Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Passiflora incarnata: Purple Passion Flower

"WILDLIFE WEDNESDAY" 






"The Maypop and the Ocoee River"




Many of us that grew up in the South, spend many childhood hours stomping "maypops".  Hence the common name "maypop"  the fruit of the Purple Passion Flower (Passiflora incarnata) will make a loud POP when a little boys foot comes down on it....  or when it bangs into the chest of one of his friends.......  (maypop wars were pretty fun).  


Scientific name:  Passiflora incarnata

Common name:  Purple Passion flower, Maypop, Wild Apricot 



So What does this have to do with the Ocoee River?
  As most that know me personally, know that I spent a good portion of my life on and around the whitewater rivers.  I have been an avid whitewater kayaker since about 1990 when my big brother let me paddle his kayak down the Mulberry and Locust Fork rivers in Alabama.  As I got older we soon ventured north to the dam controlled waters of the Ocoee river in southern Tennessee.  This was one of the only places to be able to paddle whitewater during the summer months.  I grew very fond of the area and its history.   In my early 20's I even called this place my home.  I had a house right on the Ocoee river just below the No.1 dam. Man those were some good times!   
Because of my love for the area I started learning more and more about the history of the area. I was somewhat shocked to find out that the river's namesake, "Ocoee", was the good ole "maypop".  The Cherokee in the area called Passiflora incarnata by the name "ocoee" and because of the prevalence of the plant in the area the whole area became know as Ocoee.  The Purple Passion Flower is also the Tennessee state Wildflower.  

The fruit is good for uses other than for 12yr old boys amusment.  It has historically been used as an herbal medicine for treatment of anxiety and insomnia.  The fruit is edible and is commonly used to make jelly and jams.  

This plant is commonly thought of as an agricultural weed, but is often grown in gardens and landscapes for its flower.  It can be very aggressive in its growth and can be very invasive in the right conditions. 



UNTIL NEXT WEEK  
BE SAFE, BE CAREFUL, BEHAVE, DON'T DO ANYTHING ILLEGAL, IMMORAL, UNETHICAL, OR JUST PLAIN STUPID








Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Callicarpa Americana (Beauty Berry)

"WILDLIFE WEDNESDAY" 




"American Beautyberry An Explosion of Fall Purple"






Scientific Name:  Callicarpa americana 
Common Name:  American Beauty berry, Purple BeautyBerry, Sourbush, or Bunch berry  


American Beautyberry is a multi stem shrub that grows about 3 to 5 feet tall with fuzzy, green leaves and produces bunches of bright purple berries. This is an edible berry that is very common to the Southeast. Their flavor is very light and sweet. The berry was often made into a jelly by our ancestors.
This plant works well in landscapes for attracting wildlife. It will bring a nice early fall color splash to the landscape. This plant is in full bloom right now at my farm in North Alabama. In fact, I took these pictures this morning 9/20/17. The berries typically ripen from early September through October each year.



The scientific name, Callicapra in greek is derived from "callos" which means beauty, and "carpos" which means fruit.



More info from the USDA  American Beautyberry

UNTIL NEXT WEEK  

BE SAFE, BE CAREFUL, BEHAVE, DON'T DO ANYTHING ILLEGAL, IMMORAL, UNETHICAL, OR JUST PLAIN STUPID

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Get Outside! Flint Creek Multi Use Trail (Bankhead National Forest) Get Outside!

"WILDLIFE WEDNESDAY" 


Get Outside!

   Flint Creek Multi Use Trail 

(Bankhead National Forest)


Wildlife Wednesday is all about encouraging people to take a look around at the natural world, to spend time outside exploring, and ultimately to get away from the civilized life of concrete, pavement, air conditioning, television, and couches.  This week we are talking about getting outside to explore the Bankhead National forest's Flint Creek Multi Use Trail.  A "multi use trail"  is one that is designed to allow access to areas that are suitable for hiking, mt. bikes, horses, and OHV's.  


There are thousands of miles of roads and trails on public lands that are appropriate and accessible for Off Highway Vehicles (OHV's) use. OHV's are a fun and exciting way to experience America's natural treasures. Here in the South we love our OHV's,  whether it be an ATV, UTV/SXS, Dirt bike, or 4x4 (jeep, truck, etc.).   

Backcountry roads and trails provide a wide range of recreational opportunities for responsible Off Highway Vehicle users on public lands. These opportunities range from vehicle touring to vehicle access for hiking, hunting, fishing, and other public land uses, as well as unconfined vehicle use at designated "OHV Open Areas". Fees and seasonal restrictions related to OHV use may vary from site to site.  ($3.00 per rider at Flint creek).


Flint Creek Trails

We recently decided to take a trip to check out this OHV area in Bankhead.  
My son and I love to ride dirt bikes and every chance I get to go to a new location I normally jump at it.  My son often gets annoyed when I like to stop on the side of the trail to check out a rock formation, waterfall, or cool looking plant.  The Flint Creek trail system did not disappoint. It is just under 17 miles of trails. Depending on the season there may be lots of wildflowers, rushing water and plenty of rock formations.  The trails are not very difficult by our standards, but please use your own judgment if you decide to take on the adventure.  This area is very remote and recovery efforts would be a real pain.    


