Vernal Pool in Autumn: Moss-covered Logs

There is one major woodland vernal pool in Eliza Howell Park, located in the middle of the forested area in the southeast section of the park.

In spring the pool is about 100 yards long and has several inches to a foot of water. It gradually dries up by late summer, to begin filling again with the melting snow and rain of late winter.

These two pictures are from late March and early April, from different positions in diferent years.

Vernal pools are best known for their role in providing breeding opportunities for amphibians and a variety of invertebrates in spring. And I have often observed Wood Ducks and Mallards in this pool in early summer, sometimes with ducklings.

I recently stopped by for an autumnal walk through the vernal pool.

The water marks on the tree trunks are a reminder that they spend a good part of the year in standing water.

The ground, after months under water, is almost entirely free of plants and has the appearance of rich garden soil. I am tempted to dig to see what organisms I might uncover at this time of the year.

The pool bottom has many decomposing logs, now green with moss.

Regardless of a log’s size, it is partly or mostly covered. These two logs are quite large and might be hosting different varities of mosses.

Mosses are non-vascular plants that are usually found in damp and shaded areas. This location is definitely the best spot for them in the park and provides an opportunity to get to know them better. Close-up looks reveal details not noticed from a distance.

I have traditionally visited this Eliza Howell vernal pool mostly from March through June/July. This is the first year that I am spending more time here in the Fall. It is now on the route for my October – November nature walks.

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