Thursday, March 31, 2016

Bad Water, Sweet Water, and Greasewood

Healthy greasewood—dig here! (photo by Cory Maylett)

While traveling up the Missouri River through today’s northeast Montana, the great American explorer Meriwether Lewis came upon a shrub he didn't recognize, growing in large stands. "Hereafter I shall call it the fleshey leafed thorn” he wrote in his journal, on May 11, 1805. Lewis didn’t much like it, noting it was “extremely troublesome” and that animals avoided it (source).
“Fleshey leafed thorn” with succulent leaves, sharp-tipped twigs, and red winged fruit. It's now called greasewood (photo by Jim Morefield).
For the most part, folks agree there’s little to like about greasewood, including its eponymous habitat—wet greasy mud, where vehicles slide around before becoming firmly stuck. The scientific name, Sarcobatus vermiculatus, means fleshy bramble of small worms. Indeed, greasewood branchlets develop into stiff sharp painful spines, and the succulent leaves look like little green worms. And they’re toxic, fatal to any livestock that eat them. For greasewood grows where water is bad—salty, alkali, poison.

Many desert basins in southern Wyoming are closed—water runs in but not out, ponding at low points. Some soaks into the heavy soil, but much evaporates, leaving behind whatever chemicals were carried in—sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, and sometimes weird nasty things like boron and mind-altering selenium. Salty crusts encircle wetlands. When lakes dry up, brilliant white playas remain.

Amazingly, greasewood appears to thrive on these harsh sites! On basin margins it grows mixed with other salt-tolerant species, but on the chemical-rich heavy soils of the lowlands, it forms pure stands where few other plants can survive.
Greasewood flat in southern Wyoming, by Dan Lewis, The Wyoming Naturalist. Used with permission.
Alkaline and saline soils present insurmountable challenges to most plants, because their roots can’t absorb water with high concentrations of solutes (dissolved chemicals). But greasewood is a halophyte—a “salt plant.” The root cells contain high concentrations of solutes, and take up water even in these difficult situations. Greasewood stores toxic salts (oxalates) in its succulent leaves, and being deciduous, disposes of them at the end of the growing season, making the soil below especially salty.
Greasewood leaves, to 4 cm long (NPS).
From Meinzer 1927.

But greasewood can’t flourish on the paltry amount of water available at the surface. Fortunately it has another trick up its sleeve … or rather down its root. And this is the reason why greasewood has a fan club, albeit a small one.

• • •

Let’s walk down into a closed desert basin to a healthy stand of pure greasewood in the very bottom, and start digging.

First we have to get through heavy fine soil laced with small roots—there to absorb any water that might soak in. The networks can be dense. Donovan and colleagues (1996) found 140 km of roots per cubic meter under greasewood canopies!

Next, we dig through fine roots for several feet while navigating around substantial lateral roots 3 to 12 feet long. These are equipped with adventitious buds that send up shoots (clones) when a plant is damaged. Burned or cut plants can crown-sprout as well. No wonder the US Department of Agriculture warns land managers to leave greasewood stands alone:
“… treatment of the site will most likely fail or be a very poor investment of capital. … Areas of black greasewood that are burned, crowned, brush beat, or shallow plowed and/or shallow disked will often result in a much higher density of black greasewood. … Thus extreme caution should be exercised when selecting which sites have the best potential for improvement.” (“treatment” and “improvement” mean eradication; more details here)
By the time we’re six feet below the surface, we’ve left behind the fine roots, lateral roots and developed soil. But the tap root continues on. And it’s large—several inches in diameter:
“Near Moab, Utah, along a creek where the water had cut away the bank, exposing the roots, a greasewood 6 feet tall had roots down 18 feet, a taproot 3 inches in diameter down 6 feet, and abundant feeding roots, some 10 feet long, at a depth of 10 to 12 feet.” (Shantz 1940)
How far do we have to dig to find the tap root’s end? Usually at least 10 to 15 feet, often 20 or 30 feet, and sometimes more:
“Near Grandview, Idaho, H.T. Sterns observed roots of greasewood penetrating the roof of a tunnel 57 feet below the surface.” (Meinzer 1929; italics added)
Finally the tap root reaches its destination—the blessed capillary fringe! Here root hairs absorb sweet water that has seeped up from the water table. It's sucked up the tap root 10, 20, maybe even 50 feet—whatever it takes to reach the thirsty greasewood plant, standing in hot sun on an alkali mudflat.
“These plants have been called phreatophytes. The term is obtained from two Greek roots and means a ‘well plant.’” (Meinzer 1927; arrow added).

