The grays of the deciduous trees and perennial greens of the cabbage palms and slash pines are showing themselves now along with thousands of tree swallows. Sounds are crisp and loud as I walk through the rhythmic calls of a mixed flock of warblers, killdeer courting, eagles chirping and hawks screeching. The Pileated woodpecker taps out a rhythm on what sounds like a bass xylophone. But framing the water’s edge is a quieter story.
They climb up and drape themselves over the myrtle that grows along the receding water line of the pond cypress swamp, bordering the wet prairie and reaching out to the rising winter sun. Like sunflowers they track the low route of the light against the sky with the blossoms always pointed toward the light. When the grays and greens of winter set in they announce their abundant presence with shades of lavender. The beautiful and demure Carolina Aster, Aster carolinianus, continues to bloom through the year peaking in the drier seasons of fall and winter. I have been observing this common perennial vine for over two years, now at a height of six feet. A wonderful fragrance, it is a nectar source for both queens and monarchs. Low on the ground, equally at home with the wet edge is the blue mist flower, another from the aster family. This prolific annual has some showy bluish pink flowers and provides nectar to some of our skippers.
Also, along the border, but louder in effect is the coastal plain willow, Salix caroliniana in yellow bloom with its pollen tormenting my immune system, knocking me back with a severe headache. The willows march through our wet prairie adjacent to the pond cypress year after year. With no fire or mechanical control they are the invasive leaders in what will be a succession of trees including maples and cypress that transform the marsh into a swamp. Until the grasses disappear completely I will suppress that future vision and relish these quiet soulful present moments with the blue, lavender and yellow flower arrangements between these two habitats.