Monday, March 12, 2007

Spring Flora and Fauna

WE ARE HAVING a remarkably late spring in the Saint Louis area, but with temperatures approaching 80° F. today and yesterday, winter is most certainly over. Early springs of course are threatened with the possibility of hard freeze.

But yesterday I took a walk through Rockwoods Reservation, in western Saint Louis County, and superficially the landscape was winter-bare.

The forest may be hiding new green secrets under the leaf litter, ready to bloom, but I certainly couldn't see anything. I only saw one tree that had reddish buds, ready to open.

The prairie is also almost completely bare of greenery, and is mainly decorated with last summer's grasses.

But some very few plants here do remain green all throughout winter, but they tend to be very tough and thorny plants like this one, along with the pines, and cool-season grasses. The vast majority of species are still brown.

I was having no success in finding wildflowers. But at the time I was considering the Medieval theory of the Great Chain of Being, which posits a world full of species with infinite variability, due to God's infinite goodness and creativity. Because of this, it was fitting, even though not absolutely required, that there be wildflowers blooming on this warm day in late winter, especially since insects were abundant. There were none in the forest, nor were there any in the prairie, but right on the border where forest and prairie met, there were wildflowers in abundance: they were very small and likely bloomed that very day.

If you look very closely, and watch where you walk, you can see tiny new flowers. These are very small, at most a tenth of an inch across.

These are tiny and almost unnoticeable. I think this is a kind of mint.

These minuscule white flowers are at at the limits of my camera's magnification, with each petal being only somewhat larger than the size of a period at the end of a sentence. And the world's absolutely smallest flowers, those of the duckweed, are also native to these parts.

In a spring, the weather is nearly always like spring. Here is Hamilton Spring, named after early settlers, which has a year-round flow with temperatures constantly in the upper fifties.

Watercress thrives only in cool, clear springwater. When I was a child, my family would collect watercress for dinner salad.

Another water plant.

Gravel in the bottom of the spring. Looking closely, there are numerous living things among the rocks.

I've never seen a frog this dark before. This might be a Wood Frog.

A Pickerel Frog in the spring water.

1 comment:

  1. You made my day with this one. That second picture down is magnificent.