Hope and Clover

Fleabane (I think) filling a small meadow

Fleabane (I think) filling a small meadow

I have been taking the time to try to identify the flowers in my images.  It’s a little hard to tell because the images I’m finding online do not have good size comparison.

That said, I’m fairly certain that the tiny flowers with the fringe of petals in white are fleabane.  It’s a native wildflower in the aster family (which perhaps I am the last person to learn).  I found its photo on the uswildflowers.com website; the image was taken in downtown Chattanooga.

Tighter view of fleabane

Tighter view of fleabane

I was able to find many photos submitted on the website by the same photographer and even one image in a local Chattanooga newspaper.  However, I was unable to locate a website.  I find myself curious as to whether I have met this photographer or not.  Not that I have met every photographer in Chattanooga, but I have run into quite a few now.

I digress.  The final flower I identified was, I believe, the oxeye daisy.  It seems quite a bit larger in the image on the website than the ones I saw in person, but I can’t find anything else that looks like it.

Oxeye Daisies?

Oxeye Daisies?

These are not native.  They were introduced and are now becoming invasive–they’re officially listed as invasive in quite a few states now, although Tennessee is yet to be one of them.  Fortunately, only a few clumps of these appear in our little park.

They have been working to gradually remove the invaders and seem to only plant natives in the park, so it’s been fun to watch the transformation.

I wish there were a way to send romantic young couples seeking flowers after the invasive species.  The young couple I caught picking evening primrose (see 2 posts ago) might have been put to good use neutering oxeye daisies!

Follow the curb

Follow the curb

As Tisen and I slowly made our way past the meadow of fleabane and daisies, I stopped to catch an angle that interested me looking back at the aquarium.  I didn’t quite get what I wanted, but maybe a little later in the evening when the sun is low enough to light the front of the aquarium would be better.

On our final stretch towards the more landscaped part of the park, after crossing the wetland, we paused to look up the stairs at the sledding hill.  I couldn’t help but notice with surprise that the sledding hill is growing large clumps of clover all over its Eastern face.  This struck me as both improbable and fascinating.  After all, it’s a sledding hill.  Not a northern sledding hill, but a southern one that gets slid upon, climbed up, skated down, run up, slept on, and even bicycled on every day of the year with very few exceptions.  That clover had found a purchase on the side of this hill and somehow evaded cardboard sleds, trampling feet, and rolling children seemed quite an achievement for a living thing bound to the earth by its root.

Stairs lining up with the sledding hill--clover clumps just barely visible on right side

Stairs lining up with the sledding hill–clover clumps just barely visible on right side

The clover made me feel surprisingly hopeful.

Finding Sanctuary

I discovered tonight that I’m almost out of digital photos I haven’t used in a blog post!  Who knew a year of blogging could use up 9 years of digital photos?  I’m going to have to start searching the archives again–there have to be more photos in there!

I did discover these series of shots taken two years ago during an annual trip to Portland, Oregon.  Pat and I went to the local Audubon Society Preserve there and did a hike through their woods.

It’s an amazing property for many reasons.  First, it’s been meticulously maintained as a natural, native habitat.  Most people don’t associate “meticulous maintenance” with “natural, native habitat.”  Usually, we think of a golf course.  Unfortunately, as I know from volunteering at the Audubon Society here in Chattanooga, without ongoing hard labor to remove the invasive species that pop up every time one turns one’s head, they get out of control and turn native habitat into something completely foreign.  It’s unfortunate we humans can’t agree that invasive species shouldn’t be sold or planted.  Until we do, those of us who value preserving native ecosystems have a lot of work to do to prevent those habitats from being overrun by the rest of the population’s right to decide what to plant on their own property.  But, don’t let me get on that soapbox.

The Portland Audubon Sanctuary is a 150 acre property of dense forest, including a stand of old growth trees, a pond, and a creek that’s carved some small hills within the already hilly Portland topography.

Walking through the forest area made us think we were in the rain forests of the Olympic Peninsula of Washington state.  We didn’t see too many birds while we were hiking.  Those we did see were a tough for me to ID–somehow, even the birds that also live in the East looked different enough that I couldn’t feel confident I’d correctly identified them.

When we stopped at the lovely gazebo on the pond at the sanctuary, we discovered a group who was out watching a Northern Saw-whet Owl perched in a tree and up so high that without binoculars, it couldn’t be spotted.  Fortunately, a kind man let me look through his so I could see it, too.  It was about the size of a Screech Owl (tiny) and very adorable.

The Portland Audubon Sanctuary also boasted some spectacular fungal growths.  Between the mushrooms and the weird, coral-like growths, I didn’t mind my limited success at birding (especially since I was without binocs).

In addition to the Sanctuary, they also provide rescue services for injured birds and keep some unreleasable birds on display for educational purposes.  This mean being guaranteed to see some interesting birds even if nothing in the woods showed itself.  I particularly liked the Americal Kestrels on display.  They looked like they were making faces at me.

It’s a great place to visit and support if you’re ever in the Portland area.

The Last Mimosa

I’m saddened to learn that the Mimosa tree is an invasive tree from Asia that doesn’t belong here.  In fact, the Tennessee Exotic Pest Council ranks it as a severe threat.  This makes me sad because I was really enjoying the blossoms, but I feel strongly that invasive plant species need to be removed from non-native habitats.  Now I feel like a traitor–aggrandizing the enemy.

But, I can’t help but indulge my irresponsible self one last time before I turn my back on the Mimosa tree (don’t worry, I’m sure I’ll continue to indulge in the beverage on the rare occasions the opportunity presents itself–too bad it’s not the drink that’s invasive instead of the tree).

In case you are unfamiliar with the problem of invasive species, I confess it’s a bit of a sore spot with me.  Having spent many weekends trying to remove plants that were taking over my own yard as well as the neighborhood, I know how difficult these plants are to control first hand.

In the US, we tend to plant what we think is pretty and/or is easy to grow. We fiercely defend our property rights and believe what we plant in our yard is our own business.  Unfortunately, invasive plants don’t stay on our property.  They spread through an amazing variety of means and grow quickly out of control since whatever keeps them in check in their native habitat doesn’t exist in the ecosystem they have been introduced to.

While we sometimes call native plants “weeds” because we don’t like the way they look and they grow in places we don’t want them to, these aren’t the same as invasives.  Invasive species do outright harm to an ecosystem.

As we all know (I hope), every living thing has interdependencies with other living things.  Whether it’s for shelter, food, temperature control–all of the above, no creature can exist without other creatures to support it (depending on what you call a “creature,” I guess).  Plants are a critical component of this web.

Invasive trees like the Mimosa reek havoc upon the availability of necessities by crowding out the native trees and plants that would provide them.  Because invasives didn’t evolve with the rest of the ecosystem, they fail to provide the critical (and often subtle) requirements that the native plants would provide.

This is my plea:  the next time you plant something, remember that what you plant will spread far and wide whether you know it or not.  Make a choice that everyone can live with (including wildlife) instead of just what looks good.

A chunk of our tax dollars is spent trying to control these invasive species–even if you care nothing about your ecosystem, why would you want to make a choice that will be an ongoing cost to you and the rest of the tax-paying population for generations to come?

All right, I’m off my soapbox now.  Back to taking pictures.  🙂