Sunday, November 11, 2018

My boxelder finally accepts the inevitable …

Standard approach photo—boxelder on left, in nook formed by warehouse walls.
National Weather Service Observed Weather for Laramie, Wyoming; November 10, 2018, 9:53 AM (MDT):  partly cloudy; 36º F; humidity 31%; winds westerly, 28 mph with gusts to 38 mph.

Conditions were not ideal for plant photography, but I had no choice. There would be no other opportunities to visit the boxelder I’m following if I wanted to post my report before the deadline. So off we went.

Even from a distance, the change was obvious. A month ago, the boxelder still was covered in green leaves, even though most other trees had turned color or were bare. Now the boxelder is bare too, except for a few memories.
Leaf still hanging on (boxelder leaves are compound).
Amazingly persistent spring flowers; note anthers at ends of dangling filaments (male tree).
I saw many more remnant petioles (visible below), which I mentioned last month. I had no idea that boxelders drop leaf blades but not petioles, or at least not yet. Do maples do this? (both boxelder and maples are in the genus Acer) Any other plants, do you know?
Abundant buds promise that spring will come. Though I never really doubt that it will, I still find comfort in buds.
Flower and leaf buds.
A tumbleweed had lodged in branches near the base of the tree (straw-colored, mid-photo below). This was no surprise. The field across the river to the west, part of the Territorial Prison tourist attraction, was cleared of vegetation a few years ago, I have no idea why. Now it’s perfect habitat for tumbleweeds, and every year around this time, they cut loose and head into town, dropping seeds as they go. This one is kochia (Kochia scoparia), the most common of our tumbleweeds.
The Canada thistles along the base of the warehouse wall were still green but seriously wilted. I think they're done for. This is Cirsium arvense, one of the most noxious of our noxious weeds.

Next I checked on the little lilac bush that I discovered last month in the field just west of the warehouse. When the surrounding railroad ties, palettes and debris were removed recently, the cleanup crew left it standing—so nice, and I smile whenever I see it. Now it too is bare of leaves. But there are plenty of promising buds.
A small building used to stand in this field; perhaps that explains the lilac bush. I looked through my photos, and found one from April 2014 with the building. Sure enough, it stood in the area of the little lilac. Whitman’s lilac came to mind—the one that last in a dooryard bloomed—but I think their circumstances differ. This lilac has survived in the absence of a dooryard, and hopefully there's more blooming ahead!


  1. Fascinating as always!
    I hadn't even thought about whether trees shed their petioles. I just assumed everything falls apart eventually but sometimes the blades let go first. Must look more closely in future.
    Tumbleweed is such a bizarre thing.
    It was very poignant your mentioning Whitman and When lilacs last in the dooryard bloom'd - when I was at school I was given a random project to do on Walt Whitman and recall asking the library to order me Leaves of Grass - a HUGE volume...
    All the best - I love your posts :)

    1. Thanks, Pat, I really appreciate the encouragement! I also read Whitman in school, around age 17. He was very much "in" at the time--among the counter-culture, back-to-nature folks. But I remember only a little, and I bet a lot of it was over my head. Maybe I should give him another try ...

  2. Thank goodness for buds and their promise of spring to come!
    Have a wonderful day!

    1. best wishes to you too, Lea. Thanks for visiting :)

  3. Your coverage of the Boxelder (and now the Lilac) is so poignant. It seems like the conditions of both are so challenging, yet they persevere. Will the warehouse owners allow them both to stand and continue to grow?

    1. Good question, Beth, I worry about that for sure. But I was so impressed that the lilac was left standing, as it was totally surrounded by debris and old pallets. Those dozers, loaders, trucks and such must have worked around it carefully!

  4. Perhaps those who work in that area appreciate the bit of green and life the boxelder and the lilac provide. I'm impressed with the perseverence of plants when no one (save the blogger?) loves them. :)

    1. Tina -- I think that's a real possibility. A Kansan I know insists that boxelders are weeds, but here in the Laramie Valley, where the only native trees grow along the river, I think we feel differently.