About Fred Paillet

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So far Fred Paillet has created 17 blog entries.
16 12, 2021

The Great Boston Mountain Delta

By |2021-12-16T10:19:47-06:00December 16th, 2021|Categories: Pack & Paddle, Winter 2021|Tags: |

Long ago during the Coal Age the rugged Ozarks were the western coast of North America as rising and falling sea levels caused the scene to alternate between shallow tropical seas and coastal swampland. Continental drift had placed ancient Arkansas on the equator and the collision of land masses caused a great arc of rugged mountains to extend from eastern Canada around to become the ancestral Ouachita range. This collision had produced a single continuous land mass (Pangea) extending all the way over the south pole. That, in turn, caused great ice sheets to come and go, as driven by periodic shifts in the shape of the earth’s orbit – the same shifts that have caused ice sheets to come and go in our present Pleistocene era. With the gentle slope on the edge of our continent, river deltas extended back and forth between southern Illinois and central Arkansas as ice sheets expanded and contracted. All the while, the advancing continental collision and build-up of sediments derived from mountain ranges being created caused river deltas to extend ever farther into our area. The sandstone deposited by those deltas would become the backbone of the Boston Mountains we hike on today. [...]

16 12, 2021

The Nature of Oaks: A Book Review

By |2021-12-16T10:19:05-06:00December 16th, 2021|Categories: Pack & Paddle, Winter 2021|Tags: |

BOOK REVIEW: The Nature of Oaks – The Rich Ecology of Our Most Essential Native Tree, by Douglas W Tallamy, 2021, 197 p. In this book an entomologist follows oaks through the year in describing the ecology of the tree. The Ozarks lie in what is nominally the oak-hickory forest zone, and witness trees studies show that oaks composed about 70% of the early historic forest when first encountered by land surveyors. This book presents oak ecology from a caterpillar’s point of view through the eyes of a veteran bug scientist, and there’s a lot going on behind the scenes. One of the most important class of oak predator, the weevil, uses “beaks” to drill eggs into acorns. Maturing larvae then make an exit hole to get into the ground after the acorns fall, while ant colonies use the convenient exit opening after they leave. Retention of withered winter leaves on lower branches of oaks is seen as a deterrent to browsers seeking nutritious buds. The author cites extreme variation of tree host species and their load of insect (caterpillar) consumers. Oaks have the largest array of such consumers compared to few for tulip tree and black gum. He suggests [...]

16 12, 2021

The Emerald Ash Borer is in Arkansas!

By |2021-12-16T10:18:55-06:00December 16th, 2021|Categories: Pack & Paddle, Winter 2021|Tags: |

In a recent visit to Pea Ridge Military Park, I was interested in seeing progress in eliminating invasive red cedar from the grounds. Cedar is notorious for invading old pastures in our area. Another tree that thrives in old fields is our white ash, a stately tree of upland forests. So, it was not unexpected to see large white ash trees left in the open forest when cedars are removed. What I had not expected to see was that these newly released ash trees (Pea Ridge photo) had large numbers of bare branches. I checked with a park ranger on his rounds and he verified that the emerald ash borer is now present at the park. We knew it was on its way and that all attempts at stopping the advance had been given up as futile (see the chapter of forest diseases in Ozark Forest Forensics). Pea Ridge 2021 This will be a serious loss to our old growth forests. And it’s not just white ash on uplands. Green ash is a major part of forests adjacent to wet prairie environments and stream bottoms. Blue ash is a relatively rare but important tree around limestone ledges such [...]

