The age old idea that moss grows on the north side of trees seems to be true, at least on the older larger trees down at the Whitemud Ravine. The picture below shows the north side of an old growth deciduous tree, the south side of the trunk was completely free from moss growing on it. Moss growing one the north side of the trunks makes sense as the north side of a tree generally get les sun light, is cooler, more damp and more shaded. All of these are perfect conditions for mosses too become established. Apparently in the Southern Hemisphere it is the opposite situation, moss tends to growth on the south side of three trunks. Mental note to self: Check tree trunks when visiting South America next time…, and the direction the toilet flushes.
I came across these unique looking seed pods along the Whitemud Creek the other day. I have never seen anything like it so I was quite intrigued. The actual seeds were riddling around inside the sed pod so it was almost like a gigantic rattlesnake rattle. It turns out that the rattle belongs to Cicer milkvetch (Astragalus cicer) a perennial legume introduced from Europe for pasture and forage for cattle. The seeds go unharmed throughly the digestive system of cattle and farmers are taking advantage of this manure/seeding technique to help the Cicer Milkvetch spread to new pastures. They let their cows graze on a pasture where Cicer Milkvetch is present and then they move the cows to another pasture that does not have this plant. As the cow deposit their manure on the new field they introduce the Cicer Milkvetch seeds and the plant gets a foothold.
Another pretty face and another invasive species. The striking Butter-and-egg plant (Linaria vulgaris) is native to Europe and Asia. It was introduced in North America as a decorative garden plant. It did not take long for it to escape and the rest is history. These days it is common throughout North America, from Canada in the north to Mexico in the south. While this plant is also know as Common Toadflax and Yellow Toadflax the Butter-and-eggs name seems most imaginative. Where does it get such an odd name from? I am not sure, but perhaps it has to do with the color of the snap-dragon shaped flower with the darker yellow/orange being the yolk and the lighter yellow being the butter. It turns out that orange center part is known as a “honey guide” guiding pollinators along the long spur of the flower. My teenager disagrees with this interpretation and has concluded that the name does as much sense as calling it “Yellow-and-green”. “I went for a walk and saw some Yellow-and-green and some Purple-and-green”. Perhaps he is right, the name seems quite silly, so I guess it is a silly and pretty invader.
[Walking softly through the forest]
BIRD: Fee-bee! Fee-bee! Fee-bee! Fee-bee!
HUMAN: Who are you?
BIRD: We are the Chickadees that say... Fee-bee!
HUMAN: No! Not the Chickadees that say Fee-bee!
BIRD: The same!
HUMAN: Those who hear them seldom live to tell the tale!
BIRD: The Chickadees Who Say Fee-bee demand a sacrifice!
HUMAN: Chickadees of Fee-bee, I am but a simple birder who seek the enchanter who lives beyond these woods.
BIRD: Fee-bee! Fee-bee! Fee-bee! Fee-bee!
HUMAN: Oh, ow!
BIRD: We shall say 'Fee-bee' again to you if you do not appease us.
HUMAN: Well, what is it you want?
BIRD: We want... sunflower seeds!
Black-capped Chickadees have a remarkably complex and varied repertoire of vocalizations, but perhaps the most common song carrying through the forest is their characteristic fee-bee (aka as ‘Hey, sweetie’). You can listen to recordings of their vocalizations here. As I was making my way along the Whitemud Ravine trail the Black-capped Chickadees came out in full force confronting me. The exchange that followed was remarkably reminiscent of the exchange King Arthur has with the Nights of Ni in Monty Python and The Holy Grail. In case you are not familiar with this scene you can enjoy it in all its glory right here. This band of Chickadees meant business. A dozen chickadees quickly surrounded me, perching in the shrubbery and on the ground around my feet and said ‘fee-bee, fee-bee, fee-bee’. One of them landed on my leg. Another one went straight for my outstretched hand. When it realized that I had not brought an offering I received a condescending look of disbelieve and indignation. I had no other choice than continue walking with a dozen chickadees tagging along fee-bee’ing me incessantly.
So a mushroom walks into a party and the bouncer says, “Sorry we are full”. The mushroom replies: “But I don’t take up mushroom”.
Now that we have that out of the way,… this is without question the funkiest looking fungus I have come across so far. Initially I was even questioning if it was a fungus or something else altogether. But it turns out it is a fungus, a fungus that looks like no other fungus. The fruiting body seems to defy every notion of how a fungus should look. Where is the cap and the stalk? It turns out this one belongs to the clavarioid fungi group (after the genus Clavaria). These fungi are more commonly referred to as coral fungi. Despite the absence of the classical fairytale “mushroom look” it turns out that coral fungi do not only have a worldwide distribution but are one of the most common groups of fungi. With over 1200 species of coral fungi identifying the exact species is well beyond my ability, but apparently these fellas are edible.
After seeing plenty of Wood Bison at a distance dotting pastures, fields and forest edges I imagined that the day I would get close and personal with the largest terrestrial animal in the americas would be along a remote trail far away from human civilization. Well I could not me more mistaken. I came across this gigantic male Wood Bison right by the fence along Highway 16. I had stopped on a gravel road turn-out along the highway and there he was, a solitary male Wood Bison, right on the other side of the fence. I could have reached out and touched him if I wanted to. I decided not to give him any reason to tear down the fence and go after me. He was certainly curious though. As I approached the fence he came right up to meet me, not the least shy. Although the wire fence looked solid and was at least 6 feet tall it would not stand a chance against an adult Wood Bison hellbent on getting through. I did manage to get some nice closed up pictures of him, including this one where he is staring me down probably wondering what my intentions were.
The flowers of the Prickly Wilde Roses are long gone and have been replaced by green hips. As they ripen they will turn orange and then red. The hips are edible, something the First Nations and Swedes have known since the dawn of time. I’ll be keeping my eyes on the rose hips to harvest some when they become ripe. Making rose hip tea might be the easiest way of reaping some of the health benefits of these fruits or, if I feel adventurous, I might just make a batch of rose hip soup. The wilting of the flowers and the ripening of fruits signals the impeding end of the summer. Technically September 23 is the last day of summer but typically things turn fall’ish much earlier in these neck of the woods.