Up a hillock the group went and down the other side, bushwhacking all
the way. The land leveled out and the forest floor changed from dry, crackly
leaves to dark, moist earth. Very tall, very strong-looking trees grew here, their
exposed roots covered with soft green moss. We had reached the black gum,
also known as tupelo. People stopped and touched the thick bark. They looked
up at the huge branches that stretch out over a still-water swamp where they
have been growing for at least 400 years. Because this swamp and its black
gums are unique to the region, it’s been left as a natural area – just as the
former town fathers had hoped. No forest management is planned here.
On a rise just past the swamp, the group circled around an example of
a shelterwood. Foresters establish shelterwoods by cutting most but not
all the trees on a site, so that there is both sun and shade on the
remaining vegetation. Some of the remaining trees serve as a seed source
for regeneration. On this site, seeds from black birch trees have successfully taken root and developed into young trees. Because of the amount
of shade on the site, pines and hemlocks also found purchase here. There,
Audubon wildlife biologist Steve Hagenbuch called the group’s attention
to the song of the black-throated green warbler in the tree tops above –
This series is sponsored by the Stifler Family Foundation, in support of forestry practices that promote healthy and sustainable forests and wildlife habitat.
[ NATURALLY CURIOUS ]
Yellow-fuzz cone slime (Hemitrichia clavata) is a slime mold that is found in clusters on rotting
wood. Neither plant nor animal, slime molds are known for the dramatic transformations they go
through from the time they first appear to their disintegration. Slimy and mold-like when they first
emerge, they change color, shape, and texture as they develop.
Yellow-fuzz cone slime was named for its reproductive stage. When its gelatinous plasmodium
starts fruiting, it forms tiny, round, shiny spore-bearing sporangia that can be orange to yellow.
When the spores mature, the tops of these sporangia open up, creating goblet-shaped cups filled
with yellowish, fuzzy threads interspersed with pale yellow spores. The threads are thought to
help the spores disperse. The stages of yellow-fuzz cone slime are so different that you might not
recognize that they are the same species. — Mary Holland
“Zee, zee, zee, zoo, zee” – and to the vireos, as well – “Here I am…Up here…
In the trees.”
”There’s the value in a mixed stand of trees,” commented wildlife biologist
Mariko Yamasaki. “Sometimes you’ll find these birds in a little patch of
softwood within a hardwood stand or in a patch of hardwood within a
One last stop: A small patch cut comes into view. Its trees don’t look robust
like those in the large patch cut. Hardy points out that he chose this site because
of the angle of the sun, thinking it might be sufficient to get light in. “Sometimes
it’s the soil. You can’t do much about the soil,” commented a logger.
There was also talk about the role that forests play beyond the trees and
wildlife that live there. The small town of Vernon has no centralized water
distribution system. Residents and businesses rely on well water from the
natural underground aquifer, so there is an appreciation for the role the
forest plays as a natural filtration system to keep this aquifer clean. With
responsible management practices, the J. Maynard Miller Forest will remain
an integral part of Vernon for generations to come.