and here for the 14th.
Pictures of the trip we took to the same area in 2009 are here and here.