Old timers knew that a healthy stand of greasewood meant sweet water wasn't all that far away. They knew greasewood could help them site wells. But it wasn’t until the early 1900s that ecologists and hydrologists were convinced:
“Greasewood was not at first regarded as an indicator of ground water, because to a large extent it grows on land that lies some distance above the water table. Information now at hand, however, makes it practically certain that greasewood habitually sends its well-developed taproot to considerable depths … It is, thus, one of the most trustworthy of all ground-water indicators.” (Meinzer 1929; italics added)
Prickly, toxic and hardly photogenic, greasewood is helpful too—a most trustworthy groundwater indicator (photo courtesy BLM).

Sources (in addition to links in post)

Donovan, LA, and colleagues. 1996. Water Relations and leaf chemistry of Chrysothamnus nauseosus ssp. consimilis (Asteraceae) and Sarcobatus vermiculatus (Chenopodiaceae). Amer. J. Bot. 83: 1637-1646.

Groeneveld, DP. 1990. Shrub rooting and water acquisition on threatened shallow groundwater habitats in the Owens Valley, California in Proceedings: symposium on cheatgrass invasion, shrub die-off, and other aspects of shrub biology and management. Available here.

Knight, DK, and colleagues. 2014. Mountains and plains; the ecology of Wyoming landscapes, 2nd ed. Yale University Press.

Meinzer, OE. 1929. Plants as indicators of groundwater. USGS Water Supply Paper 577. Available here.

Shantz, HL, and Piemeisel, RL. 1940. Types of vegetation in Escalante Valley, Utah, as indicators of soil conditions. Tech. Bull. 713. Washington, DC: US Department of Agriculture. 46 p. Available here.

USDA NRCS Plant Guide: Black Greasewood.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Of Woolsacks, Witches, Cheesewrings & Tors

Baa baa black sheep,
Have you any wool?
Yes sir, yes sir,
Three bags full.
One for my master,
One for the king,
One for the Geologist
Who likes such things!

Between Laramie and Cheyenne, Interstate 80 crosses the crest of the Laramie Mountains. But there are no rugged high peaks, no sparkling alpine lakes, no steep narrow canyons. Instead, the highway traverses a broad plain populated with peculiar rocks. They rise abruptly—like simple alters, or ancient castle walls, or stone creatures frozen on their way to stone temples. Travelers curious enough to stop will find they’re made of blocks: block walls, stacks of blocks, blocks scattered across the ground. The blocks themselves are distinctive. The rounded edges indicate they were born deep underground, where they were shaped by woolsack weathering. Only much later did they emerge into this world.
“granites rise in thick picturesque ridges, 50 to 100 feet high, like ruined walls, lending a peculiar as well as picturesque appearance to the landscape” wrote geologist FV Hayden of his visit to the Laramie Mountains in 1870. Photo by WH Jackson (USGS).

Why "woolsacks"? … these rocks look more like wool bales. In fact, woolsack means bale in the case of rocks—specifically the bale of wool on which King Edward III (1327-1377) commanded his Lord Chancellor to sit while in council, in recognition of the importance of the wool trade. It became known as The Woolsack. Six centuries later it’s still in use, by the Lord Speaker in the House of Lords.
Wool bales, 1900 (source).
The Woolsack, 1897 (source).

