Decorating and Wrapping

All trails at the Crossroads at Big Creek were rolled on Monday morning.  The 4 to 5 inches of new snow was very light and  powdery.  Some grass showing in a few areas but conditions should be fair to good for skate skiing.  With the cold weather,  we’ll have a good base forming.  Not enough snow for setting a track.


As we enter this joyful season of giving, most people are thinking about decorations and wrapping packages. Here at Crossroads at Big Creek, we can observe plants doing these things throughout the year.

Plants decorating?  Absolutely.  At least the ones that need to attract pollinating insects. The petals on flowers really have no reason for being, other than as decoration (and exuding a lovely scent) for their function is to catch the attention of bees, butterflies, hummingbirds….all of the creatures which, in visiting  plants, carry pollen from one blossom to another.

Actually, some flowers don’t even have petals, but their leaves become colorful about the time their flowers bloom. The obvious example this time of year is the popular holiday plant, the poinsettia. Most of the year, all of its leaves are green, but in December, the leaves surrounding the flowers turn bright red.  These plants are light sensitive (to the extreme) and their amazing color change is triggered by a ratio of hours of light to hours of dark.  Many of our spring wildflowers have petal-like  leaves, but this time of year, poinsettia plants are the most decorative.

When it comes to  packages, deciduous trees have the most wrapping to do.  Last spring, as soon as the leaves were fully expanded and capturing the energy of the sunlight by means of the marvelous process called photosynthesis, the trees began forming  buds. After they had manufactured food throughout the summer, the leaves died and fell from the tree. Their jobs were done.

But next year’s buds are ready. Every leaf that will unfold, every blossom that will grace a branch, every cell of plant tissue is neatly wrapped and waiting, not under the tree, but on the twigs of every deciduous tree.

During winter, it usually doesn’t hurt native trees to be frozen solid. In fact, their  buds are “programmed” not to open until after a period of cold. The tender buds are protected.  To prevent moisture loss, the tiny buds are wrapped in modified leaves called scales. These, in turn, are covered with waxes gums, resins, or tiny hairs.

When spring comes, and it will, the ground will thaw and roots will absorb water. Sap will rise and fill every cell of new growth.

This reminds me of soaking dried prunes, apricots and raisins to make Norwegian Christmas fruit Sup. Filled with water, the fruit swells to full size. And that’s just happens when water fills buds in spring. They swell and the little packages open.

Crossroads will offer a series of holiday-themed programs about decorating and wrapping, with a focus on nature. We know the holidays are a time for families (but  that sometimes, one member of a family needs to run secret errands). Kids should be accompanied by an adult, but if one adult would accompany children from several families–it might work out well for all involved.

Monday, December 16, at 3:30, Naturalist Joan Wilkie will present “Gifts for the Nature Lover.” Is there a birder or nature lovers on your gift list?   Joan  will help you with suggestions for gifts -in all price ranges–which will be treasured by the recipient. Or  nature-loving  kids might add an educational gift to their want-lists for Santa.

Tuesday, the 3:30  Family Program is: “Decorations from  Nature”  is a make- and- take workshop. Joan  will show you how to incorporate items from nature in your holiday decorations. this activity promises to be fun for all ages.

The Wednesday Program is “Nature Gift Wrap”, another make-and-take so participants can use objects of nature to create original paper to with which to wrap gifts.





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