everything’s not perfect but some things are – uncovering the threads at Covington’s Nature Park

A hearty group assembled yesterday for a volunteer work day at the Blue Swamp Creek Nature Park in Covington to collectively peel away another layer to expose a relict pine prairie. There were about twelve or fifteen of us altogether. Some worked for a few hours, some for more.

The objective was to cut and remove the tree layer that has grown up over time. The trees have been increasingly shading out the herb layer that is a cool remnant of ancient vegetation.

Back in late summer, we did our first prescribed fire there, as a first step toward restoring this valuable botanical area. Our goal is to develop the park as a natural interpretive park for the citizens of the City of Covington, St. Tammany Parish, and beyond.

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above, Tommy Mayronne works the fire line at the Covington Nature Park on August 3, 2015. It was hot that day, ugh.

All of the parts and pieces to the prairie are there, they have just been taking a fifty year siesta, gone dormant, as the fires are absent, and the trees have grown up, shading out the precious sunlight which the herbs on the ground need in order to grow.

That’s what happens here on the Gulf Coastal rim. If you neglect your land, it will grow up in forest.

Nothing wrong with forest. In fact, I find forest interesting, but give me more prairie, thank you. We have lots of forest at the Park and need the prairie to fully explain our story of natural succession and natural history and fire here in southeastern Louisiana.

Spent time last week rescuing and then replanting Pitcher Plants for the Nature Park bog. Through that I learned how out-of-shape I am. Was sore for days after ha. But we gotter done!

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step 1 – find a bog about to be mitigated (decimated)

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step 2 – rescue bog plants (disclaimer: only dig from areas where you are sure are “rescuing”. The rescue site I dug from is adjacent to a giant Wal-Mart store, where ten acres of awesome bog was destroyed in order to build a giant parking lot and the store. Back in the 1990’s before the Wal-Mart was built, we organized volunteers to recue many many clumps of bog plants and planted them at the Crosby Arboretum-Picayune, Mississippi. Only imminently threatened sites should be considered for digging and only after all hope is lost in preserving the site).

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step 3 – replant bog plants into a cool bog space at a local public park

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above, on the right is where we’ve just removed trees. on the left is where we are still a-workin’ – notice the trees are toasty from the summer burn. Yes!! Also check out the central area in the photo. This area is managed by the local electric co-op – mowed occasionally to keep trees from growing into the power lines – as the grassiness there testifies – click to enlarge the photo and you can see the busy bees workin’

The tree removing task yesterday was grand, as we got about 75 per cent of the targeted area cleared. We will cut the rest of the trees this week so that our Covington High School Future Farmers of America group can remove them from the prairie garden site.

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This is an “upland” area (with trees before we cut them out), created when the pond for the park was built, where we’ll plant awesome prairie seed this week, seed that I collected back in October at the Sandy Hollow Wildlife Management Area – with permission from the Louisiana Fish and Wildlife Service folks, of course.

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Sandy Hollow is divine, above, September 18, 2015, Liatris squarosa/ Black Swallowtail

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above – The northern-most area of the prairie-bog is generally here, where the electric service line for the Park comes through. You can see my friend – Landscape Architect Johnny Mayronne just past the trees…

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above – this is the same photo but without the trees, an hour later – all cleaned up!

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We made a giant “habitat windrow” to designate to the mower crew where there line is to stop with their prairie eating mowing machines. This will be a permanent interpretive structure for the park, designed to raise wildlife and questions. We’ll collect brush there and watch it turn to dust over time. Perfectly natural!

 

a progression of tree growth 2006 – 2015 via satellite imagery 

click to enlarge ’em

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Covington Nature Park February 28 2006

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March 22, 2010

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March 5, 2013

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October 3, 2014

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August 25, 2015 just after our burn on August 3 – nice!

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above  – take a closer gander at our far’ handiwork

Happy Day it was for my niece Megan and her new hubby Chris. Not every wedding party in New Orleans steps out of the Cathedral to a second line but this’n did. saweet.

 

Guys and gals – if you haven’t been, check out the Camellia Garden Stroll at the way-awesome old camellia garden at Hammond Research Station – Its the bomb – an amazing collection of plants all blooming their little asses off.

contact  Dr. Owings @ AOwings@agcenter.lsu.edu

 

meadowmaker’s farm

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an out-of-the-ordinary Prairie Phlox was blooming at the farm yesterday – nyum-yumIMG_3490

nice grasses!

