Tuesday, April 26, 2011


The next Monday, Coty and I explored Ribbonwalk.  This is not part of the Greenway system, but is a nature preserve, now managed by the Mecklenburg Parks and Recreation Department.  Covering 188 acres, just north of the intersection of I-77 and I-85, this spot is a little woodland oasis.

What I love about this nature preserve is the variety of habitats and seral stages, from a Piedmont old field, through the various stages - young pine forest, mature pines, young hardwood forest to a climax mature hardwood forest.  A very unique feature is the Beech Grove with a number of very large American beech trees which are estimated to be 150-200 years old.  This particular grove of trees has been designated a Treasure Tree Grove and there are some massive and beautiful old beeches.

There are a few very old white oaks, as well, including this one which has been wired from the top to the ground to protect it from lightning strikes.  Several of the old scags  are the remains of trees that were struck by lightning.

We were shocked to see this beech, one of the "treasure trees" that had fallen, probably in one of the big storms we've had in the last few weeks.  It still had green leaves on it, so it's demise was very recent.  I climbed around on the tree and felt like I was walking on the back of an elephant!  Not that I've ever walked on an elephant's back, mind you, but I imagine...

When the beech fell, it took out a bridge and several smaller trees.  It left a huge gap in the canopy, as well.  So sad to see it down, but when we looked at the trunk, it was rotten in the middle.  It was one of the largest and oldest trees in the grove.

In addition to the woodland habitat, there are two ponds and a wetland area.  Beavers appear to be very active.  A beaver lodge can be seen on one of the ponds and a beaver dam crosses another.  We saw fresh beaver work, small trees chiseled to a point when they are cut down.  People do fish in these ponds. We met a man enjoying the quiet, fishing the first pond you come to - he told us he comes out to Ribbonwalk to get away from the world.  It is a lovely spot close to the city to do that.

We went in the middle of the day, so not the best time for birding, but we did see a great blue heron, mallards and Canada geese, a variety of songbirds, and we heard a barred owl.

I took both of my classes back to Ribbonwalk in the following week.  It's a perfect spot to observe ecological succession and to appreciate big, old, beautiful trees.  Kudos to the folks who worked hard to preserve this spot and keep urban growth from overtaking it.

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