Monday, August 14, 2006
Hey, it's post #300!
That's a lot of blathering to myself. Sheesh.
Some beech-related items of note:
An interesting post on arborglyphs
A description of beech bark disease
A quick trip report from my beech-hunting trip last week:
First stop, Highland Park, to once and for all sample the silly things correctly and accurately record which tree is which, with diameters (gave the snazzy new meter tape a workout! thanks, eBay!). I spent much time ducking down to avoid detection by park district employees as they drove down Ravine Drive, and also to avoid the landscape guys working right above my head. I don't know if the landscapers care about Crazy Gringo Lady climbing around in the ravine, but I wouldn't be surprised if they've been instructed to call the police if they see anything suspicious while they're working. A passing lady with her dog didn't seem concerned about my presence (clipboard and 30-meter tape make me look very official), and the dog came across the ravine to wriggle and say hi.
It was very overcast and dark under the canopy, and unbelieveably muggy. My bandana was sopping when I was done, and my glasses kept fogging up at inopportune times. And the mosquitos!!! In any case, though, I found 21 mature beech trees and took samples from all but the four that were just too close to one of the houses. I recorded sizes; the largest was 59 cm in diameter. I also mapped their approximate locations on the slope. Unless I want to return to look for Epifagus in September, I'm done there. (And I do, so I guess I'm not done. Sigh.)
I then drove on north, getting utterly lost in the process because finding a road with an entrance to 94 is no small feat, even with an atlas. My first stop was in a park in Caledonia, Wisconsin. I couldn't remember if I wanted to go there because I knew there were reported beeches or because I just had a good feeling based on the satellite photo. I parked, walked down a dry swale, and found two nice trees, almost like I knew they would be right there. If this is a first report, I'm pretty excited. Not that nobody knows they're there, but if it's not reported in the scientific literature, it doesn't officially exist.
I took my samples and moved on, but had no more luck the rest of the day, even at places where the trees do exist. The park at Wind Point was a huge disappointment. The park is surrounded by a fence, because we certainly don't want riff-raff invading our forests, oh no! The golf course community that backs up to the woods was a maze of dead ends and private drives, and I peered into the trees but saw nothing useful. I also walked along the actual lakefront because the description of where the trees are said "near Lake Michigan", and I didn't think they'd be right on the lake but it was worth a look. Saw several cormorants in the water, and massive squash plants growing wild, but not much else. The lakefront is a mess, weedy and rocky, with an unusable sandy beach and a handful of piers (probably to reduce sand loss). There's a lighthouse farther out on the point. The water, though, was the most remarkable feature: it was full of charcoal grey sludge. The rocks in the shallows were coated with it, and you could see the sludge floating in water. Really disgusting. I don't know if it was a one-time spill or this is a routine situation. I guess I'm spoiled by the efforts to keep Lake Michigan and the lakefront so nice and either natural or recreational, but in either case, *clean*, in the Chicago area. Racine in general looks pretty poor and run-down, and doesn't treat its piece of the lake well. I watched three guys smacking golf balls into the water from the golf course. Lake Michigan: Everybody's favorite dumping ground! GRRRRRRR.
One other thing: Visited, or attempted to visit, Renak-Polak Beech Maple Woods. Should be crawling with beech, but I couldn't get to it. I think there was an access road or trail farther south from where I entered, but I attempted to go in overland and was finally stopped by an impenetrable shrub layer and a weird sense of foreboding. It was about 4:30 by that time, the sun was getting lower, and I didn't want to get myself somewhere I couldn't get out of. I was also wading through knee-high poison ivy (again, no rash, yay). I saw the road as I was driving away, so next time I'll try it. I will say that having a GPS with me makes me feel much better. I set a waypoint at the truck whenever I venture off somewhere. If I get lost, I can always navigate back, assuming I can get a signal under the trees.
So, I will have to go back someday, but for now I have enough material to extract and do some sequencing. There are many beech locations north of Racine that would be worth sampling and at least mapping. Plus, satellite photos show some other spots where I'd be likely to find the trees someday when I feel motivated. But today is not that day. I also have a possible location in LaSalle County, of all places, that will be worth a look if I can narrow it down.