A favorite miracle…


My favorite Hydrangea is the “snow ball”, it brings out the kid in me. But these are wonderful too: Oak Leaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia). Multi-blossom flowers in one bloom are one of God’s awesome miracles; layers and layers of exquisiteness.

Oak leaves and blooms. Copyright 2017 Pamela Breitberg

Oak Leaf Hydrangea buds and blooms. Copyright 2017 Pamela Breitberg

Close up of Oak Leaf Hydrangea. Copyright 2017 Pamela Breitberg.

A giant’s story continues…


Who lives here now? Copyright 2015 Pamela Breitberg

Who lives here now? Copyright 2015 Pamela Breitberg

History is evidence of the continuity of life, even after death. Science class teaches the continuousness of the cycle of life.This big ole’ Oak Tree stopped me in my path. Stories of the past, present and future were ripening in my mind when I stopped at this mighty giant on my morning walk.

The fuzziness of the hole in bottom intrigues me; I’ve seen holes in trees before but none so thick with rotted wood or moss or animal hairs or…. it would be a comfy retreat for resident wildlife. Looking upward it appears that the tree is still alive. Dead trees are valued as hosts for other living creatures and plants; and this tree has clear confirmation of hosting vines and animals.

So if you sense a good story here I would love to read it; share your imaginations here.

Mature oak tree in the winter of it's life. Copyright 2015 Pamela Breitberg

Mature oak tree in the winter of it’s life. Copyright 2015 Pamela Breitberg

Many stories, some yet to be told…


Fall forest floor copyright 2013 Pamela Breitberg

Fall forest floor copyright 2013 Pamela Breitberg

Oak leaf and acorn copyright 2013 Pamela Breitberg

Oak leaf and acorn copyright 2013 Pamela Breitberg

 

 

 

 

The forest floor offers many stories. It’s top layer is currently full of nuts, as yet uncovered soon to fall leaves. I do not recall such a nut proliferation in the twenty seven years I have witnessed these Preserves first-hand. My concern is real, knowing that when plants are stressed and in danger their defense is to make many seeds in an effort to ensure survival of their species. This knowledge also comforts me as I realize once again that nature’s abilities to endure are indeed amazing. This has been a year of extremes in the Chicago region. We have witnessed cycles of extreme heat and drought followed by extreme rains; each taking a toll on the plants’ root systems and wildlife. Trees seem to take longer to respond to weather extremes, but the abundance of acorn and other nuts tell me that their roots have been unable to provide enough water for stable health. A story of nature’s struggle to endure.

Outer shells copyright 2013 Pamela Breitberg

Outer shells copyright 2013 Pamela Breitberg

This patch of forest floor also tells the story of “native versus invasive” or rather “disturbed land”. These images are from the street’s edge where the Forest workers were asked by neighboring residences to control the “weeds” that were growing out into the street, scratching passing cars. The weeds are unwelcome by native forest species as well as the non-native suburban residents; these Eurasian immigrants (the plants!!) have learned to survive and thrive shading out potential growth of native oak and wildflowers while also “volunteering” their presence in adjacent gardens.

Finally there is one more story yet to unfold. Seeds will soon be covered with leaves providing conditions ripe for future growth into new perennial native plants and some may develop into majestic Oak trees as well as more “weeds”. Some will have additional help from the squirrels who are busy establishing their winter food rations; any seeds left uneaten can begin their new stage of life next spring. And the stories continue.

Life tracks…


Beetle tracks copyright 2012 Pamela Breitberg

Bark beetle is a collective term for a variety of insects that tend to infiltrate trees with dead or dying bark and may inhabit stressed or weak trees insuring their demise. The biggest problem is that some beetles may attack live healthy trees nearby; so any infected dead trees should be removed as quickly as beetles are observed. University of Illinois Urban Extension names two beetles that might be responsible for the tracks in these images. They don’t mention attacks on Oak trees explicitly, but Maple, Mulberry and Serviceberry surround our forest’s Oak. The Oak trees would be the original residents of this natural savannah wetland. Some trees were planted decades ago to define the area as forest. Other trees were “volunteers” as my sister would say, establishing themselves from carried or blown seeds. So if the beetles were originally attracted to either of these neighbors then it’s reasonable to assume that they continued their existence using the stressed or dying Oak in the same space.

