Nature Notes


By Boak Wiesner

How rapidly things change here in our fair state! Some parts got the first real blast of winter with upwards of two feet of snow; we got just a dusting. The speed of this transition got me thinking about the whole “the more things change, the more things stay the same” – what would our old friend Heraclitus think about this epigram?

It’s chilly but superbly quiet at the Arboretum, with hardly another walker about. The solitude is reinforced by the calm air. The most obvious change from the last time I was here is the snow on the ground. It’s clear the wind blew the snow from the north.

dsc_0073Seasonal changes are just one kind of transition. East of the main area of the Arb, woods and a grassy area form an edge; the juxtaposition of two biomes lets many kinds of animals find food and shelter here. Historically, edges were rather rare but as settlers cut down the forest, they left woodlots scattered here and there to provide heat and building material. All edge. Some issues arise as many forest species need a good-sized contiguous area to thrive.

dsc_0046Another kind of transition is physical: one day water is liquid, the next, it’s ice. The motion of the current, albeit slow, is enough to keep the center portion from freezing, making an excellent mirror for an overhanging ash.

dsc_0064Still another is the transition from living to dying. The dead tree provides food for woodpeckers, of course, and the standing crop of nutrients doesn’t stay standing for long, as fungi and bacteria work their magic on the cellulose.

dsc_0067Boak Wiesner is a Minnesota Naturalist Volunteer

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