Riparian Maryland

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Red Maples and a post.

I spent some time outside today. It warm and cloudy. Soon the cool weather may come to stay. In 3 days the clock will drop back an hour. When I was a kid all I cared about was getting an extra hour’s sleep. Now I finally see why everyone else complains about losing the daylight. It already gets dark so early.

I wanted to re-investigate an area that I used for a project for the Winter Tree ID class I took last January-February in DC. I had to identify 20 trees. I remember wandering around after a few classes in my chosen area and wondering how I would ever recognize more than a handful of more obvious trees. Somehow I managed, although there were a few question marks. Red Maple or Silver? (See previous post.) I realized today that if I didn’t go and check soon I’d be back in the leafless flux of winter tree ID. I got better, but there are some things that are tough to ever nail down without leaves.

I would have come back sooner to see but before any buds had broken I moved to the Eastern Shore. There, working outside, I walked down a path every day with Red Oaks on one side and White Oaks on the other, and I saw their dangling catkins come out to distribute their pollen by wind and their little leaves in miniature, smaller than my pinky nail, emerge in pinks and oranges and grow into soft greens. By the time I left in July they were dark and heavy and I couldn’t believe the wealth of things they were showing off to a girl who got to know them in their barest wintry state. Now there are a few trees still green, but many more without leaves, and most of those that have fall colors are more numerous on the ground than on their twigs. I am sad to see the season go, but it is amazing to have learned so much about the natural world in this time. Paying attention makes the passage of time more beautiful, and having seen it once I know that the buds now exposed are full of next spring. I would make an allergy joke but grant a girl a moment of nostalgia for the full cycle of the leaves she first saw before they were even “born.” May they live long and prosper as a crunchy groundcover and future soil.

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Red Oak.

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Presumed Duckweed on the surface of the pond. The world’s smallest flowering plant!

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Sweetgum leaves.

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P.S. In the end, all the Maples turned out to be Red. This is a good habitat for Silvers but the Reds are big fans of all habitats everywhere, and this flexibility seems to be serving them well. Humans and Red Maples are really just two peas in a pod.

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