Thursday, February 16, 2012

American beech

American beech trees are a ghostly presence in winter.  Their leaves persist until expansion of new buds pushes them off in early spring.

Shade-tolerant, young beeches became established and persist as saplings in the understory of mixed hardwood forests in the Piedmont of the Southeastern U.S., and maybe elsewhere, too.

beeches near the old sawmill in the Schoenike Arboretum, SC Botanical Garden
In a mild winter, other hardwood species retain their leaves, too.  Ironwood (Carpinus caroliniana), also known as musclewood or American hornbeam, is a beech look-alike in winter guise this year along the stream near Crucible, apart from the distinctive long buds signifying beech.

There are a lot more beech saplings in the understory today than were present five years ago -- it's something I've noticed particularly this winter.

I'm thinking that the easing of the decade-long drought might have encouraged a 'cohort' of establishment (first seedlings and now saplings) in the understory of our mixed hardwood forests, where seed-producing beeches were nearby. 

This is evident both in woodland/forest areas near the Meditation Garden, as well as beyond the powerline corridor, where the photo (above) was taken (adjacent to the beech grove).

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Hunt Cabin Open House

Starting in February we are opening the Hunt Cabin once a month.  These are pictures from our first event.
We had about 60 guests over the course of the time (10 am to 2 pm) and we had fun eating popcorn cooked on the fire and drinking apple cider warmed on the hearth.  There was dancing, storytelling and playing  fun (and historically appropriate) games.
Our next open houses are
March 10th, 10 am to 2 pm
Open hearth cooking with Wayne Link
Secrets of cabin construction
April 14th, 10 am to 2 pm
What to wear? Cloth and clothing in the 19th C upcountry
May 5th, 10 am to 2 pm

Ready for visitors

Games to play

A roaring fire of welcome!
Wintery Outside

Pam Kline - lovely spinning

Playing Graces.

Storyteller Jennifer Bausman

Boy Scouts playing

Learning to write with a dip fountain pen

Tessa and Helen (l to r)

Tessa - an English Sheepdog

Learning to play the washboard

Visiting with Pam and learning about the past

More stories

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Early flowering and phenology

" Phenology is derived from the Greek word phaino , meaning to show or appear. Phenology refers to recurring plant and animal life cycle stages, such as leafing and flowering, maturation of agricultural plants, emergence of insects, and migration of birds.  It is also the study of these recurring plant and animal life cycle stages, especially their timing and relationships with weather and climate."
~ USA National Phenology network.

Roundleaf Hepatica

Oconee Bells

First emerging Mayapple
Phenology has been on my mind this week as we have enjoyed several days over 70 degrees fahrenheit.  It seemed unseasonably warm for late January as I shed my jacket and rolled up my sleeves looking for signs of Spring.  Early in the week I learned the USDA had changed the plant hardiness zone map to reflect data collected over a period of 30 years, more sophisticated mapping techniques and the warming trends we have experienced over the past few years. (  Clemson has moved from zone 7B to 8A, a zone that,until this new map was issued, belonged to South Carolinians living below Columbia. I wondered what might be happening in the garden in the beginning of February, in light of this shift in our designated climate zone.
In the Woodland Wildflower Garden I  discovered life was stirring already, perhaps three weeks earlier that I expected (although I have never kept written records).  There were several signs of spring: Hepatica, Violets and Oconee Bells in flower.  In front of Crucible, after a somewhat intense search, I discovered an emerging MayApple.  I love this plant, just for the way it unfurls like a beautiful glossy green umbrella.  I have never kept phenological records, but perhaps this might be an interesting and valuable project for Garden visitors.  The US National Phenology Network is monitoring many species of plants and animals and would welcome the efforts of citizen scientists to gather data visit their website for more information.