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Its About Time - October 2017

Junermannia leiantha; long-leaved flapwort
Junermannia leiantha; long-leaved flapwort

Two years ago I wrote that it was the worst fire season ever. Each succeeding year has been worse, with the current fire season simply devastating. Although a few rainy days ended the horribly smoky air in the southern Willamette Valley, the fires in the mountains will likely smolder through this month. I fear that our usual reliance on September being a good month for hiking the high country will fade into the past. More years like this one may keep the Three Sisters Wilderness closed to back country users through September.

The fires are being enhanced by the effect of years of extended drought. Even on Spencer Butte, Eugene’s prime city park day hike, one can see dead trees just below the summit. Only the weakest trees in the forest are succumbing but, once dry, these are conduits for a surface fire spreading rapidly to the canopy. The outlook is grim.

The bright side is actually a result of not much sun. We are ready for the rainy season to set in. Gardens will keep producing until the first frost, slowly to be sure but steadily. One of the reasons I plant zinnias is that they keep getting stronger and brighter right up to that first hard freeze. The nasturtiums are doing well, perhaps because dry conditions deter aphid decimation.

On the forest floor logs are swelling with moisture. The mosses and liverworts that rely on moist conditions love those big, rotting logs. They will be happy all winter.

David Wagner is a botanist who works in Eugene. He teaches moss classes, leads nature walks and makes nature calendars. He can be contacted through his web site: www.fernzenmosses.com