Sometimes, a little change can make a big difference. Today’s photo is a case in point. I didn’t take this photo of Dutchman’s Breeches on Roundtop Mtn. I took it this past weekend down at Pinchot State Park, just three miles away. In the 20 years I have lived here, I’ve never found Dutchman’s Breeches on Roundtop. And yet, just a few miles away, they are blooming profusely,
So what makes the difference? I don’t know the full answer myself. The most obvious difference between here and there is the altitude but the Ductchmen wouldn’t mind that little change. Like the bloodroot, of which I have many, Dutchman’s Breeches are spread by ants (ditto). The plant favors rich, moist woods. Here, up where I live, the forest is probably too dry for them. But I’ve also never found them down in the valley between Roundtop and Nell’s Hill either, and to my eye, the soil down there is plenty rich and moist enough. And there’s ants down there, too.
Something apparently isn’t suitable here for the plant, and those three miles in distance make all the difference. Forests are like that. No two spots are alike, no matter how near they are to each other and no matter if the basic forest structure (in this area an oak and hickory forest) is similar. Having seen one oak and hickory forest, or even knowing one well, doesn’t mean I know them all. Visiting a different forest, especially so close to my own simply underscores how unique each spot is and makes them all seem more precious to me.