Thursday, May 1, 2014

Arbutus In Abundance

This land that belongs to friends is the source of our dug from the wild arbutus plants.  Perched atop a rocky East West ridge adjacent to the Susquehanna River, this area was cleared for their house decades ago.  Green grass grows on fill that was trucked in to support a lawn near the house.  The brown barren appearing ground is what forest growth created after the glaciers smeared this ridge with their muddy load.  The dark green patch in the foreground is arbutus.  Why it flourishes here is a mystery to me.  The soil is beyond poor and the area is kept mowed.

This view looks North down into the river valley.  A nearby road cut reveals the shale deposit that underlies this ridge.  Mixed hardwoods interspersed with pines are the native growth here.  Despite the steepness of the slope, these woods are regularly logged.

This huge patch of arbutus grows on exposed ground among moss, lichens and stones.  Compared with plants that grow in more favorable locations, these have much smaller leaves.  Despite their puny overall appearance, they are dense and covered with flowers.  This may be a desperate attempt to procreate since they exist in perilous conditions possibly near death.  Seed formation is rampant with new plants appearing everywhere.

Wild strawberries, moss and various lichens surround this impressive display of arbutus flowers.  Five small plants, each growing at some distance from others, have been marked for digging.  Three female and two male plants will be moved to a spot under a white pine tree.  We will wait a few more days before making the move to allow for natural pollination of the female flowers.  Confident that our digging method will result in plants that survive the move, we would like to move viable seed as well.  The move will happen soon and our method will be recorded here.


Commonweeder said...

Great story. Arbutus is one of those mythical plants that are so hard to propagate. Lucky - talented you!

Donna@Gardens Eye View said...

Oh I know how much you love this native ground cover....looking forward to seeing how the move goes.