Witnessing all the wonders of nature

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 6, 2003

What a glorious display of nature's wonders we enjoyed on our trip to Tannehill Historic State Park this spring.

An abundance of wildflowers marched along the roadways. One kind with yellow blossoms covered large fields. My husband said he thought some of them were plain old bitterweeds.

Among my favorite wildflowers are primrose/buttercups. (My husband calls them buttercups, I call them primroses.) They are dainty, beautiful pink, sometimes white wildflowers with a bit of yellow powder in the center that rubs off on your nose if you sniff them. They apparently thrive in poor dirt and along highways.

I feel sure that many of the wildflowers were planted on the roadsides, like the black-eyed susans (or their close relatives). We also saw mounds of little purple flowers. Those pretty spots of color helped break the monotony of the highways.

When we left with our RV trailing behind us in late April, I kept my eyes especially peeled for the primroses. When we returned on May 4, they were in abundance between Tannehill and Montgomery. I even spotted a perfect circle of them on a little rise beside the road.

One day we walked the paved nature trail to John Wesley Hall's Grist Mill at Tannehill. It was an up-hill pull, but we forgot about our aching muscles while we stopped and read about what we passed on the way.

Along the trail were little posts with plaques that identified plants and trees that we have seen all our lives. Yet, we could not name some of them.

We stopped in front of a red maple tree. Its wood is used for gunstocks and boxes. Next we saw an American beautyberry shrub. It provides food for wildlife.

We learned that the redbud tree is the only wild American tree with purple flowers. I wanted to see the fruit of hearts-bursting-with-love, or strawberry bush, but it had already bloomed. A rose-colored capsule breaks out, revealing five dangling orange-red seeds.

We learned that the mockernut hickory tree is the most common hickory tree in Alabama. Its wood is used for tool handles. When I examined a sparkleberry shrub, I read that its wood is used for tobacco pipes.

A witch-hazel tree stood slightly off the trail. Some believe it has supernatural powers in witching for water and buried treasure.

We did not read the plaque beside one plant that grew close to the path. We just kept our distance from the poison ivy.

After our walk, I recognized a tulip poplar by its leaves that had dropped on a picnic table in the campground.

Nature's wonders are all around us. Even if we cannot identify them, we can enjoy them. So, take notice of the greenery and blooms on the roadside, walk in the woods or on nature trails and touch the bark and look at the leaves, but steer clear of the poison ivy.