Dead Oak copyright 2012 Pamela Breitberg

It’s unclear which of the two beetles that IU’s Urban Extension site notes is responsible for the marks on these trees. Or it could be tracks from some other inhabitant.

  • There are numerous beetles that attack bark on trees and thus are categorized as bark beetles. Almost any tree is attacked by bark beetles, particularly that part that is dead or dying. Shothole borer (Scolytus rugulosus) attacks dead and stressed trees. It infests most fruit trees, serviceberry, ornamental fruit trees, mountain ash, elm, and mulberry. Corthylus spp. attack maples, dogwood, sasafras, azaleas, rhododendron and other plants.

    Oak tree remnants copyright 2012 Pamela Breitberg

  

Check out the following sites for more information.

The Complexity in simplicity, simplicity in complexity…


Violet in Lawn copyright 2012 Pamela Breitberg

Clear, uncluttered examinations of ground and the heavens are abundant during the springtime. I am able to easily see the trash that either blew out of garbage trucks or were carried by hungry raccoons, looking for food remnants, into our adjacent forest preserve. This is the time of year that I do my volunteer cleanup, when the view is unobstructed with nature’s bounties. Trees are bare with just minimal green décor. The soil is bare or covered by a low-growing perennial groundcover, in my garden’s case the evergreen pachysandra, grass and occasional violet. So I find it ironic that at this simple time of year is when I feel the most energy when standing outdoors. The cool air and bright sun stirs my imagination of possibilities. This simple setting allows my mind to brainstorm complex goals for life as well as my garden. While I soak in the simplicity it is ironic to me that what I see is far from “simple”. Nature, as I ponder, is busy. Thousands of creatures some rooted and many winged, are stretching and growing and coming out of their winter dormancy. Multifaceted work is happening in this apparently uncomplicated setting.

Consider this passage from “The Art of Setting Stones” by Marc Peter Keane, from the new book “The Armchair Book Of Gardens, A Miscellany” by Jane Billinghurst:

  • Gardens heighten nature’s wild language by simplifying it…. We amplify nature’s messages when we build a garden and in turn the garden awakens us with those thoughts. Sitting and reflecting, drawn into the garden and out of ourselves, we find we are aware of familiar things in ways we weren’t before, granted, if only for a brief moment, newborn eyes.

Today’s my annual forest clean-up day. I pick up litter as I ever-so-slowly walk the woodland floor, placing each object in my sturdy contractor bag; too many times I’ve come upon glass and metal debris which would break right through ordinary trash bags. My work at first seems easy but soon I realize the bare forest floor has many layers and I find myself needing to hunt for a bright color or metallic reflections because there are numerous partly buried pieces of trash. I find myself distracted as I observe the layers of slimy wet oak leaves, decaying tree parts, tangled vines, and emerging garlic mustard. Ah, the garlic mustard and buckthorn are the current enemies of this “preserve”. I spend a few moments looking at the floor for signs of an early blooming skunk cabbage or if I’m already too late then perhaps I’ll spot some purple trillium or buttercup. I poke through the leaves to see if any animal life is evident in the small vernal pools just underneath. Perhaps this simple, uncluttered setting of springtime isn’t so simple after all.

Then I raise my eyes and see a squirrel high up in a tree watching me. Can’t help but think he’s sending me a silent “thank you” for my clean-up effort. And once again I find myself noticing the complexity in this simple scene. Too much thinking for this wondrous time of year.

Squirrel in Oak copyright 2012 Pamela Breitberg

When yellow is a strong purple…


Crocus vernus copyright 2012 Pamela Breitberg

Ah, the power of a name, or rather a misnomer. Crocus means “yellow” or “saffron” and refers to a fall blooming flower. This image shows a purple bloom appearing in my yard today, a sign of spring’s arrival tomorrow. It is the crocus vernal, or spring crocus. 

This delicate, petite flower is the first to bloom in my northern garden, sometimes coming up through the snow. It has been hardy enough to thrive in this mixed weather climate for twenty-six years (since it was planted in our garden when we were new homeowners).  I find it fitting that blanketing the ground are leaves from another resilient specimen, the “mighty” oak. Strength can manifest in large and small ways. Delicate does not always mean weak, just as saffron does not always mean purple.

Crocus vernus and oak leaves copyright 2012 Pamela Breitberg