Nature Notes

A Foggy Day in Old Chaska Town

By Boak Wiesner

A frosty morning out at the Arboretum, and a special kind of frost it was, hoar frost, which occurs when fog freezes onto the surfaces of objects that are colder than 0 C. Hoar comes from the Old Slavonic and it “migrated” to the west before ending up in Olde English. (Hoary Bats are also named for the same frosted gray appearance of their fur.)

Hoar frost on goldenrod
Hoar frost on Goldenrod

Fog is my favorite meteorological condition as it forces one to experience things “in the moment”. The past and the future disappear, literally, because one can’t see far at all. As for me, the thicker the fog, the better. So then I have to focus on things right at hand.FogThere are abundant red oak trees in this area of the Arboretum, here being up hill from the woodland wildflower garden, and that means there was a fire around the time when these trees were sprouting from acorns, probably over a hundred years ago. Red oaks sprout in maple forests that experience being burned over. The thick bark of oaks protects them from fire. Out of oak trees both the barrels for aging and the corks to seal the bottles of wine are made. The leaves of red oak trees hang on to the branches sometimes for the whole of the winter. This is called senescence. Their robust composition keeps them from decomposing very fast due to their high levels of tannin.

Red oak leaves
Red oak leaves

This being the season of the year of folks heading back to where they come from, I found this squirrel having a  little Thanksgiving feast of his own, diametrically opposite from the hole I featured way back in February. I wondered if it was the same squirrel or one of the offspring. In this small area, I could count nine squirrels running and leaping about the branches.

Grey squirrel
Boak Wiesner is a Minnesota Naturalist volunteer.

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