Nature Notes

The Sweet Stillness of the Woods

By Boak Wiesner

The explosive “pe-keek” of a Hairy Woodpecker greets me as I go into the woods around the little marsh that’s perched up high on the west side. A meandering circumperegrination of it has become one of my favorite “beats” at the Arb. Beethoven himself, even troubled by deafness, would walk for hours in woods, experiencing the trees, the flowers, the rocks – none of which needed hearing to be enjoyed. The grey fog and light snow enhance my experience immeasurably.

DSC_0175This bowl was formed when a tiny fleck of ice got trapped up at the top of a moraine; it’s very steep hillsides are the clue. A kettle lake it’s sometimes called. Where once open water stood, years and years of accumulating plant material has supplanted the water; lo!, a marsh has succeeded the pond.

DSC_0159On its eastern side, I come up into this grove of Ironwood. This is the only place at the Arboretum I have yet found where they are so abundant and it gets me to wondering about that “dark laboratory called the soil” and what “bottlenecks” have been cracked open right here so that there are so many in one place.

DSC_0161Another glaring clue to how this landscape was made, that is, as till deposited by glaciers, is a nice chunk of dark basalt. Since the bedrock ‘round here is light-colored Platteville limestone, this rock is a stranger. With a little examination of its crystal size and overall color, one could probably figure out just where it came from north of here. Since its shape is still pretty angular, one can tell it wasn’t transported by water, and, besides, how would it have ended up here on the hill?

DSC_0173More evidence of the ever-changing nature of the forest. Among the Ironwoods are a few little Junipers, a tree that shows up early in the succession from more open to more closed canopy of the forest.

DSC_0167Boak Wiesner is a Minnesota Naturalist Volunteer

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