March 19, 2022 I hiked the Fire Tower and South Plateau Trails at Monte Sano State Park near Huntsville, Alabama. I issued a Post about the general wonders of Nature we encountered along the way: http://stevejonesgbh.com/2022/05/12/march-19-2022-on-the-fire-tower-trail-at-monte-sano-state-park/
That Post included several photos and observations about some tree form curiosities. Here are two without comment:
I’m fascinated with tree form oddities. I have also chronicled the nature of grape vines in our north Alabama hardwood forests in my Great Blue Heron Posts. This photo shows a large grape vine (genus Vitis) along the Multi-use Trail at Joe Wheeler State Park from the summer of 2020. Most casual hikers consider such vines, common in our maturing second-growth forests, as climbing vines.
People have the mistaken impression that muscadine, scuppernong, poison ivy, Virginia creeper, wisteria, and supplejack vines actually ascend the tree trunk to access the upper canopy. That is, these vines climb into the trees. Such is not the case. Our common forest vines are the same age as the trees in the forest. The vine seedlings germinated or vegetatively sprouted with the new forest. Picture a yellow poplar or oak sapling growing rapidly in an area where the prior forest has been blown flat by a wind storm. A grape vine, like the oak or poplar, is responding to the now-available full sunlight and fresh nutrients. The vines cannot stand on their own. They depend on trees to achieve verticality. They keep pace with the tree, securing their elongating shoots interlaced with the oak and poplar crowns. In this fashion, over the course of the 80-90-year span of the forest we hiked March 19, the vines achieve and maintain access to sunlight in the maturing main canopy. Their roots stay firmly planted in the forest soil 70-80 feet below.
I address the viny forest component because the tree-climbing pattern of Japanese wisteria caught my eye as we hiked recently at Monte Sano, leading me to muse with you on the spiral nature of some species of our north Alabama tree climbing vines. While in the forest I knew these were wisteria. Only upon further investigation did I confirm their identity as Japanese wisteria, an invasive. As we hiked, I heard various speculations as to why all that we encountered spiraled upward clockwise. Some offered the Coriolis effect, suggesting that vines spiral counterclockwise south of the equator. Others mentioned latitude as a controlling variable. I did not speculate.
Upon returning home, I learned that a diagnostic character of Japanese wisteria (Wisteria floribunda) is its counterclockwise spiraling. American wisteria spirals clockwise.
Alan S. Weakley, North Carolina based expert on southern flora, wrote this about the direction of spiral: Twining direction can be determined by looking at (or imagining) the vine twining around a branch or pole. Look at the pole or branch from the base (from the direction from which the vine is growing). If the vine is circling the branch or pole in a clockwise direction, that is dextrorse; if counterclockwise, that is sinistrorse.
So, the direction of spiral is not owing to an environmental factor; it’s genetically determined. Now the question is why the direction is hard-wired. Is there some evolutionary advantage in one way or the other deep in the genetic footprint? If so, why do Wisteria americana and frutescens twine in the opposite direction from their Asian cousin? I suppose that deeper mystery will remain for another day.
Spiraling Forest Vines
Spiraling Vines from Previous Woodland Hikes
A wider view of the left image shows that double twine dangling beside a sweetgum with two non-spiraling poison ivy vines.
Therefore, we have another question to ponder beyond why some vines spiral clockwise and some not. That is, why do some species catch a ride to the main canopy without spiraling at all? I admit to not having the answer. I’ll simply offer a few photographic examples of non-spiraling forest vines.
Non-Spiraling Forest Vines
Alabama State Parks Foundation
Thoughts and Reflections
I offer these observations:
- Lessons are written along every forest trail.
- Curiosity opens many doors to discovery in Nature; I implore you to be passionately curious.
- So much in Nature is hidden in plain sight.
Inhale and absorb Nature’s elixir. May Nature Inspire, Inform, and Reward you!
Note: All blog post images created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2022 Steve Jones, Great Blue Heron LLC. All Rights Reserved.”
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And a Third: I am available for Nature-Inspired Speaking, Writing, and Consulting — contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Reminder of my Personal and Professional Purpose, Passion, and Cause
If only more of us viewed our precious environment through the filters I employ. If only my mission and vision could be multiplied untold orders of magnitude:
Mission: Employ writing and speaking to educate, inspire, and enable readers and listeners to understand, appreciate, and enjoy Nature… and accept and practice Earth Stewardship.
- People of all ages will pay greater attention to and engage more regularly with Nature… and will accept and practice informed and responsible Earth Stewardship.
- They will see their relationship to our natural world with new eyes… and will understand more clearly their Earth home.
Tagline/Motto: Steve (Great Blue Heron) encourages and seeks a better tomorrow through Nature-Inspired Living!
Steve’s Three Books
I wrote my books Nature Based Leadership (2016), Nature-Inspired Learning and Leading (2017), and Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits: Stories of Passion for Place and Everyday Nature (2019; co-authored with Dr. Jennifer Wilhoit) to encourage all citizens to recognize and appreciate that every lesson for living, learning, serving, and leading is either written indelibly in or is powerfully inspired by Nature.
I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:
- I love hiking and exploring in Nature
- I see images I want to (and do) capture with my trusty iPhone camera
- I enjoy explaining those images — an educator at heart
- I don’t play golf!
- I actually do love writing — it’s the hobby I never needed when my career consumed me
- Judy suggested my writing is in large measure my legacy to our two kids, our five grand kids, and all the unborn generations beyond
- And finally, perhaps my books and Blogs could reach beyond family and touch a few other lives… sow some seeds for the future
All three of my books (Nature Based Leadership; Nature-Inspired Learning and Leading; Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits) present compilations of personal experiences expressing my (and co-author Dr. Wilhoit for Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits) deep passion for Nature. All three books offer observations and reflections on my relationship to the natural world… and the broader implications for society. Order any and all from your local indie bookstore, or find them on IndieBound or other online sources such as Amazon and LifeRich.