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About Fred Paillet

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So far Fred Paillet has created 11 blog entries.
26 08, 2020

Some Interesting and Confusing Ozark Vines

By |2020-11-12T15:01:23-06:00August 26th, 2020|Categories: Fall 2020, Pack & Paddle|

Some vines are a familiar part of the Ozark outdoors. We easily recognize grape vines and constantly worry about poison ivy. The latter makes us aware that Virginia creeper vines grow in the same environment as poison ivy and we know that three leaflets are bad while five are good (or at least harmless). The other vine we all know and often curse is the family of species known collectively as greenbrier. Greenbrier is common almost everywhere, entwining shrubs and encroaching on trails. The stems are thin but tough enough to trip a horse and are studded with spines that tear both flesh and clothing. Greenbrier is even a concern for gardeners, because birds spread the little blue-black berries far and wide, and once greenbrier seedlings are established in your flower beds, they are nearly impossible to extinguish. So, grapes are at least innocuous even if their fruit is either too sour or too seedy to bother with. Their vines keep mostly above our heads and their stems never carry any vicious spines. Two other common vines often escape notice because they look so much like the others we find so familiar. One of these is the rattan vine aka [...]

8 06, 2020

Pawpaw – The Tropical Fruit that Escaped to the Ozarks

By |2020-06-08T14:53:51-05:00June 8th, 2020|Categories: Pack & Paddle, Summer 2020|Tags: |

Many hikers in the Ozarks are puzzled to see extensive thickets of a kind of shrub with big oblong and vibrantly green leaves that look like they could be found along some tropical jungle trail. This is the pawpaw, a small fruiting tree that was once a useful food resource for Ozark and Appalachian settlers as related by Andrew Moore in his book Pawpaw. I concur with Moore’s observation that pawpaw fruit are not very common in our forests today and wonder how pawpaw could have been a significant part of rural folks’ diet in years gone by. But there are some back-to-the-land types who manage to forage for pawpaw fruit to sell at local farmers markets in Ohio and West Virginia. Part of the story may relate to differences in forest conditions or land use, and how those conditions affect pawpaw pollination. The tree blooms in early April with nickel-sized maroon flowers that attract flies rather than bees. The flower bears a fetid odor that would attract flies while the color resembles that of decaying flesh. Because extensive thickets of pawpaw develop by underground runners, they are essentially giant clones. Pawpaw flowers do not self-pollenate very well and pollen [...]

9 03, 2020

Experiencing a Virgin Forest in Arkansas at the Society Fall Meeting

By |2020-03-09T13:15:23-05:00March 9th, 2020|Categories: Pack & Paddle, Spring 2020|Tags: |

The mention of virgin Arkansas forest conjures up images of massive ranks of white oak columns or soaring canopies of stately shortleaf pine, but ecologists have found virgin forest hiding in plain sight all across America. These are modest forest plots that have remained uncut and undisturbed because they inhabit rough and non-arable land covered by crooked and unmerchantable trees. A decade ago Harvard researchers made news when they documented virgin forest adjacent to the Wachusett Mountain ski area within the metropolitan Boston area. More recently, the UARK tree ring lab showed that virgin chinquapin oak and post oak stands were growing on Mt. Kessler within Fayetteville city limits. Crooked and storm-battered trees there were as much as 300 years old. That was one factor that prompted the city’s purchase of the Mt. Kessler property to preserve it for future outdoor recreation. Ozark Society members recently had the opportunity to experience another Arkansas area of virgin forest – and one that covers a much more extensive area than the limited stand of oaks on Mt. Kessler. This was during our Society fall meeting in November at Queen Wilhelmina State Park lodge, where some of us hiked a five-mile section of [...]

12 12, 2019

In Celebration of the Farkleberry: Our Wild Ozark Blueberry

By |2020-01-21T18:04:58-06:00December 12th, 2019|Categories: News & Updates, Winter 2019|

Before there was Saturday Night Live there were the Farkleberry Follies. Founded in 1967, this performance convened every other year was a time when a collection of Arkansas journalists conducted skits to spoof state politics in general, and Governor Orval Faubus in particular. In a recent editorial, Rex Nelson reported that the main objective of the show was to “skewer the inflated egos of the political class.” The show got its name from an editorial by local cartoonist George Fisher who poked fun at the governor over a folksy meeting where Faubus had lectured a brush-clearing highway crew about the native species of shrubs in our region. One of the most obscure of these was the tree blueberry or farkleberry (Vaccinium arboretum) with its amusing name. There is a direct Ozark Society connection here because the family of current Ozark Society President, David Peterson, received one of the prized farkleberry awards bestowed from the hands of Dale Bumpers some 30 years ago on behalf of a folk music group founded by Fisher in Pulaski County. The shrub itself is especially common in the Ozarks and Ouachitas where it is found growing on the edges of cliffs and around rock ledges. [...]

4 09, 2019

The Myth of the Thong Tree

By |2019-12-12T11:44:31-06:00September 4th, 2019|Categories: Fall 2019, Pack & Paddle|

Informal outdoor lore in the Ozarks often includes references to something called a thong tree.  These are trees that have been bent over and forced  to grow upright from the far end of the pushed-over stem.   Lore has it that these are deliberate signs created by native American and early explorers intended to point the way towards some objective such as campsite or mountain trail.  There are a number of reasons to suspect this kind of story.  There are no documented references to thong trees in the journals produced by early visitors to our area like Schoolcraft and Nuttall.  Moreover, there are so many examples of such bent over trees that it is hard to believe that the sparse distribution of early settlers would need to mark so many trails.  The single known reference to trees trimmed by explorers to mark the way comes from French traders in northern Canada where waterways were disorganized into a complex maze by past glacier activity and the landscape is covered by a monotonous spruce forest.  Branches would be pruned on spruce trees located on prominent points of land adjacent to portages or river tributaries as a way of marking these locations.  Because [...]

3 06, 2019

What Will Global Warming Look Like in the Ozarks?

By |2019-07-23T14:16:39-05:00June 3rd, 2019|Categories: Pack & Paddle, Summer 2019|

Global change will affect the Buffalo River and the surrounding ecosystem along with the rest of the world, but do we have to worry about that in our lifetime? The experts are quoting a temperature increase of a few degrees. How big a deal could that be? After all, we see daily temperature changes of several tens of degrees. Maybe we would hardly notice a degree or two difference. Can we even expect to recognize that difference against the background of daily fluctuations? On the other hand, we know that greenhouse gasses have a major effect on how the planet absorbs heat, and that there has been a 40% increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. That sounds like a big change. Are we going to see a real impact on the Buffalo River in the coming decade? Let’s start with a couple of firmly established facts. First, it is obvious that the globe heats mostly at the equator and that the heat then moves down the temperature gradient towards the poles. That heat transfer occurs by turbulent mixing - a fancy way of saying that heat exchange occurs in the form of exchanging parcels of warm and cold air. [...]

6 03, 2019

Chert – One of the Most Common Ozark Minerals

By |2019-06-03T12:08:48-05:00March 6th, 2019|Categories: Pack & Paddle, Spring 2019|

As an outdoor enthusiast relocated to northwest Arkansas more than a decade ago, the observation of abundant chert was one of my very first Ozark impressions.  And it was not necessarily pleasant.  The chert attracted my attention in the form of baseball-sized angular rocks hidden in the deep leaf litter of Ozark National Forest hiking trails.  These potentially ankle-twisting nuisances came as a real surprise and forced me to pay far too much attention to my footing when I would rather have been enjoying pleasant fall scenery.  Almost at the same time I began to notice sections of trail constructed into the sides of hills that seemed to have been deliberately paved with gray gravel composed of similar angular rock fragments.  By now all of this is a familiar part of my local hiking experiences.  But what exactly is chert, and where did all the chert in the Ozarks come from?Chert is a glass-like form of rock composed of tiny quartz (silicon oxide) crystals verging on a true glass where molten rock cooled so quickly as to be left with no crystal structure at all.  Trace minerals mixed in with the silica give the various forms of chert their color.  Common [...]