Practice Good Stewardship of OUR Trails / Roadways:

You can help to take good care of our trails and roadways so that others may enjoy these areas for years to come by practicing some of the following actions:

Don't Litter... take along a trash bag or other receptacle for collecting your trash so that you can deposit it in the proper trash receptacle.

Make sure that you ride on the designated trail or roadway in that area. Check with your destination ahead of time to ensure that the area you plan to ride in is currently allowed.

Don't ride in areas where it is not permitted. These areas have been declared "off limits" to riders to protect wildlife, vegetation, or for your safety.

Leave gates as you find them.

Yield the right of way to those passing or traveling uphill.

Assist in the management of your public lands by reporting inappropriate behavior, natural resource damage or hazards you may encounter.

Respect the environment and other trail users. By using common sense and common courtesy, what is available today will be there to enjoy tomorrow.

To learn more about responsible OHV riding, go to the Tread Lightly website at:

http://www.treadlightly.org


While on the trails we encountered several other users on atv's, utv's. and horses.  This area is easy to access and has a nice gravel parking lot.  Camping is allowed in the forest.  The maximum width of OHV is fifty inches.  This knocks out many of the RZR/UTV riders.  The trails are well maintained and lots of fun.  
(parking area)

The National Forest website hosts some information about the trails available in Alabama. 



Invite some friends and get outside to enjoy the forests on your OHV!





















UNTIL NEXT WEEK  

BE SAFE, BE CAREFUL, BEHAVE, DON'T DO ANYTHING ILLEGAL, IMMORAL, UNETHICAL, OR JUST PLAIN STUPID

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

A NEW DANGER IN THE FORESTS



"WILDLIFE WEDNESDAY" 




"A New Danger In The Forests"




There is a new danger that lurks in the Southern Forests.  Hikers, campers, mountain bikers, paddlers, hunters, and all outdoorsmen should become familiar with this new and present danger that will plague the woods that we frequent for some time.  DEAD TREES!  During 2016 the southern U.S. suffered a historic drought that covered 100% of the state Alabama and much of the surrounding states.  With abnormally high rainfall amounts this summer, most people feel that this we have more than made up for the shortfall of water last year and that our problems are in the rear view mirror.  This is certainly not the case for those of us who spent a lot of time in the woods.  

 Many trees across the southern forest did not make it through the drought of 2016 and that was evident this spring when many did not put on leaves with the rest of the deciduous trees that come to life in late February through April. The stress of the drought was simply too much for them to live.  Last year, many trees had to dig deep into their reserves to survive the drought.  This puts the tree in a stressed state and with any additional attack, be it from lack of water, insects, fungus, disease, etc.  the tree will have a hard time recovering.   The effects of the drought will not be fully seen on the forests for several years after a drought. The US Forest Service has some good info about the effects of drought on forests if you care to dig deeper into the science of what happens:  https://www.fs.fed.us/science-technology/climate-change/drought-forests-and-rangelands
 It does not take much to find an area of dead trees in the southern forests.  As you drive along if you look up at the mountain sides you will likely see areas of trees that have lost their leaves.  Often they stripe the mountain with horizontal lines.  These areas that are shallow in topsoil were particularly easy targets for the drought to take its toll.  I have personally lost several hundred trees on my farm. Many of which did not show any signs until the last few weeks.    The economic impact to the forestry industry may be great over the next several years.  The ecological impact will be significant as well.  The immediate danger will come in the form of dead and decaying tree trunks and limbs that have made the forest a minefield for those who spend time there.  


As fall approaches and the cool air starts to move in, the southern woods start to come alive with people who set out to spend time in nature.  Hunters fill the woods looking to bag game.  Campers set out to spend time in the forest.  Hikers travel down those footpaths through the forests.  Kayakers, Mountain bikers, rock climbers, etc.  all are about to venture out into a land that has changed quite a bit in terms of safety.  So when you head out to enjoy the forests this fall, please keep in mind you are entering into a mine field from above.  

In forestry the term "Widowmaker" is often used to describe a detached or broken limb or a tree top and denotes the hazards that such features cause. The term "Snag" is used to refer to a standing, dead or dying tree, often missing a top or most of the smaller branches.


The woods will soon be full of widowmakers and snags. The snags and dead branches play important roles in the world of ecology making up an important part of the structural component in forest communities. Many cavity nesting wildlife will use these snags as well as them being a home for the decomposers. This is a benefit to these species, but the purpose of this article is warn of the dangers that are present to humans. Hence the name (widowmaker), these branches and snags can fall at any time and can easily be fatal. Often hunters are often in the woods during dark hours and often alone. It will be particularly important for them to take precautions of these dangers. Windy conditions will increase the dangers.


SO WHEN YOU HEAD OUT TO ENJOY THE FORESTS, PLEASE BE MINDFUL THAT THERE IS AN INCREASED LEVEL OF CAUTION THAT SHOULD BE APPLIED TO YOU REGULAR FOREST SAFETY MEASURES.  A HEIGHTENED SENSE OF AWARENESS OF THE THINGS THAT ARE ABOVE SHOULD BE APPLIED.  


SPREAD THE WORD!



UNTIL NEXT WEEK  

BE SAFE, BE CAREFUL, BEHAVE, DON'T DO ANYTHING ILLEGAL, IMMORAL, UNETHICAL, OR JUST PLAIN STUPID













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