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perty farm sculpture – steel, copper – Marc Pastorek/ Ricky Martin, 1996

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prairie bling!!! Happy Birthday Candi!!

 

 

deep south, mississippi boggin’

Digging in on a plant rescue in an old Pineywoods bog last week, I got to enjoy spring where most people don’t, up to my boot-ankles in water, sloshing around in a slurpy pine flat, since it had been raining on and off for the past two weeks. I recall doing bog transplantings/ rescues just a stone’s throw away from this spot, back in the late 1990’s for Crosby’s bog exhibit areas, with Bob Brsuszek and a bunch of other Crosby regulars. There was a Wal-Mart store proposed for that property and we volunteers were allowed to save and preserve many thousands of plants and clumps of precious soil from imminent and certain death. I dug and moved these recent plant rescues to my seed farm-pine restoration, just ten miles north from here.

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Pearl River County Mississippi pitcher plant rescue site, set for fill and construction-mitigation soon.

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click on the photo to see this old-old, leafless, and very sculptural Nyssa biflora, many years old (maybe ancient).

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a new species of Aristida for me (shown against my glove). A five footer, Charles Allen says its likely A. palustrus.

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Sunbonnets, Chaptalia tomentosa, were scattered across the floor of the landscape. Late february is for Sunbonnets in the bog. Very nice, indeed.

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The red of Aronia arbutifolia berries, still holding fruit this late, after winter is done.

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above: The red of a Hypericum leaf, colored-up, and colorful.

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In this native garden, ten miles north of Picayune; my friend Jim’s bog progressess. It was turfgrass lawn when he and I started turning it into a bog meadow in 1999. There’s a carpet of fluffy sphagnum moss covering the ground very beautifully through much of the garden area now; a wonderful achievement, I would say. Jim has nurtured this ground on his own, patiently caring for new plants he has to introduced through the years. He calls it gardening.

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Jim Sones of Carriere, Mississippi with his bog woodland friend, Cyrilla recemosa

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above: the bark of Cyrilla is often pinkish on old specimens, this one being much older than I, I am sure.

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My friend Charlotte Seidenberg’s recent photo of a frog inside a pitcher plant tube, in her garden. She was wondering how the plant will eat if the frog is taking its dinner! Charlotte is the author of The New Orleans Garden and The Wildlife Garden: Planning Backyard Habitats, both excellent reference sources for gardeners in the southeast U.S. -click on it to enlarge. She too, has nurtured a meadow garden that we both built.

Below is a ten-second youtube video, a brief glimpse of one of our three different controlled burns done in portions of the 20+ acre Pine Flat Bog exhibit at Mississippi State University’s Crosby Arboretum, Picayune, in Feb. 2015. You can easily see why we called it “controlled”. Fire can be managed if you’re starting with a good plan of action and then follow through with it. click the link below. but don’t try this at home, kids. 🙂

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Male cone of Long Leaf pine, Pinus palustrus. Long Leaf is the Queen of the Southeastern coastal plain forest. photo courtesy of Dr. Charles M. Allen. click on these to enlarge them -they’re beautiful works of art.

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palustrus, meaning swampy or marshy.

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The new book by Professor Robert Brzuszek, Landscape Architecture, Mississippi State University, hot off the press. Bob was the Senior Curator for the Arboretum from about 1988 to 2000.

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One of the many giants of horticulture that I am glad to say I had the great pleasure to meet an speak with on a few occasions. J.C. Rauston; an amazing horticultural force he was.

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Dr. Sidney McDaniel is one of the major scientific contributors/collaborators of the Arboretum. He studied and documented the flora of the Crosby Properties. His brilliance helped launch the Arbo into Earth-orbit.

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the early conceptual design by Dr. Blake for Crosby

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Dr. Blake’s graphic of the existing hydrologic zones at the Crosby. The bog-savanna areas are to the right in yellow, green and white. click to enlarge. Notice the grid built onto the design. Each corner of the grid is marked permanently by a foot-long, one inch diameter brass rod hammered into the ground. This system is used regularly by Crosby staff, researchers, and University students in following changes, patterns in the landscape vegetation.

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above: The Crosby Master Plan, by Dr. Ed Blake

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Ed’s sketch of pine bog herbs, at Crosby.

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Dr. Ed Blake was a friend of the planet Earth and he is sorely missed.

*Crosby book images published with permission from Mississippi State University and my friend and fellow-polack, the author, Robert F. Brzuszek