Notes from a plant nerd: Pushing Leaves

Every year, the fallen leaves blanket the forest floor in the fall. And every spring the wildflowers have no trouble pushing up through them to bloom.

Notes from a plant nerd: The leaves don’t just fall, y’all. They’re pushed

We have a tendency in our modern culture of celebrating only the young, youthful and new parts of our world, and not enjoying the old, aging and dying parts. We tend to fear death and growing old. Throughout the world, indigenous traditional cultures celebrate and venerate older members of their people as the carriers and imparters of wisdom, knowledge and how to live well on the earth.

The Naturalist's Corner: And then it happened

My wife, daughter Maddie, a friend of hers and I took a short hike out to Pickens Nose last Monday, Oct. 21. Pickens Nose is a rocky ridge in the Southern Nantahala Wilderness and while it is not exceedingly high, its 4,880 feet of elevation towers over some of the steepest terrain in the wilderness, providing outstanding views and a touch-the-sky quality of other higher peaks. There are several promontories along the ridge and one could certainly be considered schnoz-like. The peak is named after Revolutionary War General Andrew Pickens, the proud owner of a rather substantial proboscis.

Oil Nut, that most curious fruit

For Elizabeth and me, the fall season is one of the most invigorating times to get out in the woods and prowl around. Many of the most beautiful wildflowers found in the Blue Ridge, especially the lobelias and gentians, are then coming into their own. And most of the others are in their fruiting stages. The transition from flower to fruit (or seed) is both logical and enjoyable. The varied fruiting forms — which run the gamut from drupes, berries, and pomes to follicles, utricles, loments, and legumes to capsules, achenes, samaras, and nuts — are as attractive and intricate in their own way as any wildflower. And they are, after all, the grand finales of the germination-flowering-pollination cycle.

As the buckeyes fall, I await my old friend

The sounds, the feel of the coming fall is always comforting, like reconnecting with an old and dear friend.

It was just shy of 8 a.m. Saturday as I opened my book, blowing lightly at my steaming coffee. I sorted the pillows from our porch furniture on my lap so I could aim the pages in the direction the sun would appear when it cleared the mountain. Angling the book to catch just the right natural reading light is tricky early in the day on the covered porch. My wife, Lori, and I usually play this game together and against each other, the early riser getting the best spot, the loser spending more time than the other to coax the sunlight into position.

Fall color will likely be dimmer than normal

Autumnal vibrancy will depend on weather conditions over the next few weeks, according to Western Carolina University’s fall color soothsayer. 

When they bloom, ‘fall’s a-coming’

Late summer has slid into early autumn. The end of summer officially arrived with the autumnal equinox of Sept. 23, when the sun crosses the celestial equator.

One senses this transition in the cool mist-shrouded mornings we’ve been experiencing of late …  as well as by the brown-splotched and red-tinged leaves of the buckeye trees. Communal groups of swallows will gather on wires and branches prior to their annual southerly migration. Monarch and cloudless sulphur butterflies will pass with ease over high ridges and through low gaps headed for ancestral wintering grounds.

Time of the season: WNC falls into October

Amid the innumerable reasons we love Western North Carolina, the fall foliage of October might be the common denominator that resides on everyone’s list.

As the leaves change from green to yellow, orange and red, and the air gets a tad crisp in nature, so does the uptick in local and regional festivities.

Autumn leaves must fall, but not before being a WNC tourism draw

It’s September in the hills when Western Carolina University’s fall foliage forecaster Beverly Collins attempts to quantify the quality of the annual color show in Western North Carolina through a scientific-based prediction. And Collins is anticipating a good display across the mountains this year.

Learning to let my emotions breathe

I’ve always been prone to bouts of melancholy. I’m not sure if it’s a writer thing or a woman thing or just a thing with my own physiological make-up. These emotional phases once bothered me. I identified them as “depression” or “life stagnation.” But, in recent years, I’ve learned to settle into these moods of mine.

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