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Posts Tagged ‘Red Sumac Pouch gall’

I’m happy to say that I’ve seen more monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) this year than I have in the last few years combined. In fact one day there must have been a dozen on and around a patch of milkweed I saw recently. I hope this means that they’re making a comeback.

I should say for the newcomers to this blog; these “things I’ve seen posts” contain photos of things I’ve seen which, for one reason or another, didn’t fit into other posts. They are usually recent photos but sometimes they might have been taken a few weeks ago, like the butterflies in this post. In any event they, like any other post seen here, are simply a record of what nature has been up to in this part of the world. I often do a post like this one when I can’t go on a hike or climb due to rain or in this case, heat and humidity.

This isn’t a very good photo but it does show that this butterfly is indeed a monarch and not a viceroy. Viceroys have a black line drawn across their hind wings and they aren’t seen here.

This is the first photo of a monarch butterfly caterpillar to ever appear on this blog and that’s because I never see them, but on this day I saw two of them on some badly chewed milkweed plants. Monarch females usually lay a single egg on a milkweed plant, often on the bottom of a leaf near the top of the plant. Eggs are only about the size of a pinhead or pencil tip and are off-white or yellow, characterized by longitudinal ridges that run from the tip to the base. The eggs hatch about four days after they are laid and the caterpillars appear. It takes monarchs about a month to go through the stages from egg to adult.

I haven’t seen many pearl crescent butterflies (Phyciodes tharos) this year but this one landed on a nearby coreopsis blossom and let me get quite close. I’ve read that males have black antenna knobs, so I’m guessing that this is a male.

This white admiral butterfly (Limenitis arthemis) landed on a dry gravel road in the very hot sun. It seemed like odd behavior for a butterfly but you could fit what I know about them in a thimble and have room to spare.

Where I work there is a large roof overhang and an outdoor light that attracts many different moth species. The roof overhang protects them from rain and probably bats too, and they are often there on the wall when I get to work in the morning, like this false crocus geometer moth (Xanthotype urticaria) was. The true crocus geometer moth (Xanthotype sospeta) is larger, pale yellow, and has few or no brown spots. Because of its striking markings this moth was relatively easy to identify.

I saw a bumblebee on a thistle blossom and in fact I’m seeing many bumblebees this year, sometimes 2 or 3 on a single blossom.

I saw a wasp like creature on a goldenrod but I haven’t been able to identify it.

I went into bear country in Nelson to see if I could find a club spur orchid that I found there last year. I didn’t find the orchid but I did find bear hair on one of their favorite phone poles. I was very happy that I got out of there without meeting up with the donor because these hairs were quite high up on the pole and that means a tall bear.

There were also fresh bite / claw marks on the pole. I wonder what the bear thought when it came back to its favorite scratching pole and found my scent on it.

A garter snake stuck its tongue out at me.

And another one, hiding under a kayak, smiled at me. These two snakes were young and small and probably couldn’t have eaten anything bigger than a cricket.

I’ve seen egg sacs of spiders before but they’ve always been white, until now. I read on Bugguide.net that pirate spider egg sacs (Mimetus) are roughly spherical with an irregular covering of loose, brownish or orange silk, and hang by an inch-long thread, so I’m guessing this is a pirate spider’s egg sac. I’ve also read that pirate spiders get their name from the way they hunt by picking at the strands of another spider’s web to simulate the movements of either a trapped insect or a potential mate. When the other spider comes to investigate, they are captured and eaten. 

One of the most toxic plants known is the castor bean, so I was a little surprised when I found this one growing in a local garden. I think it is Ricinus communis “red giant”, which has red leaves and bright red, bur like seed heads. Though the seed pods have a beautiful color, according to Colorado State University “several toxic compounds are found in the leaves and seeds. Ricinoleic acid is the primary component of castor oil and ricin (glycoprotein) is found in highest concentration in the seeds. Toxic effects appear within a few hours and are generally fatal.”  They also said that castor bean plants (Ricinus communis) have become a weed in most southern U.S. states, which I didn’t know. Beautiful but deadly.

The berries of the white baneberry plant (Actaea pachypoda) are called doll’s eyes, for obvious reasons. The remains of the flower’s black stigma against the porcelain white fruit is striking, and I can’t think of another plant with fruit quite like these except maybe when red baneberry (Actaea rubra) decides to have white fruit instead of red. It doesn’t matter though, because both plants are extremely toxic and no part of them should ever be eaten. Finding baneberry in the woods tells the story of rich, well drained loamy soil and a reliable source of moisture, because those are the things that it needs to grow. I often find it at or near the base of embankments that see a lot of runoff.

