July 19, 2024

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British Soldiers

Some of the most beautiful plants found in the woods don’t grow any taller than a couple inches if that, and most times are simply overlooked due to their size.  One of my all time favorites is British Soldier, Cladonia cristatella also known as the little less common name of Red Crested Lichen.  For me this lichen rates up there on the beauty scale right along side Painted Trillium or Tiger Lilly.  The red cap which produces the spores for reproduction gives the lichen it’s name.  These  red caps remind you of the coats the English soldiers wore during the Revolutionary War.  Such a fitting name as I gaze upon the plant and envision a brigade of Red Coats ready to march on the colonies, each little stalk representing a British Soldier. I’m not sure if my love affair with this little primitive plant is due to it’s striking color or the rich history of the revolution that abounds here, but it surely is beautiful.

Of the three types of lichens British Soldier is of the frutose type, meaning simply that it is shrub-like or branching in stalks just as Reindeer Lichen is.  Reindeer Lichen  looks just like British Soldier but without the red cap.  British Soldiers love decaying wood, so next  time your out for a hike look around on top of old stumps, downed logs, even on old wood fence posts and you may see a single soldier or a whole platoon at attention together.  England may have lost the war for the colonies over 200 years ago but the sight of the Red Coats marching through the woods remains alive and well today, and what a beautiful sight it is.

                               Happy Hiking !!

A Fetish for Blowdowns

I know it’s a bit of a strange title, catchy though isn’t it?.  All of us have our own little fetish’s, some a little weirder than others and some just down right creepy.  Mine isn’t quite that creepy, weird maybe, but not creepy.  It happens every time I’m hiking whether it’s behind the house or somewhere new. I can’t escape it.  I try, I try really hard to get away but it’s such an overwhelming urge I only get a few feet before the voices start talking to me.

“Where you going? This could be the one.”

“You know you want to look at it, you know you do, do it, do it,  you know you do!!”

“Look, it’s a fetish, so your weird, live with it.  I’ll stop talking to you if you go look.”

Hi, my name is Jeff and I have a fetish for blow downs. Meetings are every Monday night at the community center in town.  I don’t know how it ever started, maybe it’s my interest in history that got me looking at the root ball of every blow down I find. It’s almost like Christmas with the anticipation of  what I might find that was literally “under the tree”.    Ya see, when a tree topples over from a wind storm or old age the roots that become exposed hold the history of what happened “x” amount of years ago, at least before the tree took root.  I haven’t found much over the years a few small bones and one broken piece of pottery but the possibilities of what could be there is what drives my fetish.  What might I find? A relic from the French & Indian War, perhaps a musket or powder horn dropped in a skirmish from the Revolutionary War, a bear skull, antler, Indian pottery, ……………  sorry, I started to fantasize again.

I think you get the point by now though.  You may not have ever even thought about it, but next time you’re in the woods and see a blow down stop and check it out. They’re like a window to the past of what ground they grew on and what may have been left, died, killed, abandoned or lost in that very spot hundreds of years ago.  Odds are after you do this once, even if you don’t find a thing, you’ll be hooked for life.   Welcome to my world, meetings are at 6pm, byob!!

Happy Hiking!!