“Is this a single individual, connected underground?”Time passed, more questions arose: What kind of cottonwood? (lanceleaf) How tall? (58.4 feet) Male or female? (female). But the first question was never answered.
Cottonwood at dawn. Is this a single tree, or six?
Lanceleaf cottonwoods along the Laramie River in early morning light. Note bird on wire (more later).
Then a clue appeared. The east half of the cottonwood tree I'm following is now yellow, the west half still green. Perhaps this isn’t a single tree after all. We investigated.
My cottonwood tree(s) -- now green and yellow.
|Glen at base of tree(s).|
We crept into the little glen among the trunks. The sound of pitter-patter footsteps and buzz-like whispers swelled and then quickly subsided -- probably river elves fleeing their sanctuary. To the east towered three stems (maybe-trees) with yellow leaves. Two to the south still had green leaves as did the younger one to the northwest, which split just above the ground.
|Three stems with yellow leaves (green ones belong to stems on right out-of-sight).|
|Two stems to the south still sport green leaves, though they're fading.|
|This younger stem became two at some point.|
So how many trees? Might we say at least two -- the yellow and the green? Then a vague distant memory from botany-student days surfaced. Being immobile, plants may resort to phenotypic plasticity and produce different forms from the same inherited DNA. Besides, I like the whole clump and want to follow it. Are you wondering how one follows an immobile organism? Apparently you don’t know of the tree-following frenzy hosted by Lucy Corrander. Visit this month’s gathering to learn more.
|A bird with a distinctive silhouette.|
Back to the bird on the wire. A belted kingfisher has been fishing from this wire across the river just upstream from the footbridge for at least 20 years. As the EPA says, “No information was found in the literature on life expectancy for this species.” So every year I wonder: Is this a single bird, or many?
Sometimes our “intrusions” benefit wildlife -- belted kingfishers love telephone wires near streams and ponds.