Islands of the Morning

October 16, 2007

I’ve just returned from vacation, including two weeks on North Carolina’s Outer Banks – swimming in the ocean, birdwatching, walking in the woods, and exploring the mainland swamps.  Each morning we walked down to the beach to greet the sun:

Atlantic sunrise

We walked in the complex old-growth maritime deciduous forest at Nags Head Woods, and wandered in the younger, denser, and more tropical palmetto forest at Buxton Woods:

Buxton Woods

On the mainland, we explored pocosins (pond pines, sphagnum moss, pitcher plants) and cypress groves draped with Spanish moss.  At Merchants Millpond State Park, we rented a canoe for a dreamy paddle around a lake filled with groves of bald cypress and tupelos:

water tupelo

These are Water Tupelos (Nyssa aquatica), which are more common in the Mississippi Valley.  They have large purple berries and their big leaves turn bright yellow before falling.  The Swamp Tupelo (N. biflora) is more common in the N.C. coastal plain swamps.  It likes slightly drier environments but still needs to have wet feet.  It has small blue berries and its leaves turn bright red.  Like the swamp-loving bald cypress, both species have swollen trunks.  But instead of “knees” like the cypress, tupelos a serpentine network of surface roots.

I have many more photos, notes, and memories to incorporate into new art projects, but for now I’m still sorting them out – and catching up with yardwork!

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2 Responses to “Islands of the Morning”

  1. judithornot said

    Love your photos! It sounds like a lovely, renewing sort of vacation. How did you find out about all these wonderful wooded areas and such to visit?

  2. ironwing said

    I’ve been vacationing on the Outer Banks since 1972, and have had a lifelong interest in the natural history of the area. Access to wooded areas on the islands is a bit obscure and required a combination of online research and asking the right locals. As in the rest of the country, those who want to preserve these areas (not develop them or turn them into ORV playgrounds) are a very tiny and embattled minority, so access isn’t advertised.

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