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October 21, 2009 Saving Soil, Seed Dispersal

In the storms last month parts of the Greenway received a foot or so of water, and 3 to 6 inches of silt. Our maintenance men scraped the silt off to the sides, though some slippery residue remained. We hope you will be alert to this condition following flooding events in the future.

 It was interesting to see how much silt was retained along the branches of the tall wildflowers and shrubs after the water receeded. Sturdy planting along creek sides can significantly reduce the silt that usually winds up at the downstream dams. This is known as buffering the effects of flooding and should be encouraged along all property bordering our mountain streams.

 The plant stems also slow down the flow of water and reduce the amount of erosion that might take place on a simple grassy bank, or one completely barren of plant life, such as some construction sites.

 Our responsibility as land owners should include buffering. The Soil and Water experts will advise on good plants to use for your individual situation. Let's aim to keep soil where it lays.

 In that light we have installed a set of short steps near Rotary shelter where access to a bench down on the bank had caused an eroded, slippery path.

 Last spring steps were installed on a wooded path at the junction of Cartoogechaye Creek and Tartan Trail, giving access to the Little Tennessee River Side Trail. This riverside trail by-passes the Tartan Trail section that goes through the old railroad cut. This wooded path is a walking path, not intended for bicycles, and has two benches near the river.

 We have recently attended a meeting with Town people who are looking at ways to improve public access to the river for canoeing, fishing and other river-front activities. More on this as things develop.

October 31, 2009 Seed Dispersal

Ever wonder where all the plants come from along the Greenway?

 With so many plants crowded into a square foot, we marvel that each plant gets its nourishment and water requirements from the little space it seems to occupy.

 Perhaps it's because Mother Nature seems to organize the growth rate, height, and horizontal space needed as well as the blooming times, with its special needs, for each plant in its own environment.

 From early spring through fall, different genera of plants, and different species of them, come along at their appropriate time, flower and go to seed. Meanwhile, other plants are going through the same cycle at different speeds, thereby layering the requirements of all. Obviously when nourishments or water needs are not met the most tender or weakest plants will either be stunted or succumb completely.

 Developing seeds require a lot of the plant's energy and an individual plant may sacrifice its height in order to bring the fruit to maturity. Youi may notice after cutting a lawn or field certain plants will bloom at reduced heights in order to get to its goal of making and spreading its seeds.

 Many factors help in the dispersal of seeds. The obvious ones are wind and animals.

 Many seeds, like dandelion and the wild asters are equipped with fluffy seed attachments that aid in wind dispersal. Some are so tiny that they may be carried just by the wind currents. Moving water can move seeds along for a few feet, or if washed into a creek or stream, we can find new plants appearing miles downstream. This occurred on the Greenway banks in the year after the two large storms in 2004.

 Birds, of course, are responsible for replanting poison ivy, blackberry, grape, elderberry and cherry, for after eating the soft fruit covering, the harder seed can be deposited later on in the droppings. Even softer seeds may escape the digestion process and be passed along with its tiny spot of fertilizer!

 Small animals like chipmunks, squirrels, mice and voles carry seeds around, storing them or just burying them, where, if conditions are right they may germinate.

 Furry creatures, and humans, inadvertently spread those seeds that come with hooks, barbs, or sticky coverings.

 Deer, bear and wild turkey feed on many common plants in the fall and winter.

“A Guide to Wildlife Food Habits” by Martin, Zim and Nelson list the following plants often eaten by these larger creatures. Deer: maple, blackberry,dogwood, willow, hop-hornbeam and blueberry. Black bear: apple, cherry, grape, greenbrier, and chokeberry.

Wild turkey: acorns, beechnuts, blueberry, sassafras, blackgum, partridgeberry, holly, crab grass and poison ivy.

 Human activities like grass cutting, can be responsible for the spreading of thousands of weed seeds, and many a hunter has returned with hundreds of stick-tights caught on his pants.