Saturday, April 24, 2010

Flowering Dogwood

Flowering Dogwood, Cornus florida, has put on a wonderful show this spring. The tree’s horizontal branching pattern produces layers of flower rafts. The white bracts surrounding the flower clusters glow in the sunlight.

From below, you can see the reddish-brown spot at the tip of each bract.

The flowers are found at the base of the four white bracts. Some of the flowers have not yet opened, while others have been pollinated and are beginning to develop fruit.

The native bees are busily pollinating the flowers. I have yet to spend any time identifying the various bees found at Blue Jay Barrens. I’m at that point where I can imagine thousands of species of bees, because I see thousands of bees and can’t identify more than a couple of them. With most groups of organisms, a little bit of study allows you to identify many of the common species or genera. Then your whole perspective changes as you are suddenly able to sort a mass of individuals into a few species or types. I’m fortunate that my lack of knowledge of so many things will provide me with unending opportunities to experience the joys of learning.

The dogwood has a simple leaf, but there is often great beauty in the simple things. The neat lines and graceful curves of the new leaves are just as attractive as the flowers.

Most of the Flowering Dogwoods at Blue Jay Barrens are found in the open fields, growing in the low pH shale soils. Twenty-five years ago, they were common understory trees in the woods. About 20 years ago the trees succumbed to Anthracnose Leaf Blight caused by the fungus Discula destructiva. The trees in cool shaded areas were most susceptible to the disease and were completely destroyed. A few small trees survived in fencerows and there were sprouts beginning in the fields. We went many years without any dogwood blooms. I began a policy of allowing Flowering Dogwoods to stay in the fields where they seem to be less susceptible to the disease. I’m looking forward to the day when they reach a size that approaches those that were lost.

It appears that Crab Spiders are going to be plentiful this year. I’ve been seeing many types in the different flowers.

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