Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Haw Ridge hike - Flowers, fossils and lichens

It was an AB day ("absolutely beautiful"), with a record-breaking high temperature of 79 degrees! I decided to head over to Haw Ridge, a local hiking/biking/horseback riding trail here in Oak Ridge. It is a spectacular area for wildflowers, so I wanted to see what I could find. It is still a bit early for flower here, but I did find 4. The Round-leaf Hepatica (right)was just starting to bloom. Farther up the trail I found Cut-leaf Toothwort (left) and the little yellow blossoms of the Spicebush (below). The single Bloodroot I saw had already closed for the afternoon.

In a couple of weeks the trails will be loaded with wildflowers, but today I had to satisfy myself with other things to look at and photograph. One thing nice about being an all-round nature enthusiast is that I can find something to interest me just about anywhere and anytime! When I couldn't find any flowers, I looked for lichens and liverworts (left). I found both on this tree. Liverworts are non-flowering plants, the leafy variety (such as this one) has leaves arranged in pairs. I'm so glad I went to the lichen workshop at Tremont last month, it opened my eyes to a new organism to enjoy and photograph. I found this Common Script Lichen (right) on the bark of a beech tree. I also found a large patch of Gray Reindeer Lichen (below) growing on the ground in one of the cedar barrens.
Next, I turned my eyes to the ground and the many limestone rocks in and on the side of the trail. This rock turned out to be a treasure trove of fascinating fossils. Unfortunately, it had suffered numerous bicycle wheels and was fairly scratched up. It is not hard to imagine this part of the state hundreds of millions of years ago underwater in a shallow sea. We have large limestone deposits on the southeast end of town. I enjoy looking for fossils in the large outcroppings at Haw Ridge. These fossils are incredibly well preserved, the tiny holes, where the individual animals lived, can still be seen in the bryozoans and the brachiopod shells look as though the animals might have died yesterday! (Click on the photo to enlarge it)

I'm glad I got out and enjoyed the weather today, it is supposed to rain tomorrow and turn much cooler again. March is such a fickle month! Oh, one other critter I was not so happy to see was a Lone Star tick! That's not a good sign to see ticks so early!

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