Thursday, July 16, 2009

102 Degree Clearing

In 1994 I got serious about clearing cedars from open areas. I chose this quarter acre barren as a test site to give me an idea of the time it would take me to clear different areas and an idea of how physically demanding the work would be. It was a beautiful November day and the site was only moderately covered with medium sized cedars, so I thought it would be an easy place to start. The area was steeply sloping and I chose an area at the top of the slope for the brush pile. This is the site that convinced me that you should try to drag cedars down hill to a pile instead of up.

Back in the trees is the remnants of my brush pile. As I worked, I began to view this vision as an unattainable destination. The cedars seemed to weigh hundreds of pounds and each step felt as if it would kill me. It took me eight hours to finish this little area and I could hardly carry my tools as I wobbled back to the house. When I came through the door, my wife said I looked terrible and had me take my temperature. I showed a 102 degree fever and was sick with flu for the next two days. I really hadn’t felt very good that morning, but when you take a day off work to cut cedars, you cut cedars. The good news is, the cedar cutting got much easier once I was well.

You can see that this area truly meets my criteria for a barren. A lot of nice limestone gravel here.

These barrens are normally described as being locations that support the short prairie grasses. This site is odd because the dominant grasses here are Indiangrass and Big Bluestem, both tall grasses.

This block of limestone is gradually degrading into the chips that cover the ground. The back side of the block faces north and is protected enough to support some lichens and mosses on its surface. The front side receives more sunlight and breaks down too rapidly for any growth to survive.

This is a Yellow Passionflower, Passiflora lutea, growing at the edge of the clearing. Last year I spotted a Gulf Fritillary at Blue Jay Barrens. The Gulf Fritillary uses the Passionflower as a host plant and I went around checking every Passionflower I could find in hopes of seeing some Gulf Fritillary larvae. No luck.

This aster can’t be positively identified until it flowers. It looks like I’ll be able to make an ID on this one later this summer.

These are the basal rosettes of the Downy Wood mint, Blephilia ciliata. These plants have finished blooming for this year, but healthy growth like this indicates a good blooming season next year.

Milk Pea, Galactia volubilis. This uncommon plant does very well in these dry, rocky conditions. We’ll take a closer look at this plant when it blooms in a few weeks.

This is a very handsome wolf spider. Its coloration blends perfectly here. I wonder if it’s specific to this type of habitat?

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