Friday, November 6, 2009

Tuscarora Beech Drops

The Organic Mechanic LOVES to go camping. Ever seen these before? They are known as "Beech Drops", (Conopholis alpina) emerging in spring through duff on the forest floor. A miniature conifer look-alike, these plants grow and feed on Beech tree roots...a parasitic plant used in earlier times as an astringent and for other medical uses.
They were so tiny we almost stepped on them! These were photographed in the Tuscarora State Forest...a great place for primitive camping. The forest floor felt like a trampoline on 1/4 mile walk from our parking spot to our camp site! It felt even more wild, secluded, and peaceful to camp in a forested area where the worms have not decimated the duff layer.
Taking a look around our campsite, it was on a northwestern facing slope, with mostly hardwoods, a few hemlock, and a healthy layer of undergrowth. Did not see any invasive plants, except garlic mustard - which was only around the parking spot for our campsite...go figure. We pulled every garlic mustard we saw...and burned them! Garlic mustard has a tendency to complete seed growth even if they are pulled and let on the ground to rot and die.
Did you know garlic mustard, like all plants in this family, do not form mycorrhizal bonds with plant roots? They actually repel mycorrhizal fungi! (Mycorrhizal fungi form mutually beneficial connections between plant roots and the surrounding soil. They help the plant absorb more water and nutrients...and the plants provide the fungi with carbon and other food sources) So...if garlic mustard plants repel mycorrhizal fungi, and yet they are starting to run rampant in the woods of North America...what does this mean for the mycorrizal species we need for all our native plants that exist in the forest? Yet another problem...only one solution...pull all the garlic mustard you can (burn it or trash it) when you see it in wild places. You know where the wild things are...
Amazing what you can see while enjoying a walk in the woods.

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