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.