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Posts Tagged ‘Target Canker on Yellow Birch’

Half Moon Pond in Hancock iced over but then it warmed up and the ice melted quickly. All that was left early one morning was the mist that was left from the melting. I wanted to get a shot of it but all I had was my cell phone. I decided to try it anyway, and this is what the phone’s camera saw. What I saw was not quite so much bright sunlight up in the clouds, though dawn was just breaking over the hills behind me. I liked what the phone camera saw though, and I hope you will too.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked quite far into the woods after seeing what I thought was a beautiful flower, only to find instead that it was a feather. But I’m never disappointed because feathers can often be as beautiful as flowers. These “blossomed” on a hazelnut twig and changed shape contantly in the wind. They were very fine and soft, like goose down.

I know these are bird tracks and I know the middle longer toe points in the direction the bird was facing but I don’t know why they were so long or what the lines behind them were about. It looked to me like the bird went into a skid when it tried to land. Their feet weren’t very big but there were many prints around the area and I’m guessing dark eyed juncos made them. You can often see flocks of sometimes twenty or more juncos along roadsides in winter, presumably looking for small seeds.

At work one morning I spotted a dark colored animal a little bigger than a house cat running from one of the buildings. It ran with a kind of loping gait like a mink but quite fast. One of the paw prints we found afterwards is in the above photo but we can’t know if it belongs to the animal we saw. There are lots of animals in these woods. But judging by the animal’s size and the way it ran like a big mink, we think it must have been a fisher cat. Fisher cats aren’t cats, they are members of the weasel family, and they don’t eat fish. They were hunted for their fur almost to extinction in times past and though they are making a comeback they’re very wary of man and aren’t often seen. They’re usually active at night so seeing this one in daylight was a rare thing.

I believe these turkey feathers tell the story of the fisher cat and why it was near one of the buildings. They were found near the spot it ran from. Fishers eat small to medium sized animals and birds, and will also eat beechnuts, acorns, apples and berries. They will also eat porcupines, leaving nothing but the hide and a few bones behind. In fact they’ll eat just about anything and I’ve heard they have a blood curdling scream when they’re on the hunt. Just for fun (?) I went to You Tube and listened to a fisher cat scream, and now I understand how some people have been scared half to death by them at night in the woods. It’s an eerie sound, and that’s putting it mildly.

A huge old oak tree died where I work and when it was cut down the butt end showed purple staining, meaning it has steel or iron objects like screws or nails in it. Sawmills look for this kind of thing when logging trucks bring in a load of logs and they’ll reject the whole load if they see it. This log was easily four feet across but it will never be sawed into boards.

I used to feel comfortable in the knowledge that any time I saw this platy bark in the shape of a target on a tree, I was looking at a red maple. But then last fall I saw a very old yellow birch with target canker that looked just like the example in the above photo. Now, I thought, I can’t be quite so sure of what I’m seeing, so I returned to the book Bark; a Field Guide to Trees of the Northeast, by Michael Wojtech. In it he does indeed say that red maple is the only tree in the northeast that develops target canker, so what of that birch? I don’t know every tree in the forest but if I can’t tell the difference between a red maple and a yellow birch, I’d better give up nature blogging. The answer I think, is to go back and find that birch and better document its bark.

Here is the only photo I took of the yellow birch I saw with target canker, which can be clearly seen on the tree. I can remember how surprised I was and thought that I must be mistaken but no, I’ve never seen maple bark peel and curl like that. The trick will be to find this tree again in a forest full of trees.

I had to go to the local car dealership to have my car serviced and while I was waiting, I noticed this piece of tree bark sitting on a counter. I was happy to find it there, not so much because of the bark itself, but because someone thought it was beautiful enough to show in the waiting room like an art object. It grabbed someone’s attention, as it did mine.

Because of all the rain we had this summer fruits, seeds and nuts are everywhere, including the poison ivy berries (Toxicodendron radicans) seen here. I’ve never seen so many of the small fruits on poison ivy vines. Though I like to get photos of them when they’ve turned white and are fully ripe, the birds eat them so fast I usually can’t find any. All parts of this plant can give you quite a rash if touched, so I try not to get too close. Even inhaling the smoke from a fire where it is being burned can cause severe throat issues.

I finally found some ice needles that really looked like needles. Usually they have been stepped on and look stubby, with squared off ends. A lot has to happen for them to form but they’re fairy common once you know what to look for. And what to listen for; the soil they grow in will crunch when it’s walked on. I’ve read that each thin needle is hexagonal in shape and that needles 16 inches long have been found, but most of the ones I see are less than 5 inches long. These might have been closer to 6 inches long.

I saw this feature in some puddle ice. It looked like the disc or lens shape froze and the water moving around it created waves. But how could this be? Wouldn’t all of the puddle surface have frozen at the same time? I don’t expect anyone to answer this; I’m just thinking out loud. Puddle ice is an endless source of fascination for me because it’s amazing what you can see in it.

