In September 2012 after months of no rain and record-breaking heat, a big storm came and knocked all kinds of things down.
I don’t know how these crabapples made it as far as they did in the drought, but they did, and they were the biggest crabapples I’ve ever seen. Nearly an inch across! And such a beautiful eye-popping red/rose/blush/pink. Too bad I’m not a jelly-maker.
This is not my usual photo-fare but I was struck by the abundance and great colors.
There were also all these insect galls all over the leaves that came down. Never saw so many galls before. Other people noticed it too.
|Hackberry nipple gall|
I got curious about galls. They’re formed when insects or mites damage leaves in different ways (chewing, egg-laying, excreting things), and the plant responds with hyper-growth. If you want to make a gall you need to do it when plants are growing fast, like in spring, to take advantage of the surge in growth hormones.
From what I gathered, each kind of gall is specific to a particular insect/tree combo—aphids & cottonwood makes one type of gall, aphids on grape makes another, midges on hackberry, wasp on oak, etc.
Sometimes they lay eggs which makes the galls, and the larvae hatch and leave, but sometimes it’s just a way for a bug to make a handy food source, and then they just sit inside, eating. Sometimes there’s a lot more going on than just one insect inside them. The Iowa State Extension publication on galls warns “It is never safe to assume that the first insect to emerge from a gall is the one that caused the formation of the gall.” Once again we are reminded to assume nothing.
Above, bottom left, is a bonus shot of the underside of a leaf with galls. These are all “hackberry nipple galls”, cause by psyllids, which look like tiny leafhoppers.
The storm really knocked a lot of stuff out of the trees. Maple seeds look like tadpoles.
Below, more galls:
Galls on oak leaves caused by Gall Wasps. Just about every source I read mentioned they don’t really do much damage to the trees.
Then a friend stopped by and when I was whining about “no rain for months = no mushrooms” he said, “I just saw some mushrooms over at the hospital parking garage,” so we went over there and saw these:
“Reddening Lepiota,” Lepiota americana (except DNA studies recently decided they’re really Leucoagaricus americanus). These are dark because they’re sopping wet after a heavy rain. When they’re dry the cap is a nice creamy white and the scales are rusty-red.
Lots of pictures I saw showed that smear of yellow on the stem. They bruise yellow from damage, which slowly turns red.
Many mushrooms distort into wonderful shapes when they’re subject to sudden changes. They curl and wrinkle and split.
And now here’s the good part:
Ew! That’s why they’re called that!
These are edible but I passed because they were all growing right next to where cars probably idled as they waited to leave the parking garage. Too bad, because there were a lot of them. But, I see mixed reviews about their tastiness, and one person said they turn red when you cook them so it looks like a weird bloody mess. That would be fine with me, but they’re not included in any “choice edible” list I’ve seen. Maybe some other time.
Still, I hope I find more of these so I can slice them in half, for fun!
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