Leaf Thief

Michael and I were walking past the storm drain, exactly where I’d hoped to finish stealing the tidily stacked bags of Chinkapin oak leaves. 

Me: “Aw, Metro must have gotten them yesterday.”  I looked for evidence on the asphalt, where knuckle-boom truck can leave scars. Nothing.
“Or maybe someone else stole them?”

Michael: “Right. Like other people go around and steal leaves for their yard.”

Me: “You’d be surprised.”

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Yard Nature: Free Chives

[Bagel from Bruegger’s, china from Spode, “wild chives” from the Mayflower]

I grew up eating what Mom called wild onion. It showed up in the yard as free food. The long, hollow leaves were good to chew, as were the bulbs, but those were too intense to eat raw unless cheese and crackers were involved.

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How Your Tree Helps Wildlife in Winter

Sugar Maple leaves with pupa; Persimmon; Oak leaf with gall; Red oak acorns

“Wondering how trees help birds and wildlife survive a Nashville winter?”

That’s the first sentence in my short piece at The Nashville Tree Conservation Corps, called “How Your Tree Helps Wildlife in Winter.” My goal was to highlight “essential services” that only native trees can give to our birds, butterflies, and other animal neighbors.

Even if you already know the answers, take a look? Are there other stories I should have included in the allotted word count? We all want readers to fall in love with what native trees can do.

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Persimmon Predictor

Folklore says the inside of native persimmon seeds can predict winter weather.
Alas, Folklore doesn’t say *how* to slice the seeds, which can be tricky.
Look for the shape of the embryo (and future “seed leaves”): 

  • Fork = mild
  • Spoon = snow
  • Knife = “cutting” cold

The method is as accurate as Woolly-bear caterpillar predictions, which is to say, not at all.
Both are fun, but with persimmons, you get to lick your fingers.

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Forbidden Fruit (the Sidewalk Fig story)

“Pick me!” says the fig hanging over the street.

Every morning, I resist the temptation to pluck a fig from a sidewalk tree. I walk before dawn, but the plump silhouette is clear against the brightening sky. 

“Pick meee!”

I’ve watched this fig grow from the size of a chocolate chip to the size of a . . . fig. There are dozens on offer: stem-down, bottoms-up candy for strangers. But I keep walking. Someone might be looking out a window.

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June Bug Day, Upside-Down

Today was a different kind of June Bug Day: an upside-down kind.
Instead of glossy, green grownups flying over grass, these June beetles are weird, white grubs crawling over streets.
But the weirdest thing is how they crawl. Despite having six serviceable little legs, these larvae travel on their backs, upside down.

“Crawl” is too weak a word. Squoonch is better. The grubs squoonch, undulate, and wriggle forward while their feet point at the sky.
The sky, meanwhile, is raining, which is why these teenagers leave their underground homes to squoonch somewhere less wet. 

How do they do it?
With “ambulatory bristles.”
Isn’t that a wonderful phrase?
Stiff hairs on the outside, plus strong muscles on the inside get the grubs where they wish to go. 

But why do they do it?
Why not walk on . . . ambulatory legs?
No other grubs choose bristles over feet. 

Please click the Play symbol to watch 5 seconds of Squoonching:

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