I think weevils must have killed the terminal leader of this hemlock tree (Tsuga canadensis) and then two of its branches became new leaders, giving it a U-shaped appearance. I usually see this on white pine, not hemlock. White pine weevils do attack lots of other evergreen species like spruce and fir but I haven’t heard of them attacking hemlocks, so I can’t say what might have caused it.

Speaking of eastern hemlocks, I’ve been lucky enough to be able to look out a window at work to see gray squirrels trying to get at the seed cones. They’ll hang from the branch by their back feet and tail and grab the small cones with their front paws. I’ve seen four or five squirrels working a single tree, and one day I saw an eagle flying over the tree they were in. The squirrels disappeared in a hurry that day. When I look at this photo of a cone I wonder if man thought up roof shingles by looking at something like this.

The white stripes on the undersides of the flat hemlock needles come from four rows of breathing pores (stomata) which are far too small to be seen without extreme magnification. The stripes make the tree very easy to identify.

I found these squirrel tracks in my yard and I wasn’t surprised because there are also lots of hemlock trees here. I’ve seen chickadees eating the seeds but until this year I’ve never seen squirrels eating them.

Northern white cedar (Thuja occidentalis) also grows in my yard. There are many seed pods on the cedars and robins, common redpolls, pine siskins, and dark-eyed juncos eat the seeds. Many small birds use the trees to hide in and robins nest in them each spring. The open seed pods always look like beautiful carved wooden flowers to me. The Native American Ojibwe tribe thought the trees were sacred because of their many medicinal uses, and maybe they were. They cured scurvy for many a European.

A few years ago I started noticing what I thought looked like teeth marks on lichens and wrote and showed photos of it here. Now I’m seeing those same marks on certain fungi, like this tinder fungus. The squiggly lines in the top bluish portion are what I’m talking about.

I finally found out when a knowledgeable reader wrote in, that these lines and squiggles are not chipmunk or mouse teeth marks. He measured the marks and found that no American mammal had teeth that small. Instead they’re caused by algae eating land snails. Accoding to what I’ve read “squiggly lines or tiny fan patterns on rock or tree bark show where a snail has scraped off algae or fungi, leaving a paler spot. Smooth-barked red maple or American beech are good trees to check for snail or slug feeding tracks. You can look closely at mushrooms to see if a chewed area is found along with a slime trail.” The top of this mushroom did indeed look chewed. Snail mouths (radula) are raspy and are said to feel like a licking cat’s toungue if you hold one in your hand. That’s another mystery solved.

Just before dawn one morning the full moon hung over Half Moon Pond and reflected in the new ice. This was after the ice I mentioned in that first photo had melted. I think the pond has frozen over and melted three times now, which shows what roller coaster temperatures we’re seeing so far this winter. It’s beautiful but a little unusual as well.

As children, we are very sensitive to nature’s beauty, finding miracles and interesting things everywhere. As we grow up, we tend to forget how beautiful and magnificent the world is. There is magic and wonder for eyes who know how to look with curiosity and love. ~ Ansel Adams

Thanks for coming by.

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Just before Halloween as I do every year, I visited Willard Pond in Hancock. It’s about as close to a wilderness as you can come these days, at least in this area, and it’s very beautiful. Even the road in was amazing.

Unless you have time to go to a place each day to watch the turning of the leaves you can only go by experience, which in this case means what you’ve seen in the past. In the past I’ve always found the oaks and beeches in this forest at their peak during Halloween week, but there were a lot of bare trees over there. But no matter; I knew it would be beautiful. We’re going to walk right along the shore of that hillside.

It was a windy day and the wind turbines that just peek up over one of the hills were spinning faster than I’ve ever seen. I remember being shocked by their size the first time I saw them.

Though I don’t remember if this photo shows the start of the trail, it does show what the trail typically looks like. It follows along very close to the water and in many places it’s one person wide.

Since you have the hill on your left and the water on your right on the way in, it’s virtually impossible to get lost, but just in case the trees are well blazed. By the way, it’s a good idea to know what trail blazes mean and how they’re used.

From here on it is total immersion in a kaleidoscope of color and beauty. There’s nothing quite like a hardwood forest in the fall; some of the most beautiful fall foliage I’ve seen has been seen right here.

Small maples that had been cut along the trail had grown back, and they were beautifully red.

But most of the maple leaves had found their way into the water of the pond.

There are several places where small streams come down off the hillside to the pond but there are boardwalks in place. Still, wearing good waterproof hiking boots here is a good idea.

Maple leaf viburnums (Viburnum acerifolium) were beautiful as always in reds and pinks but they were also untouched by insects, which is unusual.

Big, hand sized hobblebush leaves (Viburnum lantanoides) weren’t quite so pristine but they were still  beautiful. I noticed that all their fruit had been eaten already.

