Brookhaven, GA, September 1, 2016 – by Tom Reilly, Contributor – There’s heat, and there’s “August Heat.” “August Heat” begins in middle July, reaches a peak in the eighth month of the year, then leaves by fits and starts in mid September. August heat and humidity were already climbing as thirteen out of fifteen people invited to tour an actual “old growth forest” grouped around a Champion Dog Wood Tree. We took one photograph before beginning our long descent.
The group was varied. We represented such organizations as Arbor Guard, Atlanta Protects Trees, Eco-A, and the National Wildlife Federation. We had come to take more pictures, set up GPS coordinates, identify, and measure. We have identified some fifty types of flora along the walk in road, the ridge, and the stream bank. The trees and undergrowth have been coming and going here for over 130 million years, always springing from the same basic soil.
Trees were hard to appreciate from a distance. Since they were growing out of a valley, many were much taller and wider up close than what our suburbs could produce. The Loblolly Pine by the creek, with its four foot diameter, has a potential life span of over 300 years. The Green Ash had a leaf cover so high up it was thought that it was a mature American Elm at first, a survivor of the dreaded Dutch Elm disease of the early twentieth century. A record setting Carolina Silver Bell is twining through the undergrowth. A gigantic five trunk Sycamore is growing out of the creek bank, with a diameter equal to that of a dining room!!
The area’s other hard woods still have a pedigree reaching some forty million years: Water Oaks, Pignut and Red Hickory, Umbrella Magnolia, Sourwood, Red Hickory, Winged Elm, Ohio and Painted Buckeye, Box Elder, Tulip Poplar to name a few.
Groundcovers also have a long established foothold wherever Summer’s golden sunlight allows: A profusion of long forgotten May Apples, Doll’s Eyes, Blackberries, Milkweed, Solomon’s Seal, etc. Checking the creek bank right next to the water rewarded us with Autumn Fern, Lady Fern, and Maiden Fern. Jewelweed sued by some of our group’s Muscogee ancestors as a topical anesthetic still grows here. Invasive plants are also found, but can be easily contained. Deer, raccoon, coyote, fox, several species of birds, etc. still call this forest home.
This is a self sustaining environmental jewel. Once gone, it will never return. Brookhaven has accordingly committed to preserving it forever.
**Images provided by Kathryn Gable, Kathryn Kolb, Sandra Murray, Sally Eppstein. (And others)
A detailed list of the plants identified in Osborne Park are: