Thursday, March 11, 2010
Wheeler Wildlife Refuge, Pt. 1
Keep your fingers crossed that this, my third try to post a new entry, will "take." Blogger kinda went gonzo on me for some reason. This is the story I've been trying to tell you. Tuesday morning I had the honor of meeting the Supervisory Park Ranger of Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge. She graciously agreed to meet with me to hear about a project that I hope will come to fruition. More about that later if everything works out. After our meeting I took time for myself and strolled around some of my favorite spots there.
The first leg of my trek was down the Atkeson Cypress Trail. It's a short 1/2 mile boardwalk adventure through a lowland filled with Bald Cypress. I love this little trail. There are seats built in for sitting and soaking in the peace, however it was just me visiting this day and there was peace aplenty. The day was cloudy with rain showers playing around the edges. The light was so soft and pretty, changing often with the breezes. This veiled light brought out the subtle colors of the lichens and tree bark, mosses and cypress knees. Powder gray skies created stark reflections upon the dark waters. This places feels primeval.
My last visit here was with my road trip buddy, Carroll. The winds were stronger then and the trees were swaying and dancing. Those of you who read that particular post may remember my mentioning the singing trees. "Singing" as the winds made them rub together and a strange throaty sound filled the air, much as a cellist strums a bow across her instrument's strings. We'd stood there the longest time listening to the trees sing. I was hoping to hear that again today, but the winds were too light.
The water is low now and multiple bands of colors ring the bottoms of cypress trees marking the rise and fall of the seasons. Fallen cypress leaves rest like rust-colored feathers below the water, adding a reddish hue to the overall effects. Cypress trees have exquisite bark. Lightly shaggy, with colors of iron and rust that provide the backdrop to light teal lichens and bright green mosses.
"Bald cypress is a long-lived, deciduous wetland species that grows along rivers, streams and creeks as well as in swamps with slow moving water. It can live up to 600 years old. It is a legendary tree of the Deep South known for its "knees," moss-draped crown, and buttressed trunk. It occurs in the coastal plains along the Gulf and the Atlantic Ocean and north through the Mississippi River Valley."
"Bald cypress is a very important tree in the swampland ecosystem. It is valuable for wildlife food and cover. Canada geese migrating to the south feed on the seeds. Swamp rabbits and other birds, such as Florida cranes and ducks, also feed on bald cypress. White-tailed deer escape to the cover of bald cypress swamps during hunting season. Many animals find shelter in and around the base of large old-growth trees."
"Knees" are present in both pond cypress and bald cypress root systems when they are growing in water. Cypress "knees," or pneumatophores, are cone-shaped extensions of the root system protruding from the ground. Pneumatophores are thought to function as the trees' means of obtaining oxygen for the roots during flooded conditions. Bald cypress and pond cypress are "Trees with knees." (source)
It's time to say goodbye to the cypress trees and start my short hike to the Wheeler Wildlife Refuge Observation Building. Next post, I'll show you what I found!