Home of the Practically Perfect Pink Phlox and other native plants for pollinators

Monday, July 7, 2008

Sun Salutation at Couchville Cedar Glade



Couchville Cedar Glade is special. If you get a chance to visit a glade...go. There is nothing quite like its stark beauty.

Here's what Thomas Hemmerly, author of my favorite book, Wildflowers of the Central South has to say:

"The cedar glade micro-environment is a harsh, imposing one. Summers are hot and dry, and the thin, exposed soil dries out soon after rains. Winters are cold and wet; rains are more frequent, and evaporation rates much slower. Plants and other organisms must have life cycles synchronized with these changing conditions. Once occupying approximately 5 percent of the Central Basin, cedar glades have been considerably reduced in extent by man's activities. As a result, some of the plants indigenous to the glades are in peril."

Now onto the the trail....




April 2008

June 2008...It's greener and the shrubs are fuller... all the late winter/early spring annuals have bloomed and gone to seed. It's getting dryer in the glade. July and August will bring serious heat and drought.

But, I was heading to the glade to see Tennessee Coneflower in bloom. Tennessee Coneflower/Echinacea tennesseensis is endemic to cedar glades. It's found naturally growing and thriving in only five places all within 14 miles of Nashville. I have been looking forward to this since last summer!

I knew what to expect, but I wasn't prepared for the magnitude...



of this...


Fields of Tennessee Coneflower. Did I say fields? This is a colony of coneflowers. This is what Couchville Cedar Glade is about...it's the largest colony of coneflowers growing in its native habitat. Now that the Coneflower is federally protected, we will get to see these fields of flowers for a very long time.

But that's not all! Look closely! (click to enlarge). Just look and see if you notice what I noticed? Do you see it?

Each and every one of the coneflowers is facing in the same direction...eastward, toward the sun.

A perfect Sun Salutation that will be continued all day long...They will keep their lovely faces turned toward the sun as it moves through the sky!


Other flowers are known to follow the sun, the sunflower, for instance, but it's rare that we get to see fields of them staring adoringly at the sun. Nor are they an endangered species and grow under such harsh conditions.


In case you haven't seen enough

Aren't they lovely?
This isn't one big field. It's several fields all connected by small woodlands of Juniperus virginiana, Hypericum and Aromatic Sumac. The soils are deeper there, maybe 8 to 12 inches. The soils in the fields are much shallower...2 to 8 inches.

Coneflower can't be stopped by shallow soil..it has a tap root that reaches down to find cracks in the underlying limestone bedrock. In fact, too rich a soil makes the coneflower stems weak.

There is more to the glade then coneflowers!

There is this odd spongy growth.

and decaying matter is home to mushroom and other fungi.

There is the every present and incredibly beautiful...limestone.

Wildflowers like Butterfly Weed and Ratibida (pinnate prairie coneflower).


We also saw deer....a first!



and more coneflower.

You can see that the coneflower is growing in extremely rocky and shallow soil. Seeds are dispersed and fall to the ground. As it grows, it sends it taproot down into the shallow soil until it finds a crack in the limestone. The taproot can reach the water and soil to support its life during the hot dry months of June and July. A truly amazing plant.

Thank you for joining me on my tour of the glade...I hope you enjoyed the coneflowers as much as I did? It's a special place, beautiful in a unique way. If you want to know more or if you plan to be in Tennessee ...go here for a list of glades open to the public. I know you'll love them, too.

This post is copyrighted and cannot be used without the express permission of Clay and Limestone. Unauthorized use will result in legal action.

Namaste.

Gail


May our heart's garden of awakening bloom with hundreds of flowers.

Thich Nhat Hanh

36 comments:

  1. Thanks for the tour. They are so cute! Just like sunflowers and I do like that when they move. Amazing.

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  2. Tina,

    You were up early today! How was the garden this morning?

    Tennessee Coneflower is a cutie pie. There is one problem... all day sunshine is absolutely necessary!

    I also like the other coneflowers. They are just about the best summer flowering plants.

    Gail

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  3. Gail, I think I am in coneflower heaven! Coneflowers are my favorite perennial; it's wonderful to see so many of them growing in the wild like this. I think I would be more motivated to walk if I had a trail like this nearby. I might even do a sun salutation of my own in such a field!

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  4. Rose,

    Absolutely it is coneflower heaven! The glade is a bit different from most places you might walk but you would love the coneflower and it is everywhere. I am so glad I got over there before the end of July...
    Since I started blogging getting myself out the door to walk each morning is getting harder! You are all so much fun to hangout with!

    gail

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  5. What an interesting niche ecosystem, not to mention pretty. I find the way plants and animals adapt to specialty conditions fascinating. Having your taproot explore the cracks for water is a handy adaptation. Your picture of them sunbathing en mass shows how well this adaptation works. All of the wildflowers look so pretty in the cedar glade setting.
    How fortunate that the area is protected.

