Sunday, June 30, 2013

Ent war

On one of the days when it wasn't raining, we went for our annual hike in Beebe Woods.  I left the trail map home so we just winged it, and it worked out fine -- a gorgeous hike (unintentionally) to the Ice House pond first, then skirting Peterson Farm over to the Punch Bowl and back to the Conservatory.  The path by Peterson Farm was particularly gorgeous, we were walking through boughs of raspberries on all sides.
Sorry for the blur. Must've been crud on the lens.

I thought it was mountain laurel, but a quick look at an online field guide contradicted that.  After some digging (way too much, actually -- should've known this one), it turns out to be some kind of raspberry.  Wish I could be there for the harvest.

It was nice to walk through all those flowers and see the lush marshlands just beyond them, because this particular stretch of Beebe Woods has seen much better days.   There's always the usual plant-on-plant destruction, with creepers and vines growing up the tallest trees and eventually bringing them down with their weight.  But this year we saw evidence of what looked some kind of brown fungal disease eating away several oaks, as well as an abundance of a light green spindly moss-type stuff absolutely coating many trees (same by my mother's house, sadly).  The infected trees are putting out many fewer leaves.  I think the moss or whatever it is is sucking out the trees' nutrients so they can't support as many leaves.

These changes were relatively subtle, though, and you could ignore them if you just wanted a nice walk in the woods.  But there was no way to ignore the number of broken and felled trees, almost from the moment we got in.  It was shocking.

Our first indication that something was wrong was this slim tree in the path.  What was weird about it was I couldn't see the bottom part of the tree.  In other words, it didn't just snap off and fall over.  It was broken off and thrown clear from its trunk and roots.

Another example, more violent than the first, because this was a substantially larger tree with much broader branches. 

And another.  These three were not the only ones we saw, and my nephew even made some attempt, as a good scout, to clear the trail when he could.  Most of the downed trees were off the trail, and there were many.

It is a mystery, but I think it must be hurricane related.  Hurricane Sandy was not the only big storm to hit here last winter, and Beebe Woods is on unprotected high ground.  Snow-laden and semi-frozen trees could break easily in high winds, or even bare trees could break if they were weakened by fungus, moss infections, or choked by vines.

That's one theory, anyway.

Other theories involve a negative and aggressive reaction from the native Ents, wood elves and dryads to the invasion of faeries at the nearby Highfield Gardens.
Everyone knows those twee little folk are nothing but trouble makers.

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