By Boak Wiesner
I had just enough energy today for a short jaunt in the new fallen snow, our area’s first real taste of the white stuff. Knowing that some real cold is in the offing, I’m glad, weirdly, for the little critters of field and forest who can now escape the real nippy stuff by getting under its blanket. Though it sounds counter intuitive, the surface of the ground will start to warm up slowly as the heat that it absorbed last summer and fall diffuses back up. A couple of more inches would be nice. I saw no tracks today so everyone’s staying put, at least for the moment.
The puffy seed heads of last summer’s Goldenrod collect the snow readily. This stems of this stand had few galls on them, the growths surrounding the larvae of Goldenrod Gall Fly. The third instar of their larvae can survive temperatures as low as it goes – good thing, with the bitter cold coming!
The stalks of Bluestem give a splash of color to the otherwise monotonously white landscape. I wonder “Why Bluestem – when their stalks are either magenta or this lovely amber color?” The conventions of taxonomists sometimes leave one seeking answers unattainable. The coming days will give me a good long time to think about things, safe in my own burrow.
Snow collected in the scaly “needles” of junipers that are mixed in with the oaks, ironwoods, and basswoods indicating that these woods are in a state of flux, from grassland back to forest, the openings crating by settlers clearing the trees. Junipers provide a great place of refuge for birds and squirrels in their dense “needles”. Birds will eat the berries, swallowing them whole. The seeds get dispersed; I get another way to keep the winter chill at bay, if you know what I mean!
Boak Wiesner is a Minnesota Naturalist Volunteer