Many of you have asked where in the world I've been.

All I know is that after 7 plus years of blogging and a different lappy, which I don’t like, I seem to have lost my blogging fervor.

Someday, when you least expect it, I will post again.

For those of you still waiting I say thank you.

Meanwhile, I am rather prolific on twitter. Find me: @KeethaB
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The Eclectic Company - Waitin' on a New Adventure!!
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Sunday, July 4, 2010

And I Ain't Just Bluffin' Neither!!

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Once upon a long, long time ago we lived in a little peaceful village called Bluffton. I spent much time puzzling over WHY that particular miniscule spot on the map was CALLED Bluffton.

I KNOW what a bluff is - - - having grown up with many of the sandstone variety in my native land where the Wisconsin River flows. Miriam Webster defines them like this:

Bluff 1 a : having a broad flattened front b : rising steeply with a broad flat or rounded front

Our quiet little town of Bluffton was on a flat plain. There was no rising steeply. There were no broad flat or rounded fronts. There were no bluffs.

In other words, there were NONE of these:


I realize that out west there are even larger more prominent bluffs than I have shown here.


But these are the sandstone variety that dot the Wisconsin hillsides


And never cease to inspire awe.


They are majestic.

They are beautiful.

They speak to me of home.

They also speak to me of primary succession.

Primary succession is the natural process that converts, very very slowly I might add, bare rock to soil. Once soil has been formed living species begin to inhabit that rock - - - beginning with algae, lichens, and simple basic plants. As the roots of these plants dig into the rock crumbling it into more soil, larger more complex plants begin to grow.

The end result of primary succession, after much time has elapsed, is called a climax community. It consists of all the adult plants and animal that are indigenous to that climate.

In these bluff photos, you can see bare rock face, you can see rock face that is mid-succession, and around the bluffs you can see bits of the climax community.

Look very closely at the bluff faces and you will see succession taking place before your eyes.



This is a close up of one small area of a bluff where early succession is taking place. (I'm sorry it is blurry, I needed to use a flash and did not realize that until I was no longer at the bluff)

You can see lichens, moss, liverworts. These plants are called pioneer species because they are the first to begin growing on bare rock. Their roots or root-like structures not only dig into the rock mechanically cracking and breaking it, but they also secrete acids and digestive enzymes that chemically corrode the rock into soil.

You can also see that where the rock has become cracked it is beginning to hold soil and collect decaying needles and leaves which will add nutrients and more soil.

Already in this small patch of rock more advanced plants are beginning to grow. These are called vascular plants because they have veins composed of xylem and phloem which carry water and food from roots to leaves to roots.


Over time trees begin to grow out of soil covered parts of the rock. Often with spectacular displays of roots on the face of the rock. Conifers come first followed by hardwoods.


Their roots further break up the rock, catching more decaying biomass, and forming more soil.


Besides being a GREAT biology lesson, those bluffs are beautiful, no?

Bluffton just doesn't know what it is missing.

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11 comments:

Keri said...

Hey now. There are some bluffs in the quarry! :)

Angie said...

Wow, you know some stuff, you do! I'm impressed. Would our White Cliffs of Dover (UK) qualify as bluffs do you think or would things rising from the sea be something else?

ain't for city gals said...

Keetha, sounds like you are having a great time on you trip...isn't it fun to get out and just explore and see things...my favorite thing.

Ann in the UP said...

A great lesson on what all those stages that I just term erosion are really known as. I love the southwest for the sheer way you can see the pure awesome power of nature at work. I guess it's working pretty hard right under my UP nose!

Tonja said...

Well, I am impressed. I can tell you really know what you are talking about. I, however, am only sure of the fact that there are no bluffs in Bluffton. And, that plants have a big impact on what happens to the bluffs. Is that enough to know? Or should I study the material again. Oh, the trees start growing in the rocks too. My head is starting to explode...plese tell me this is enough. :)

Doris Sturm said...

Absolutely! Just gorgeous! Nature never ceases to amaze and enthrall me...so much going on right under our noses and we don't even realize it.

Wonderful photos!

Debbie said...

Gorgeous pictures and such a great Biolgy lesson...thank you for teaching me something new today:) Hope you are enjoying your summer. Debbie

Kirby3131 said...

I just recently relearned the term pioneer species and I have seriously been trying to remember to look it up and relearn the whole process. There you go, making it easy on me :)

Beautiful Bluffs!

Holly at Tropic of Mom said...

Thank you for the lesson.

I live in a city called Coral Springs, where there is neither coral nor springs. Too bad....

Dawn said...

Wow! Thanks for the science lesson! You must take a cruise to Alaska and into Glacier Bay. You will see much Primary Succession in action! It was fascinating!

Just Breathe said...

That was a great lesson. The bluffs are awesome.