Posts Tagged ‘Carolina Silverbell’

[with poems from ecotone]

“Oh, look at the Redbuds, how pretty!” Riding in the back seat, I couldn’t figure out what my parents were gushing about. Where was this tree with red (not lilac or magenta or purple) buds (not jillions of little peaflowers jutting from every twig)? Maybe, I thought, they meant “maple.”

I did know what they meant when they said, “Oh, Dogwoods!” In a cross, four white petals (actually bracts, modified leaves), small trees lining the roadway and scattering themselves down into the woods – I certainly understood that white flowers in spring equals Dogwood.

Except when it doesn’t. One April after we had moved to Elkin and bought a house perched on a steep incline above Dutchman Creek, I decided to pick my way down amongst the briars and poison ivy and explore. I just assumed those flowering trees punctuating the woods were Dogwood, such a firm assumption that I didn’t even give them a look. Then I noticed, watching ever so carefully where I was placing my feet, dozens of little white cup-shaped blooms that had fallen from overhead. I looked up and learned.

Carolina Silverbell is a small tree native to the Eastern US, in the Snowbell or “Storax” family, Styracaceae. Genus Halesia is named for Stephen Hales, an early 18th century Englishman who made a number of contributions to plant and animal science (he’s credited as the first person to measure blood pressure!). Around the time Dogwoods are blooming, and before leaves appear, Silverbell opens its small four-lobed flowers that hang from their stems indeed like little bells. It thrives in shade and partial sun; many of those white-flowered trees I’d been seeing in the woods through the years were probably Silverbell rather than Dogwood.

In the fall, Carolina Silverbell reveals the source of its species name. I remember the first time I plucked a few of its brown seed pods (a dry drupe), which it retains all winter. Each has four longitudinal wings – Tetraptera.

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The River in Pieces

The river in pieces – pool, riffle, run –
holds thousands inside itself, still undone,
motion captured. Strange critters swirl within
The churn-water breaks, a misted engine.

A bitten hot wish, remade, swallowed deep,
flows into shadowed shape coherent, weeps
into a waterfall, crashes sideways,
surfaces spinning, darts into bright day.

Lines mend: boundaries cut to maps and saws,
and gravity, a dark fish, dives and draws
swift-cold streams into rolling channeled force
inevitable. Widening, the course

opens warmer, swells in yellow ambling.
Lakes interrupt – boats buzz – but the bending
resumes eventually; hairy swamps emerge,
remoteness expands to eternal surge

where brackish waters wander, sweep full wide,
fan estuarine, pull life along the tide
more gently. Sharpness turns to silence
meandering, builds, and then relents

into mouth: sound fixed fast to a squall.
Seagulls soar; the wet wind drives, enthralls
the highest sky – at last the river sails,
presses vastness: a watershed exhales.

Shana Campbell Jones
from ecotone #33, fall/winter 2022

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ecotone: a transition zone between two communities, containing the characteristic species of each; a place of danger or opportunity; a testing ground

ecotone is published twice yearly by the Department of Creative Writing and The Publishing Laboratory at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, editor Anna Lena Phillips Bell, editor-in-chief David Gessner. #33 is “The Ocean Issue.” Shana Campbell Jones is an environmental lawyer at the University of Georgia. Sophie Klahr is the author of Two Open Doors in a Field from Backwaters Press, March 2023. Gretchen Steele Pratt is the author of One Island, Anhinga Press, and teaches at UNC Charlotte.

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after Enric Sala

Water is a symbol of God’s MERCY on the earth. My lecture notes are full of capitalized words: Acidification is melting the BONES of the ocean; GRAIN is the currency by which we trade water; conservation is not a LUXURY; we once THOUGHT the ocean was too BIG to FAIL. The marine ecologist at the lectern holds himself like a tired Janus – “We have killed and/or eaten ninety percent of the large animals in the ocean,” he says; he says, “This is a population that will not recover.” murmur murmur goes the listening choir. A massive screen hovering onstage shows a shot of some large school. The ecologist tells another of his dozen jokes about fish – he has learned to weave these into the truth. EVERYTHING GOES DOWNSTREAM AT SOME POINT, say my notes. THE OCEAN IS DOWNSTREAM OF EVERYTHING.

Sophie Klahr
from ecotone #33, fall/winter 2022

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Silence in the Garden, Silence in the Halls

At the lowest of tides
++ we go walking
through the low tide
++ mansions, surfaced,
stairways roughed with
++ salt, barnacles,

the banisters salt-cured
++ white. We roam
barefoot in muslin dresses
++ and do not
speak, relieved a few hours
++ from our names,

from children waking, from
++ closets bowed
with color, from the drone
++ of machines
that do our bidding. Our eyes
++ close beneath

the sun-drenched pergola,
++ twisted thick
with petrified vines of wisteria.
++ We turn in slow
circles through the grand ballroom,
++ baked clean

of gold and varnish, a wreck
++ of rusted
cello stands washed in
++ the corner.
Crystal chandeliers, clouded
++ to sea glass

become stone. Wallpaper dissolved,
++ walls encrusted
with the raw white lace
++ of the sea.
Dry opal fish scales eddy
++ in our wake.

We always reconvene
++ on the widow’s walk,
littered with lost anchors.
++ From there,
we witness the low tide
++ deepening,

another mansion appearing,
++ alive, like
white coral, farther down
++ the long drift
of strand. We will make
++ our way there,

across the burning noon sand,
++ to each mansion,
where we own nothing, and
++ love no one,
cloistered by the tides
++ in these convents

of the desert
++ and of the deep.

Gretchen Steele Pratt
from ecotone #33, fall/winter 2022

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Carolina Silverbell may be a multi-stem shrub or smallish tree in the NC Piedmont, up to 10 meters tall, but in the Great Smoky Mountains there are individuals over a hundred years old reaching heights of 39 meters or greater. Some taxonomists consider these to represent two distinct species, Halesia carolina and Halesia monticola (Mountain Silverbell). Even more confusing, the Asian Halesia species may not be monophyletic (not all from a common ancestor, not in the same clade). Some taxonomists propose a separate genus, Perkinsiodendron.


2016-05-08a Doughton Park Tree

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