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22 Ferns Prone to Take a Stroll Among my favorite ferns are a pair found on Hominy Creek’s rock walls and the automobile-size boulders that have broken away from them. The aptly named resurrection fern can appear to be as shriveled and dead as a discarded grasshopper wing when the weather is hot and dry. Then when the rains come, the fern swells back into good health and once again becomes a stout green citizen of the Hominy Creek biota. Resurrection ferns can lose as much as 95 percent of their moisture content during drought, an amazing trait when you consider that most plants and animals can lose only from 10 to 20 percent before expiring. When the rains begin to fall, the fern quickly rehydrates and within hours resembles the healthy, robust plant it was before drought set in. An epiphyte, the resurrection fern draws nourishment from air and ambient moisture. The rocks it clings to only provide an anchor, a place to conveniently position itself while awaiting the rain. Walking ferns are named for their ability to colonize moss-covered slabs of limestone bedrock. The species is evergreen, leathery, and shaped like an elongated spearhead stretching some twelve inches to a slender narrow tip. Walking ferns like their boulders shady and moist, and they really like the company of other walking ferns. The extended 23 Ferns Prone to Take a Stroll tip grows in an arch until, touching the moss it is seeking, it forms a new plant at the point of contact. A colony may consist of dozens, maybe hundreds of ferns leapfrogging and overlapping each other, forming a tapestry of bright green moss, dark green ferns, and maybe a smattering of red columbine flowers in season. The deep leaf litter accumulating at the bottom of the bluffs bordering Hominy Creek has, by mid-March, parted to reveal the pale green leaves of white trout lily, the new growth reaching up through the moist duff like a hand protruding from a grave in some horror movie. Trout lily leaves can be pleated, mottled, and a bit fleshy, perfect for the season of the equinox. The mottling is a splotchy dark green on light green, and it matches the spotted shade of the leafless landscape. Newly emerged trout lily leaves tend to be either singles or doubles,the former still in the process of development, the latter mature enough for flowering. Basal leaves are two inches or more wide and some six inches long. A stalk bearing a single flower emerges from the paired leaves, a lovely nodding bloom consisting of six recurved sepals, six stamens with long yellow anthers, and a slender style, all artistically gathered into a vernal package an inch and a half long. Trout lilies are pollinated by bees programmed to jump-start their annual life cycle early in the spring season. Many of these are nectar sippers, some pollen gatherers. A warm sunny day in March can literally be abuzz with bees and bee flies of various sizes and shapes, many quite tiny and reflecting sunlight in iridescent shades of blue and green. The giants among these March pollinators are the lumbering bumblebees, recently awakened from winter slumber and ready to start the process of building a new colony,a task they seem to approach with a blue-collar work ethic. And while ground-hugging colonies of trout lilies attract their share of pollen and nectar shoppers, the busiest and loudest gathering of winged pollinators can be found buzzing around March-flowering plum thickets. The thick white flowers on these chest-high trees can be mistaken for a patch of snow against the drab brown March background . At the same time, the sweet scent of flowering wild plums is unmistakable, intoxicating, and obviously alluring. When wild plums are flowering, the influx of insects resembles the crowd at a concert. They circle, stumble, buzz, and labor to gather some of the prairie’s earliest bounty, all the while pollinating flowers that will become tasty red fruit about half the size of a golf ball by the 24 Ferns Prone to Take a Stroll time July heat sets in. Pollinators swarm tangled plum thickets while warm March afternoons resonate with insect voices in various pitches, ensuring that the birth of a season kicks off with an orgy that smells simply delicious. March flowers like trout lilies can be striking yet sometimes difficult to locate as their leaves blend easily into early spring’s...


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Related ISBN
MARC Record
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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