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Monday, December 19, 2022

Snow and Botany - Day 384

  It's still lovely outside. The wet snow that fell days ago is solidly clinging to the trees. It's so pretty, but it's going to bring down lots more trees when the big storm hits in a couple of days. The weight of it all will be just too much.
snowy vista

I spent a lot of time trying to think about anything other than how difficult the walking was. For one thing, there was a mystery to be solved. Amiya and I had been discussing it yesterday. It's called "name that tree." Let me say up front that my knowledge of conifers is less than that of deciduous trees. But I may now have added a real piece of ID info to my store.

Amiya and I knew that these trees are spruce, and we could easily eliminate a couple of them from the list. But here's where I went awry. Although I thought black spruce were predominant here, these needles seemed too short. So the other choices were red or white. I thought white. I thought white even after looking up pictures of the needles. But these are only about 3/8 inch long. I've been seeing spruce with these short needles for days.
black spruce

I found a sniff test that I hope to remember. When the needles are crushed, white spruce smells like skunk or cat urine. (So I'm picturing a white cat and a skunk with a big white stripe for white spruce). Red spruce may smell sligtly citrusy, like an orange. (So orange is close to red.) Black spruce smells like menthol.

Today I crushed some needles. Menthol. Definitely Picea mariana, black spruce. And I see that red spruce isn't even found in Michigan. I also learned that black has the shortest needles, usually under 1/2 inch long. So these are not oddball at all. Now I have to wonder which spruce I've been calling black for years. Extra healthy ones, or were they really white?

In other botany news, this is Sweetfern, Comptonia peregrina. In summer, the leaves are aromatic with a spicy smell. But I had never noticed how the dried leaves curl in the winter. I love the curliques.
sweetfern in winter

Today was a long hard slog. I'm going to hike tomorrow and then hunker down to wait out the coming storm. We'll see what I do after that. The deep snow is very difficult and I'm not going to keep doing short days.

Miles today: 7.1. Total miles so far: 4369.1.

See Snow with Amiya

1 comment:

The Oceanside Animals said...

Lulu: "Sweetfern? Sounds like it would make good tea!"