Monday, May 5, 2008

Planet in Peril?

That’s not a “typo”. I did mean to write “planet”, not “plant”, but it does all come down to the same thing. How many plant species can we afford to lose, how much “greenhouse gas” can we absorb, how much converted fossil fuel can we afford to spew into the air, before our planet becomes irreversibly damaged?

On Saturday I attended a lecture by noted botanical photographer and master naturalist Debra H. Davis, followed by a walk in the woods, where we looked for and found a number of the wildflowers she had talked about and of which she had shown us some of her beautiful images.

The Strawberry Bush (Euonymus americanus) was beginning to show buds, as is also the case with the one I have in my garden. Violets were everywhere, as were the aptly-named Flame Azaleas (Rhododendron calendulaceum), as well as Mayapples (Podophyllum peltatum) not yet in bloom, and we saw one Beetleweed (Galax urceolata) with a flower spike and bunches that will no doubt develop blooms in the weeks to come. In a microenvironment, there were more than half a dozen Pink Lady’s Slippers (Cypripedium acaule) in their palest finery. We were told their color deepens over time, and learned that the Laurel Ridge spot in which we saw them (perhaps 20x30 feet) has been followed by Debra and her husband, Larry, for nearly 11 years, mainly to watch how well they are reproducing at the Conservation Center in a designated area.

Part of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Smithgall Woods is a hidden treasure. And that may not be a bad thing for its diverse and in some cases rare flora.

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