If you know what to look for, the land itself will tell you its nature if you know how to read the signs. Many years ago in a botany class this came to me in a single great epiphany. Our instructor took us the class into the wilderness and showed us a broad landscape of quite varied diversity.
He asked us to note where the grass chose to grow and where the trees preferred to live. That kind of distribution was not serendipitous he explained. There is a reason for this pattern, this mosaic.
He said: “Grasses prefer deeper soils because they require more nutrients. They’ll crowd out other plants in the places with optimal soil. Trees and shrubs ask for less fertility so they will become dominant where the soil layer is too shallow for grasses. These soils often lie over infertile parent materials or bedrock. The woody plants also share an increased ability to maintain their position on sloping ground with their roots that travel deep into bedrock fissures to anchor them.
This spring and summer, as you study the grasses and the wildflowers, the forests and the marshes, note how the vegetation changes with soil. And this silent language of observation will reveal far more than you ever imagined about the very nature of the landscapes you traverse.