Signs of spring

Spring is slowly, but surely, shuffling its way onto the mountain. It’s good to see the usual spring things beginning. For example, the crested iris leaves are pushing into the sunlight, the poke sallet is beginning to wave its green flags and cedar apple rust, one of the more spectacular looking plant diseases, is in full “bloom.”

We were somewhat concerned that the irises might not make it this year. With the hundreds of trees damaged from last year’s snow, and the subsequent efforts to trim and remove debris from the road, we feared the irises might be disturbed or buried under pine logs and brush. It was great to see yesterday that those leaves had emerged.

Pileated in the poke

The rather violent movement in the formidable pokeweed downslope from the house caught our eye and camera. The resulting shot made us think of  Michael Martin Murphey’s mid-70s hit  “Carolina in the Pines.”  Except, it’s more like “Pileated in the Poke,” just not as melodic.

PEEK-A-BOO WOODPECKER — Pileated woodpecker was thrashing away in the poke sallet, wresting berries from their stems.  The pokeweed has been very popular this drought year with deer browsing the leaves off the bottom three feet of stems as well as the cardinals and other birds who make use of the berries.

Secret lives of vascular plants

The sun has returned to the Ouachitas, along with highs in the 80s.  A perfect day to get into the garden for spring cleaning the dried stalks left from last year, as well as transplanting lavender, a volunteer sunflower and adding more soil and mulch to existing beds.

Among the discoveries today was a split open poke sallet stem, dried and bleached through last fall and winter, with its spongy interior mostly gone, but its ribs were left.

A short walk later was  a beautifully gnarled, mossed and lichen-ed underside of a tree, which, last year, had been a useful perch for an eager chipmunk.

On the deck, a grapevine waited on the deck for some ground to call its own.  The setting sun made the veining in its leaves stand out.

Poke sallet ribs
What's left of the spongy interior of a poke sallet "trunk."
More poke sall;et
Another view of the same trunk near the tapered end.
Niagara grape
Niagara grape, its veins backlit, awaits transplantation.
Underside of a tre
The foundation of this long-ago uprooted tree has grown its own peaks and valleys landscape.
Another view of the underside of a tree.
Another view of the rich life that has sprung from the death of a tree.