Eugene Weekly : It’s About Time : 2.5.08

By David Wagner

Walking down to the ponds this morning, I said goodbye to two old friends, apple trees with the most delicious apples for passersby. One blew down last February, and one was cut only this month. I’ll miss seeing their blossoms. It makes me reflect that time is not measured only by hours, days, weeks or years but that it is also measured in life cycles. Life cycles may be very short or very long; none goes on forever.

Gray green lichens and tufts of dark green moss are prominent in the mowed grassy areas under old bigleaf maples and oaks. These have been blown down in winter storms. Paradoxically, this is the time of the year when they grow the fastest. Turnover of lichens, mosses and liverworts that grow on and blow out of tree branches are important sources of nutrients to the forest trees. Short-lived species sustain long-lived ones.

You can tell the western pocket gophers don’t hibernate. Their mounds pooch up even in this freezing weather. They are breeding through February and will produce litters next month.

Our flowering season begins in the middle of February. The osoberry, whose buds we examined in December, will burst forth by the end of the second week. Don’t take them indoors — they are pollinated by flies and so smell of something that attracts them, like old cat box odor. Blooming with the osoberry is our lovely spring beauty, called this because it is the first pink flower of the year.


David Wagner is a botanist who has worked in Eugene for more than 30 years. He teaches mosses and is president of the Eugene Natural History Society. He may be reached at