Thursday, July 04, 2013

Fireworks

This year's growing season is turning out as one of the most enjoyable for botanists. The plants that survived last year's drought have literally exploded under this season's wet weather and clement temperatures. It has been fascinating from an anecdotal standpoint to discover that certain vascular plants like Gaura biennis and Sabatia campestre seemed to thrive during last year's drought, but have not responded to this year's favorable climate. Even as early as March, before spring really set in, it was evident that diminuitive lawn weeds had taken advantage of the lack of competition from turf grass with annuals like little bluets carpeting vast stretches of yards in the Ozarks.

But it's not just the annual weeds that the drought and ample moisture cycle have favored, but even the long-lived perennial forbs have come back this year more robust. While I don't know if anyone is formally measuring the effects of these two vastly different growing seasons, I plan to revisit my woodland plots this week to recollect the data I tried to collect last July. Last year, the plots in this high quality, frequently burned woodland possessed much more bare ground compared to this year where cover values of grasses, sedges, and forbs tend more towards 90% total cover. so, I have last year's data, will have this year's data, and they will be vastly different not only in species composition with only early spring plants in last year's plots as the drought set in during May which stunted even little bluestem. I suspect this is all part of that "natural range of variability."

While most casual nature observers visit quality sites in early spring for the explosion of wildflowers, late June and early July are equally rewarding times to take a hike for stunning wildflower displays.

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