Nature Notes

Wallpaper for the Ground

By Sydney Chandler

Fog is a fascinating feature of the water cycle but is not universally loved. Fog can feel like a safe hug or a suffocating and threatening presence. For visitors who grudgingly endure the fog by walking with their gaze pinned to the ground, the Arboretum’s terrain offers a range of patterns and textures to explore. Fog-free.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFallen leaves and seeds from the Maidenhair Tree

A bright and playful ground wallpaper is produced by fallen leaves and seeds from the Maidenhair Tree. These bright leaves are a lively contrast to the deep brown of wet mud. This pattern would be perfect wallpaper for a dendrologist or one of the busy squirrels who greedily look over the fallen seeds.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGiant leaves at the Shade Tree Exhibit

Other fallen leaves provide a different pattern near the Shade Tree Exhibit. Giant fallen leaves are large enough to house mini pools of rain water. Their haphazard arrangement is reminiscent of a chronically messy room.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMulch trail and fallen leaves

A final view of the ground is one that walkers often see: mulch. The packed mulch is riddled with holes where squirrels have cashed their food. The mulch trails are soft for walking and let visitors limit their sphere of disturbance in the forest by walking with quiet steps.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGreen groundcover beneath the Spruce Trees

Suffocating fog forces explorers to escape to the colors, textures, and disturbances on the wallpapered ground. For trackers, disturbances in the patterns are exciting clues to unseen animal residents at the Arboretum. Noticing uniformity on the ground is a first step to appreciating the imperfections.

Sydney Chandler is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer.

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