I was curled on the sofa with a migraine, a bowl of pintos, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer when Michael texted me to come out in the rain and see the hickory branch. It was worth it.
The branch had fallen from the young bitternut hickory that “came up volunteer” in the yard years ago. It’s thinner than a broom handle, but it’s a universe. I see black jelly fungus, moss, lichens, and a tiny cup fungus. The wood is lunch for all.
The black gelatinous blob is springy. Push on it with a finger and it pushes right back. I’m guessing Exidia glandulosa, which loves to grow on hardwoods. It’s in the “jelly ear” family of fungi. Yum.
There’s another springy something here. Can you see the tiny orange dot in the upper left quandrant? Just under the black jelly? That’s an orange globular springtail—an insect-like creature—about the size of the period at the end of a 12 point sentence. Springtails really do have a spring at their tail. It is forked, it catapults them end over end as an escape mechanism, and it’s called a furca. Remember this the next time you need to impress someone at a party.
David Attenborough says if humans could jump as high, we’d clear the Eiffel Tower.
Springtails speed decomposition by chewing bits into smaller bits.
Farther down the branch are these marbled brown plates on a twig:
Right now, what with the migraine and the beans and Buffy, I’m content to wait for positive ID.
I don’t know for sure what any of these marvels are called, other than beautiful.
And they all live on a stick in the yard.
Fancy a David Attenborough intro to the spring of a springtail? Less than 2 minutes long, and he pronounces “bathing” with a short a.
Orange globular springtail at BugGuide.net