Thursday, July 14, 2011

Midsummer Miscellany

 Katydid (Image from, not one of mine) 

No theme to today's post, just a few random notes.

First, last night (Wednesday, July 13), the annual katydid chorus began.  Only Tuesday, I had mentioned to Kali that I'd been hearing cicadas for the last week or so but hadn't yet heard a katydid.  But on our quotidian evening stroll to close the gate after sunset, three or four katydids were serenading from the trees.  Nothing says mid- to late-summer than katydids at night.  Fortunately, it got cool last night and I could leave the windows open to hear them.
Second, the flock of three hen turkeys and their combined 15 poults have gotten up enough courage to eat the seed spilled under my bird feeder.  Prior to yesterday, they'd been too skittish to allow me to sprinkle seed under the feeder for them, but now they've gotten used to me.  The poults still scuttle away a short distance when I appear, but the hungry females rush for the seed, and the young are not far behind.  By autumn, they'll all be demanding seed.

Third, deer have gotten into my garden. Either I left the gate open, or they pushed it open, but when I went down to cut basil for spaghetti sauce on Monday evening, the gate hung ajar and the tomato plants had been partially ravaged.  Nearly all of the fruits were gone, and much of the plant material had been damaged.  Fortunately, there were still some fruits left, and some of the plants have flowers on them, but it will be a lean and late harvest this year.  I secured the gate and strung deer netting higher up on the fence posts; I hope it keeps them out.

Finally, Kali and I are heading West tomorrow to cross off one of the items on my "bucket list."  Notice I said my list, not our list.  She's a good sport and, if everything goes well, she'll have a great time, too.  Update during the last week of July when I return.

Monday, July 11, 2011

An Embarrassment of Ruby Riches

Wineberries (Rubus phoenicolasius) are extraordinarily abundant this year, and last weekend they were fully ripe.  A very short stop during a walk in the preserve produced many a handful.  Because they're sweet but don't have much flavor, they're best by the juicy handful.
Wineberries were intentionally introduced into the United States from (where else?) eastern Asia in 1890 as breeding stock for new Rubus cultivars.  The plant is still used today by berry breeders to add specific genes to berry varieties.  Wineberries have become naturalized in the Northeast and much of the Mid-Atlantic, where they prefer light shade at the edges of woodlands and along trails, though the plant will readily invade intact woods but may not produce fruits under deep shade.  The plant reproduces by seeds and by layering (when a long cane tip bends over and touches the ground, it develops roots).
The fruits (technically drupes) are sought after and dispersed by birds and mammals.

Other than the sweet fruit, perhaps the best attribute of the wineberry is its musical species name (i.e., phoenicolasius), which means "bearing purple hairs," a reference to the distinctive glandular red hairs and small spines on the canes that impart a deep magenta color when seen from a distance.