The hobblebushes had their buds all ready for spring. These are naked buds with no bud scales. Instead their hairs protect them. The part that looks swollen is a flower bud and come May, it will be beautiful.

As is always the case when I come here, I couldn’t stop taking photos of the amazing trees. It’s hard to describe what a beautiful place this is, so I’ll let the photos do the talking.

There was a large colony of corydalis growing on a boulder and if I had to guess I’d say it was the pink corydalis (Corydalis sempervirens,) also known as rock harlequin. That plant blooms in summer and has pretty pink and yellow blooms but since I’ve only been here in the fall, I’ve never seen them in bloom. Next summer though, I’ll have a lot more free time and I’d love to visit this place in all four seasons.

A tiny polypody fern (Polypodium virginianum) was just getting started on another boulder. Polypody fern is also called the rock cap fern, for good reason. Though I’ve seen them growing on the ground once or twice there must have been a rock buried where they grew, because they love growing on stone. They are evergreen and very tough, and can be found all winter long.

There are plenty of boulders for rock loving plants to grow on and this is one of the largest I’ve ever seen. Easily as big as a garage, the black coloring on it and other boulders comes from the spore bearing surface of rock tripe lichens (Umbilicaria mammulata,) which grow here by the many thousands. Rock tripe is edible but I imagine they must taste like old rubber. Still, they were a source of emergency food for Native Americans and saved the lives of many an early settler. Even George Washington’s troops are said to have eaten rock tripe to survive the brutal winter at Valley Forge in 1777.

A beaver once gnawed on this huge old yellow birch and it was in the process of healing itself, which is something I’ve never seen a tree this old do. The will to live is very strong in all living things, and this is a great example of that. Though I didn’t see them in person I see some polypody ferns growing at the base of it in this photo. Whether on an unseen stone or on the tree itself, I don’t know.

Something else I’ve never seen is target canker on a yellow birch, but here it was. Target canker doesn’t harm the tree but causes its bark to grow in circular patterns of narrow plates which helps protect it from the canker. According to Cornell university: “A fungus invades healthy bark, killing it. During the following growing season, the tree responds with a new layer of bark and undifferentiated wood (callus) to contain the pathogen. However, in the next dormant season the pathogen breaches that barrier and kills additional bark. Over the years, this seasonal alternation of pathogen invasion and host defense response leads to development of a ‘canker’ with concentric ridges of callus tissue—a ‘target canker.’” Apparently, the fungal attacker gives up after a while, because as the tree ages the patterns disappear and the tree seems fine. What interests me most about this is how I’ve read that target canker is only supposed to appear on red maples. Now I can no longer say that is true.

A common earth ball (Scleroderma citrinum) grew beside the trail and looked as if it was nearly ready to release its spores. Another name for it is the pigskin puffball and it is toxic. It likes to grow on compacted soil like that found on forest trails. They often have a yellow color on their surface and are also called citrine earth balls because of it. I’ve seen them with a beautiful lemon-yellow color.

My grandmother was with me in spirit when I found a berry on an American wintergreen plant (Gaultheria procumbens,) which she always called checkerberry. It was the ffirst plant she ever taught me and we used to go looking for the minty tasting berries together. It is also called teaberry because the leaves were once used as a tea substitute.

The big leaves of striped maple (Acer pensylvanicum) had taken on their yellow fall color. They’ll lighten to almost white before they drop.

I saw many things here I’ve never seen before on this day, and one of them was the seeds (samaras) of striped maple. I’ve seen thousands of these trees but this is the first time I’ve ever seen the seeds.

Witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) grows in abundance all along the trail. Though I’ve seen them blooming profusely here, on this day these were the only blossoms I saw.

This little wooden bench is usually as far as I go for two reasons; because by the time I reach this spot I’ve usually taken far more photos than I can ever use, and because I like to sit in this quiet place and enjoy the serenity and splendor of nature. It just doesn’t get a lot better than this, in my opinion.

As I sat on the bench I watched the ripples for a while as they flowed over the still fresh and beautiful leaves on the bottom of the pond. I could hear a loon calling off on the far shore and I wasn’t surprised. I hear them almost every time I come here but I’ve never seen one. Probably just as well, because they’re an endangered bird. They die from eating lead fishing weights, and that is why only fly fishing is allowed here.

Sometimes when I sit on the bench I watch the water, and sometimes I turn around to see the colors. One is just as beautiful as the other but colors like these can’t be seen year-round.

As I got back on the trail to leave a chipmunk ran up a tree root and stared, as if to ask why I was leaving so soon. Though it had seemed like hardly any time at all, I had been here three hours. I hope all of you have beautiful woodland places to visit. They’re very uplifting.

If you are lost inside the beauties of nature, do not try to be found. ~Mehmet Murat ildan

Thanks for stopping in.

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