Saturday, July 6, twelve ecology students who were spending the week at Mount Eagle Camp northeast of Clinton, spent the morning at South Fork. The picnic tables outside the old log cabin (where two marker boards were placed for drawings and notes) was the place where students dissected flowers using dissection microscopes as they discussed the sexual system of a flowering plant and how the flower is adapted for the reproduction process. Sperm nuclei from the pollen tube unite with the egg nucleus in the ovule to make a zygote that divides many times (mitosis) forming the embryo that becomes the seed…meiosis (the reductional division occurring in the sex organs) had formed the cells that made pollen grains as well as the cell that became the egg in the ovule. Fruit and seed dispersal play an important role in maintaining the species.
Following the discussion of floral, fruit and seed structures, the group hiked the trail along the edge of the peninsula making observations of plant life there (trees, shrubs, flowers, mosses, fungi and lichens).
Earlier in the morning the class had visited the SFNC Herbarium downtown in Clinton at the GRF Office where they learned about the importance of herbarium specimens in research and how they are prepared…the SFNC Herbarium collection contains about 850 specimens representing all the species known to exist on the grounds at South Fork.
These ecology students (high school freshmen) were attending their third year of camp sponsored by AR Audubon; students attended the Camp by invitation only based on their participation the previous two years. They were under the direction of Robin Buff who had designed the week and led exercises in line transect analysis in the woods, processing of plant specimens for the herbarium, studying ecology while floating on the Buffalo River, and a day spent at Blanchard Caverns studying cave life and formation.
Even as dry as it has been, there were still several nickel-sized May apple fruits on stems where the leaves were all dried up in populations where the clones existed.