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  6. Hi Gail, you are such a service to the natives in your area. I need to add this echinacea to the group here. Do you think they would mix with the others to make a new variety? I always wonder about that with all the insects that visit so many, how would you even try to keep the seeds pure? Maybe it doesn't matter here, like it would in the protected area. I havee some of that spongey growth in one of my hypertufa troughs. It is growing, I thought it was some kind of moss or lichen. It was on a rock by the side of the road in North Carolina. That is where most of the mosses in the troughs originated. I love it.

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  7. Those coneflowers are beautiful. It's so interesting to see the variety in native flowers. Thanks for the walk.

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  8. Gail, that is an awe-inspiring sight. You've got me curious ... now I have to check out my coneflowers and see if they follow the sun!

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  9. Northern shade,

    I am so glad you came by to enjoy the coneflowers! This is a particularly interesting eco-system and has only recently been appreciated. It was viewed as waste land by farmers...and paved over for parking lots, roads and trailer parks. They are pretty massed like that!

    gail

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  10. Frances,

    Thank you...I do want others to appreciate them, too! Yes, grow them. They do indeed cross pollinate! The offspring is great looking...a deeper color and no recurved petals. Also, they tolerate shade better; which is perfect for my garden. I will try to save some seeds for you...the finches often get there first.

    gail

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  11. vertie,

    Glad you enjoyed them...I can't help but think they would grow quite happily in Austin! Rocky Top is a named variety if you are looking for some!

    gail

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  12. Gail--Thanks so much for sharing the pictures of the coneflowers. They are one of my favorite flowers, and I've never seen so many of them. I have a lot of the echinacea purpurea--they flourish here, and the garden fills up with goldfinches when the seeds form.

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  13. Cindy,

    Hi! Mine don't just these cutie pies!
    You could give these guys a try in your garden.


    Gail

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  14. cosmo,

    You would love these coneflower! I just now thought of all the birds visiting those fields...Can't wait to see if they do on my end of July visit! Thanks for getting my brain in gear!


    gail

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  15. Nice pictures Gail! Wasn't the Tennessee coneflower once thought to be completely gone? It sure is making a comeback. I would love to have a bit of it growing wild on our hillside. It sure beats the Queen Anne's lace that is everywhere! That spongy growth might be a kind of lichen. I don't know for sure though. It reminds me of silver mound a little.

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  16. I have walked the fields of Bluebells in VA and the fields of Bluebonnets in TX.
    Now the fields of Coneflower in TN through your eyes!
    There is nothing more beautiful then a field of flowers… Thanks for sharing.

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  17. How wonderful that is! I had no idea that Coneflower followed the sun. The kind we have growing wild around here looks the same all day. Yours is so charming.

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  18. skeeter,

    Glad you enjoyed the tour. It is really something to see all the coneflowers in bloom at the same time!

    Fields of Bluebells in Virginia sounds delightful. I have seen Bluebonnets in Texas and they are really cool! It's a delight to be able to see all that this beautiful earth offers.

    gail

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  19. Dave,

    Yes they thought it was extinct until Elsie Quarterman rediscovered them in 1969...she worked to get them on the Federal Endangered Species list in 1976. You can find them in 3 TN counties...Davidson, Wilson and Rutherford.

    They would look lovely anywhere as long as the soil wasn't too rich.

    gail

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  20. mmd,

    They are cute and charming the way they follow the sun...But as I said they need blah soil and FULL sun or they lay across the bed reaching for their sun god;)

    gail

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  21. Funny! I just took a test on someone's blog yesterday, "What flower are you?" and I was a coneflower. I am in good company. These are awesome in mass like that. It just makes your heart jump to see a sight like this. Thanks Gail, for sharing with us.

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  22. eve,

    There is a quiz on one site that tells you what spice you are!

    Coneflowers are pretty cool plants...evidenced by how many different varieties are introduced each year! Not sure I like the ones that look like they have an odd growth on their cone! But these coneflowers are great...I wish you could see the colony, it is wonderful.

    gail

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  23. Thank you, Gail! Beautiful areas and plantings. I spent Sunday afternoon with my husband; first of all, chopping thistles out of the prairie he's worked on during these past several years. Next, we took a short woodland walk, and then back to the prairie for flower photos. :-) I plan to make a posting of the afternoon very soon. Our purple coneflowers and gray headed coneflowers are a bit behind yours, so I'll wait a couple of days to take more photos. ;-)

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  24. shady,

    Hello! I can't wait to see your prairie....you said your husband has been working on it for a few years, have you posted photos before? I would love to see what he is doing!

