Mother Nature at Work
The statement: “Nature abhors a vacuum” was clearly in evidence in the woodlands at the Pownalborough Court House. Trees, either sickly or dead are under attack by natural processes. Some, like gale force or hurricane winds can result in massive damage from fallen trees but other less violent means are also operative.
On Wednesday, the last day of March I spotted the following examples right at the trails’ edge. The first display the work of pileated woodpeckers which have chiseled out deep holes in the trunk of the pine in order to seek out the grubs nestled in the decayed wood at the heart of the trunk. As seen in one image, the scattered abundant woodchips at the base of the tree are a further measure of the woodpecker’s vigorous industriousness.
Further along I spotted a series of large conch mushrooms attached to the rotting trunk of an ancient hemlock tree. These fan-like woody mushrooms attack the wood fiber and break it down to return the decaying trunk back into the humus layer of the topsoil.
Yet further along I spotted a less familiar mushroom which has the appearance of slime eating away in the crevices of the bark. This unusual mushroom was actually dry to the touch despite its appearance.
Each instigator, whether plant or animal, plays its own specific role. The pileated woodpecker often selects particularly vulnerable living trees to hasten their demise whereas fungi attack dead wood. All keep the balance between the living and the dead in harmony and assure than nothing goes to waste!
George Keyes, LCHA Collections Committee