Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A Little Oak

It sometimes amazes me how much adversity the plants at Blue Jay Barrens can survive. This is a small Chinquapin Oak, Quercus muehlenbergii. It has been here, at approximately this same size, for as long as I’ve owned the property. It survives on a partially shaded, rocky, south facing slope.

Here’s a perspective shot of me standing beside the tree. To help you get a feel for the size, I’ll tell you that I’m not over 12 feet tall and the tree barely reaches my chest. The top of this tree has died and a lower branch is now becoming the dominant leader. This sequence of events has played out many times in the past.

The lower trunk shows a lot of age. You can see the remains of a stub on the left where the tree once died back almost to ground level. This looks much like an old Bonsai specimen.

A little farther up the tree, there is another die back and promotion of a side sprout to leader.

Of course, rough growing conditions are not all this tree must endure. Several of the leaves are wearing small oak galls. Galls are usually formed on leaves as a result of either a fungus infection or a response to an insect egg. I believe this is of the latter variety, forming around a tiny wasp egg.

There are also plenty of insects around to munch on the leaves. This insect is a small Walking Stick. It’ll be larger and much more stick-like this autumn. When they are abundant, Walking Sticks can nearly strip a tree of leaves. It wouldn’t take many to eat all the leaves on a tree this size.

It could be quite an insult to a tree to be decades old, but have a Bush Cricket take up residence in your leaves. I don’t know if the cricket or some other insect is responsible for the damage to this leaf. Between the cricket’s hind legs is the egg of a butterfly or moth. Soon we’ll have a young larva taking its share of leaves from the tree.

Here’s an interesting Harvestman, A.K.A. Daddy Long Legs, cruising the branches in search of a meal.

Looks like one of those long legs went missing. I used to keep guys like this as pets when I was younger. They did quite nicely in a terrarium. Most people never get a good look at the bodies of these interesting creatures. All people see are a bunch of legs and that’s their signal to leave.

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