Category Archives: Gopher tortoise

Planted Longleaf, Okra Paradise Farms, Lowndes County, Georgia, 17 April 2012

These are the same longleaf planted in 2008, blogged 10 October 2010, burned a second time 16 December 2011, and greening and candling again February 2012.

Pictures of Gretchen Quarterman with the planted longleaf (Pinus palustris)
by John S. Quarterman for Okra Paradise Farms, Lowndes County, Georgia, 17 April 2012.

Almost all of them survived the prescribed burn, and many of them are quite tall. The planted little bluestem and big bluestem are also thriving, along with native verbena, and some less savory invasive exotics, including trash along the road. Plus Gretchen’s favorite: dog fennel! And along the fence row cedars, pecans, plums, grapes, wild cherry, and a gopher tortoise. Here’s a flickr slideshow:

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gopher hole

Gopher tortoise hole, cleverly dug under a root:

It’s probably this gopher.

A keystone species:

The gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus) is named for its burrowing skills. Its shovel-shaped forefeet dig burrows up to 40 feet long that shelter and house not only tortoises, but a virtual zoo. By one count, an astonishing 362 animals take refuge in these burrows, from gopher frogs and burrowing owls to an array of snakes and invertebrates, some species depend entirely on them. If we lacked the scientific concept of a keystone species–one with an impact far beyond that expected from its numbers–we’d need to create it for the gopher tortoise, given its importance in the longleaf forest ecosystem.

Picture of Gopherus polyphemus front porch by John S. Quarterman, Lowndes County, Georgia, 19 February 2011.

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Longleaf video by Nature Conservancy

With appearances by Moody Forest and people from there and from the Longleaf Alliance, not to mention gopher tortoises and indigo snakes:

Fire forest, yes! But they forgot to mention Smilax: catbriar, greenbriar, those vines that like to catch you in the woods.

Thanks to Gary Stock for the tip.

-jsq

Digging Gopher Tortoise

Had to chase her with the camera, but she eventually decided to dig in to get away from the dogs and me:

I noticed this gopher because the dogs kept yipping and running over to where she was. She eventually crawled off into the underbrush and went under, as you can see.

The pictures were taken with a wireless Ethernet camera, recorded by software run out of crontab every minute. The recording ends when it started to rain and I took the camera in.

Pictures by John S. Quarterman, Lowndes County, Georgia, 16 September 2009.

VDT: Quarterman Road project completed

The Valdosta Daily Times caught me working on being tactful.

Matt Flumerfelt’s writeup actually conflates two different county commission meetings, but gets the gist right:

The fate of the tree canopies lining the rural road were thought to hang in the balance. Several residents spoke in favor of the paving, citing dangerous conditions along the road during periods of stormy weather.

John and Gretchen Quarterman, whose ancestors lent their name to the country lane, led the fight to preserve the road in its original pristine dirt-road condition.

A longleaf pine on Quarterman Road. The forest along Quarterman Road is “a scrap of the longleaf fire forest that used to grow from southern Virginia to eastern Texas,” said John Quarterman following the ribbon-cutting ceremony. “This forest has been here since the last ice age.”

Quarterman Road, pre-paving, was the kind of dirt road down which Huckleberry Finn might be envisioned skipping barefoot with a fishing rod projecting over one shoulder.

It was the kind of road near which Thoreau might have planted a cabin.

“Many people don’t know that a longleaf pine forest has more species diversity than anything outside a tropical rain forest,” Quarterman said. “In our woods, we have five species of blueberries, …

Oh, the beaver will be mad. I forgot to mention the beaver.

The rest of the story is on the VDT web pages. More pictures of the event in the previous blog entry.

For pictures of what lives in the forest, see longleaf burning gopher tortoises, snakes, frogs, bees and butterflies, spiders and scorpion, and raccoon, and beautyberry, pokeberry, passion flower, pond lily, ginger lily, Treat’s rain lily (native only to south Georgia, north Florida, and a bit of Alabama), thistle, sycamore, palmetto, mushrooms, lantana, magnolia, grapes, yellow jessamine, dogwood, and native wild azaleas.

The VDT has a good picture of Gretchen cutting the ribbon.

But it’s not over just because one road project is completed:

“More people around the county seem to be paying attention these days. Commissioners tell us that already another road in the county has had its canopy saved during paving, and the commission has promised residents of Coppage Road that if their road is paved, their canopy will be saved. Commissioners even seem to like the idea of recognizing canopy roads as a feature of quality of life for residents of the county and for visitors.”

We have a forest. The county just has roads.

Now let’s go see what they’re doing to the rest of our roads. And schools, and waste management, and biofuels, and industry…. If you’d like to help, please contact the Lowndes Area Knowledge Exchange.