Monday, December 18, 2023. HAPPY HOLIDAYS from the Cloister at Three Creeks!
|American Holly. Not one tree in my area seems to have produced berries this year.
'Tis the season. Holiday fever and last-minute shopping are well underway. As always, I prefer to 'Opt Outside' so my holiday mission on this day was to document Nature's free holiday ornaments. What single plant is most associated with this season? It's gotta be Holly. I started the day on a mission to find an American Holly female tree sporting her bright red berries. Fail. I must have looked at a hundred trees. Has there been some 'conspiracy' among the trees (oaks do this, I know) to withhold production of berries this year? In the end I had to settle for a fine substitute: flowering dogwood berries:
What else is reminiscent of this season? Remember that old song: "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire ..."
"... Jack Frost nipping at your nose."
Sorry, no folks dressed up like Eskimos today, though. It was in the low 50's. But there were icicle-like ornaments to be found. The male catkins of the American Hazelnut:
I even came across one oddball catkin that almost looked like a 'Jingle Bell'.
The color's getting a little monotonous, though. Here's a nice splash of color, but it's an invasive: Japanese Barberry
Going for maximum color, you can't beat this evil invasive: the naturalized offspring of the Bradford Pear - not the fruit this time, but the leaf:
|Bradford pear tends to be one of the very last to sport fall color.
More color: Here the mini-tomato (size of a marble) that Carolina Horsenettle produces in abundance:
Then, of course, not to be outdone for color, here's American Beautyberry:
One splash of winter green with its ornaments of silver-dust blue is the Eastern Redcedar, also known as Virginia Juniper:
And not far down the color spectrum from there, we have the shriveled-up but abundant wild grape:
We'll go full circle from dark to light, now, with the near-white seed pods of Climbing Milkweed:
And we'll let one Asian invasive lead us to another: Oriental Bittersweet:
And now back to the more permanent type of ornament, and back to species that are native to the area, I rounded out my tour with some bigger ornaments. Here's the seed ball of the sycamore. Each little seed is its own parachute, spread by the wind.
Bigger yet are the cones of Virginia Pine. They stay on the tree for many years, and turn white(ish) with age:
Biggest ornaments of all are the 'monkey-balls' - soft-ball-sized fruit of the Osage Orange:
And wrapping up the seasonal theme - what would the season be without some mistletoe? Here's a big specimen, almost like a big ornament, shown with the snowy Appalachian Trail as a backdrop.
Yes, up there on that ridge is the AT. Look closely and maybe there's a hiker looking back. There's a nice viewpoint at the summit up there.
I hope your holiday season is relaxed and full of inner warmth and happiness. Don't let the rush and hustle come between you and the peace you deserve. If you find there's too much frenzy, look to nature whenever you can. It's always waiting for you out there, with open welcoming arms.