Outdoors Magazine

Profligate Man-willow

Posted on the 07 April 2015 by Hollis
Profligate Man-willowA single willow tree – a male – grows in a dry canyon in the rocky hills just east of Laramie.  This is hardly willow country.  But years ago a seed landed on a well-shaded spot where water runs off the canyon rim when it rains.  It germinated successfully and obviously grew well enough.  Maybe there was a series of wet years back then.  Now in maturity it produces a canopy full of flowers in late winter and early spring, long before the leaves appear.
Views from the ground:

Profligate Man-willow

Male willow flowers in full bloom.

Profligate Man-willow

In the deepest shade, catkins still are mostly silky fur.

A month ago the minimalist flowers – just a hairy bract, a few nectar glands and several stamens – were hidden in furry catkins emerging from buds.  Now most catkins have elongated, and the yellow anthers and pollen are clearly visible.  “Prolific” comes to mind when I think about the amount of pollen on this tree … yet that seems inappropriate when the likelihood of landing on a receptive female is so low.  Maybe “profligate” is better.Views from the canyon rim:

Profligate Man-willow

Looking west; willow in center.

Profligate Man-willow

Looking east, up canyon; willow lower right.

Profligate Man-willowLots of bees and flies were visiting the catkins, but in looking through all my photos I found none.  A breeze picked up while I was on the canyon rim, and many of the photos were largely out of focus.  So I took some of the guys home for portraits.Profligate Man-willowProfligate Man-willowThe willow is in one of several small limestone canyons just east of town.  We’re lucky to have them so close.  They’re short and not very deep, but still there’s enough of interest in and around them to make for pleasant nature walks.  From my house, a 10-minute drive and 15-minute walk lead to the willow.It’s dry country as Google Earth shows.  Scattered junipers and limber pines grow on rocky slopes, canyon rims and in drainage bottoms.  Otherwise it’s mostly grass and shrubs.  Just upstream from the willow canyon is an interesting area of flat-lying mostly-barren limestone with small hardy plants growing in crevices.Profligate Man-willowProfligate Man-willowThe canyon is only twenty feet deep at the most, but it’s narrow and winding, with enough rock to make it scenic.  As the season progresses, it will be interesting to see if any limestone endemics grow on the rocks – plants restricted to calcareous habitat.

Profligate Man-willow

Small but scenic limestone canyon.

Profligate Man-willow

Profligate Man-willow

Layered limestone has lots of crevices, nooks and crannies – habitat for tough plants.

Profligate Man-willow

Field assistant surveys from rim.

Profligate Man-willow

Looking downstream towards Laramie.

An artist's view:

Profligate Man-willow

Painting by Laramie artist John D. Baker.

“Observation and study of the natural world informs my artwork … I try to get at the visual essence of a thing or a view that inspires me to make an image.”

This is my monthly contribution to Lucy Corrander’s amazing Tree-following phenomenon. For the latest news about trees and their followers from around the world, see the gathering now underway.Profligate Man-willow

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