I confess I too seldom take time these days to recharge my batteries by getting away from home, away from the computer, away from various obligations andÂ commitments and duties.
I realize the cost of that missing element when, like yesterday, I take a botanizing walk with guy-friends and remember how much fun that is–not to mention enriching.
One of us kept at least a partial list of things we identified and those we never quite figured out.
I am inordinately thrilled to have observed aÂ lily I have never seen. Adding a newly-identified flowering plant to my lifeÂ list is not a common occurrence. I will post images with or without an ID later on in the month when I have time to work on it based only on the few images I came back with.
We hiked down Rock Castle Creek trail, starting near the Cabins, and making maybe two miles, not quite reaching the creek. We did not make good time; covering the distance was the farthest thing from our minds.
Of special note and to be investigated: a disease (I understand it is bacterial) is laying waste to individualÂ Â Rhododendrons. Spotty in most places, the affected plants were not just spotted or wilted as they would be with “die-back” caused by a fungus (the Irish Potato Famine villainÂ Phytophthora).
These were dead, every twig and branch, all the way to the main trunk. In some places, whole hillsides were covered with the tan skeletons of a former thicket of Rhododendron.
It gives one pause: to think, what if the southern mountains lost all the shade, soil stabilization on steep mountainsides, bird and amphibian habitat, and other unknown stable conditions that have been maintained for thousands of years by this one plant?
So if you’re traveling the Parkway in the next few weeks, pay attention. Seeing dead Rhodies along the way? Maybe by then, we’ll at least have more details about WHY.
NOTE: I learned in my little bit of research that Rhododendrons are also affected by Sudden Oak Death, and that that diseases is also caused by Phytophthora–the organism that got every last tomato in many Floyd County gardens last year.
IMAGE: View from Saddle Gap, looking down over the lower end of Rock Castle Gorge, toward the north-north-east.