Woolsack weathering isn’t unusual, but the resulting forms are so fanciful that they grab our attention and spark our imaginations. Often they have evocative names and other-worldly explanations. We designate parks around them, for protection and public access.
The Cheesewring of Bodmin Moor, southwest England; John MacCulloch (1814).
The Cheesewring was named for its resemblance to slabs of cheese on a press. But legend says otherwise—it's a stack of rocks created in a contest between a Giant and a Saint. In spite of the great weight of the stones, the diminutive Saint built the taller stack (about 15 feet high), thereby avoiding death. The Giant was so impressed that he immediately converted to Christianity.
Vedauwoo Glen, in the Laramie Mountains, is home to Earthborn Spirits. It's managed by the US Forest Service.
The Great Staple Tor in Dartmoor National Park, a textbook case of woolsack weathering.
A stack or pile of woolsack rocks is often called a tor, possibly derived from the Old English torr—related to Scottish Gaelic tórr for a bulging hill—or possibly from the Celtic word twr meaning tower. Dartmoor National Park in southern England is famous for its legendary tors. There are at least 160, most with colorful names and stories.
Vixen Tor; John MacCulloch (1814).
Vixen Tor was home to the wicked witch Vixana. Whenever a traveler foolishly passed nearby, she called up a thick mist—so thick that the traveler lost his way, stumbled into a bog, and met an excruciating end, sucked screaming to his death. Vixana would dispel the mist just in time to enjoy the final moments of his desperate and hideous struggle. Finally Vixana herself was killed—by a handsome young moorman, of course!

The tors of Dartmoor are legendary not just for tales and spirits, but also for pioneering studies by early geologists. In 1754, antiquarian, geologist and naturalist William Borlase concluded that Druids carved the tors, based on the prevalence of blocks. Druids were said to worship cubes, symbolic of the god Mercury—even though almost nothing was known about Druid culture then, as now.

In 1814, Scottish geologist John MacCulloch read a paper before the Geological Society of London titled On the granite tors of Cornwall, in which he discounted Borlase’s theory. He didn’t mince words:
“… learned antiquarians have tortured their inventions and have constructed religious systems for the purpose of explaining these very simple and intelligible natural appearances, by the rites of a mysterious and Druidical worship. … It is unnecessary to suppose that the chisel of Druidism has been employed to reduce it [the Cheesewring] to an image of Saturn. Natural causes are sufficient to account for its appearance.”
The tors’ rounded blocks convinced MacCulloch that they had been shaped by air and water, not by human hands:
“The changes which they undergo in their places of rest, by their more rapid disintegration at the angles than at the sides, are sufficient to prove that this spheroidal shape may be produced by chemical action of air and water, without the necessity of any mechanical violence. However difficult it may be to give a very satisfactory account of this peculiarity, the fact is undoubted.”
Woolsack weathering—“more rapid disintegration at the angles than at the sides”

MacCulloch was only partly right. The rounded shapes were produced by chemical action of water but not air. That would be impossible, for woolsacks and tors form underground.
Woolsacks at Vedauwoo, Laramie Mountains. For origins, see diagram below.
Our local woolsacks are made of Sherman granite, which began as magma intruded into the crust about 1.4 billion years ago. It never reached the surface, but cooled underground into a huge mass of granite, shrinking and cracking in the process. Fractures often formed 90º angles—the beginnings of blocks. Groundwater percolated through the cracks, and chemicals broke down the rock, rounding the edges (spheroidal weathering).

Then roughly 70-40 million years ago, during an episode of mountain-building (Laramide Orogeny), the Laramie Mountains rose, erosion set in, and the Sherman granite was gradually exposed. Weathered debris washed out of the fractures, and a multitude of wondrous rock forms emerged.
Birth and emergence of the woolsacks in the previous photo (click on image for details).

This land of science and the supernatural, where knowledge coexists with legend and whimsy, is just 15 miles from town. We're lucky to be able to wander among the real and the otherworldly as our mood sees fit.
Debris from weathered granite, called regolith or grus.
The Potato Chip.
Prow of the Nautilus.
You name this one.
Watch out, Emmie ... it's ready to leap!
Unnamed stone creature, stone temple in the distance.
Woolsacks at sunset.
The witching hour. Click on image ... if you dare!

Sources (in addition to links in post)

Borlase, W (Jackson, W). 1754. Observations on the Antiquities, Historical and Monumental, of the County of Cornwall. Available here.

MacCulloch, J. 1814. On the granite tors of Cornwall. Trans. Geo. Soc. London Ser. 1 Vol. 2:66-78.

Friday, March 4, 2016

James and Jamesia—a man and his shrub

Cliffbush, Jamesia americana. Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center; photo by Alan Cressler.

