Growing Through Yoga
“Growing Through Yoga” was led by Annie Damsky of Villager Yoga.
Growing Through Yoga
“Growing Through Yoga” was led by Annie Damsky of Villager Yoga.
A Crash Course in Alabama Ecosystems
[Guest blog post by Louise Agee Wrinkle Native Plant Intern Mitchell Vaughan]
Recently, I was part of a group who went on a field trip to the Bibb County Glades, located near Montevallo, Alabama. Described variously as “a botanical lost world” and “a botanical wonder,” as well as other similarly impressive titles, this site is not at all what comes to mind when I hear the word “glade.” I pictured something more like the Everglades, a big grassy wetland broken by the occasional tree hammock. The word glade, however, means an open area surrounded by trees. Much of the Bibb County Glades are comprised of rocky, arid, grass-and-wildflower-covered rocky outcrops. What makes these glades distinctly different is the type of rock of which they are composed, Ketona dolomite.
Dolomite is a type of limestone and this particular type of it is unusually pure and contains large percentages of calcium and magnesium. Magnesium, in high concentrations, can be toxic to many species of plants; this is why the glades are populated by many unique species that have adapted to living in that particular type of limestone. They thrive here without competition from more typical species, which would normally populate the area. Growing on these glades are several rare species, including one third of all Alabama endemic plant species – and eight species unknown to science before their discovery in the 1900s.
After trekking through some steep open terrain, we ventured into the adjacent woodlands where it was noticeably cooler. We hiked along a stretch of the Little Cahaba River and then deeper still into a forested area along a small stream. Here, it became more like walking through a temperate rainforest with lush green vegetation spreading prolifically in every direction. Following the stream, we eventually came to a spot with a particularly interesting botanical inhabitant, one that has yet to be named and described. Its temporary name is Trautvetteria sp. nov. (tassel-rue), and will be definitively named by whomever first describes it botanically.
Finally, we packed up and drove to a nature preserve along the Cahaba River, where we hoped to see Hymenocallis coronaria (Cahaba lily) flowering. And flowering they were! It’s a spectacular sight to see an expanse of showy white flowers bobbing daintily over the river waters in which it grows. Visiting these sites makes it clearly evident why they are described as some of Alabama’s natural wonders.
From sunny glades to shaded woodlands, it was quite a day. Exploring several of Alabama’s ecosystems in rapid succession can offer a newfound appreciation for our state’s biodiversity and unique natural character.
Lunch and Learn: A Change of Scenery
On Wednesday, July 9, Daniel and Andrew McCurry led “A Change of Scenery,” a Lunch and Learn event which showed participants how to make their landscape fit their current lifestyle, physical needs and desires. A new Lunch and Learn series will begin on July 23 with “GrandScapes: Playful Gardening” led by Vasha Rosenblum. Sallie Lee leads “The Buzz on Pollinators” on August 6, while James Horton leads “Porous, Permeable and Pervious” on August 13.
All Lunch and Learn sessions take place from 11:30 – 12:30 p.m., and they’re all FREE! Bring your lunch and we’ll provide the drinks and desserts! Make plans to join our next series!
A Week of Field Trips
[Guest Blog Post by Intern Sanitra Lawrence]
On Sunday, June 1, I had the opportunity to canoe down the Cahaba River with friends from Birmingham Botanical Gardens to the largest population of the Cahaba lily (Hymenocallis coronaria) on earth. The Cahaba lily is an aquatic, white flowering perennial found growing nestled in between shoals in the Cahaba River. The Cahaba lilies are very specialized in their habitat and the type of rock they grow in, which makes them so rare. The rocks are pliable enough to allow the roots to penetrate through them for easy establishment. Dr. Randy Haddock, field director of the Cahaba River Society, demonstrated how to extract nectar from the Cahaba lily using a small, plastic capillary tube. He instructed us to place the tube deep into the corolla of the flower. Once the tube was inserted, we gently placed the bloom upside down and pressed the nectar into capillary tube. The nectar was somewhat sweet, followed by a strange aftertaste. Everyone except me seemed to enjoy the taste because I expected a honeysuckle-like taste. Randy also showed us different organisms found in the river, such as crayfish and common aquatic insect larvae. This was my first canoe trip; traveling downstream was a lot easier than traveling upstream, but I will look forward to experiencing canoeing again.
The following Monday, June 2, Mitchell Vaughan, Alex Dumont and I were given a great tour of The Archives and Rare Book Room at The Library at The Gardens by Archivist Jason Kirby and Director of Library Services Hope Long. It was interesting to see actual historical and botanical documentation dating back to the sixteenth century. Included in the collection were also rare maps, gardens plans and antique seed catalogs. Jason and Hope were very knowledgeable of the library and offered help if we needed guidance on future projects.
On Tuesday, June 3, I went to visit Southern Organics in Columbiana, Alabama, which company specializes in aquaponics, the process of recycling fish waste for fertilizing vegetables. It was great to witness them experimenting with aquaponics in the early stages of their business. The warehouse consisted of tanks where they produced tilapia. The staff explained how they converted fish waste into useful sources of nitrogen for the plants. Next to the tanks were experimental stations, where different vegetables were tested before being grown in the production greenhouse. Above the stations were artificial light sources for the plants to use in photosynthesis. The plants were transplanted into Styrofoam blocks, where the roots grew though holes into a liquid base medium. For biological control of insect pests, beneficial ladybugs were used. Southern Organics not only produces fish, but also vegetables. Their plan is to expand in supplying organic vegetables to stores.
