Friday, May 17, 2013

Beautiful Horrible

A new low: People throwing spaghetti from their cars into the roadside trees, I thought. But this showy jellylike ornament on a cedar branch, common after heavy spring rains, is Cedar-Apple Rust, not a fungus but a gall that grows only in the presence of both red cedar trees and trees in the apple family (including the hawthorn tree, bearer of Missouri's state flower). The same spherical gall can flower brilliant pumpkin-orange like this repeatedly during the spring, when rainy days alternate with dry. In a sinister and monstrous way it's pretty but not good news for the tree, and it's contagious.

A website explains: "Spring rains cause horn-like structures, called telia, to extrude from galls. When these horns absorb water, they become jelly-like and swollen. Between rains they dry to dark brown threads. The telial horns are comprised of thousands of two-celled spores called teliospores. Swelling and drying of telial horns may occur 8-10 times during the season. Each time, the horns push out further and expose more teliospores until the supply is exhausted."

I suppose it's just trying to make a living like everybody else.

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