Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Creepy Side of Spring

Suddenly I see sidewinding across the floor, at the threshold of the mudroom, two snakes, and say aloud, "Oh, for heaven's sake. Snakes in the house." While one soon vanished, this Prairie Ring-Necked Snake wasn't camera shy. The Ring-Necked and the black Rat Snake are the two snakes most common in the house, maybe having wintered in the fireplace I'd opened up the day before.

Snakes come in and out of my fireplace as if it were a nightclub. They are harmless and I let them be, but always do a double-take when seeing snakes in the house.

Then on a walk I see, on a tree cut violently short yet still bringing forth leaves, dense colonies of weird fuzzy purple vertical shoulder-to-shoulder parasites. A wildflower, I thought at first, but then got a closer look and saw it was pathology, utterly unfamiliar. At home I googled "purple parasites," "lavender parasites," "purple caterpillars" and finally, through an image, identified these. They're not animals at all, but--as close as I could get to an I.D.--Maple Spindle Gall (Eriophyes cerasicumena), the tree's reaction to an infestation of mites. These were generated by the plant; they're like tumors. There were no other examples in the immediate area and there is no Spindle Gall photo on the Internet quite like this one.
Spindle gall

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