20 April, 2015

Spring ephemerals in Fernbank Forest and around Atlanta

The past five or six weeks have been a wonderful time across the Piedmont forests of Atlanta. This is a special window of time where the air is warming, we (usually) get plentiful rain and the canopy is full of sunlight as the leaves are just beginning to come back on our diverse palette of deciduous trees. 

Sunny canopy typical of late March and early April in southern Piedmont forests. 

This post will center on the spring ephemeral wildflowers that flourish during this window every year. 

March 11th- trout lily 

March 12th- Bloodroot

March 13th- sweet Betsy trillium 

March 18th- spring beauty

March 18th- trout lily

March 25th- sweet Betsy

March 30th- yellow trillium

March 29th- cranesbill geranium

March 31st- bellwort

April 1st- silverbell 

April 1st- foamflower 

April 6th- dwarf pawpaw

April 6th- southern nodding trillium

April 9th- crinkleroot 

April 14th- sweet Cicely 

Jack-in-the-pulpit- April 21st

Alternate-leaf dogwood- April 21st

Atamasco lily- April 28th

22 February, 2015

Winter Forest Walk at Beecher Park

Today was easily the warmest day of the past week... by a good 10-15 degrees. There was intermittent light rain all day, but the rain stopped while I led a dozen or so folks on a Trees Atlanta sanctioned winter forest walk at one of my favorite "hidden" greenspaces in Atlanta, the lovely Beecher Park. 

Beecher is in a lightly traveled section of SW Atlanta off Beecher St (and close to the more heavily traveled Cascade Rd). 

The above map gives an idea of the location and truly gives you a look at the vast expanses of greenspace that quietly exist in this part of Atlanta. The map below highlights the North-Northwest running creek and ravine of Beecher Park. 

The meeting spot for the walk was at the southernmost end. Here the park has a small manicured lawn, a few open grown planted trees and a picnic table. A short distance northward, however, the forest envelopes you as you venture on a hillside (subtle) single-track trail. 

We walked slowly and stopped often as I took time to dive into stats and personalities of just a few individual trees (and tree species). 

A tree I love visiting was also one of the treasures I shared with today's group- a 160' tall tuliptree (Liriodendron tulipifera) that's rooted creek side in a very deep section of the ravine. 

With my niece for scale, you can get some sense of its size. The trunk is 13.5' circumference at breast height. The bark shows balding typical of older specimens. The photo below shows off the height of this beauty. 

The first limb is over 80' above the ground!  It's got a gnarly crown with just a few thick limbs and an open character (also typical of older trees)

The group ventured further down until the ravine flattened out and the creek meandered into a floodplain area. Just on the edge lives the tallest umbrella magnolia (Magnolia tripetala) ever measured in Georgia. At just over 77' it's a whopper. And still growing. 

Only a little over 2' circumference, but quite a tall tree. Full vertical shot below. 

The group paused for an obligatory photo shortly after admiring the champion magnolia. 

After that we parted ways, as I had already run out of time (lots of stopping and nerding out on trees = time flying and little distance covered). 

On the return, watched my niece explore the creek while I updated some measurements on superlative trees.

 This included the tallest pignut hickory (Carya glabra) in Atlanta (or could it be a red hickory??). It's a 145' rocketship of a tree. Mere feet from the grand tuliptree.  

I really love this forest and on my next visit I plan to spend the better part of a day measuring more trees and connecting to other greenspaces like Lionel Hampton nature preserve. This is a really special part of the city and I encourage others to seek out these spots to enjoy in their own. 

07 February, 2015

Revisit to a tall tree site near Emory

Today my wife joined me on a short excursion to check in on a few superlative trees along a tributary of South Fork Peachtree Creek. 

Happy to be spending time in the woods on a warm winter day!

This forest is home to one of the only documented Northern red oaks, Quercus rubra, over 140' tall in Atlanta, GA. 

Here's a vertical pan of me and the tree:

Finding the true top of this beast was tricky. There's 3 main leaders where the main trunk branches. Lots of spindly branches jut in many directions high above that. My best shot showed 1 point slightly higher than the rest with a total height of 140.2'. I used a laser rangefinder and clinometer combined with the SINE method to get this number. Big thanks to the Native Tree Society for exposing me to (and training me in) this method of tree measuring. 

We also (re)measured a superlative loblolly pine, Pinus taeda, at 9'7" circumference by 130.2' tall, and Atlanta's tallest bitternut hickory, Carya cordiformis, at 131.1' tall. It's not often I find hickories over 130'. 

It was a short but fun excursion. I'll close with a picture of a mountain laurel shrub, Kalmia latifolia (sidenote- my iPhone wants to autocorrect this Latin name to "lay igloo"...weird). Though not uncommon, it's certainly not often I see this cliff loving mountainous species in the city of Atlanta. 

28 January, 2015

It's been far too long... time to revive the dogsfirebeer blog!

I miss writing about nature.  I miss sharing my passion with the world.  But most of all... I miss wandering in the woods.  For the last few years my forest wanderings have been mostly limited to trail runs on the weekends....which are fun, but not quite the same as my former forest jaunts.  John Muir suggested that people should not hike, but rather saunter through the mountains.  Muir noted that the word saunter was derived from the pilgrimages to the holy lands in the Middle Ages.  "A la sainte terre" means "to the holy land".  These pilgrims were knowns as sainte-terre-ers or saunterers.  I miss being a saunterer in the woods.  I aim to get back to my old sauntering ways.  Soon.  With pictures.  And anecdotes.  I will make this happen!  

For now, here's a picture of me after one of my trail runs at Kennesaw Mountain.  A place at which I love running, and I hope to one day saunter :)