Actually white baneberry berries remind me of Kermit the frog’s eyes.

Long time readers of this blog probably know that I’m colorblind and that red is one of the hardest colors to see for me. That being said I can’t explain why the bright red seedpods of some St. John’s wort plants (Hypericum) are so easy for me to see. I saw this plant growing in the wet mud at a pond edge. St John’s wort berries may ripen to green, white, yellow, peach, orange, scarlet or purplish colors, with some finally becoming almost black at maturity. The fruits and seeds of all hypericum-family plants are considered toxic and will cause digestive upset if eaten.

By far the biggest mushroom that I’ve ever seen is Berkeley’s polypore (Bondarzewia berkeleyi.) These monsters often measure feet across and this one must have been 2 feet across at its widest point. This mushroom grows at the base of hardwoods in the east and in the west a similar example, Bondarzewia montana, grows at the base of conifers.

A couple of years ago I found this odd, sprawling little plant that I had never seen before. I showed it on a blog post and helpful readers told me it was a spike moss, which I hadn’t heard of. I went back to see it this year and it really hadn’t changed much but I tried to look it over a little more carefully and I did some reading about it. I believe this example is meadow spike moss (Selaginella apoda.)

Spike mosses are considered “primitive” seedless (spore bearing) vascular plants and therefore aren’t mosses at all. This pretty little plant is more closely related to the clubmosses, which are also spore bearing vascular plants known as lycopods. It doesn’t appear to be evergreen like the clubmosses however. It’s a pretty little thing.

In 2015 someone from the Smithsonian Institution read another post where I spoke about sumac pouch gall and contacted me to ask if I knew where they grew. They are researching the coevolution of rhus gall aphids and its host plants the sumacs. A female aphid lays eggs on the underside of a leaf and plant tissue swells around them to form a gall like those seen here. When mature they will be tomato red. The eggs overwinter and mature inside the hollow gall until spring, when the aphids leave the gall and begin feeding on the plant. Scientists have paleobotanical evidence that this aphid has had a relationship with its sumac hosts for at least 48 million years. They are studying this relationship at the Smithsonian and I told them that I could show them or tell them where many of these galls grew. They collected galls from here and also collected them from Georgia, Arkansas, Michigan and Ohio.

One of my favorite things to see is this river of reindeer lichen, like snow in summer. Since there are no reindeer or other animals to eat the lichens they thrive here. But they are fragile and should never be walked on.  Reindeer lichen is very slow growing at about an eighth to three eighths of an inch per year and if overgrazed or dug up, it can take decades for drifts like the one pictured to reappear.

This reindeer lichen was very dry and crisp like a potato chip due to lack of rain. Once it rains it will become soft and pliable, much like your ear lobe. The Native American Ojibwa tribe was known to bathe newborns in water in which reindeer lichens had been boiled.

I hope everyone has the time to just go outside and soak in those parts of nature, however great or small,  that are available to you. Though I’ve shown two or three photos of pickerel weed already I can’t resist showing another. I just stand and gaze at scenes like this and I hope you have places of your own where you can do the same. You’ll know you’ve found such a place when you find a smile on your face you didn’t know was there.

It is very important to go out alone, to sit under a tree—not with a book, not with a companion, but by yourself—and observe the falling of a leaf, hear the lapping of the water, the fishermen’s song, watch the flight of a bird, and of your own thoughts as they chase each other across the space of your mind. If you are able to be alone and watch these things, then you will discover extraordinary riches which no government can tax, no human agency can corrupt, and which can never be destroyed. ~ Jiddu Krishnamurti

Thanks for coming by.

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1. Jack in the Pulpit Fruit

Regular readers might be tired of hearing about my colorblindness but since new friends are always stopping in I’ll tell the story again as briefly as I can. In a nutshell, I have a very hard time seeing red in nature and it’s bad enough so a male cardinal disappears when he lands in a green tree. In spring when the trees are leafless and at this time of year when they’re falling I have an easier time of it, and right now I’m seeing red everywhere.

The above shot is of the ripe fruit of a Jack in the pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum,) a native plant in the arum family similar to the Lords and Ladies plant found in the U.K. Deer often come by and chomp off the top of the plant so I was happy to find this one. Each berry starts out green and contains 3-5 seeds.

