Earthstar Mushroom

It’s been years and years since I’ve seen an earthstar mushroom.

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I’m not sure which species of earthstar this one is. Not knowing in no way diminishes my enjoyment of the find.

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  Obviously, the earthstar would’ve probably gone unnoticed if I hadn’t walked straight up to it.

A Crawdad From the Past

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In the over thirty years of hiking at my rural property,

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I’ve only seen one crawdad there.

Water only runs at this higher elevation during the wet times.

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It sure made a “fashion statement” with all those colors.

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I wondered where it went during the long dry spells.

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We have crawdads in the lower part of our backyard.

I’ve never seen one … except for the feeler of one. We’d had a hard rain that filled the crawdad holes.  I walked around the yard and stopped at a small mound. There, was a feeler at the surface pushing a small piece of plant material back and forth. Obviously, the crawdad was easily amused.

Maple Watching

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The red maples didn’t look like they were blooming from a distance.

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Each tree had only had small portions beginning to flower.

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Flower on left, winged seedpods on right and leaf bud in the middle.

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The young seedpods measured a half-inch or so.

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Only one limb on one tree had leaves emerging.

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It should be a good week for “spring watching” with the daily temperatures to be in the 70′s.

Learning Lichens

 My recent interest has included lichens.

I have two books on lichens — Walk Softly Upon the Earth, published by the Missouri DOC, and Lichens of the North Woods by Joe Walewski.

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The Missouri book has the name blister lichen for this common lichen. Walewski’s book calls it a star rosette lichen.

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 Both use the scientific name Physcia stellaris.

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Spores develop in the disc-shaped fruiting bodies. It commonly grows on deciduous trees.  It’s a foliose lichen, meaning it looks leaflike and has only a few points of attachment to the surface.

 Very few scientific names make it into my permanent memory. Images easily become a visual memory.

That being said, I plan to call this one blister lichen.

A Thorny Vine

 Ice from a late February storm hadn’t completely melted when Buffy and I headed out for a loop drive through the country. We ended up at Stone Face. I parked at the mouth of the road because of remaining ice.

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Moss on the base of a stump caught my attention. It might be velvet tree apron moss. I didn’t give it much attention after spotting the thorns.

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Three serious-looking vines grew nearby.

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The longest thorns were 5/8 inch long, or longer.

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These vines obviously meant business!

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The teeny “spots” looked fuzzy up close.

I’m stumped by these vines.

I’ve never seen them before. Research online produced only one picture of this vine, and didn’t include its name.

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We couldn’t leave without a short hike along the creek. These sunlit colors immediately caught and held my attention.

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The day actually felt like the beginning of spring!

A Naturalist Learns …..

I always find it more fun to learn from observations than from a book. The information stays with me much longer when I have the memory and the direct observation.

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Some caterpillars, like this red-spotted caterpillar, mimic bird droppings.

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 I doubt if this would appear very appetizing to a bird.

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The caterpillars of the red-spotted purple and viceroy butterflies closely resemble each other. I don’t understand why this one is red.

Red-spotted purples lay their eggs in wild cherry, apple, and willow trees.

Viceroys lay theirs in willow, wild cherry and poplar.

The adults of both species feed on flowers and also at sap flows, decaying fruit, carrion and animal droppings.

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Both species overwinter as partially-grown caterpillars. The 4th instar caterpillar cuts off all of a leaf except near the base and spins silk back and forth across the top of it. As the silk dries, it curls the remaining leaf into this tube.

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The half-inch caterpillar spends the winter in diapause (a pause in its development). It might come outside the tube on an overly-warm winter day.

(I wrote this blog  in the fall. Predators got the caterpillars, so, I didn’t get to see if any survived winter.)

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This red-spotted purple emerged from its chrysalis (which I didn’t witness).

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 Apparently, it couldn’t, or didn’t get in an upside-down position so its wings would fully open before they dried. It kept trying.

It must have flown off, because I didn’t see it again.

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Viceroy butterflies mimic the monarch butterfly. They have an extra black band on their hindwing that the monarchs don’t. Monarch are bigger, and their wings are shaped differently.

Icy Lichens

Rain, freezing rain and LOTS sleet fell most of one day in February, and was expected to continue overnight.

So … once again, I planned to blog ice. This time it was ice-encased lichens.

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 I made a slow loop around the yard, checking all the tree trunks and limbs that I knew had lichens on them.

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  They didn’t know their names. So, why should I worry about identifying them.

I planned to just enjoy the experience.

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Of course, the ice complicated focusing the pictures. This grouping was on a horizontal limb in my dawn redwood tree.

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I wouldn’t even want to try to identify this many in one day anyway.

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Besides, the ice and reflections distort details.

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 Being out in today’s weather was quite an enjoyable adventure.

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Bang, my high school Girl Scout leader, often said (when I was a GS leader) that if everything went well, then there wouldn’t be as much to remember.

I took my senior troop winter camping. We stayed in the lodge at Girl Scout Camp Cedar Point, and the furnace quit running the night. My youngest daughter looked down right miserable in her sleeping bag. The woman assisting me with the trip, turned her radio on  … the temperature was  -18! The girls heard that, got real excited, cooked our usual breakfast, got suited up, went out and sledded down the hill by the lodge. That was definitely one trip that’s still talked about almost 30 years later.

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