Meet the invaders!

Man in woods

Men have been in forests forever. And there is no escaping reminders of our presence.  I won’t interfere with a surveyor’s tape but if you pick up whatever trash you can, you won’t ever see it again! You don’t need anyone but yourself to pat you on the back for removing trash. You know it’s gone. The next time you walk there, that trash won’t interfere with your enjoyment. Seeing trash that is out of my reach is very aggravating and I often spend way too much time trying to figure out a solution. But solving that kind of problem is so rewarding! Fellow pickers: keep  up the good work! And Merry Christmas!

Garlic Mustard is not the first two items on a shopping list.

Flower garlic mustard

Garlic mustard is a delicious, critically invasive herb. Before I knew that it was an invasive, I knew it was yummy, raw or cooked. I am embarrassed to admit I planted it in my yard.  Even if we all set out to collect and eat it, garlic mustard has the upper hand. It is one of the few non-native plants that can spread rapidly through the forest floor in the spring, greatly reducing the diversity of all species. A single vigorous plant can produce up to 7,900 seeds. Fortunately/unfortunately most only produce about 600 seeds per year. Try it! You’ll like it!

A challenge to understand what you are seeing…and a rare treat.

Insect moth opening wings

This is a moth that has just emerged from its pupa. It is drying its wings in the afternoon sun as the veins in its wings slowly fill up with fluid. The veins in the wings are not completely filled so the wings are an odd shape. It cannot fly yet. Eventually the veins will fill and stiffen to support the wing structure you expect to see on a moth, as long as a bright-eyed bird doesn’t spot it in its current immovable state.

Creeping Charlie gets the last laugh!

Flower ground ivy teeth

Careful examination of Creeping Charlie, aka.ground ivy and Gill over the Ground, reveals a flower with an impressive mouthful of teeth and baleen (a tough material that hangs down from the upper jaw of whales without teeth and is used by the whale to filter small ocean animals out of seawater).  What else would you call it? Instead of filtering small ocean animals, my guess is this baleen’s function is to tickle insect wings and backs.

Flower henbit 3

Here is the promised Henbit photo in better focus. And finally a new spring flower:

flower speedwell

Meet the hairy Speedwell! I think it’s called Creeping Speedwell, Threadstalk Speedwell and Whetzel weed. I don’t think it is Persian Speedwell, Veronica persica, Veronica Speedwell, Common field Speedwell or Bird’s-eye Speedwell. Invasives from the lower slopes of Asia’s rainy mountains, they are all members of the Plantain Family. You’ll be introduced to more Plantain as it gets warmer. Since Speedwell usually flowers from June through September, my bet is this is the Winter Speedwell. The flowers are very small. What you’ll see from a standing position is a tiny, obviously blue dot on the ground. After you bend over for a better look, check out the kidney-shaped leaves.

 

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I love Black Vultures!

black-vulture-and-geese

First I must confess my unusual love of black vultures and turkey vultures. The other day I observed a black vulture dining in the yard along with a large group of equally hungry Canada geese. The black vulture was strolling around, happily pecking here and there in the grass just like a normal Canada goose.  Having watched birds all my life I have never seen a vulture acting like a goose. Although I couldn’t see what it was eating I know there were no dead animals in the yard. My brilliant neighbor suggested it might be eating the only other thing besides grass that is all over our yard, goose poo. Having seen fox kits eat goose poo I was not ready to reject her concept. But I am open to your suggestions. Fortunately we have not seen the black vulture dining with the Canada geese again so we are not concerned that vultures might suddenly decide to devour all our wonderful lawn fertilizer.

Note: A friend suggested the vulture might have been eating worms.  I didn’t notice any robin-style tugging or anything hanging out of the vulture’s mouth between pecks. But robins had been in the area recently.

Beetle-kill wood? The Beetle Kill Trade Association? My heart skipped a beat!

 

insect-beetle-kill-3

The bottom  of a dead tree trunk full of beetle holes caught my eye and I wondered how to share it on my blog.  An hour later, while innocently reading the Sunday New York Times, I encountered an article with a good hook:”Small Colorado Resort Goes Big With a $700 Lift Ticket”. The price included a pair of skis or a snowboard made of beetle-kill wood. Beetle-kill wood?!?! Bingo!

insect-beetle-kill-1

According to Google, “The mountain pine beetle has killed large numbers of the lodgepole pine trees in the northern mountains of the US state of Colorado. Chemical prevention is effective but too costly for large-scale use. If not removed the dead trees increase the incidence of wildfires, and may contribute to climate change as they decay. Uses have been found for the dead wood including composting and in construction, and potentially to make biochar.”

 

“Beetle kill wood is also being used in local projects. Multiple housing complexes are beginning to use beetle kill wood to replace sidings of houses, like a condo complex at Copper Mountain which is replacing old siding with blue-stain wood, which is named for the dark color in the wood that is caused by fungus carried by the pine beetle. Snowboards, skis and guitars are also being crafted from beetle kill pine.[1]

The Beetle Kill Trade Association has been established to “to unite and align the self interests of business invested in or interested in the removal and recycling of standing beetle killed lodgepole pines in order to remove obstacles to the creation of a viable, vibrant and sustainable market for products utilizing beetle kill pines as raw material.””

What about southern Maryland beetle-kill wood? The emerald ash borer has devastated most of our lovely ash trees. Photos of dead tree and bark follow.

insect-beetle-kill-emerald-ash-1

insect-beetle-kill-emerald-ash-3

The beetle exit holes are supposed to be sort of “D” shaped. Look closely. Some of the beetles made their “D”s backward. Local guitar designers seeking beetle-kill wood are encouraged to contact me.