Friday, March 26, 2010

Garden Naturalist Program

On Wednesday the Garden Naturalists visited the Hopkins Beech Grove to learn more about beech trees and their associated habitat. It turned out to be a fabulous class, and not just because of the beautiful, statuesque beeches.

(Image: Wiki Common)

We have started to think about Phenology "the study of recurring plant and animal life cycle stages, or phenophases, such as leafing and flowering of plants, maturation of agricultural crops, emergence of insects, and migration of birds."On our walk to the Beech Grove we passed through the Woodland Wildflower and Gordon Belser Native Wildflower Trails. We had visited this area of the Garden the previous week so we were able to see significant changes in the landscape in just those few days. Spring ephemerals have popped up all over. There are Trillium, Oconee Bells, Dog-Tooth Violets, Trout Lily, Bloodroot and Yellow Root in all in flower along the trails. By Herb Parker's Crucible there is a huge swath of Mayapples. We discovered how beautifully the Mayapples come out of the soil - they are like tightly furled umbrellas who quickly unwrap and stand tall (4 inches) above the forest fall.
Here are some images of spring ephemerals in the South Carolina Botanical Garden.

Our next stop was the Meditation Garden, a recently beautifully redesigned area of the Garden. We were drawn to the water's edge (I'm not sure why) and then noticed something moving under the surface. It seemed like there were small sticks moving rather more purposefully than sticks usually do. Thesewere Caddis Fly larva, wonderful architects of the natural world, who take sticks or stones (or even precious jewels and metals) to make a protective case. Once we spotted one we began to notice more and more, until most of the small one inch long sticks seemed to be moving.

This was all before we reached our final destination: The Hopkins Beech Grove. This is one of my favorite areas of the Garden. There is one large beech in the center of a meander in the stream, and smaller beeches and tall Tulip Poplars all around. We stood for a few minutes enjoying the bird song and music of the brook, then we started seeing woodpeckers. We saw several Downy and Red-Bellies flitting up and down the tree trunks, flying from tree to tree. Then one of the Naturalists said "Look! Over there! A Pileated ..." There it was on the base of a tree about 20 yards away. We were able to observe it pecking at two or three trees before it took off out of sight. It was a wonderful experience.
Next week our topic is Bird adaptations, habits and habitats. I am excited to see what we will discover next week.

1 comment:

lkw said...

What a delightful morning to spend in the Garden!

I'm so glad that you saw caddis fly larvae -- I'd been thinking our streams are looking pretty clear this spring, and since caddis flies reflect good stream quality, that's definitely a good sign.

And the woodpeckers have been active, too -- definitely a treat to see pileated woodpeckers. I saw a group of them in the beech grove several years ago in spring.

Thanks for a great post!