Black Cherry Inchworm

Today’s Front Yard Nature: an inchworm on a Black Cherry seedling.
This is how nature is supposed to work: native plants = caterpillar food.
No one was eating the equally tiny seedlings of exotic bush honeysuckle in the same porch crack.

My nearest mature Black Cherry tree is blocks away, but every summer, birds poop the purple-painted seeds onto the driveway, the yard and the cracks in the porch. This too, is how nature is supposed to work.
I toss the exotic weeds to shrivel in the sun, but I plant some of the natives in cups to grow, or to give away, or to plant somewhere else when nobody’s watching.

Black Cherry / Prunus serotina is one of the Prunus species on the National Wildlife Federation’s native plant finder for my zipcode. The list states that it can feed 320 species of caterpillar, but right now, this particular Black Cherry is only big enough to support *one.*


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Bio:
Joanna Brichetto is a naturalist and writer in Nashville, the hackberry-tree capital of the world.
She writes about everyday marvels amid everyday habitat loss, and her essays have appeared in Creative NonfictionBrevity, Fourth Genre, Hippocampus, The Hopper, Flyway, The Common, Stonecrop Review, The Fourth River and other journals. Her forthcoming book is Paradise in a Parking Lot: Unlikely Stories from Urban Nature.

The Sycamore Squeeze

To squeeze a Sycamore ball is a seasonal pleasure, and the season is now.
Now is when last year’s clusters of Sycamore seeds start to fall and to fall apart.
For the next few weeks, they’ll disintegrate into drifting piles of loose, fluffy achenes: Sycamore “snow.”

To squeeze a Sycamore seed-ball is oddly satisfying.
Call it a Contemplative Practice.
Call it fun or sick or weird, but try it.

The Sycamore Squeeze is one way to get to know Where—and When—you are.

Continue reading “The Sycamore Squeeze”

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.

Continue reading “Persimmon Predictor”

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.

Continue reading “Forbidden Fruit (the Sidewalk Fig story)”

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:

Continue reading “June Bug Day, Upside-Down”

Cicada Songs

Do you hear what I hear?
Cicadas: morning, noon, and (almost) night.

These are the Dog Day cicadas: the annual species who show up every year.
Their little husks in the yard and their big songs in the trees are signs of high summer, and to me, of Home.

But more importantly, they are a sign that one bit of our world is working as it should.

If you don’t hear what I hear, can you go out and try? Listen for the buzzes and grindings and trills where the trees are: mature, native trees like Sugar maples, elms, red-cedars.
For maximum effect, listen at dusk on a Greenway or near some woods, or under fat hackberries in a shady neighborhood, where the combined cicada volume can almost rattle your bones. We’re talking Spinal Tap “eleven.”

Continue reading “Cicada Songs”