Our last field trip for the week consisted of going to Hale County, Alabama on June 4 where we traveled through the woods to view a rare fern population. Kaul Wildflower Garden Curator John Manion returned a fern back to its habitat where he had been growing it on a petri dish in the micro-propagation lab at The Gardens. It was also the first time that he brought a rare fern back to its native habitat in hopes of increasing the population. Preserving the ferns and their habitat is vital to their survival.
On Thursday, June 5, I enjoyed working with Amanda Clark in the vegetable garden. I never had much hands-on experience with vegetable gardening at Mississippi State, but Amanda is very knowledgeable about cultural practices. She showed me how to prune, sucker and train tomato plants on a trellis system properly. In addition, she explained the importance of composting and how one should turn the pile every other day in order to speed up the process of decomposition.
Although I have experienced a lot of things this week, it only covered a small portion of this internship. I am very excited to participate in many other activities this summer.
Lunch and Learn: The Dirt on Soil
On Wednesday, June 25, Arnie Rutkis led a Lunch and Learn at The Gardens titled “The Dirt on Soil.” His talk focused on the importance to soil when gardening and landscaping on personal and commercial levels. He focused on how human beings and nature impact our soil, debunked the myth that clay soil is bad for your yard and encouraged the crowd to allow nature to run its course, putting leaves ina compost area rather than bagging them up and shipping them off. He also talked about new ways to add nutrients to your soil using logs.
Our next Lunch and Learn is right around the corner! On July 9, Daniel and Andrew McCurry will share “A Change of Scenery.” Participants will discover how to make their lifestyle fit their current lifestyle, physical needs and desires. And it’s FREE! Bring your lunch, and we’ll provide the drinks and desserts. It’s in the Auditorium from 11:30 – 12:30. We’re eager to see you at The Gardens!
Get Into The Gardens: Simple Watering Strategies
Su Reid-St. John and daughter Zoe continued their weekend series on container gardening. Last Saturday’s focus was on simple watering strategies to keep your container plants looking vibrant through the up coming dog days of summer. Su demonstrated the effective uses of having a drip irrigation system.
A Walk in the Swamp
[guest blog post by intern Mitchell Vaughan]
On Friday, May 23, I accompanied Kaul Wildflower Curator John Manion and my two fellow interns on a visit to the University of Montevallo’s Ebenezer Swamp Ecological Preserve on Spring Creek in Shelby County. The Swamp is a 60 acre tract of natural wetland, located near the University of Montevallo campus and used by the university for education and research. It’s part of the Cahaba River Watershed, which brings us to an interesting distinction: that between a swamp and a bog. Swamps form in the basins and floodplains surrounding rivers, where river water flows into lower, shallower areas and eventually flows back into another river system. Bogs are raised areas of stagnant water, which accumulate from precipitation and are held by the high peat content of the surrounding soil. Unlike swamps, true bogs seldom have regular inflow or drainage. Swamps also differ from bogs in that they are able to support large hardwood species. Some of the dominant species in Ebenezer Swamp are Nyssa aquatica (water tupelo), Acer rubrum (red maple), Magnolia virginiana (sweet bay magnolia) and Platanus occidentalis (sycamore). Numerous other interesting plant species also occur there, some rare and some endangered.
Traversing the swamp is possible on a boardwalk, built and maintained by the university, which meanders gently across the length of the swamp. Walking along, I sensed the primordial nature of the place, from it having existed undisturbed for centuries before human encroachment. The swamp once came under threat when plans were made to drain the area to make way for a quarry. Fortunately, through legal action by the university, that plan was cancelled. Macknally Land Design subsequently created the master plan for the development of the swamp.
Ebenezer Swamp must be experienced in person if its beauty and serenity are to be fully appreciated. For some, the word “swamp” conjures images of murky, tannin-stained mires, but the sight of the bright dappled light in Ebenezer Swamp couldn’t be further from this. The waters teem with fish, mussels, and crayfish, all readily visible from the comfort of the boardwalk. Visitors are able to observe up-close, an array of lush plant life. Alabama residents, owe it to themselves to visit this natural state wonder at least once, probably to return again and again… as I will.
For Thursday’s Natural Beauty class, two mother-daughter groups joined Elinor and Winfield Burks, Linda Norred and her mother Jane Salsbury and Teresa Roberts and her mother Betty Carraway, who was in town from Louisiana. Linda visited The Gardens last year and knew it would be the perfect place to visit with her mom, aunt and cousin on their all girls Mother’s Day trip to Birmingham.
Avondale School visits The Gardens
On May 6, 3rd grade students at Avondale School visited The Gardens to take part in Discovery Field Trips. Mr. and Mrs. William “Bill” Barnes provided a picnic lunch for the group. Mr. and Mrs. Barnes have adopted classes at Avondale School, and each year, they welcome their students, teachers and parents for a complimentary lunch at The Gardens following their visit for Discovery Field Trips.