Monday, May 31, 2010


Greg Laden is hosting Berry Go Round this time, at his place. Go visit, and read some of the most interesting plant bloggers out there.

If birds are your thing, Coyote Mercury is the place to be. I and the Bird #126 is being hosted (poetically, even) there.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Well, gall-eeee!!

One thing we have plenty of here in the Not-So-Big Woods is leaves, and when you've got leaves, you've got galls.

Awesome Husband refers to galls as "tree warts," and that's what they look like. These leafy protuberances form when an insect, often a wasp or a mite, lays her egg inside a leaf's tissue. The egg, and later, the larva, produce hormones that interact with the plant to form a...well, a sort of wart. The wartiness provides food and shelter for the developing larva. When the larva matures, it chews its way out of its little house, and goes on to make more warts on more trees. Galls are unsightly, but they don't usually hurt the tree.

Since they're generally harmless, we can just enjoy their weirdness.

This gall, attached to an oak leaf, looks like a beetle. Fairly smooth and hard, it's a single, but some leaves are covered in them.

 On the other hand, these elm galls are smaller, softer, and a bit fuzzy. Some of them are pink, making it look like Captain Crunch visited and left some dimunitive Crunch Berries behind. (note to Quaker Oats Legal Dept.: I am not trying to insinuate that your Crunchberries contain larvae).

The pecan leaves are taking the hardest hit, aesthetically speaking. Multiple galls infest each leaf, and they're large ones. They're distorting the leaves, pulling them out of shape.

Different galls on the elm leaves are more cylindrical than most, and also covered in fuzz. They appeared very early in the season, when the leaves were first emerging.

And finally, these tiny little  pointy things, perched on a hackberry leaf, casting shadows like mountains in the setting sun.

Those are just the galls I found in a 15-minute period in a hundred-foot stretch of trees lining the driveway. The variety is breath-taking, and I know there are more waiting in the woods.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

"Don't be silly, dear, birds don't look like that..."

Setting: an elementary classroom

Teacher:  Ok kids, your assignment is to draw a bird. It doesn't have to be a real one: you can use your imagination, but it should look like it might exist around here. Try not to get too wild with the details. Please color it neatly. You'll have about 45 minutes to work. Let me know when you're finished.

(students draw and color intently, focusing on their work in a way that real children never do)

As time ticks by, students begin to finish their bird pictures and raise their hands for the teacher to come and collect their work. At the last desk, she looks at the picture being handed in with dismay.

Teacher: Oh dear. I don't think you understood the instructions. We're trying to draw a bird that's realistic. This picture is gorgeous, but you and I both know that there aren't any birds in this area that are colored like that.

Student: But--

Teacher: It looks like you went wild with your new marker set. Did you just get that for your birthday?

Student: But there was one outside my--

Teacher: I'll hang this up because it's a lovely picture, but you'll need to do another one that isn't quite so gaudy. You might see a bird like this in the rainforest, but certainly not here in this part of Texas.