“Cliffbush” and “Jamesia” … a plant could hardly be more appropriately named. This is a shrub of rock outcrops, discovered by a man named James—a young botanist on a grand adventure in an unexplored land. We can’t be sure exactly where he found it, for if he made any notes, they were lost. The specimen is poor, as Harvard botanists John Torrey and Asa Gray noted. Yet they named the shrub in his honor:
“… we have applied the present name in commemoration of the scientific services of its worthy discoverer, the botanist and geologist of ‘Major Long’s Expedition to the Rocky Mountains, in the year 1820,’ and who, during the journey made an excellent collection of plants under the most unfavorable circumstances.”
James’s Jamesia specimen; scale is in centimeters. (NYBG Steele Herbarium).
“Near the Rocky Mountains”—on a label written at least 20 years after the expedition.

In the winter of 1819-20, Major Stephen H. Long traveled to Albany, New York, to persuade physician Edwin James to join his exploratory expedition. James had been recommended by several prominent botanists, and had published papers in both botany and geology even though he was only 23. He would replace physician/botanist William Baldwin, who died the previous year just several weeks into the expedition, as well as geologist Augustus Jessup, who proved to be seriously under-qualified.
Edwin James; source.
Long was head of the scientific branch of what was first called the Yellowstone Expedition, after the Yellowstone River, the main destination. It was the third major survey to explore the vast unknown lands acquired in the Louisiana Purchase (which doubled the size of the country!). Long was to explore from the Canadian border south to Mexico—in other words, no one appreciated the immensity of the country. This goal was supremely unrealistic, even if things had gone well.

The party left Pittsburgh in May of 1819, traveling down the Ohio and up the Missouri. Due to recurring problems with the steamboat—a fairly new mode of transportation—they only reached eastern Nebraska by the end of the season. While the men spent the winter camped near Omaha, Long went east to recruit replacements and beg for more money.

Disappointed with Long’s poor progress and faced with budget cuts due to the Panic of 1819, Secretary of War Calhoun instead reduced funding and redefined the expedition. They would travel overland to the Rocky Mountains to locate the source of the Platte, Arkansas and Red Rivers, and among other things, describe “all the products of vegetation, common or peculiar to the countries we may traverse.”

The American West had a rather romantic reputation—as a land of adventure and discovery. Long’s offer must have been irresistible to a young botanist like James. He quickly accepted, even though Long couldn’t pay him just yet. Long, James and John Bell, the new expedition journalist, left Pittsburgh at the end of March, arriving in Omaha in early June. They had waited two weeks in St. Louis for promised funding for supplies, then again in Franklin, and finally in Omaha. But it never came. They left anyway, on June 6, headed west across the plains to the Rocky Mountains. At the end of June, the great range came into view:
“… we were all expectation and doubt until in the afternoon, when the atmosphere cleared, and we had a distinct view of the sumit of a range of mountains—which to our great satisfaction and heart felt joy, was declared by the commanding officer to be the range of the Rocky Mountains … The whole range had a beautiful and sublime appearance to us, after having been so long confined to the dull uninteresting monotony of prairie country …”
View of Rocky Mountains on the Platte 50 miles from their Base, by Samuel Seymour (James et al. 1823).

A week later, they were in the vicinity of today’s Denver. They moved south along the base of the Rockies, making trips west into the mountains. Limited funding meant they had to move fast. They would cover 1500 miles in three months, averaging 15 miles per day. But often they traveled at least 20, due to delays and Long’s policy of no unnecessary travel on Sundays. They carried few provisions, living off the unknown land as best a small inexperienced ill-equipped party could. They were often tired and hungry.

Even so, James’s botanizing was productive. After returning to Philadelphia and going though his material, he reported “between four and five hundred species of plants new to the Flora of the United States, and many of them supposed to be undescribed [new to science].” Indeed, 140 of his collections would be recognized as new species, confirming both his hard work and the novelty of the Rocky Mountain flora. James named and described 13 himself. Others were named in his honor: Frankenia jamesii (James’s frankenia), Hilaria jamesii (galleta grass), Dalea jamesii (James’s prairie clover), Telesonix jamesii (James’s saxifrage), and more.

