Script for my Nature Challenge Video —  (I continue to struggle to be able to post it on the blog.  I haven’t given up yet!)

There are many beautiful trees on the property surrounding our home, but one of my favorites is a Black Tupelo Tree.

When I think of Tupelos, also known as Black Gum or Sour Gum trees, I think of the south and Tupelo honey.  This tree, however, is right here in the southwestern part of Maine. 

As far as I can tell, only two of these trees grow on our almost 30 acres.  

According to a document prepared by the State of Maine, they are a rather uncommon species here.  Moreover, they are usually found in wetland areas in this part of the country.  

Interestingly, two other local tupelos are found on an island in the second largest lake in the state. That’s Sebago Lake, which is adjacent to where I live!

Sebago Lake was carved by a glacier.  As a result, some of the local soils have interesting properties.  Perhaps our soil qualifies as hydric soil wetland which would not look like what I typically think of as a wetland.

So, I checked the US Soil Survey for the area right where my two trees grow.  Surprisingly, that’s not the answer either.  As you can see, the soil is well-drained and the water table is deep.  No hidden wetland here.

The mystery continues.   Perhaps this is just a case of a couple of adventuresome seeds trying their luck at the edge of their familiar territory.

Title Page for the iMovie

Unfortunately, I am still dealing with a family member’s health situation.   This is consuming most of my day and much of my attention, but I continue to write these posts as they help me recenter.

During a quiet moment as I sat in the hospital room, I discovered an intriguing collection of journals on the Project Gutenberg website.  Gutenberg offers a collection of copyright-free materials.  

When you have a chance, check out the assortment of Birds and All Nature.   Volumes span 1898 to 1902.  The journal compiles short blog-like posts about various topics.  

Here is a sample from the June 1899 edition:

CURIOUS TREES.

  1. In Malabar, a tree called “the tallow tree” grows; from the seeds of it, when boiled, is procured a firm tallow which makes excellent candles.

2. The “butter tree” was discovered by Park in the central part of Africa; from its kernel is produced a nice butter which will keep a year.

3. The palo de vaca, or “cow tree,” grows on rocks in Venezuela, South America. It has dry and leathery leaves, and from incisions made in its trunk a kind of milk oozes out, which is tolerably thick and of an agreeable balmy smell. At sunrise, the natives may be seen hastening from all quarters furnished with large bowls to receive the milk.

4. A tree of Madagascar, called the “traveler’s tree,” yields a copious supply of fresh water from its leaves, very grateful to the traveler. It grows in the most arid countries, and is another proof of the tender care of our Heavenly Father in supplying all His creatures’ wants. Even in the driest weather a quart of water can be obtained by piercing a hole at the bottom of the leaf stalk, and the liquid is pure and pleasant to the taste. The leaves are of enormous size, varying from ten to fifteen feet in length.

5. The date tree is a species of palm, and almost every part of it is valuable. Its fruit is delicious and it is also esteemed for the palm wine drawn from its trunk. Its leaves are made into hats, baskets, fans, and many other articles, and the fibres of the leaf stems are made into cord and twine. A department store might almost be furnished from this tree.

6. The “sorrowful tree” is found on the island of Goa, near Bombay. It is so called because it flourishes in the night. At sunset no flowers are to be seen, but soon after it is covered with them. They close up or drop off as the sun rises. It has a fragrant odor, and blossoms at night the year round.

7. There is a tree in Jamaica called the “life tree,” whose leaves grow even when severed from the plant. It is impossible to kill it save by fire.—Normal Instructor.

Seems like people have always been interested in the unique and the exotic.  You will certainly find such in Birds and All Nature.

Surely there are some things that I know for certain, aren’t there?  Maybe not!  Here are a few “facts” that have not stood up to the test of time.

  • Trees grow in the daytime when they can use the sun to photosynthesize carbohydrates from carbon dioxide, right?

    Majestic Tree
    Image by RegalShave from Pixabay

Not according to the latest research from the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest.  Their studies show that trees actually do most growing at night.  They monitored seven common species for up to eight years.  Simply stated, what they learned was that air humidity was the key to tree growth.  During the day, when the air becomes drier, trees temporarily lose more water through transpiration than they absorb through their roots.  As a result, growth stops, regardless of photosynthesis.  

(As a reminder: The same amount of water vapor results in higher humidity in cooler air than warm air.)

  • If an animal is decapitated, it’s dead, right?

Not if we are talking about the sea slug (Elysia marginata).  Separate the head from the body and both sections can continue to live independently of the other for several weeks to a few months.  Eventually, the headless body will start to decay.  However, the head will regrow a new body, heart, and other organs.  

These Elysia marginatas are not the only organisms that can perform this magic.  At least one other slug species can do something similar. 

  • The Chesapeake Bay was formed when glaciers carved the channels and troughs a the end of the last Ice Age, right?
Chesapeake Bay
Image by mcfisher from Pixabay

That’s only part of the story.  Around 35 million years ago, a bolide (a very bright meteor) exploded near where the Bay sits today, creating a deep canyon.  The subsequent tsunami continued to redefine the area. The displaced water reached all the way to the Blue Ridge Mountains.  

The impact’s effect was only confirmed in 1993.   Oddly, it was missed when the Chesapeake Bay Tunnel was built because the excavation didn’t go deep enough to reveal the evidence.

Thanks to @DrAndrewThaler for the tweet that clued me in to this information.  

I can’t wait to find out what new information will dispel the next set of facts!

Sources: 

More about tree growth at night — https://www.wsl.ch/en/news/2021/06/why-trees-grow-at-night.html

More about beheaded slugs — https://www.newscientist.com/article/2270397-some-sea-slugs-behead-themselves-and-then-regrow-their-bodies/

 For more information about Chesapeake Bay formation — https://www.nps.gov/chba/learn/geological-formation.htm