13 09, 2021

Henry Shreve’s Great Dam Removal Experiment of 1831

By |2021-11-04T17:17:39-05:00September 13th, 2021|Categories: Fall 2021, Pack & Paddle|

Removal of obsolete dams to restore watersheds to their natural working conditions is a major topic these days in environmental news. Many of us think of such dams as local perturbations on a stream that act as sediment traps and impediments to the natural migration of aquatic life. Fine-grained silt particles in the sediment collecting behind the dam retain a potentially dangerous reservoir for fertilizer and pesticide chemicals washing in from fields and residences. But the situation is much more complicated than that because the function of streams as sediment transport systems depends on a delicate equilibrium that extends over the entire length of the watershed. You can see how this works by recognizing that the force moving sediment is given by the slope of the streambed. If a location has more force available than needed, the extra force will allow the water to eat away at the banks to create meander bends. This, in turn, effectively lengthens the channel to reduce the slope. If there is not enough slope to move the sediment, then gravel-bar deposits will build up producing a braided streambed with an increased slope and an increased sediment load capacity. Of course, the process is a [...]

7 06, 2021

Geological Wonders of the Ozarks in Southeastern Missouri

By |2021-06-30T15:39:58-05:00June 7th, 2021|Categories: Pack & Paddle, Summer 2021|

When we think of geologic wonders in the Ozarks, they are most often associated with karst features like springs and caverns, lofty crags along bluff lines, and the historic legacy of lead-zinc mining. However, geoscientists also marvel over the one truly extensive midwestern exposure of the ancient (we are talking billions of years) exposure of the underlying crystalline “basement” rocks one normally associates with the glacially scoured Canadian Shield. Compare the ages of these rocks that predate the existence of anything more complex than simple bacteria with the “mere” 300-million-year age of the rocks that line the Springfield Plateau. The extensive area of these ancient rocks comprise the St Francois Mountains of southeastern Missouri celebrated by exhibits you can see in several state parks. Two of these are of special interest for geologically minded visitors: Elephant Rocks and Johnson Shut-Ins. Nearby you can visit a Civil War battle site overlooked by the ancient rocks of Pilot Knob and the igneous rock glades surrounding the highest point in Missouri. Elephant Rocks State Park contains a pink granite dome that exhibits the classic form of exfoliation where convex layers of rock separate from the central core as the weight of overlying rock [...]

9 03, 2021

Enhancing your Ozark Experience with a Nature Journal

By |2021-03-09T14:29:37-06:00March 9th, 2021|Categories: Pack & Paddle, Spring 2021|Tags: |

For many of us the time we spend in the outdoors amounts to the best part of our busy lives. That has prompted me to invent ways to make those times remain with me as long as possible. One way to do that is by keeping a natural history journal. It could start with the very practical aspects of a small notebook with recorded dates such as the time when a favorite wildflower can be found in bloom in some secluded ravine, or the best date to see migrating raptors at your favorite mountain overlook. It is always useful to have such information available for future reference. My interest in nature journals started early during my days in New England where I enjoyed John Hay’s poetic calendar of the arrival of spring on Cape Cod (The Run). Then on to Thoreau’s famous journal while on sabbatical and exploring the woods around my rented home in areas adjacent to Walden Pond. I soon had my own personal copies of the Lewis and Clark journals while living in Montana, and then the Ozark and Ouachita journals of Schoolcraft and Nuttall after arriving in Arkansas. All of these serve as useful examples of [...]

7 12, 2020

The Mystery of the Ozark Oak Leaf Gall

By |2020-12-07T12:34:24-06:00December 7th, 2020|Categories: Pack & Paddle, Winter 2020|Tags: |

You see them in the leaf litter in late summer on hikes in our oak and hickory woodlands. They look like tan golf balls, complete with the stippled surface texture that helps golf balls fly a little farther than they would with a smooth surface. But these balls are light as a feather, with parchment thin skin and an array of cobweb like strings for an inner texture. Ozark hikers often wonder what sort of fruit these are and where they came from. It turns out these are but one of many different varieties of leaf gall created by insects as part of their life cycle. There are lots of different structures developing out of oak leaves when their growth process is hijacked by insect pests for their own purposes. More than 800 insect species create galls on oak twigs, and over 700 of them are wasps. These particular galls are so perfectly symmetrical that many observers figure they must be some kind of exotic fruit and not just a deformed oak leaf. Some leaf galls are not nearly as noticeable as the papery balls described here. In the case of the round “golf ball” structures in question we have [...]

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 [...]


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