“Marvel for a moment at the fern fiddlehead. It stands like a watch spring coiled and ready to unwind … What many do not realize, however, is that the fiddlehead has some unusual mathematical properties. It represents one of two kinds of spirals commonly found in nature, and this spiral results from a particular kind of growth.”
— Robin C. Moran, A Natural History of Ferns (2004)
In the early 1700s British astronomer and mathematician Edmund Hillary, of comet fame, called [the spiral formed by a fern’s fiddlehead] the proportional spiral because … [its] whorls are in continued proportion … The larger spirals are just expanded versions of the smaller spirals within [so that it is known as] the spira mirabilis or wonderful spiral.
Last summer while I was walking along the creek below our home, small splotches of red and white at the base of a large hemlock caught my attention. Upon inspection, these proved to be the flowers (white) and fruit (red) of the dainty partridge berry vine. Few other plants display this year’s flowers and last year’s berries at the same time.
Hog Holler, Hog Branch, Hog Camp Branch, Hog Cane Branch, Hog-eye Branch, Hogback Gap, Hogback Holler, Hogback Knob, Hogback Ridge, Hogback Township, Hogback Mountain, and Hogback Valley. In addition there are six sites in Western North Carolina named Hogback Mountain. Proof enough, if anyone required it, that hogs are an essential part of the mountain landscape.
There seems to be an upsurge of interest in ironwood in Western North Carolina of late. It’s curious how reader interest in certain subjects will pop up all at once, after being non-existent for years or forever. Some sort of synchronicity, I suppose.
The evergreen plants and birds that overwinter here in the Southern Appalachians have made fundamental “choices” in how their lives will be governed. Being aware of what those “choices” are provides a better understanding and appreciation of what they’re up to.
Well, I knew it would happen sooner or later. Our house has been invaded by a herd of pygmy rhinoceroses, which is the plural form (I just discovered) of rhinoceros.
“As for the Horseshoe Rock, it is one of those curving balds of solid rock. The depressions found on the rock are quite a curiosity, because of their great number, uniform size, and arrangement in long straight rows running parallel close together and at regular intervals; in fact, everything about them is so regular as to border on the supernatural …. One can visualize a herd of ponies coming up Horseshoe Rock from below by leaping past its more perpendicular part and then riding on in military formation abreast of one another to the top where they vanish in thin air.”
— T.W. Reynolds, High Lands (1964)
In 1900 about 35 percent of the deciduous forest in the Southern Appalachians was comprised of American chestnut (Castanea dentata).
One of my favorite times to observe ferns is in winter when they stand out in the brown leaf-litter. Of the 70 or so species that have been documented in the southern mountains, perhaps a fourth are evergreen. These would include walking fern, rockcap fern, resurrection fern, intermediate wood fern, several of the so-called “grape fern” species, and others.