10 12, 2018

Free-flowing Rivers Versus Dams

By |2019-06-03T12:09:37-05:00December 10th, 2018|Categories: Pack & Paddle, Winter 2018|

Many of us think of rivers and streams as fixed geographic features.  In fact, stream channels and the ecosystems that go with them are dynamic parts of our landscape that depend on a delicate equilibrium of natural forces.  Streams are characterized by a channel and surrounding alluvial flood plain that represent the geomorphic process of erosion and sediment transport. This channel structure results from an ongoing state of adjustment where local reaches of the stream are intimately interconnected with each other. A local change to the stream as seemingly inconsequential as occasional access for off road vehicles can affect the stream over large distances both up and down stream.  And it’s not just the structure of the stream itself.  The surrounding ecosystem depends upon the processes that create the stream environment.  Trees such as sycamore, box elder, and sweetgum are adapted to use exposed gravel bars as seedbeds.  Some of our favorite wildflowers require the rich soil of regularly refreshed alluvial soils that result from infrequent overflows during flood events. Dams, of course, represent an extreme alteration of the stream environment with especially severe consequences for the entire river corridor.  The body of stagnant water held by the dam causes the [...]

7 09, 2018

Buffalo River Bur Oak – A Blast from the Distant Past

By |2018-12-10T14:33:37-06:00September 7th, 2018|Categories: Fall 2018, Pack & Paddle|

The Ozark Plateau is considered to lie in what the Forest Service designates as the oak-hickory biome.  Early land office survey data show that Ozark forests were about 70% oak at the time the United States acquired the Louisiana Purchase.   The oaks growing on the ridges and cliffs around the Buffalo River come in so many varieties that many of us find it hard to tell one from another.  Some like white, black and post oaks are common and widespread, while others are associated with special habitats such as limestone outcrops (chinquapin oak) and poorly drained lowlands (pin oak).    Bur oak (Quercus macrocarpa) is a relatively infrequently encountered oak that grows throughout the Ozark region, telling an interesting story about our region’s deep past. Investigations of the prehistory of Midwest America showed that giant mammals such as mastodons and ground sloths once roamed our region while a great sheet of ice covered almost all of Canada.   Investigations at sites where such fossil remains were found showed that the vegetation associated with those fossils was very different from what is found in the Ozarks today.  Before the cause of these geologically recent glacial events were known it was sometimes thought that the [...]

28 08, 2018

The Trouble with Mussels

By |2018-08-28T14:56:25-05:00August 28th, 2018|Categories: Pack & Paddle, Summer 2018|Tags: |

Everyone who has ever floated the Buffalo River is familiar with freshwater mussels. Their shells litter the gravel bars and living mussels can be seen embedded in the rocks in riffles. Although most of us enjoying the Ozark out of doors think of these “river clams” as peripheral to our activities, the lowly mussel has played an inordinate role in our local economic history. This little creature has had a strong influence on industry as well as ecological management in Arkansas, serving as both an economic resource and an ecological management problem. The industry part is nicely summarized in an article in the March-April 2017 issue of Arkansas Wildlife. It all started with a late 1800’s pearl rush after the discovery of valuable pearls in White River mussels. In the meantime, Arkansas mussel shells were found to be a valuable source of mother-of-pearl goods in the manufacture of buttons. New cutting techniques and President Harrison’s protective tariff bill spawned a surge in button manufacturing based on blanks cut from White River mussels. The industry lagged during the depression, but then surged again when buttons had to replace zippers during WWII metal rationing. After that, the Japanese cultured pearl industry found that [...]