Resolved to stay away from my old atelier under the willow trees for a while, I decided to explore the western section of the Falls of the Ohio State Park. It was just the most beautiful day and residents of our area have remarked on how unusually nice it’s been of late. The air today has wonderful clarity and although it’s summer and the sun is shining…we are many degrees below our usual temps. I feel the western part of the Falls of the Ohio begins once you cross the creek at the end of the Woodland Loop Trail. This is an area that receives fewer visitors and I’m happy just to wander with nothing on my mind. As I walk the narrow strip of land that is the riverbank, on my left are sounds from the river and on my right are various bird songs originating under the tree canopy. I see the formerly high river has deposited driftwood here in new configurations along with the usual plastic junk. My eyes are open and ready for anything. I doesn’t take very long before I make the first of several discoveries new to me in and around a patch of Wild Potato-Vines.
This is Goldstein’s False Mum which is named after the resident naturalist at the Falls of the Ohio State Park. This is another in a series of very odd flowers while being organic by definition have little in common with the other plants that grow along side of them. In general, plastic-like blooms and foliage characterize these botanical rarities. None of these plants (which form a new order of their own called Artificialia ) are capable of photosynthesis despite the appearance of green leaves. Goldstein’s False Mum is a summer plant that produces a hard, yellow, frilly blossom that appears on the terminal end of a woody stem. It prefers sandy, disturbed soils or decaying wood and is usually seen in the company of traditional flowering plants. It produces no scent and no insects were observed being attentive to the false mum. Now the Wild Potato-Vine is also an interesting plant. It is a member of the Morning Glory family and its bloom is primarily white with a purplish maroon throat. I have seen large bumble bees pollinating this flower. What sets this plant apart is under the ground. The Wild Potato-Vine produces a large tuber that had food value for the indigenous people. Here is a another specimen of Goldstein’s False Mum growing out of a soft, decaying log also in the presence of Wild Potato-Vines.
Not too far away and also in association with the Wild Potato-Vines is another type of plastic-like plant and here is its portrait.
The Log Weed is a saprophytic plant. Lacking chlorophyll it relies on decaying matter for its sustenance. The Log Weed is characterized by a corolla of hard plastic-like petals and never has what we would describe as leaves coming off its woody stem. No one is quite sure how it propagates? Its blossoms appear in mid summer and seem to hang around forever.
These are tubular flowers from the Trumpet Creeper vine which is a native and natural sight at the Falls of the Ohio. This is a climbing, spreading vine and wood ants seem to love them. If you look closely at the above photo…you can see several ants crawling on the Trumpet Creeper’s attractive blooms. I was admiring this vine when I noticed that there was something not quite right about it and this is what I discovered.
Notice the yellow orb to the upper right of the Trumpet Creeper blossoms? Thus far, the yellow fruit with its accompanying leaf remain unclassified. It is, however, grafted to the woody stem of the vine. Amazingly, it even has a false stem to deceive. Could it be parasitic? One hypothesis why this plant with the odd fruit appears with Trumpet Creeper might be the protection it receives from the vine’s wood ants? The fruit and leaf are also very polymer-like and may indeed be plastic. More and more we are learning how ubiquitous plastic is in the environment. I heard a report about the Great Lakes the other day saying that there is a considerable amount of micro plastic in these large bodies of fresh water. Upon examination, much of this plastic takes the form of tiny balls that are blended into deodorants and toothpaste to make the product flow more evenly. These beads are so small that they pass through the finest screens at the waste water treatment plants and into the lakes. I think Nature is metabolizing this plastic and recombining the hydrocarbons in novel ways, but that is just my theory.
I paid my favorite cottonwood tree a visit and it’s been a while since I took shelter under its large, exposed roots. People, especially the locals, like hanging out here and I witnessed much less trash since my last visit which is a good thing. One big “improvement” has been made with the addition of a red, upholstered couch and I took a moment to rest here before moving on.
The couch is very comfortable and I’m amazed that people actually dragged this piece of furniture down here. Eventually, it will be reclaimed by the river. Here’s another view from under the tree.
For those who prefer their comforts a bit more on the rustic side…there is another bench for seating and it’s made from a slab of wood balanced on short logs.
I rested, had a snack and drank some water before moving on. I’ve designated my intended destination as “Loosestrife Land” for the abundance of these non-native flowers that have taken over moist areas in the western section of the park. I’m going there seeking something else which will be the subject of my next post. I’ll catch up with you soon but for now…so long and happy trails to you.