Stop 2 - Den Tree
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Flower bed
Flower bed on west side of the cabin by the parking lot.

Visitor kiosk
Visitor kiosk.

Owl box
Owl box mounted up the tree beside the trail.

Mary Cravens Trail
Welcome sign at the start of the Mary Cravens Trail. We now proceed into the woods.

White ash tree
Looking up at the large white ash tree.

Cavity in white ash tree
Large cavity high up in the white ash tree.

Stop 2 vicinity

Stop 2 vicinity and directions to the next stop.

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Things to do at this stop:

  • Look at the flowers in the garden.
  • Look at the bird feeders and nesting boxes.
  • Read the material on both sides of the visitor kiosk.
  • Go north 3 paces to a tree with an Eastern Screech Owl box.
  • Go 5 paces west to the base of a large white ash tree.
  • Look up 20 feet to see a small cavity.
  • Further up is a large cavity.

Standing at the visitor kiosk, look up at the largest tree just north of the trail. Much of the pleasure of observing nature is recognizing interrelationships. For example, this large tree is a male white ash. It is very tall, with a light gray, columnar trunk and a spreading crown. It is very old and has seen better days. Halfway up the trunk you'll see a large hole where an enormous branch broke off in 2005 during Hurricane Rita, exposing a pre-existing internal cavity.

Many of our older white ash trees contain such internal cavities interconnected by narrow vertical passages of wood infected by fungi and traversed by carpenter ants. Only the inert heartwood is affected: the living tissue of the inner bark is not attacked. The inner bark, in fact, continues working to close off a second, much older hole about ten feet up the east side of the tree. Years ago, that hole was home to a very sophisticated young raccoon that confidently watched passers-by from the opening. However, the gradual sealing has left an entry way so narrow that now nothing larger than a squirrel can use it.

Not only are most old ash trees in the sanctuary den trees, but the female trees also produce enormous quantities of single-winged seeds in late summer savored by birds and small mammals. Interrelationships are important here: food, water, and shelter are essential for all living creatures, and this tree provides both food and shelter. Most animals need a place to avoid foul weather, hide from enemies, raise a family, or just get a good night's sleep, yet a good den is hard to find. Ifyou observe a hole anywhere in the sanctuary, it is most likely a home. And with the exception of ants, bees, and wasps (who make up in numbers and armament for their lack of size), the hole is usually inhabited by the largest animal that can fit in it.

From this point onward, we will not dwell upon the interrelationships (although there are many). We have been demonstrating, of course, ecology-the science of how organisms relate to their environment and to each other. See how many other examples you can find as you continue the tour.

Directions to the next stop:

  • Turn east onto the Mary Cravens Trail.
  • Walk 20 paces to the bow wood tree on the left.
  • Walk 30 paces to the first tall loblolly pine on the left.
  • Look right to see the garden area in front of the log cabin.
  • Walk 30 paces and bear left to the second tall loblolly pine tree. This is just before the bridge over Rummel Creek.

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