Among James’s collections was a woody twig with opposite leaves and a terminal cluster of waxy white flowers. Professors John Torrey and Asa Gray of Harvard studied it carefully, but found no close affinities with other species. In 1840, they assigned it to a brand new genus, Jamesia.
Closer view of James's specimen at the Steele Herbarium.
Why did Torrey and Gray wait twenty years to publish? Maybe they were hoping for more material. As they noted, James’s specimen and collection data were meager:
"We much regret that we have not more adequate materials for describing this plant. Our specimens were collected by Dr. Edwin James (in Long's Expedition), but the particular locality is not recorded. It is probably rare or very local, as no other botanist seems to have met with it.” [italics added]
• • •

Fast-forward 150 years …
Who are these characters? Wait, the fog is clearing … it’s the usual bunch, minus 40 years! (thx Phil White)

In 1987, Wyoming botanists gathered in the Laramie Mountains for a tour of the local flora. Bob Dorn guided us to several rare plants, including Jamesia americana, the fivepetal cliffbush or waxflower. Were Torrey and Gray thus correct in concluding it's rare? Well … not exactly.

Jamesia americana is one of several southern Rocky Mountain plants that just make it into Wyoming in the southeast part of the state, where they're at the northern limit of their range. So Jamesia americana is rare in Wyoming. From here, its range extends south through Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona into northern Mexico (not show on maps below). Distribution is spotty—probably why early botanists were slow to find more of it.

The genus Jamesia is endemic to western North America. There are only two species (maps above), one of which includes four varieties (below). Source
Our cliffbush is Jamesia americana var. americana, by far the most widespread. Because it’s the “typical variety” we can just call it Jamesia americana. Common names include fivepetal cliffbush, jamesia and waxflower. It has 5-petaled flowers in clusters, versus the 4-petaled solo flowers of J. tetrapetala. The differences among americana varieties are more subtle, but the other three are restricted to small areas in Utah, Nevada and California, so there’s no risk of confusion here in southeast Wyoming (Holmgren and Holmgren 1989).

Jamesia americana is fairly common in Sherman granite in the Laramie Mountains (see my iNaturalist observation).
Leaves are oppositely arranged, green above, and densely hairy beneath. In fall, they turn orange and red.
Photo by Bill Gray; source.
Flowers are lightly scented, white and waxy—hence the common name “waxflower.”
Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center; photo by Alan Cressler.

• • •

“treating scientifically the results of Horticultural skill and enterprise”

In the 19th century, exotic species were all the rage among horticulturalists in Great Britain and Europe, especially plants from the America wilderness. The 1875 issue of Curtis Botanical Magazine, comprising plants of the Royal Gardens of Kew, included Jamesia americana—Native of the Rocky Mountains. Director and Editor Sir Joseph D. Dalton emphasized the wildness of the territory where Edwin James discovered it: “Those were the days when every traveller in the Rocky Mountains carried his life in his hand …”

He felt that Jamesia americana showed horticultural promise: 
“It is quite hardy, and was raised at Kew about twelve years ago, from seed received, I believe, from Dr. Asa Gray, where, however, it has not flowered. For the plant here figured I am indebted to the Rev. Mr. Ellacombe, of Bitton, near Bristol, who flowered it in October last.”
Hooker was right—Jamesia americana is now fairly common in native plant nurseries, at least in our area. It does best with full sun, well-drained soil, and medium water. Pests and diseases rarely bother it.
Curtis Botanical Magazine has been in print since 1787. It may be best known for its exquisite illustrations. Jamesia americana was done by Walter Fitch.

Sources  (in addition to links in post)

Axelrod, DI. 1987. The late Oligocene Creede flora, Colorado. Univ. Calif. Publ. Geol. Sci. 130: 1-235.

Evans, HE. 1997. The natural history of the Long Expedition to the Rocky Mountains. NY: Oxford University Press.

Holmgren, NH and Holmgren, PK. 1989. A taxonomic study of Jamesia (Hydrangeaceae). Brittonia 41:335-350.

Hooker, JD. 1875. Curtis Botanical Magazine, plants of the Royal Gardens of Kew. Volume 101. Biodiversity Heritage Library:

James, E, Long, SH, Peale, TR, and Say, T. 1823. Account of an expedition from Pittsburgh to the Rocky mountains. Philadelphia:H.C. Carey and I. Lea. Biodiversity Heritage Library:

Torrey, J. and Gray, A.. 1840. A flora of North America, vol. 1. NY: Wiley & Putnam. Biodiversity Heritage Library:

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Where the Juneberries Grow

I zipped up my jacket, put on my pack, pulled the camera out of the case … and was hit by that sinking feeling that still surfaces even though we humans left the dangerous bush long ago. I had the wrong lens! Should I venture into the wilds of the Laramie Basin armed only with a mid-range telephoto?

