Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas Prairie

I took a short afternoon walk on Christmas day to check out the condition of the prairies.  It’s been an odd season so far.  There have been no accumulating snows and no long periods of excessively cold temperatures.  Daytime temperatures have recently been in the 40’s or above and rain has occurred every few days.  The prairies look much as they did two months ago.

Even the less stout grasses are still standing tall.  We would normally have had at least one significant snow by now.  The grass stalks should be showing the effects of bearing that snow load.

Eastern Red Cedars are still showing a lot of green, but there are a few patches of red and brown showing up.  The stresses of winter can slow the process of photosynthesis within the cedar leaves.  Reduced levels of chlorophyll in the leaves means less green coloration on the tree. 

Whether it’s the individual genetic makeup of the tree or the conditions specific to the site, some trees consistently show early signs of stress regardless of the weather.  This pillar shaped cedar stands apart from the others and is always bright red by this time of year.  It will look this way all winter, but will once again be bright green next spring.

Christmas was a pleasant day for a walk.  Temperatures were in the in the low 40’s and the sun was bright and cheery.  A strong breeze kept the cedars in constant motion.  That leftward lean to the cedars is wind induced. 

A small plane passed over several times while I was out.  It’s common for local pilots to charter flights to view the Serpent Mound located about a mile west of here.  I’m guessing that someone got such a flight as a Christmas gift.  As the planes swing around to make another pass over the Mound, they commonly travel through the skies of Blue Jay Barrens.  Sometimes they actually circle me as I work.  I don’t know how interesting I am from the air, but I like to think that my antics add some value to the experience.

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