Sunday, April 13, 2014

April Gold

Golden yellow is the color of April in central Carolina. 
Most of the out of doors seems entwined in the glowing golden tendrils of Carolina jessamine, and everything else is coated in the golden yellow pollen of the pines.

Outcrops of shale, utility poles, fenceposts and every available tree become a trellis for this lovely sweet-scented climber, and no milestone passes without a sighting as the travelers make their way north toward Chapel Hill.  

With the golden sunshine comes heat, warmth enough to disrupt the reptiles' winter-induced torpor, and this recently roused northern water snake crosses the travelers' path in rural Chatham County.

After an assist across the blacktop and down to the bank of the stream, it responds with its best cottonmouth imitation,

flattening its head and striking repeatedly, all the while releasing an odiferous musk most foul. 

Taking this poor display of gratitude in stride, the travelers move on toward the NC Botanical Garden in Chapel Hill.

Upon setting out to explore the Garden's nature trails, another reptile encounter, this time a beautiful but retiring female five-lined skink.

The trail entrance is guarded on the other side by a thicket of sweet shrub, whose pollen-dusted blossoms are just beginning to waft their luscious fruity scent onto the breeze.

Just down the slope, closer to the creek, the red buckeye, green leaves sporting their own thin coat of yellow pollen, nears full bloom itself.

Joining the ubiquitous spring beauty in the deep rich soil of the bottomlands, wild blue phlox adds its color to the mix.

And rising from a logjam of debris wedged against the base of a stream-side tree, one of the sessile trilliums, a toadshade, bursts forth too, in bloom.

Casting long shadows in the morning sun, star chickweed rises up on hairy stalks by the trailside,

and a gathering of azure bluets, or quaker ladies, assembles next to an exposed root in the middle of the trail.

A bit further up the slope and a few feet above the forest floor, a singular cluster of pinxster azalea blossoms adds its name to the list of notables on this golden April jaunt.

A less-reticent male skink poses patiently for a picture as we pass his perch on the mossy bark,

and a keen-eyed traveler spots a curiously shaped fungus at the base of the lizard's tree.

First one, then another pollen-dusted yellow morel comes into view, hiding in plain sight among last year's leaves and sweet gum balls.

April gold, indeed...

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