Monday, July 05, 2010

Worth the 17 year wait

Okay, first an addendum on the Hen-and-Chicks of 15 June. About a week later our paths converged again! The chicks were about half again as large, and flying by then (sort of)-- short bursts, and not too high, but then again Spruce Grouse are not exactly a tree-top flier anyways. And then about a week after that there they were again. The chicks were now twice the size of the initial encounter, quite a bit more confident and spread out quite a bit over a larger area, and flying quite well. I only saw about a half-dozen, but am not sure if there has been attrition or if I just didn't see all of them (quite likely since they were in thick undergrowth).


In 1993 (give or take a year) I got a pair of tiny Styrax japonica (Japanese Snowbell Tree, or Japanese Silverbell) tissue-culture starts through the Rhododendron Society of NS. They were rated as marginally hardy for NS, but at the price of the tissue culture plants it was worth trying out new things and pushing the envelope regularily. Along with the rest of that year's tissue culture plants they were eventually planted out in a nursery bed back in the woods, where I checked on them from time to time as they continued to grow slowly. One of the pair, meant to be pink-flowered if I recall, was lost one winter after surviving several years, the other just kept growing slowly but didn't flower that I can recall, although I have a vague recollection of a carpet of petals one year when I made a rare visit to that area. Early in June this year I noticed that it was covered with what looked like either buds or fertilized ovaries, I couldn't tell and hadn't been past that way earlier in the spring. Over a few weeks they remained stalled as far as size and apparent development were concerned.

This weekend I remembered to go back and check on the tree (it's now about 20 feet tall, having shot up with the wetter summers and milder winters of the last few years). Surprise, absolutely full of flowers, with an enchanting fragrance easily discernable from 20metres away. Stunning to most of the senses. So here's some photos; they're not great, it's hard to get the level of detail needed to appreciate the more distant views.
Oh yeah, in the first photo it is NOT the foreground grey stick with the pileated woodpecker excavations... but you knew that...

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