The Notebook

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15 November 2022 – Wintergreen is an obscure, ground hugging plant noted for the taste and aroma of its leaves and berries. Oil of Wintergreen is methyl salicylate, a chemical produced to attract desirable animals and repel others. There is strong scientific evidence that it signals nearby plants to protect themselves and that it can attract predatory insects to annihilate leaf eating adversaries. More detail in the article.

17 October 2022 – The Parasol Mushroom is named for its appearance as the near perfect umbrella. But the shape is deceiving as it is not to protect the spores on the underside of the cap from water, but to provide an atmosphere with enough water vapor under the cap to provide a droplet to launch the spores. The explanation of the surface tension catapult is in the article here.

The Parasol Mushroom is the epitome of an umbrella with a wide cap and narrow stem.

17 September 2022 – The Wooly Bear Caterpillar is the counterpart to the groundhog‘s spring forecast. The width of its brown band is an alleged harbinger of the severity of the upcoming winter. It is often seen trundling furiously on trails in autumn to find a good place to wait out the cold, which it will do in a near frozen state. For more information about the astounding larva of the Isabella moth, read the article here.

Woolly Bear on the move.

15 August 2022 – Yarrow is one of the most well-known herbals globally as it is native to both Eurasia and North America. It is widely disbursed and common along old fields and roads; easily recognized for its lacy leaf structure. Mythologically, it was used by Achilles to treat wounds during the Trojan War, one of its current primary uses. There is more to learn.

Yarrow growing in clusters beside the trail in an open area.

15 July 2022 – Bald Eagles need no introduction. Their survival story involving DDT and the Migratory Bird Act is augmented with the true story about Benjamin Franklin’s alleged aversion, favoring the turkey as the national symbol. Article in depth.

A soaring bald eagle is the epitome of freedom.

15 June 2022 – Ring-necked snakes are small, common, and supposedly harmless. But like many of the rear-fanged snakes in the Colubrid family, they produce venom that causes pain, hematoma, and swelling. And why the neck ring? More information in the article.

Ring-necked snakes can be up to two feet long, subsisting mostly on salamanders.

16 May 2022 – The Eastern redcedar is not a cedar. It is a juniper. Junipers have “berries” that are not berries but small blue cones that attract birds to spread the seeds, which is why there are so many of them. More about the marvels of red cedar.

The Eastern red cedar is rarely seen alone in a field, as they are normally spread across wide ranges of open areas by birds.

15 April 2022 – Flowers have opened for the business of pollination in the cheer of vernal sunshine. Great lobelias are among the most magnificent, upstaged only by their colorful cousin Cardinal Flowers. Indian Tobacco rounds out the lot for those seeking cessation. All three lobelias are discussed in the new added page.

The Great Lobelia is an imposing flower on a tall stem, ideal for pollinators. Along with the Cardinal Flower and Indian tobacco, it has a chemical compound called lobeline that was once used to treat syphilis.

18 March 2022 – Just in time for spring, the wood frogs have unfrozen and the males are madly searching wetlands for a mate to fill the water with thousands of eggs. The question is, how did they survive the ice? An interesting story of cryopreservation in the article.

The most notable feature of the wood frog is the black “robber’s mask” eye stripe.

14 February 2022 – Greenshield Lichens are most notable in the winter when they are one of the few things that contrast the drab grays and browns of denuded deciduous trees. They need only sunlight and water for the algal portion of the lichen to provide nutrients to the fungal portion. More on lichens and how they survive in the full article

Rock Greenshield lichens in a winter snowscape.

15 January 2022 – It is still winter but a new year. White-tailed deer are wearing their darker coats and seeking out food that is scarce, wandering farther afield. This contributes to the deer population that poses an ecological problem in forests. A full discussion of the white-tailed deer, their habits, and ways to deal with them are in the full article.

This white-tailed deer doe has become so accustomed to humans that she stares blithely at the camera without a hint of alarm; the tail is in the fully lowered position.

14 December 2021 – Winter is a good time to look at rocks and the geology of Great Falls is one of the best places to get started. It marks the fall line which was the original edge of the North American Plate. The jumbled metamorphic rocks along its banks were once 15 miles under an ocean called Iapetus. The Full Story with more pictures is here.

The Great Falls of the Potomac River

9 November 2021 – Autumn is harvest time when the fruits are ready for dispersal by animal scavengers for which they were evolved to attract. Blueberries are a case in point. Growing in acidic soils, they produce berries that are blue and sweet using the chemical anthocyanin, the same one that turns maple leaves red. More about blueberries

The sweet succulence of wild blueberries attracts animals to consume them, including hikers.

 Contact Information:           William Needham – Needham82@aol.com