17 de octubre de 2023

Historical Habitats, Drought, and a Lost Pine

July 1915. Construction began of an electric sawmill at D'Lo in Simpson County, MS. The next year, it became active, and the workers had no idea what ripple effects the taking out of those trees would do to the ecosystem in this county.

The Finkbine-Guild Lumber Company was established to harvest and market southern Mississippi's virgin longleaf pine (Pinus palustris L.) stands during the early 20th century. The main sawmills were located in Wiggins and D'Lo, Mississippi. In July 1915, the Finkbine Lumber Company began construction at D'Lo, Simpson County, of an all-electric sawmill containing two band saws, a gang saw and a resaw. When operations began in July 1916, this mill had a cutting capacity of 200,000 feet in 10 hours. The timber supply extended over parts of Simpson, Rankin, Smith and Scott counties, running east from D'Lo for about 50 miles. About August 1927 the supply of pine was cut out, after which the mill switched to cutting redwood shipped from the Finkbine-Guild mill in California through the Panama Canal to Gulfport.

The D'Lo mill cut out for good in August 1929, but it's effects have lasted until the modern day. Today, no one knows about Longleaf Pine in this county. It's virtually unheard of, despite it being ground zero for the destruction of an ecosystem that covered the majority of it.

There are only two known historical records of Longleaf Pine in Simpson County, both from the same locality in 1964. Here is one of them: https://sernecportal.org/portal/collections/individual/index.php?occid=5868934

I have been searching for a while to try and find any evidence that Longleaf Pine still exists in the county, and earlier this year, I found one. One of the observations linked is that individual. Now, you may expect that I found this individual far away from where all the logging took place, maybe out in the middle of a grown up forest, forgotten about.. but no. I found this individual, in D'Lo, only a few miles from where the very mill that took out all of the virgin stands would have been, on the side of the road, no less. I collected some cones, and in the cones I found seed, although all of them had holes in them as they were last years. I hope to collect more from this year, perhaps, and try and sprout them, or send them somewhere where their genetics will be preserved. As far as I know, this individual tree(and whatever tree pollinated it) are the only remaining Pinus palustris in the county.

This brings me to something different. "The Ridge" as I call it, situated on the line between Simpson and Smith counties, where my grandma's is, I have been trying to figure out what habitat would have existed on the ridge historically. I have been collecting observations of every species I have seen there and compiling a list of species that I deem "Indicator Species" for what I believe the habitat used to be, species that I believe used to occur on the ridge before European influence.

I believe that the habitat here used to consist of a mixed Quercus stellata, Pinus palustris savannah, surrounded by a wet savannah that made way for bottomland hardwood forest and swamp. The species I have compiled, in my opinion, seem to suggest so.

The list so far:

I am working on creating a map of the area separated by what habitat used to occur there based on what species I find that are extant there, as well as a spreadsheet of the species still extant and where they occur.

One-half of the ridge is now cow pasture, as well as most of the seepages coming out of the ridge. The other half is not really managed, but looks desperately like it needs a burn. Post oaks are still extant on the property, although in very low numbers, and all of them are seemingly fairly old individuals. I have never found a sapling, and the ones that still exist are along the road coming into the property and around the cemetery(the highest elevation place, which has its own interesting oral history I may go over at a later date).

You may be wondering, well, "where are the longleaf pines?" And I have been wondering that too, until earlier this year, when I found a photo from 1978 of a member of my family with a tractor, and in the foreground, you can see a Pinus sp, with suspiciously long needles. It's only one photo, but two members of my family both verified that it was taken in the bottom field(likely an area now converted to a loblolly stand). This is the only evidence aside from my grandparents cabin being made from a dense pine(i suspect longleaf) that I have of it being on the ridge.

...Well, that isn't entirely true

Remember the Finkbine Mill that started this journal post? Well, there is still a map of the rail lines and where they went throughout the county. Turns out, one of their rails, going past the logging camp called Cohay II, went directly behind The Ridge, and my grandma says that my great grandfather would actually work around what would become the bottom field with "a company" to harvest "some really big pine trees". This map, and the oral evidence, as well as the photo of seemingly a P. palustris surviving until at least 1978 on the property, proves that P. palustris used to occur here in decent numbers, at least in the wetter bottom field.

Recently I visited The Ridge while home for fall break, and I wanted to document how plant species were affected during this past drought. On the ridge it lasted longer than the surrounding area, since this is one of the highest elevation places in the county. It did not rain for 3 months straight. While there I noticed several common species that were absent, stressed, or dried. Almost all of these were species that required a decent amount of water(American Pokeweed, Ilex opaca, Quercus nigra, etc). I also noted several drought tolerant and savannah-esque species that I have never seen on the property before, such as hundreds of Agalinis fasciculata, several dozen Little Bluestem, Trichostema, Cyperus retrorsus and a first for the property- Helianthus angustifolius as well as a notable sedge: Fuirena squarrosa

There was also a fire on the other side of the ridge, that never actually made it up any of the hills, but it will be interesting to document what appears next year. I hope to talk with at least one of the landowners on the property to figure out if there is a way to try and restore some of the area back to what it was before- assuming I am on the right track with all of this.

This has been a lot longer than I was expecting, and I still have a lot to say about it, but I will leave with this:

Longleaf Pine, lost, found, lost, unknown.
Discovery, documentation, representation.
An ecosystem forgotten, what is there to know?
Will there be a future restoration?
No one can possibly know, verge of extirpation.

Publicado el octubre 17, 2023 02:05 MAÑANA por safron safron | 2 observaciones | 2 comentarios | Deja un comentario

12 de octubre de 2021

An Obscure Texan Succulent's Journey Across The U.S.

Last year, on June 21, 2020 I found a strange, short plant embedded amongst old water oak roots. After several identifications, and searching, the consensus was that it was
Lenophyllum texanum: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/50475950

This was strange, as it had not been planted in the 50+ years my family has lived here. We probably mowed down the population hundreds of times, and it always sprang back up. So, this plant's native range is Northern Mexico to Southeastern Texas. How did it get to Mississippi? Well, this is where the story begins.

1960s-70s. My grandfather grew watermelons and trucks from South Texas came to pick them up every summer. My thinking here is that a plant section, or seed must have come in on one of these trucks, and embedded itself into the soil while the oak tree was small. Fast forward 50 years, the oak tree has encapsulated the entire clonal population before I discovered it.

You would think the story would end here, but with further developments, it expands.

A user brought the attention of this blog to me: https://thebelmontrooster.com/families-of-familiar-plants/crassulaceae-family/lenophyllum-acutifolium/

May be unrelated, but they mention how the original starter clipping was found on a walk. This makes me think the plant was wild. Now, how would it have gotten to Leland, MS as well as Simpson County?

1980's. My grandfather hauled cotton from the Delta, but often hauled things TO there as well. I believe that the Delta population could have originated from my population through the same way they originally arrived to my property.

There also appears to be an established population in Austin, Texas as well, but from what I've read it appears to be escapees from cultivation.

All in all, this plant has shown to be very tolerable of colder climates, up to 8a, at least.
It began it's journey on accident, and ended up somewhere completely away from where it originally evolved. New climate zone, new habitat, more humidity, and it survived. Harsh weather, heavy treading, completely being cut down, and being engulfed by another plant, it survived. It started a new journey, and has clones growing even more northward, finding another bipedal creature that appreciated it's company. This little, unassuming friend of Crassula, is an adventurer in itself. May it's adventures continue, I'm sure there will be more to this story at a later date.

Publicado el octubre 12, 2021 02:43 MAÑANA por safron safron | 1 observación | 1 comentario | Deja un comentario