Botanical Walk at the Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve

16 Apr

GM & I participated in the Botanical Walk today with Dr. Robert Mohlenbrock, aka Dr. Bob, at the Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve .  He’s 79, and a totally amazing man who has left an incredible stamp on the way plant life is managed and studied in the United States today through his years of teaching.  He gave me hope too, because he is going strong, and knows more about plants than I’ll ever manage to momentarily understand and forget, so maybe age doesn’t mean my brains are going to turn to mush, right?

He’s also an inspiration about plant knowledge.  After moving to Louisiana & Mississippi, it was as though I was on an alien planet.  I didn’t know any of the trees or plants, not even the grasses.  Nothing was familiar from a lifetime spent mostly in the arid South West.  I felt like an idiot when I ventured out into the natural world, looking around and wondering what these mysterious and alien plants were that lived so happily with their feet in water, whether salt or fresh.

Today was an opportunity in which I could participate in a “botanical walk” with a well known botanist, certainly a rare opportunity to learn about plants both common and uncommon.  Certainly the opportunity hadn’t come up before, so I wouldn’t give up the chance even when the ufo conference in Jackson came up on the same day.  Nothing was coming between me and wetland plants, not even aliens.

So this morning, we were up bright and early.  I cooked breakfast–eggs with onions and mushrooms and cheese, and nuked some pre-cooked sausage patties, even made toast.  Feeding grumps early often helps them complete their metamorphosis into human males.  At least that was my hope.  This morning, it seemed to be effective, or the coffee worked.  Something worked anyhow, because GM was in good humor very quickly.

Grand Bay is not far from where we live, so arriving by 8:30 a.m. was easy.  There, I found the visitor center to be well thought out, airy, and interesting.  Soon though, it was time to venture onto our amazing adventure with Dr. Bob and the Grand Bay representative known as Jennifer, who also drove the Grand Bay van.  None of the areas we were venturing into on our search for unusual plants was immediately in the area of the visitor center.

Sun Dew

The sun dew is a tiny plant, often no bigger than a half dollar.

The big prizes of this particular walk were the carnivorous plants, most of the Northern American ones are found within the preserve’s area, a rarity for any region, and a reason for Dr. Bob’s fondness for the Grand Bay area.

Yellow bloom of the Pitcher Plant

Yellow bloom of the pitcher plant

The pitcher plants are rather amazing, and quite dramatic with their imposing and colorful flowers this time of year.  It’s hard to imagine these elegant beauties as carnivorous plants!

There were many other plants we learned about, from grasses to trees, and Dr. Bob is incredibly enthusiastic about the plants.  It’s easy to understand why he became a botanist, and I sit here now wondering…is he also an avid gardener?  (I’ll have to do some research and find out, I guess!)

Dr Bob explaining points about flower

Dr Bob explaining points about flower

Too often, people get so caught up in the animals that live in an area and forget about the important and diverse nature of the plants that make up a habitat, and are critically important to ensure that the animals have a chance to survive within the area as well.  Everything from insects to elephants depend on plant life to support them or their food supply, and without plants, we’d all be dead very quickly.  Many plants also have a inter-dependent nature, and without one of these plants present, the others cannot survive.  If too many of anything is present, they begin to starve out the others too.

Such is the nature of savannas as well.  Savannas are grasslands with occasional large trees, these trees distinguish the savanna from the prairies, where there are no large trees.  Savannas depend on fire for survival as well, for without these fires to reduce the brush and trees, soon these large plants shade out the smaller plants and grasses.

Savannah with many pitcher plants

Savannah with many pitcher plants

National treasures such as this are important.  We need them.  Who knows how long we’ll be lucky enough to have them, with the current philosophy in Washington D.C.  Do your part to protect them–it’s important for our grandchildren and their children’s children, for without such natural areas as these…we’re going to lose a lot more than a few jobs.  The same goes for national treasures such as Dr. Bob…without his “botanical walks” and other education endeavors, the world would be a much poorer place.  His enthusiasm, easy manner, and knowledge is a real treat!

Many thanks to the Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve for the program today!  We really enjoyed it!

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One Response to “Botanical Walk at the Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve”

  1. Rufus' Food and Spirit Guide April 16, 2011 at 7:16 pm #

    Great detail shots!

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