Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Dark Side

Muahahahaha! welcome to the dark side of the cedar glades,
let's take a look at the more macabre players in the game.
Jelly molds and slime fungi feed on the dead wood of
an oblivious great giant shumard oak, which towers above the canopy.

I hope these funguys will forgive me ,
I am at a loss for the correct identifications
for these mushrooms, largely unseen
except for the fruiting bodies, fungi are the
secret underground kings of all the forests
and deserts, grasslands and jungles of
the world, their network of mycelium
lurking in the darkness of the soil, quietly
devouring the dead in order to
provide life to the roots of all plants.

Amanitas and Lepiotas

These were mostly growing in the karst hickory
/oak woods that line all Nashville cedar glades,
and the nuts were falling, one of these 4 inch hard
as rock nuts falling from 140 feet could do some
damage to the top of your head
or knock you out outright!
Near actual size, shellbark hickory nuts.
Angry squirrels were dive bombing away
Seems I was to close too their favorite nut tree.
I still got 3 bushels this year ,I'll have the last laugh!

seriously, if any of you have a hickory tree, don't let the nuts go to waste,
hickory nuts taste just like warm maple syrup with a heavy maple fragrance,
best ever in cookies and brownies(shagbark hickory nut blondies are freakin amazing)

Don't forget the witches butter muahahaha!!!!

Nostoc commune, or cyanobacteria, "witches butter"
this is a colony of cyanobacteria that live together in clumps
forming mats that spread out over the bare limestone ,
crackly and black when dry, green and jelly like when wet.
As it advances over the dry stone,it decomposes,leaving
thin layer of absorbent organic matter that paves
the way for mosses
,lichens and small grasses and plants
to take root, these resemble the very first life

on land on this planet,and the earth was made
green by this very process,making the witches butter
organism about the only thing older than well, dirt!
from this

to this
to this!

And then heavy rains bring a flushing torrent,
which with time washes the hard limestone clear again,
depending on where the current has shifted,
as the patches of life dance around the glades in
ultra slow motion,taking decades to move a few feet.

Lichens also play a large role in breaking down twigs and moss into soil.

deerfoot lichens, common in art supply stores, model train kits.

lichens and fungi hard at work on dead twigs

Like the trees, when an animal falls in the glade, and comes to
rest there,or more likely is drug into the open by coyotes and
devoured like this deer, their bones are bleached in the sun,and the moss
buries them slowly ,bleached bones are a common site in daisy trail
and many other cedar glades.

So there are spirits here in the Cedar glades, light and dark,
their cosmic dance fueling life in this place of
teetering balance
and rich starkness.

Sun Drenched Islands in the Dark Cedars

You may have encountered a cedar glade before if you enjoy walking through the woods in the Nashville Tennessee area, you would have been walking along through the cedars and would have come to a clearing, upon passing through you may have noticed how hot and dry it was,if in summer,or how wet and spongy the limestone gravel was ,if in winter.You may have had many of my own first thoughts , wondering "is this an old lot? perhaps and old road of some sort long degraded" before you started to notice plants you hadn't ever seen in your life,even though you've lived your entire life in the Nashville area, and if you had been lucky enough to happen across one during spring bloom time you'd notice the rainbow of colors blooming on those never before encountered plants, what an exiting place these glades can be!
In truth that place you thought may have been an old lot is a natural limestone clearing, Sometimes tens of thousands of years old , old enough for the plants there to adapt to their unique micro climate.
It's feasible to think that these places have been visited by animals and humans alike, for thousands upon thousands of years, being a natural clearing where one could camp or simply gaze up at the sky,and the way it seems so much bigger in the glades somehow, you can see the whole milky way sparkling there on a clear summer night, these places truly are a gift of natural beauty and diversity and a testament to the strength of life and its ability to adapt.

Sadly most of this rare ecosystem has been lost forever ,and some endemic plants are either extinct or severely endangered, in the past they have been built on ,dumped in,and covered over with rubble, they are inundated by man made lakes and torn apart by people with atv's and four wheelers who do not realize what they are doing.
There may be less than 10% of what cedar glade
there was before the Nashville basin was settled, and that continues to shrink even today, So lets educate our friends in the world of horticulture about our cedar glades.

Here are some resources for Cedar Glade Research:

Cedar Glade Endemic Plants

Center for Cedar Glade Studies

Cedar Glade Wikipedia