For nearly a month now I have been putting in a six day, 60 hour work week. While I have had some time to enjoy my own garden, plus a few in town, I have not been able to get out into the natural world since my Back Bay outing in February. I need these trips to re-center myself, to clear my head and to take communion. In spite of an ever-growing laundry list of things I should have done today, I choose to head to the Zuni Pine Barrens west of here in Isle of Wight Co. The preserve is owned and managed by various interests including the Nature Conservancy, the Commonwealth of Virginia and Old Dominion University.
I have wanted to visit this place for a while, as it is one of only a few remaining patches of older growth Longleaf Pine (Pinus palustris). This tree once covered millions of acres from southeastern Virginia all the way down to east Texas, and it was vital to the settlement of the region. Without its wood and tar the shipbuilding industry would not have started here, and North Carolinians would need another nickname. Slow growing Longleaf Pines created their own ecosystems that relied on fire to germinate the tree's seedlings and to keep competition and undergrowth down, but once these forests were cleared and fire supressed, other more opportunistic trees took over. Despite its name, the Zuni Pine Barrens is home to a diverse community of plants and animals.
Vaccinim (some sort of Blueberry or Huckleberry)
Gaultheria procumbens (Creeping Wintergreen)
Iris verna (Dwarf Violet Iris)
Kalmia angustifolia (Sheep Laurel)
The Blackwater River runs on the western edge of the Pine Barrens and is a true blackwater river. This type of waterway gets its name from the dark colored, but clear water that is high in tannins and acids, but low in nutrients. This is one of the few rivers in Virginia that does not empty into the Chesapeake. Rather it becomes the Chowan River in North Carolina before flowing into Albemarle Sound. On the shores of this flood-prone river grow stands of Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum) and Swamp Tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica var. bifffora).
Rhododendron periclymenoides (I think this is Pinxterbloom Azalea)
I couldn't have asked for a more splendid house of worship in which to enjoy Earth Day services.
(complete picture set here)