The world's oldest living thing,
already ancient when California's redwoods sprung from the earth,
grows in anonymity and amid car exhaust along Routes 22/322, north of Harrisburg.
The box huckleberry that clings to several ridges bordering the busy highway along the Juniata River
had already been creeping merrily along the forest floor for 11,000
years when Jesus was teaching his disciples at Galilee.
The box huckleberry is a dwarf, evergreen shrub—a rare survivor of the last ice age. (!!) Individual colonies are "self-sterile"—that is, the berries grown from the pollen received from another part of the colony, will produce berries; however, these berries cannot spawn a new plant (colony). The box huckleberry spreads out by endlessly "cloning" itself, at a predicted rate of approximately six inches a year. A single colony (one plant) can cover over 8 acres. (!!)
Note that while individual colonies are self-sterile, pollen from another colony (about 100 so far discovered—all in the American North-East, over seven states), can, and possibly very rarely does (e.g. a peripatetic bird-dude ( :) ;) )) produce a fertile "huckleberry." Mysteries still remain as to why there are so many colonies—over such a large area. It is possible that in the past the plant existed over a much larger range—perhaps during (and towards the end) of the last ice age.
It took me over 24 years—but I finally found the box huckleberry colony, outside of New Bloomfield (The county seat, 'n stuff—I remember, as children, my brothers and I being really taken with the fish with the pointy thingie (lightning rod?) running through it, on the top of the "government building thingie." :) :) ), Perry County, Pennsylvania. (I had been wanting to go there since high school—more years ago than I care to comtemplate. :( :P )
(Oh, please note that this is the smallest designated natural area—in the state of Pennsylvania, 'n stuff.)
There's like, this trail through the colony, 'n stuff:
We (my Dad and I) noticed that this map . . . didn't have a whole lotta' ta' do with physical reality, 'n stuff.
The colony (one PLANT!), [which is] spread out over the forest floor. . . .
I tried to capture the effect of the box huckleberry, under and between the trees. The "auto focus" didn't work real(ly) well. . . .
When we were kids, we used to have "plans"/"fantasies"–which, in retrospect, not surprisingly–NEVER came to fruition ( :) ;) ), about building "secret rooms" in these hollowed out stump thingies. (In a mature oak forest, these beggars can be QUITE large. . . .) Although we never did, it was still cool, seeing one of these things again. . . .
(Thinking back, I believe this may've started from an old black and white "German war movie," that Danny (MaGuire) saw. (. . .))
The path, running through the colony. . . .
At points, the huckleberry dominates the forest floor:
Although this beggar is about the coolest thing in the entire world (!!), it (and the preserve) really . . . wasn't all that much to look at. :p
Then I found this:
Ahh! This is more like it. (!)
Of note, 1967 was, like, the year I was born, 'n stuff.
I tried to capture the effect of the colony spreading off into the distance. (It is over a quarter of a mile (!!) long—sort of like a "horizontal redwood." (. . .)) This was made difficult, by the hilly Pennsylvania terrain. :p :)
Shortly after this, I did some research on the 'Web, and found out that the New Bloomfield colony, at over a quarter of a mile [long], is the "small" one—the "young" one. (. . .) (!!!!)
The BIG one–over a mile (!!!!) long (and over 14,000 (!!!!) years old)–is just off to the side of route 22/322, in the Amity Hall District. This placed it in Perry County, still on this side of the Susquehanna [River]. (Having been forced to grow up in Perry County, I actually wasn't all that surprised—to find that the oldest, self-cloning (and thus "primitve" :) ;) ) life-form was located in it. For several decades, I couldn't help but notice it as an incredibly primitive place, where time (and technology) pretty much stands still. :P :P )
So, in the "post-Christmas blahs" (FLAMING TURKEY WINGS!! (It's odd—what one remembers. . . . ( :) ;) ))), we (my Dad and I) set out to find it. We were just about to give up, on the "latest pass," when my Dad said, "We must have gone too far—we don't see anything like it." "Except for THAT!" I replied. :) :)
These pictures were taken just east of the "Watts exit"—the only "left-handed exit(s)," on 322. (In one of the truly *BIZARRE* coincidences, that I have come to take almost for granted "up here," a dude in the same (apartment) building I lived in up here in Alaska—is from Lewistown, just a bit down the road on 322. . . .)
Things like that are . . . weird up here like that. -At a party, I ran into the former dishwasher of Hoolihans—where, for $20, during a Steelers game, you got to throw a brick at Howard Cosell.
Money well spent, in my opinion.
:) :) ;) ;)
"Gor-dy!" (English version) :) ;)
This box huckleberry colony is . . . positively extraordinary. Having survived the last ice age, it is already trying to undo the damage done to it, during the improvement to 322—as near as we can tell, sometime in the late sixties:
Sadly, much of the colony was destroyed during the construction—representing, one of the greatest "eco-crimes" . . . in human HISTORY. All this sits, in total anonymity, on the side of the road. :P :P I plan on trying to get enough (private) $ together, buying the land, and building the (tentatively) named "I Want a Pet Hyena Box Huckleberry Preserve"—to preserve what remains of this over a mile (!!!!) long, over 14,000 (!!!!) year-old plant.
Thank you for you attention. -PEACE!