It was an exceptional February day: 52º F, virtually no wind. Surely a camera wasn't necessary to enjoy the spring weather, expansive landscapes, and ice patterns on the frozen lakes. I walked west along a dirt road, stopping now and then to photograph ice and other things that fit in the field of the 100 mm lens.
Ice slabs and salt-encrusted mud in front of a brown snow bank (windblown dirt).
These lakes sit in a large depression in the southern part of the Laramie Basin. They're fed by creeks and irrigation canals, but there’s no way for the water to leave aside from evaporation. This is one of the reasons they're “alkali.” Technically the lakes are saline, not alkaline, but people around here would look at you strange if you said Hutton Lake was saline. Whatever the term, it's immediately obvious—by the distinctive smell and the white crusty dried mud along the margins.
Hutton Lake lies in the Laramie Basin SSW of Laramie (Google Earth; click on image to view details).
We may find alkali wetlands smelly and distasteful, but they're important habitat. Salt-tolerant terrestrial and aquatic invertebrates thrive here, providing tasty and nutritious bird food. For much of the year, the Refuge is popular with birds (146 species have been reported) and the attendant birders.
Bulrushes in Hutton Lake; Medicine Bow Mountains and the Snowy Range behind.

But currently the lakes are still mostly frozen. There are few birds and even fewer human visitors, aside from an occasional nature lover suffering from cabin fever.

I was at Hutton Lake National Wildlife Refuge in search of juneberries, aka sarvice or service berries, saskatoon, amelanchier and more. I want to follow one this year. (Unfamiliar with tree-following? Read more here.) There are two juneberry specimens from Hutton Lake in the Rocky Mountain Herbarium, but as I walked through saltgrass meadows, alkali wetlands and stands of greasewood, I felt like a sucker. The uplands nearby were no more promising—heavily-grazed grassland full of prickly pear cactus. There were no trees anywhere. I saw nothing that looked like potential habitat for juneberries. They are moist-woodland trees needing adequate water, and it has to be sweet, not alkaline.

At the west end of the lake near the Refuge boundary, I walked to a high point (by about six feet) to plan a return route. In the distance, I spotted ... another visitor! A man walked slowly my way, stopping to scan the lake with binoculars. I assumed he was a birder, and maybe a well-rounded naturalist as well. Maybe he would know where the juneberries grow.

As we approached, I waved; he waved back. Closer, I saw he wore a broad-brimmed felt hat, day-pack, and canvas jacket, all in subdued colors—greens and browns. He used a walking stick. Then when we were close enough to speak, I started laughing. So did he. That’s what you do when you meet someone you know in the middle of nowhere.

I explained my mission, expecting more laughter, but Tom immediately replied, “Oh yeah, I know where the juneberries grow. See that knob? [pointing with walking stick] They’re on the slope below. There are some small cottonwoods too, and willows. Just walk across the causeway.”
After discussing when the ice might melt, what notable birds come through, candle ice (more on that later), cures for cabin fever, and the pluses and minuses of recent refuge improvements, we parted ways.
Does the causeway lead to where the juneberries grow?
From the end of the causeway, I made my way along the lakeshore through snow, mud and grass. I was skeptical. But then … there they were, a cluster of small juneberry trees! … maybe. They were barely large enough to have striated bark, needed for winter identification.
Juneberry "trees"?
The one on the right looks more promising.
For comparison: mature Amelanchier alnifolia in the Black Hills.
This old dried fruit looks like a juneberry.
Ripe juneberries for comparison. Photo by Meggar.
I also found the cottonwoods and willows that Tom mentioned, as well as some aspen, all within an area of less than 300 square meters. What an interesting spot—something makes it just right for a tiny woodland.
The Knob stands as a high point because it’s made of harder erosion-resistant rock. Does water accumulate underground in rock fractures, where it's accessible to tree roots?
Trees are on the shady slope below and left of the Knob's summit.
The Laramie Basin, with the Medicine Bow Mountains and Snowy Range beyond. Hutton Lake is mid-photo, the Knob on the left and causeway on the right. 

I love Nature's puzzling surprises! So even though it's barely a tree, I think I will follow this juneberry—if that’s indeed what it is. Stay tuned.

Monthly gatherings of tree-followers are kindly hosted by The Squirrelbasket. Check out the tree news for March.