A walk in the forest is a great way to unwind, take some time to contemplate and clear the mind, relax both body and spirit. Being surrounded by majestic trees and rich undergrowth, walking on paths with feet softly sinking in humus ground, and following murmuring water stream while listening to birds chirp is very soothing. If we’re lucky, we’ll cross paths with a deer, see a mole peek out of its molehill and a squirrel hopping on tree branches, or spot a pair of mallards before they see us and decide to fly away. Forest is just a place to employ all of our senses and – as we like to say – become one with nature.
But to put this idealistic notion into perspective, we must realize that enjoying nature and using it to get away is only possible because of our culture and achievements of our civilization; for example architecture that gives us homes, electricity that provides us with comfort, and medicine that keeps us safe. Nature is a harsh and unpredictable place and – at least I can speak for myself – it would be a difficult challenge to survive in it, even for a few days. Just think of the weather: nature is very friendly when it is warm and sunny outside, but this can change in a second when a storm comes.
All of this of course doesn’t mean that “modern human” is independent or separated from nature – but a complex relationship between nature and culture has to be taken into consideration when we think about our place in nature (besides cohabitation, another aspect of this are obviously exploitation and destructive effects on natural world).
This is a complex topic … so today I’ll focus more on my simple initial point: just having a nice time in nature, observing it and appreciating its beauty. That is enough in itself. But it also brings curiosity.
In the time since I started writing this blog, I have often wondered about what I’ve seen in nature. I wanted to at least define plant species, while understanding different natural processes is always a nice upgrade. Because I come from a different field, learning about nature is a slow process; there is a lot to see and a lot to know and you can quickly become confused by all the facts and data. And since I’ve decided to even write about nature, I want to be especially careful to avoid inaccuracies. So I learn little by little, step by step; and I always like to direct a reader to Sources section of a blog post for further reading.
In today’s post I am presenting images I’ve gathered on my visits to a pond in a nearby forest in April. Nature is awakening in the spring and it changes its appearance constantly – it offers new beautiful sights every day and it has kept my camera pretty busy. Life by the water is particularly interesting. Let’s take a look.
One of typical herbaceous plants in such damp habitats is marsh-marigold (Caltha palustris); it is easily recognizable with its yellow flowers and round heart-shaped leaves.
Land by the pond is overgrown with tufts of sedges and they are flowering in this time. Judging by the flowers, this particular species could be blue sedge (Carex flacca).
Those “clumps of bubbles” scattered on water surface have to be frogspawns? Frogs lay their eggs in water, and after a while, tadpoles hatch. As they evolve, they lose their gills and develop lungs, grow legs and lose tail, and so they transform to frogs.
Except for insects, bugs, animals are quite rare to spot. They like to keep to themselves, away from our curious eyes. We can however look for traces of their presence. One example being this molehill:
Fungi are omnipresent creatures in natural habitats. They are neither plants nor animals; they have their own kingdom. We usually see their outer part, fruit body. It produces spores and has a reproductive function. But underneath it, for example in the ground or in tree stumps, there’s a wide net of hyphae that form mycelium. It has a function of obtaining food and it closely connects fungi world to plants.
Fungi can get their food by parasiting on other plants. They can also form symbiotic relationships with plants where both sides benefit by exchanging nutrients. Or they can feed on dead trees by decomposing the tissue.
Black alder (Alnus glutinosa) often grows near water. From what I’ve read, this is a very interesting tree. It forms several types of symbiosis in its roots: actinorrhiza (symbiosis with bacteria) and mycorrhiza (symbiosis with fungi). If I understood correctly, one special type of bacteria fixes nitrogen from the air into alder’s root nodules, and the nitrogen then gets transported through fungi’s mycelium to roots of other trees. This means that black alder helps provide soil with nitrogen.
Another one of the trees I’ve found here is hornbeam (Carpinus betulus). It is already green with new leaves now, but in the beginning of April I noticed something peculiar. Last year’s dried-up leaves didn’t fall off in autumn like they usually do in many trees. Instead, they persisted through winter and early spring. This is called marcescence and we can see it on beeches, oaks and hornbeams. Pictured below are a few old hornbeam leaves clinging to twigs, with new buds visible. I also took a pair home for a “herbarium“.
This was just a small portion of what goes on in a fairy tale-like place. A lot is left hidden, waiting to be explored.
I started my series of English exercise blog posts a few months ago. I had a nice run and I will return to writing in English again. But for my next couple of posts, I’m going back to Slovenian language.
Sources and further reading:
* On fungi:
I saw a wonderful documentary on fungi recently – it neatly shows how important this kingdom of beings is for the rest of the natural world. You can watch it here.
* On black alder: http://www.euforgen.org/fileadmin/templates/euforgen.org/upload/Countries/Slovenia/Technical_guidelines/Alnus_glutinosa_SVN.pdf
(Text is about reproduction and conservation of alder trees, and it also explains symbiosis with bacteria and fungi.)
* On marcescence: https://www.arboretum.harvard.edu/leaves-dont-leave/ and https://www.wunderground.com/cat6/Marcescence-Why-Some-Trees-Keep-Their-Leaves-Winter
(Authors explain mechanism of leaf-dropping and reasons for marcescence.)
MAY UPDATE: That plant you see in the header photo is yellow iris (Iris pseudacorus). I saw a lot of them on my visits to the pond in April, but the plant only had leaves then, so I wasn’t sure what species it was. It finally blooms in May so it is confirmed: that’s yellow iris.