Sunday, January 4, 2009

Bark is Beautiful

NOTHING smells sweeter than the outdoors just after a rain. Checking out a new spot, we discovered the small but charming in-town wood called Blue Heron Nature Preserve.

With a joyously shrieking three-year-old, fussy baby and bounding dog obliterating any chance of wildlife encounters, our attention was drawn to the trees and especially their bark. When competing with leaves, fruits and seeds, the poor old bark usually loses out. But when the showier portions of the tree have succumbed to winter's plan, it is the tree's outer layer whose turn it is to shine. If you, like I, have never noticed such diversity in tree bark, now is the time to get out there and take a look.

We noted rough, scaly pines and smooth, pale beech trees on one side of the creek. The pines told us from which direction the rain had come as that side of the tree was dark, almost black. On the other side, the tree landscape was a little different. Emma was intrigued by the peeling papery birch bark, which I admitted to using as fire kindling in my far off DofE (Duke of Edinburgh Award) expedition days. Then we came across a number of sycamores, even more interesting. Sycamore bark has patches of brown, green, grey and tan that are randomly put together in a camouflage-like pattern. The darker outer layers can be peeled off to reveal new growth beneath, which is a yellow-white colour.

As we stopped for a snack, we noticed hidden under a fence the unmistakeable shoots of daffodils. At the beginning of January?? And still people don't believe global warming is a problem.

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