Thursday, October 22—Saline County, Arkansas, Natural Areas

Kay had a slow day today, unusual for her, with only a manicure and pedicure scheduled.

With an impending angiogram and possible stents, I wanted to make photographs today. Arkansas, the “Natural” state, is blessed with an abundance of natural areas. And, some of these areas are ecologically significant; rare plants, animals, and natural communities are found within their bounds. The Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission (ANHC) focuses on science-based conservation to protect these ecologically significant areas. Where we live, on the east side of Hot Springs Village in Saline County, there are four of these areas: Middle Fork Barrens, Alum Fork, Mills Park, and Lorance Creek. Dan Olson and I had visited two of these, Middle Fork Barrens and Alum Fork, chasing butterflies, dragonflies, and wildflowers. Today, we opted to visit the other two.

Lorance Creek Natural Area is primarily a shallow, groundwater-fed swamp that spreads out along both sides of Lorance Creek. The natural area is situated at the transition zone between the sandy uplands of the Coastal Plain and the flat lowlands of the Mississippi Alluvial Plain and includes examples of each. With few insects flying about, today’s photos focus on mushrooms and leaves. Fall colors in central Arkansas are near their peak intensity, somewhat subdued by the long drought experienced the last few weeks.

NOTE: Click on each photograph for an enlarged view.

Mushroom spotted immediately after leaving the car
Sunlight casting its glow through the mushroom gills. (Thanks to Dan Olson for instruction.)

Leaves were falling like large fluffy snowflakes
The deep purple of these “berries” was astounding

Even “beauty and the beast” were observed in the forest.

Located in the City of Bryant, Arkansas, Mills Park Natural Area is a unique example of an urban natural area. This 10-acre tract, within an 80-acre park complex, harbors acidic wooded seeps and represents the once extensive forests that occurred across the Coastal Plain.

The dead and the living both signaled the changing seasons.

Continuing the theme of mushrooms and leaves, Mills Park offered a variety of each. It’s amazing how many variations of mushrooms appear in nature—and, I have only touched the surface.

If only leaves could tell their story…

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