A Late Summer Walk

By Boak Wiesner

Pairs of squirrels, both gray and red, chasing each other, oblivious of me, and of everything else, as teenagers are wont to be, remind me that soon I, too, will be dealing with my own sets of squirrels when school soon starts, ha!

Summer’s fullness is slowly giving way to the dryer, cooler, and more colorful fall. This morning there’s a bit of a break from the heat of recent days. Dogwoods, both Pagoda and Red Osier, have berried out. Both have nice red colored fruit stalks. You know how to tell the difference, right? By the bark! (Couldn’t resist.) Really, the berries of each are the way to tell: Pagoda has the nice blue ones, while Red Osier has the familiar white ones.

Pagoda Dogwood (Cornus alternifolia)

Pagoda Dogwood (Cornus alternifolia)

Red Osier Dogwood (Cornus sericea)

Red Osier Dogwood (Cornus sericea)

It’s always refreshing to come to terms with just how much one does not know. Along the path, just past the new orchid plantings, which I’ve traipsed along lots of times, I come across a fungus that I have never seen before. White and foamy, I think it might be some sort of slime-mold. I guess I get to find out later. I know the orange kind that grow on red cedar trees around here where it’s wet but not this one.

Tapioca Slime Mold (Brefeldia maxima) (I think)

Tapioca Slime Mold (Brefeldia maxima) (I think)

I was feeling a mite stupid when I came across some refreshingly familiar Maple Spindle Galls, which are the domiciles of – wait for it – mites. What gall it must take to make yet another pun! Mites are tiny relatives of spiders but these little guys don’t have eight legs, just two. I guess they’re a mite short of legs! Secretions of its saliva cause the plant to produce the familiar shapes.

Maple Spindle Galls (caused by Vasates aceriscrumena)

Maple Spindle Galls (caused by Vasates aceriscrumena)

The vines of Wild Cucumber sprawl across my way. It’s nice to see flowers so late in the season. They’ll develop into hollow, spiky fruits that hang from the withered vines, sometimes all winter.

Wild Cucumber (Echinocystis lobata)

Wild Cucumber (Echinocystis lobata)

Boak Wiesner is a Minnesota Naturalist Volunteer

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