spicebush buds

Spicebush and Virginia Bluebells

It is not spring yet. I know this because the spicebush buds are still tight little balls. Any day now they will erupt in a chartreuse blush that will spread itself liberally throughout the forests along the country roads I travel. Also, if it were spring, the flattened evergreen ferns on the east-facing inclines along the Delaware River would be…

Lehigh canal

Remnants of the Past: the Lehigh Canal

The pillar formations of the stacked rock walls of the Lehigh Canal stand solidly upright after 185 years. About half of that time they were unmaintained and unused. The pillar and gap construction pattern probably contributed to the stability, by reducing the pressure of the forest against the walls. But what use could the gaps have served? From old photos…

Snowflakes are always hexagonal, but not always branched.

Hexagons in Nature

I don’t know why it surprised me so much that the snowflakes in my digital night photos were hexagonal. But they were, and it did, and the six-sided shape has since taken over a corner of my mind. It is everywhere in nature, in honeycombs and on turtle shells, crystals and snowflakes. The cooling and cracking of lava over centuries…

Insects lay eggs in great quantities, just to make sure some survive

The Forest in Winter

A piece of advice: If you’re looking for exercise, don’t go on a walk with botanists. This curious subset of humanity simply cannot keep up a steady pace. And no wonder! All that looking up at the tree buds and down at the leaf litter, examining egg clusters and bud scars, sniffing broken branches, and peering through magnifiers tends to…

Water

Water. It is such an essential part of life that we take it for granted. There it sits, a drop of water on the waxy cuticle of a daylily leaf, defying our expectations. For do we not expect water to run, to drop down to earth, to sink into the soil? Instead it holds its shape like a balloon, and…

Sawflies

When is a Caterpillar not a caterpillar? When it’s a Deere. No, no, that’s not it. What I meant to say is: When it’s a Sawfly.  Which doesn’t mean it’s a fly … although it might carry a saw. Sawflies are actually more closely related to wasps and bees than flies, and some females use a saw-like appendage to cut…