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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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
8 October 2021 – Coral Fungi of the Family Clavariaceae are a case study in the changes in fungal taxonomy engendered by the DNA revolution of biology. The coral shape provides more surface area for spore formation and has been replicated by many species that have no evolutionary relationships. But they are still “all in the family.” For the Details
10 September 2021 – The Red-spotted Purple Butterfly copies the Pipevine Swallowtail which is toxic to birds in the southern states. In the north, it has a broad white stripe and is called the White Admiral. This is an example of Batesian mimicry. More about butterfly evolutionary mutations here.
12 August 2021 – The Brown Thrasher is a hiker, striding through wooded thickets in search of insects. It is equally a master of birdsong, having a greater repertoire than any other songbird, including its better known cousin, the mockingbird. For more about the life and times of thrashers, read the article.
17 July 2021 – The columbine is summer’s finest flower. Its name is derived from Columba, the Latin word for dove, appearing to some as five doves with their tails upward and wings swept downward. It is configured to be pollinated by the ruby-throated hummingbird. The full article has details
11 June 2021 – Spring is almost over and the wood frog tadpoles only have a few more months to mature before the ephemeral pool dries. Vernal pools are key habitats for many amphibian and other aquatic species. Learn more about the nature of the pools and why they need protection in the article here
Contact Information: William Needham – Needham82@aol.