    I wish these were my coneflowers! If I had property like this I would be dancing! No watering...all the plants have adapted to extreme weather without the help of a gardener! It is a cool place...when it's wet during the winter there are late winter and early spring flowering annuals that are truly lovely...then when the dry of summer takes over there are these wonderful coneflowers that tolerate wet winter and dry summers.

    Nature is amazing!

    gail

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  25. Gail, thank you so much for sharing your trip through the glades. All the pics are so beautiful. I really enjoy your post. It helps me to realize just what I'm missing. When I left Tn. I was too young & too stupid to learn all I could & take pics of plants of my native home base. I miss it very much now that I'm older & I hope a little wiser.
    We have the moss looking plant here that grows in deep woods. Not very many plants grow where it does. We also have the cave situation of limestone caves, sometimes causing cave-ins of upper levels causing a sink hole. Some have swallowed homes, car lots & such.Also parts of roads. You never know if you may be swallowed by a cave-in. Very sandy sail here. Hard to grow things.
    Do keep us up to date on the glade.

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  26. lola,

    I didn't learn to appreciate most anything about St Louis and Missouri when I was younger living there! We just don't connect to that unless someone takes the time to teach us. By the time our son was born I was into the land and gardening so we took our kid to parks and educated him! It worked!

    It sounds like you are learning about where you live and the fsacinating topography and soil structure! It would certainly be unsettling to have a sink hole open up in your yard or even down the street. Very scary. If you said where you live and I forgot forgive me and tell me again!

    I will keep you updated here at my blog about the glade, I am so glad you like it! I really do, too!

    gail

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  27. Gail, I always really enjoy your posts, but this one was exceptionally well done and taught me a whole lot about the cedar glade ecosystem! Thanks for the lesson.

    I'm so glad they didn't pave this particular paradise and put up a parking lot! (apologies to Joni!) Those fields of coneflowers are simply amazing, and I'd love to have the space so we could have a field too (always wishing for more space, sigh).

    If you do manage to collect some seeds, I'd love to give them a try next year in the garden, though I think I would give them their own special space to keep them as "pure" as possible (if that's possible!).

    That Hypericum (do you know the species? is it alternifolius?) was neat to see growing wild, though I'd run from the Sumac. I'm not violently allergic to many plants, but that one is worse for me than poison ivy!

    You've got a great gardening community going here! Love spending time with everyone here. :-)

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  28. What a beautiful place! It seems like a dream of mine. I would love to walk through a field or meadow that was littered with beautiful flowers. The coneflowers are lovely, and they make that area just amazing!!! Thanks for the picture tour!

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  29. IVG,

    I am so very glad you like the glade and this post. Thank you....I love Cuchville and each time I go, it's a bit different. It's a very unusual natural area! We plan to go to some of the other glades soon.

    I hope you know how much you are appreciated in this community; you always add to the conversation! Plus, it's been a delight to get to know you and your garden better.

    Seeds...I will if those yellow birdies leave me some!

    gail

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  30. DP,

    That would be a good dream...walking through fields of flowers. I have always wanted to see the Alpine flowers in bloom...

    It would be wonderful to have enough property to have a prairie garden.

    You and Cam could visit the glade! It's just before Mt Juliet on I-40 East..or you can go to The Stones River site in Murfreesboro, there are several other natural areas.

    Btw, thanks!

    Gail

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  31. IVG,

    oops... Hypericum frondosum! There is a named variety...Sunburst that is quite lovely. It has good looking peeling bark that gives it a nice winter appearance.

    Gail

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  32. How beautiful those native coneflowers look. That is a wonderful place to walk and take photos.
    Marnie

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  33. Thank you for the tour. It looks like a really unique place and you are lucky to be near it. I think it is so important that these places are protected before they fall victim to development and get covered over with more vinyl villages. I love when I am out in the wild and encounter some of the things I like to grow at home, and I would really like to see the coneflowers in their native habitat. I grow E. purpurea and it is one of the few perennials I have that behaves like a wildflower. It seeds itself easily in my garden and I have given many away.

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  34. Gail, what a beautiful place. I love coneflowers and the birds their seed heads attract to the garden.

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  35. Hi Gail, Fl. is where I hang my hat. N.E. zone 8a/8b. I sure would like to try growing the Tn. coneflower here. I have brought small trees back & they were doing fine. Sadly they are at the old home.

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    ReplyDelete

Let us be grateful to people who make us happy;
they are the charming gardeners
who make our souls blossom.


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