Friends and I explored a property that the Chebeague and Cumberland Land Trust is trying to purchase. Though in many ways it is similar to the natural communities of western Maine, there are some noted differences. And now that I’m home and can reflect upon it and check my reference books for more information, it’s all beginning to make sense. With every walk in the woods, the vision before me becomes clearer.
I’m always happy to encounter these round-lobed leaves because I don’t see them often. White Oak abounds at the 215-acre Knights Pond & Blueberry Hill property in Cumberland and North Yarmouth.
The crown of a parent White Oak presents itself with joy.
Another species I don’t get to see every day–Shagbark Hickory with its compound leaves. Actually, they are pinnately compound. Hmmm, you say. Compound in that the blade consists of 5 leaflets and pinnately because the leaflets form in a row on either side of the common axis–think feather-like formation.
Interestingly, some hickory leaflets were covered with galls, giving them a warty appearance–in a miniature candy-apple kind of way. I was thinking they might be caused by a mite, but turns out it may be either a midge or fly that makes these little balls.
Shagbark Hickory certainly is a shaggy looking tree, with gray-brown bark that curls away from the trunk in long, thin strips.
Near the hickory trees are numerous Hop Hornbeams with their flaky bark.
In the grassy glade, they grow together. I love it when trees stand together, making it easy to compare and contrast their features.
In Natural Landscapes of Maine: A Guide to Natural Communities and Ecosystems, authors Gawler and Cutko rank the Oak-Hickory Forest as S1–the rarest of communities.
“This dry forest type, characteristic of the Central Appalachian Mountains, occurs in small patches or as inclusions within broader expanses of oak-pine forest.” Yikes, I think the authors may have been walking with us today.
“It is dominated by a mixture of shagbark hickory and oaks (white, black, red or chestnut) over park-like sedge lawn. Sugar maple, white pine or white ash may be canopy associates, and hop-hornbeam is a characteristic sub-canopy species.” Bingo.
Other associated species that we saw included Witch Hazel, Maple-Leaf Viburnum and Striped Maple, Low-bush Blueberry, Asters, Canada Mayflowers, Sarsaparilla, Wild Oats and probably more that we didn’t note.
As usual, it took us forever, but occasionally we continued down the trail.
Our frequent pauses included stops at Indian Cucumber Root,
New York Fern,
and Hairy Solomon’s Seal.
Stonewalls crossed in a couple of places, making us reflect on their construction and purpose.
And a snake paused for a photo shoot.
Suddenly, the trail opened to Knight’s Pond, a 45-acre, dammed pond. According to the brochure, “The pond is a significant breeding ground for waterfowl and wading birds and is an important refueling spot during migration.”
Among the life at the pond, a zillion carnivorous Sundews, with their nectar-tipped tentacles waiting to trap insects.
Dragonflies and damselflies were also on the hunt for prey.
We had stopped frequently along the way to key out species or share our stories related to them. By the end of our wander, I was in awe of the beauty and thankful for the opportunity to glance through this window on the natural world.
Thanks be to The Trust for Public Land, Chebeague & Cumberland Land Trust, the Royal River Conservation Trust, all of those individuals who have contributed to the purchase, and my friend, K.H., for sharing it with us today. May you receive the Land for Maine’s Future funding soon.