Showing posts from November, 2016
Nature News: Tar spot fungus showing up on maple leavesBy Sue Pike York Weekly/Portsmouth Herald/Exeter Weekly/Fosters Dailly Democrat
There are mushrooms and then there are fungi, essentially the same thing (mushrooms are the reproductive parts of fungi), but while we humans think mushrooms are cute and give them fanciful names like toadstools or pixie rings, a large number of fungi go unnoticed or unrecognized. Or even worse (if you are a fungi who takes umbrage at human misunderstandings) many fungi are considered to be diseases. Athlete’s foot for example - a fungi just trying to survive on human feet. Or the tar spot fungus that is showing up on many of the brilliant yellow maple leaves this fall.
Most of the sugar maple leaves in my neighborhood are dotted with these tar spots; my neighbors were wondering just how concerned they should be by this. According to the Cornell University Plant Disease Diagnostic Clinic: “Several different fungi in th…
Nature News: Red squirrels love to stash away pine conesBy Susan Pike  published the week of Nov 14 2016 in a variety of local newspapers
I was out hiking with a friend when a red squirrel accosted us on the trail, clearly wanting something to eat. It sat up on a rock, its tail quivering, it jumped down and moved closer.  I took out my phone and snapped some photos before disappointing it and walking away.  I feel like I’ve known red squirrels my entire life. They lived in the big spruce trees behind my childhood house and left little piles of picked-over pine cones among the mossy stumps. When I was little, my father would read to us from the Burgess Animal Book. What I remember most about that book is a random line: “Chatterer the Red Squirrel had been scolding because there was no excitement.” This character - Chatterer - was always getting into trouble with Old Mother West Wind because he never seemed able to keep his thoughts to himself. My backyard red squirrels were just like …
Tamaracks are rebels in the tree worldBy Sue Pike and local papers  November 7, 2016 I drove out to Cooperstown, N.Y., to visit my son this weekend. It was beautiful driving through the Berkshires into northern New York. The trees were mostly bare except for brilliant stands of red maple and deep orange oak and then, every once in a while, blazes of almost fluorescent yellow tamarack. Tamaracks are rebels in the tree world. We all easily categorize trees as either evergreen or deciduous. The evergreens are mostly conifers; needle-leaved, cone-bearing trees like pines, firs and hemlocks. The deciduous trees are the ones that draw the leaf peepers to New England - scarlet maples, orange and brown oaks, yellow birches, beech and poplar; broad-leaved trees that turn color and then drop their leaves in winter. Tamaracks are nonconformists to this dichotomy because they are conifers that turn color and drop their needles every winter. I knew that tamaracks gre…
Nature News: Sea pickle thrives in salt marshBy Susan Pike

I live just down the road from a salt marsh. The salt marsh hay is yellowish brown now and lying over in those distinctive cowlicks. Walking on it, I always feel like a flea walking on the back of a dog. Here and there bright red sea pickles poke through, adding some lively color to an otherwise monochrome scene. I learned about sea pickles when I first moved to Maine. My kids and I liked to eat them (they taste like tiny pickles) during our ramblings through the marsh. While working at the Wells National Estuarine Reserve, I discovered their importance as a salt marsh indicator species. Sea pickles (also called glasswort, samphire, saltwort, or, scientifically, as Salicornia species) and Spartina grasses (salt marsh hay and cord grass) are the most common salt marsh plants and have worldwide distributions. These plants are halophytes (plants adapted to salty conditions) and are also pioneer species, meaning they are usually t…