Thursday, November 24, 2011
For those of you who can't turn away from the computer even on Thanksgiving, here are some posts on the Natural Capital that relate to turkeys and giving thanks, in one way or another:
Now get outdoors and work off that turkey!
Friday, November 18, 2011
After all, imagine a world where every tree that fell over in the forest just stayed there. A few hundred years and it would be an impassible maze of giant Pick-Up Sticks.
No, we should be grateful for the saprobes -- those thankless little mushrooms that eat wood. And what better to single out at Thanksgiving time than the turkey tail? This very common shelf mushroom typically grows on (and eats) logs and stumps, clearing the way for future generations of trees and hikers.
Turkey tails grow in overlapping, semi-circular layers that really can look like the back end of a turkey. The effect is enhanced by stripes of various colors in the grey-to-brown (sometimes to orange) spectrum. (These stripes are the source of the name Trametes versicolor -- thin and multi-colored). The surface is often velvety when fresh. All in all, they're a lovely mushroom -- and all the more eye catching at this time of year when colors are fading in the woods.
studying extracts as cancer treatments. Perhaps one more reason to be thankful for the turkey tail.
In the wild: Turkey tail is extremely common in the woods. There are other common shelf mushrooms that can look very similar to the "true" turkey tail; chief among them is Stereum ostrea, the "false" turkey tail. If you want to get into the nitty-gritty, try Michael Kuo's key.
In your yard: You can order a turkey tail growing kit from Fungi Perfecti. (But, did we mention how common they are?)
Thursday, November 10, 2011
You know I stick mostly to native species on this blog. There are so many wonderful creatures and plants to explore without needing to focus on the imported counterparts that are crowding them out. But a friend forwarded a beautiful little video that I thought I would pass along, because this truly is one of the natural phenomena that takes my breath away a few times a year.
And what did Shakespeare think of starlings? They won't shut up. (Those of you who've been near a flock will agree.) In Henry IV, the king was refusing to pay a ransom to release his brother-in-law Edmund Mortimer. Hotspur, who took the prisoners in a battle, says:
He said he would not ransom Mortimer;
Forbad my tongue to speak of Mortimer;
But I will find him when he lies asleep,
And in his ear I'll holla 'Mortimer!'
Nay, I'll have a starling shall be taught to speak
Nothing but 'Mortimer,' and give it him
To keep his anger still in motion.
I don't think Hotspur ever went through with this plan, but the Acclimitization Society's dreams were fulfilled beyond their wildest expectations. It's estimated there are now more than 200 million starlings in North America, reaching coast to coast and into Canada and Mexico. The Introduced Species Summary Project complains that besides being noisy and messy, they ravage crops and crowd out native bird species as they travel around in flocks that sometimes number in the thousands.
Invasive though they are, such big flocks can also be a thing of beauty. Check it out.
Friday, November 4, 2011
I've been traveling and away from the Natural Capital a bit, including a trip to the midwest to celebrate some of life's extremes: I visited my grandma, who is turning 90 next month, and my friend's baby, who is 9 months old. Apologies for the lighter posting schedule, but you can always check out places to go in old posts via the navigation bar up above. Here are some of the wonderful things to look for that we've posted in previous Novembers. Links are to previous posts on the Natural Capital.
witch hazel has a special place in my heart. It's not that the flowers are particularly showy -- the petals are just small yellow wisps, really. But they start blooming in October, and can keep going until Thanksgiving or even later.
Persimmons are another special late-year treat -- though this year, they've been falling for a few weeks already. When they're not ripe, they'll make your mouth pucker. But when they're soft to the point of falling off the tree, they're sweet and luscious.
list of what they found, complete with pictures.
lichen. Take a field trip with a lichenologist in this video from Science Friday.
turkey. Read our post for some fun facts about wild turkeys, which apparently live in Rock Creek Park -- last year just after our post a reader told me she regularly sees them off Military Road. Keep an eye out!