Wednesday, September 7, 2011

What time does your 3:00 talk start?

I worked as a naturalist for about 6 years and learned not to laugh when visitors asked questions like "Is the cave underground?" (this after we'd climbed down to stand in the mouth of the cave, looking up at the plants above us) and "When do the deer turn into elk?" (we naturalists considered this such a classic park-visitor question that I thought I was being set up...but no, the asker seemed sincerely surprised to learn that deer and elk are two separate species). 

by Noël Zia Lee
So when a woman stopped me during my rounds of a campground to ask, "Which tree has both regular leaves and pine cones?" I carefully considered her question. I knew that no broadleaf tree has true cones, but it dawned on me that the red alder certainly looks like it does.

Alders have both male and female catkins, and it's the fertilized female catkins that resemble miniature conifer cones. Male catkins hang tassel-like under the branches, while the smaller female buds grown on top of the branches. After fertilization, the female catkin develops into a small woody cone. Tucked inside its small scales are tiny seeds, which will eventually be dispersed by the wind.

Oh, and I started my 3:00 talks at three o'clock.


  1. When does the next erruption happen?  Have you ever seen Bigfoot? Where do we go to see the lava?

    I love Alders - such hardy harbingers of spring!

  2. Do the clouds go away at night? Is that scenery real, or is it man-made? (like landscape art...I guess?) What's that plant out there along the roadside? Why don't we see any animals? Where does the river go when it disappears? (huh?) ......(Some of my favorite visitor questions!)

  3. What an amusing and candid picture of our "naturally" challenged friends. Love it.  And yeah, you're right; those Alders have it all. :-)

  4. I knew you'd have some of those questions too, Ranger Kim! I should have written more of them down....

  5. Great quotes.  There's gotta be a book in there somewhere.