Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Seed-hunting for Ed

My friend Ed Miller is the creator and curator of a remarkable collection of woody plants at the famous Landis Arboretum in Esperance, New York.  Ed's goal for his collection is to have it contain every tree and shrub and woody vine that is native to New York State, and I guess he must be missing a couple, since he asked me if I would collect some seeds from the Black Tupelo and Sassafras trees that grow in the places I regularly paddle.  Of course, I was happy to oblige, both because I would love to do Ed a favor, and also because I'm glad for any excuse to revisit the lovely banks of the Hudson River at Moreau.  Especially on such a beautiful day as it was yesterday.

On foot instead of afloat, my first destination was a rocky promontory I call Bear's Bathtub, where I remembered a number of Sassafras trees in beautiful bloom last spring.  Surely, with all of those flowers then, there would now be fruits.  Right?

Well, there were lots of Sassafras trees out there, dressed in their splendid autumn colors, but not a single fruit could I find on any of their branches.  Had the birds consumed them all, or had they already fallen from the trees because it was so late in the season?

I went back into my photo files to retrieve this photo of a Sassafras fruit I took almost exactly a year ago on October 17.  The trees were full of these fruits last year at this time, but for some reason they did not produce fruit this year.  I've heard that Sassafras can be like that.  I'll have to keep looking elsewhere.

My next destination was a second promontory I call Rippled Rocks Point, where a number of Black Tupelos grow in a marshy area nearby.

Approaching the site through the woods, I could, from some distance away,  see the red glow of the Tupelo branches backlit by the sun, where they hung down low over the water.

These trees had been laden with fruits when Ed and I paddled under them just ten days ago, but by now the birds had nearly stripped the trees bare of them.  I did manage to find a few, however,  and I collected all I could reach for Ed.

My seeds collected, I was happy to wander around on the promontory,  where blueberry bushes had found a foothold among the rocks.  Does any shrub turn a more exquisite color of red than Highbush Blueberry?

Even the stems and the buds for next year's growth take on this vivid color.

 There is one little blueberry bush out there that, every year,  produces flowers as late as November.  I scrambled out onto the rocks at the very end of the point and, sure enough, there they were!  I wonder why a plant would do that, blooming too late to ever produce a fruit.

Heading back through the woods, I was dazzled by the sight of this fallen Red Maple leaf caught on a twig,  lit up like a magic lantern by a ray of sun that penetrated the gloom of a stand of Hemlocks.

This yellow leaf (maybe a Hornbeam?) also caught my eye, first, because it was dangling in midair from a strand of spider silk, and second, because its yellow color was so beautifully set off by the lichen-covered bark behind it, its color like that of verdigris on bronze.


Andrew Lane Gibson said...

ah, perfection. lovely post, jackie! in my experience sassafras trees are about as fickle a fruit-bearer as there is. only occasionally do I find a tree with any and never with any regularity. i've never seen such beautiful blueberry bush! we really must make plans for me to come visit you next summer :)

threecollie said...

What a beautiful post! We visited the arboretum a couple of times years ago and loved the place.

catharus said...

Yeh, around here, I'm not sure I've ever seen the Sassafras fruits still around this late. It does seem, like you observed with the Tupelo, that once a bird or two, or a flock, find a source of food desirable (whether they discover it, or it becomes a favorable option), they pretty much devour it.

Raining Iguanas said...

A visit always slows my pace and eases my mind, always. Beautiful photos...

semi live stories said...

very nice blog

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Thank you, dear readers, for stopping by to leave your kind comments. I'm glad to have my suspicions about Sassafras's fickle fruiting confirmed by such a botanist as Mr. Gibson. And what a surprise, to discover a new reader all the way from Turkey!