Sunday, August 03, 2008

Kelp and her allies

Part of me is really grateful that kelp doesn’t grow in Ozark rivers. I’ve grown so enamored with it lately, picking up large chunks of it as it washes up on Cannon Beach, dragging it back to the beach cabin, chagrined when it doesn’t dry as prettily as it lives.

At low tide today, I didn’t encounter large uprooted kelp plants like I have all week, but I ran into a couple of red jacketed volunteers working as Friends of Haystack Rock. Just before low tide, these nice folks set up spotting scopes focused on Haystack Rock: tufted puffins, pigeon guillemots and baby Western x Glaucous gulls in view.

They also set up sawhorses emblazoned with admonitions about stomping through the rocks during low tide. Walking on the rocks around Haystack Rock damages barnacles, starfish, anemones. Most beach visitors obeyed the request, as most Oregonians naturally do, but a few schlubs stomped right up to the base of Haystack Rock to pluck who-knows-what live sea critter off the rocks to take home as a souvenir. Colorful limpets live here, as do several species of starfish and California mussels. The folks in the red jackets are just volunteers…they can’t even holler at the people who can’t read well enough to obey signage.

While we don’t have kelp in Missouri (which is really a good thing because otherwise, I’d never stop diving in it), we have a whole host of indigenous aquatic plants and less charismatic animals dependent on our fragile ecosystems. Haystack Rock, a huge lava floe, was formed when "lava pushed into softer sediments on the sea floor and formed basalt intrusions. Colliding continental plates uplifted much of the coast and after millions of years of erosion, softer sediments were worn away leaving only these dramatic formations." Thinking back to Missouri's geologic timetable, represented on my wall in Columbia, when the Missoula Flood occurred, the Jack’s Fork was already deeply entrenched in the Ozarks, the northern reaches maybe (though doubtfully) running low in the latter part of the year.

I know eel grass and coontail. I know my potomogetons, though I never see them in the backwaters of clear rivers. I know a few of my native mussels. While I searched in vain through the USFWS publications today for all the different kinds of kelp, I realized I knew very little about my own backyard and even less about the Oregon Coast. Oh, I have the book, the aquatic plants of Missouri, but I think I need to spend even more time on our rivers, learning the few mussels that remain, using my snorkeling gear to understand the diversity of plants and animals of the Ozarks. Our rivers will never have a group of red jacketed volunteers instructing floaters how to behave when in fragile ecosystems, but I myself can always gently discourage floaters from scraping bottom over a known mussel bed or ripping up some interesting (heretofore unknown to me) grass.

By the way, if anyone can tell me what the little red berried plant is that I keep seeing on the roadsides along the Coast Range, I'll send you a big, pretty California mussel shell.


Anonymous said...

Red elderberry. Grows in Missouri at only a few locations in northeastern Missouri. But my answer should not count toward the response; lets see if anyone else gets this one. I know a "Missouri kelp counterpart."

Allison Vaughn said...

My trusty colleague, who wouldn't divulge his name, answered about the plant with berries, but he wants to see if anyone else knows it. Known from a few locations in northern Missouri, even! I think I'll fork over my sand dollar to him. A big thanks...

Ted C. MacRae said...

Opposite leaves pinnately compound with 5 leaflets - looks caprifoliaceous. I'm thinking red-berried elder, Sambucus pubens? The foliage seems glossier than I would expect.

doug said...

Well if you speak of the cluster pictured above the mussel shell then I guess it would be elderberry. (Sambucus racemosus var.?)

I have a mussel shell, but you could continue to send me regular instalments of your singular blog.

Douglas from Lac La Hache in the IDFdk3 @ 808M 210deg aspect 6% slope (Fd/Pl/amelanchier cuzikii/Ag spicatum/)(late mature ss) In S central BC (bioregions of cordillera)

Allison Vaughn said...

Excellent! A red elderberry. It's particularly glossy because everything in the woods there is glossy and moist...a veritable rain forest. And I read that the berries are toxic?

Heather's Dad said...

If Elderberries are toxic, that toxicity is negated by cooking them. The very BEST jelly I've ever eaten was made by my father from some he'd gathered in Louisiana.

My tastebuds may have been more influenced by halo-effect than the gustatory properties of that delicacy than I care to recall (I both feared and cherished the man), but the jelly's salient flavor (mingled with that of home-churned butter) slathered atop home-made buiscuits has lingered upon the back of my tongue for many decades.

Fear not... Partake!