Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Moss Lesson in a Bateau

It was a beautiful day for a ride down a portion of the Vermilion River in a bateau, a shallow-draft, flat-bottomed boat which was used extensively across North America, especially in the colonial period and in the fur trade. The trip began at Vermilion Village, a restored Cajun-Creole Village located adjacent to the Lafayette Airport.

Our guides, Gregory, at the helm, and Dale, in the dark glasses, answered questions from a native of Lafayette, a visitor from Scotland and her brother from British Columbia, and Kate.

I assumed the responsibility of being on the lookout for alligators.

The bataeu was a boat that originally was pointed on both ends. At one time, mules walking along the shoreline pulled the boats by ropes. Another means of moving the boat was to have one person on each side using poles to push the boat. When motors became available, one end was "flattened" to accommodate the motor.

The river, like most others in the Southeast, was low--such that, at one point, the boat hit a submerged log with no effect other than a loud thump.

A relatively young cypress tree (left) was one of the few cypress trees that we saw.

Dale is an artist, among other skills, and thought that this cabin could be renovated and used as a studio. His artistry is displayed on the CD cover of a grammy-nominated band. I missed the name of the band (I was watching for alligators, remember?).

I wanted to show the Spanish moss that grows in humid climates usually on trees, especially Live Oak and cypress. It is not a parasite; it is an epiphytic herb which grows on another plant, upon which it depends for mechanical support, but not for nutrients. As an air plant, it depends upon nutrients that are carried by the wind and rain.

Dale pointed out the Spanish Moss's slender, threadlike leaves that are connected to tiny strands of black, hair-like fibers that form the core of this plant. He then rolled a clump of moss back and forth until it resulted in a long strand of moss. Native Americans would braid these strands to form a type of rope.

I wanted to include this photo because it is the only time we have seen a tree with its leaves turning color. We traveled south just ahead of the "leaf peeping" season in each area, so we have, in effect, missed the beauty of Fall this year.

Our journey to the past was interrupted by this reminder of the present.

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