January 29, 2008

Ginkgo, oh Ginkgo, come blow your horn. Since the windchill is tipping -35 and headed for -43, I thought this might be a good evening to try some light box shots with a single flash. In trying to find out what species this is, I found that Gingkos are considered "Living Fossils: as they occupy a single class and order of taxonomy and the genus Ginkgo and is the only living species within this group. Ginkgoales are not known to exist in the fossil record after the Pliocene period. Not only that, they are hardy trees well suited for urban areas. So much so that on August 6, 1945 the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and later after the plants and trees in the area around the epicentre were examined, among the survivors were four Ginkgo biloba trees. They were situated within 1300 meters of the blast center and appeared to bud after the blast without major deformations, and are still alive today.
Therefore the Ginkgo is regarded as the 'bearer of hope'.

Next is one of my favorite creeping plants, the seed pod of the Wild Cucumber vine. Tho probably not the most ecologically friendly specimen, it is very unique in that when it dries out, being still on the vine in the fall, the tapered end of the seed pod (shown) which can be nearly translucent at this point, literally expodes in the sun and curls back, dropping the (usually three) bean-like seeds to the wind. Inside the pod is a open-weave fibrous clothlike material that looks exactly like the mantle in a Coleman gas camping lantern. When dry, there is probably no better tinder to start your fire from: whether you be flint, match, or lighter.
Lastly, the insect world serves up some pretty unusual treats and the Cicada is one.
That ubiquitous microminiature chainsaw buzzing coming from trees and the ground in late summer is known by all, but often mistaken for frogs (frogs mating calls are in the spring.) The strange (to some people anyway, entymologists are a different breed) thing is, the cicadas that we know and er, love actually molt and leave their body shells behind, a perfect duplicate including legs, goggles, abdomen, the works. After tunneling out of the ground, they grab on to something they can dig their claws into, like our wooden mailbox post:

Then weasel and wrench themselves out of their exoskeletons, usually causing a slit to open down the back, like a fine evening dress, leaving it still clamped on to the mailbox post for eternity. Then it's Graduation Day!Today I am an adult! No more wimpy underclass nymph jokes for me! Ha, ha!
I say cicada, you say cicaeta, let's crush the thing with a big fat pataeta!