6.28.12 Natural Selection
photos by gluttonforlife
It's been a strange and wonderful transition from spring to summer this year, with recent nights dipping down into the 40s again. It almost feels like fall. Good for sleeping but not so good for the tomatoes, eggplant and cucumbers trying to make headway in the garden. This constitutes glorious hiking weather, the air so impossibly fresh that you are instantly energized. The woods are cool and damp, carpeted with moss and overrun with ferns so green they are almost neon. Pileated woodpeckers and yellow-bellied sapsuckers hammer away in the treetops; baby bunnies are living under our honeysuckle bushes; tiny freckled fawns gambol in the tall grass; great blue herons careen over the marsh; and at night the barred owl calls out "who-cooks-for-you? who-cooks-for-you-now?" It's pretty magical to be a creature among so many other creatures. I identified the one above as a Rosy Maple Moth (Dryocampa rubicunda). Its fuzzy orange body and lavender-tipped wings give it sort of a bridge-&-tunnel look, don't you think?
G captured this glorious insect perched upon a purple pincushion flower. I'm always amazed at the tribal markings you see on certain spiders and bugs. I wonder if they inspired indigenous art.
spider or ant?
I was fascinated to see this on my (admittedly filthy) office window and further amazed when I read that certain spiders will disguise themselves as ants in order to prey upon them with greater ease. I think that's what was going on here, as we get a ton of ants in and around the house as soon as the weather turns mild. Clever thing.
You probably remember this sulphur shelf aka chicken mushroom from last fall, when I gathered many in these parts and enjoyed them on toast
, pickled and in soup. I was pleasantly surprised to encounter a few right after some spring rains. I made soup with them and shortly after dinner G and I felt some rather unpleasant burbling in our guts. Then I remembered that you need to be careful not to eat any mushrooms growing on hemlock trees. I have no idea if this is what happened, but I'll be more careful in future.
This is a Ganoderma tsugae, also known as reishi mushroom. It has a beautiful, reddish lacquer-like veneer. It’s very highly esteemed in Asia, where it has been used as medicine for thousands of years. Among its many ascribed benefits are anti-tumor, anti-viral, anti-microbial and immunotherapeutic properties, as well as an ability to lower blood pressure. Unfortunately it doesn't taste very good and is usually prepared as a hot water extract from either fresh or dried pieces. Mine went all moldy from the humidity and was cast into the compost.
Fomes fomentarius, commonly known Hoof Fungus, really does look like a horse’s hoof. It’s also called Tinder Polypore because it can be used to make “amadou,” a firestarter produced by soaking the young fungus, then beating and stretching it into fibers. The 5,000-year-old "Ötzi the Iceman" was found carrying four pieces of this, and it was concluded that he was most likely using it to start fires. Its other uses, past and present, include as a styptic by surgeons; to dry teeth by dentists; to produce clothing, including caps and gloves; and to dry the flies for fly fishing. Necessity is, indeed, the mother of invention and nature provides.