2. Reddish Slime Mold

It’s hard to describe the size of things that I find and I’m sure people must have a hard time visualizing the tiny size of slime molds. As the photo shows, each tiny reddish dot on the log would fit into a space about a third of the size of the oak leaf. I think this slime mold is Trichia decipiens, which starts out white and then turns red or pink, yellow, green and finally brown.

3. Reddish Slime Mold Closeup

Each red-orange sphere stands on a tiny stalk (unseen.) When this slime mold is in its plasmodial stage as shown all of the fruiting bodies move together as one to a food source. Food for them means spores, protozoa, or decaying plants.

 4. Sumac

My color finding software sees brick red, Indian red, firebrick, crimson, tomato, pale violet, plum, and even hot pink in these staghorn sumac leaves (Rhus typhina.) Staghorn sumacs can be seen along the edges of many fields right now.

 5. Red Pouch Gall on Staghorn Sumac

Interestingly, the same colors are found on this pouch gall that grew under the leaves of a staghorn sumac. These galls start life looking like a peeled potato but turn red as they age. They are created by a wooly aphid called the sumac gall aphid (Melaphis rhois.) Female aphids lay an egg on a sumac leaf and the leaf forms the gall around the egg, and winged females leave the gall in late summer to complete the cycle. Science has found that this relationship between aphid and sumac has been going on for at least 48 million years, with no signs of stopping.

6. Sumac Berries

Staghorn sumac berries are also very red and very fuzzy. A drink that tastes just like lemonade can be made from these berries. It was a favorite of Native Americans.

7. Blueberry Leaves

Native highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum) leaves turn very red in the fall. Blueberries line the shores of many of our lakes and ponds and also grow on many of our treeless mountain and hill tops.

8. Virginia Creeper

A young Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) crept over a lichen garden and I couldn’t resist taking its photo.

 9. Boston Ivy

Boston ivy growing on the rear wall of a Keene building built in 1893 has turned very red. Generally vines grown on brick or stone don’t cause much damage, but the mortar used in buildings built before the 1930s might not contain Portland cement and may have weakened over the years. Boston ivy attaches itself using tiny circular pads that form at the ends of its tendrils and secretes calcium carbonate to “glue” the pads to the surface it wants to climb. The glue can to hold up to 260 times its own weight and if pulled off brick walls could pull the mortar along with it. Boston ivy has nothing to do with Boston; it’s really from eastern Asia, and it isn’t a true ivy.

 10. Red Stone

Stones with a high hematite content can be very red due to oxidation. Hematite is iron ore and it will rust, as this photo shows. It has even stained the surrounding stones. Red hematite powder was found scattered around the remains at a grave site in a Zhoukoudian cave complex, near Beijing, China. The site has evidence of habitation from as early as 700,000 years ago, so humanity has valued the color red for a long, long time.

11. Rose Hips

Rose hips always remind me of tomatoes for some reason. They contain higher amounts of vitamin C than oranges and are very nutritious, but their tiny seeds have silky hairs on them which have to be removed before they are used. The hairy seeds are used in itching powder, so you can imagine how irritating they’d be if you ate them.

12. Winterberry

Winterberry shrubs, a native holly (Ilex verticillata,) are outdoing themselves this year and are loaded with fruit. I almost wish it would snow so I could see the red and white together because they are especially beautiful after a snow storm. I think I can wait a month or two to see it, though.

13. Cranberry

Cranberries (Vaccinium macrocarpon,) along with the Concord grape and blueberry are one of three fruits native to North America that are commercially grown. Because they float commercial growers flood their fields to make harvesting easier. This makes people think that cranberries grow in water, but they actually grow in very sandy and peaty, acidic soil. Commercial cultivation of cranberries began in 1816, and growers found that a well-tended plant can live for 150 years or more.

 14. British Soldier Lichen

British soldier lichens (Cladonia cristatella) are very small and are usually hard for me to see but in this case the light background made it easier. I found them growing on an old white pine stump. The bright red “caps” are where this lichen produces its spores.

 14. Spangled Fritilarry

I wanted to end this post with a red cardinal or a robin but I didn’t see either one, so the reddish splotch on the lower wing of this spangled fritillary will have to do. I found it getting everything it could out of this nearly gone-by zinnia one recent sunny afternoon.

I hope this excursion into the color red wasn’t too boring. Since I rarely see it in nature it’s always exciting when I find it. Maybe next time I do a post on colors it will be on blue and purple. I get those two confused all the time.

If one says ‘Red’ – the name of the color – and there are fifty people listening, it can be expected that there will be fifty reds in their minds. And one can be sure that all these reds will be very different.” ~Josef Albers

Thanks for coming by.

 

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