One of my favorite places on the University of Illinois campus is the small pond that sits adjacent to Japan House at the University of Illinois Arboretum. It is a place that I have always found tranquil, even as the buzz of campus encircles it. There are also few places on campus where the changing of the seasons is as evident, so I have decided to document both the subtle and dramatic transitions of the year. Twice a month, I will visit the Japan House pond, photographing and noting the changes in the surrounding plants.
My first visit of the year — this morning around 10am — found the pond frozen solid, cross cut with animal and human tracks. The air temperature was 28F and rising toward an expected high of 37F this afternoon. An impending winter storm cast the sky a greyish-white, leaving little transition between the snow-covered ground and the horizon. From a distance, the bark of the oak, maple, hawthorn, alder and bald cypress that line the north side of the pond melt into a dark grey monotony. Upon closer inspection, details emerge.
The dried heads of Solidago sp. (Goldenrod) gently move in the breeze.
The slender male catkins and rounded female nutlets of Alnus glutinosa (European Alder) appear almost black against the snowy ground.
Colors begin to emerge in the buds of the trees and shrubs, as in the mahogany buds of Crataegus (Hawthorn). I believe the hawthorn that line the pond are Crataegus mollis, but I need to confer with more dedrologically-adept experts to be sure.
The hawthorn also provide interesting textures with their flaking bark and thorns.
The bud clusters of white oak (Quercus alba) that form a background to the hawthorn stand at the ready for spring.
Reddish buds and bark of red maple (Acer rubrum), interplanted with the white oak, provide the most saturated color around the pond.
I’m looking forward to my return in two weeks and to sharing what I learn about each of these plants that make up the flora of the Japan House pond.