Sometimes beauty is not just what we can see with our eyes. Take these leaves of rabbitbrush, for instance:
Wet Season Rabbitbrush
In the heat, its leaves will be far more silver — not with pigments, but with water caught on tiny leaf hairs, which creates a miniature atmosphere around the leaf that uses surface tension to counteract evaporation. The goal is to keep water. For that, a little water is sacrificed.
The mechanisms of rabbitbrush are indeed beautiful. Surprisingly, the following, however, is a picture of the same mechanism:
Six Forms of Water, Four Visible
In this view over Okanagan Lake and the Shorts Creek Canyon, visible water is in the form of lake, clouds, snow, and trees. Less visible is the water soaking into the treed slopes, already beginning its slow move down to the lake — if it ever gets there, and the sudden freshets represented by the cold, bare, logged land that will shed all of its water at once in the spring. It will be lost to the system long before the water that is already in the soil.
The beauty here is that the trees are providing the same water cover for the soil of the Okanagan Mountains as are the leaf hairs on the rabbitbrush. What then is underneath the trees, within the atmosphere the trees create with their canopies and protected from the sun? Ah, look:
In the dry months, it will rake water out of the air and out of passing clouds.
The higher altitude forests of the Okanagan, as far away from the lake as its possible to get, are as much water environments as the riparian systems running down the hills or the scrublands along the shore. And what do we do with the support structures for these intricate cloud-harvesting ecosystems?
Tomorrow I hope to have some pictures.