Seeing the Less Seen

When taking a hike in a leafless forest, rarely seen elements become more apparent.Despite an extremely early end to Old Man Winter, a stretch of cool temperatures kept much of the Bouncing Baby Spring at bay in the Southern Appalachian Mountains of north Georgia in early April 2016.

Catching my eye almost immediately was this arching, suppressed tree.

SuppressedBlackCherryApril2016RocktMtn

Suppressed Black cherry?

I do not exactly remember what species I thought it was, though my recent affinity for black walnut was hoping for just that. Hopping off trail, a closer look at the bark and upper crown revealed very little. Luckily, basal sprouts had lenticels. Scratching the bark on one of the sprouts revealed a bitter burnt-almond scent – “Prunus!” Given its size, I suspect this is Prunus serotina, black cherry. Not positive. Either way, I do not recall seeing such a stunted, but persistent cherry tree.

While searching the forest floor, I found more evidence that life in the understory can be savage. When spotting the scene below, I couldn’t help but imagine the scene in the movie Alien where the alien pup sprouted from that poor person’s chest.

LifePiercingAnOakLeafApril2016RocktMtn

Savagery of understory life and competition

Just up trail, about 50 feet off trail, this arching, brown-barked tree popped into view. Sourwood, I believe. I’ve not lived in Oxydendron arboretum land for a while, so my search pattern could be off. Lovely and rugged, no matter what the species.

LeaningSourwoodApril2016RocktMtn

Leaning sourwood

 

As much as I love to spy the struggling, twisting, weathered trees in a forest, I could not help to admire this young, ramrod-straight Liriodendron tulipifera.

 

SuperStraightLiriodendronApril2016RocktMtn

SuperStraight Liriodendron

 

I likely would have spotted this American holly, Ilex opaca, but it was a standout against the leafless background. I didn’t expect it at elevation in north Georgia.

AmericanHollyApril2016RockyMtnGA

Trailside American holly

 

I do love finding those crooked trees, though.

CrookedOakApril2016RockyMtnGA

Crooked Oak

 

This crooked white oak, however, was like no other.

PortlyCrookedWhiteOakApril2016RockyMtnGA

Crooked, portly white oak [Quercus alba]

On the leafless hikes in the early spring, signs of hope are everywhere. Below, an eastern hemlock is still alive when, in theory, it should not be.

SurvivingEasternHemlockApr2016RockyMtnGA

I’m not dead yet!” Eastern hemlock [Tsuga canadensis]

Hiking in the growing season does not offer the opportunity to study the architecture of a lone shortleaf pine [Pinus echinata] in a broadleaf-dominated canopy.

ShortleafPineProfileApr2016RockyMtnGA

Profile, shortleaf pine

 

Spying this pine from the opposite direction revealed more on how a singleton pine survives in a broadleaf forest.

ShortleafPineForestCanopyApr2016RockyMtnGA

 

 

Life in a broadleaf-dominated canopy isn’t just hard for conifers. Oak canopies get pushed, too.

PushedOakApr2016RockyMtnGA

 

A leafless canopy also allows unusually large trees to stand out. Centered here, a large mockernut hickory [Carya tomentosa]. I imagine its root system to be a mirror of the canopy, though flattened a good bit more than the canopy.

LargeMockernutApr2016RockyMtnGA

Unusually large mockernut hickory

A stunning white ash [Fraxinus americana] popped up down the trail.

MassiveWhiteAshApr2016RockyMtnGA

Massive white ash

 

Had it been peak growing season, I’m not positive I would have seen this oozing orange leaking out of a sweet birch [Betula lenta].

OozingOrangeSweetBirchApr2016RockyMtnGA

 

No matter what the season, I’m pretty sure I would have seen the pepperbush [Clethra alnifolia? Clethra acuminata?] picutre below. This genus has been high on my mind lately. When mature, its bark would stand out in your yard, no doubt.

PepperbushApr2016RockyMtnGA

 

There were many signs of spring, actually, and much fun light to play with. It seemed endless.

BluedDogwoodApr2016RockyMtnGA

Blued Dogwood

 

RedMapleSeedsApr2016RockyMtnGA

Red maple ([Acer rubrum]

BluedEarlyHickoryLeavesApr2016RockyMtnGA

Blued, Bursting Hickory Leaves

BendingSpringApr2016RockyMtnGA

Bending Spring

 

BloodrootApr2016RockyMtnGA

Bloodroot [Sanguinaria canadensis]

BloodrootFlowerApr2016RockyMtnGA

Bloodroot Flower

TrilliumCuneatumApr2016RockyMtnGA

Trillium cuneatum

 

TransparentLirioApr2016RockyMtnGA

Transparent Liriodendron

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