Saturday, November 8, 2014

Botany is Alive and Well in Rural Oklahoma

On Saturday, October 25, I took our three botany majors and one prospective botany major to a nearby Nature Conservancy preserve, the Pontotoc Ridge preserve, for its annual fall tour. First, notice that we have at least three botany majors, in a university of about 4000 students. And they seemed to really enjoy visiting this natural area.

Part of the forest area is near a creek. The major tree species appeared to be red oak (Quercus rubra; Fagaceae). But the largest trees, though fewer in number, were bur oaks (Quercus macrocarpa; Fagaceae), some of which were enormous, and into which one of our brave botany majors climbed.

The bois-d’arc trees (Maclura pomifera; Moraceae) were all dead, at least the ones we saw. This could be due to the normal successional process, which began when the bur oaks were the only trees in the field, and in whose partial shade the red oaks grew up and shaded out the bois-d’arcs.

We also visited a limestone cave, in the runoff of which can be found unique taxa of invertebrates. This year, however, due to the ongoing drought, there was no water. There has been plenty of rain this year in Oklahoma, but in scattered rainfall events. The topsoil was moist; grass in yards and hay in fields grew luxuriously. But the groundwater was not recharged. While the summer was not very hot, the autumn has been unusually warm: it was 90 degrees on October 25.

October 25, 2014, also happened to be the twentieth year of the Pontotoc Ridge preserve, and the dedication of the new building with facilities, small but good, for visiting researchers to live. A large part of the success of this Nature Conservancy effort has been due to Jona Tucker, the director, who graduated from our university with a botany degree in 2001.

I wanted my students to see that botany majors can go into numerous lines of work, from lab research to conservation, and to see that botany is alive and well.

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