Thursday, December 11, 2008

From Scat to State Tree

One of my favorite things about tromping about in the forest is the interesting “stories” you can come across. How is it that tree grew with that interesting crook (the remains of another tree on the ground may yield the answer), why do the lichens on a tree in the wetlands stop at a certain height (how long water stood over the summer had something to do with it), or why is there a swale in the middle of the flatwoods (didn’t they ride off road through here years ago)? Discovering and realizing an origin of something not expected or seemingly out of order in the woods, no matter how easy to figure out, always invokes a certain pleasant wonder for me. It’s like that "three year old" kind of glee of realizing you are able to state; I know why that is. That is what the woods do for me every day.

My forest revelation this week starts with a funny clump of pleated strap like foliage under dense pine canopy. It is near a colony of toothpetal false reinorchids (Habenaria floribunda). Is it another type of orchid (the giant orchid [Pteroglossaspis ecristata] found earlier this fall had similar foliage)? Ooh, or is it some kind of iris?

A closer look reveals a clump of numerous black berries burst open with seeds germinating into mass of sabal palm (Sabal palmetto) seedlings.

A quick scan of the canopy reveals no cabbage palms mixed with the pines. Hmm, just where did these seeds come from? A quick scan around the forest floor nearby turns up a not yet germinated clump of berries and seeds in a distinct “pile” formation. A quick Google search of the names of some the likely culprits, along with the term scat, yields images to confirm a raccoon is the responsible party. Raccoons and many other forest inhabitants relish sabal fruit and do their best to ensure its distribution.

Mystery solved…glee realized…and a secondary benefit, you are now keyed in to notice the multitude of little clumps of sabal seedlings here, there, and everywhere.
Man that was one busy raccoon.

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