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On Nature's Trail

Ed Bigelow 


The evergreen bagworm may be found on several varieties of the trees from which it takes its name, especially the red cedar oak and arbor vitae.  As a protective dwelling it makes a curious bag resembling the case of the aquatic caddis flies that make homes out of tiny pebbles and bits of stick.  

A common form of these caterpillars has the habit of building tiny log cabins.  When the caterpillar wishes to move from one place to another, it pushes forth the short end of its body, creeps along and carries the house with it.  Some strange stories have centered around these interesting insects.  It is said that one species in Ceylon was believed by the natives to be composed of individuals who were previously on earth as human beings and stole kindling wood.  After their death as human beings, the punishment decreed was that they should return to earth and build homes of kindling wood and ever carry them.  

When Scouts are in camp they should not hesitate to take home a collection of bagworms.  If they destroy these pests, they will be doing a good turn for the trees.  

The bark of the yellow birch can be compared with nothing else.  This tree is unique among trees.  The yellow birch, often better called the silvery birch, has a bark more tinsel-like than that of any other tree.  

It is true that the bark may be used for kindling, but it is also true that the removal of the loose bark injures the tree, and its beauty, as you then deprive it of its chief characteristic.  The manner in which the bark breaks on the main trunk, expands and rolls back in ribbon-like curls and strips, which long remain attached and rustle in every passing breeze, could not fail to elicit the admiration of every lover of the forest.

It is noticeable that on old trunks, the character of the bark is different, as there it is roughened by irregular plate-like scales.

The earthstar is a puffball.  Every Scout knows the ordinary puffballs that so often thickly speckle decaying sticks and fallen logs.  Give one a sudden pinch, and a smoke-like cloud of spores puffs out at the top.

The earthstar, when mature, splits into several segments that spread themselves on the ground in a star-like aspect and suggest the common name.  When the weather is wet the lining of the starry points becomes jelly-like and they spread flat upon the ground and anchor the plant in place.  But when the weather is dry these soft segments become hard and rigid and curl up around the inner ball.  Then the fungus is light and fluffy and the wind rolls it about and scatters the 'spores through the hole at the top of the ball.  Thus it is the puffball that has learned to travel around in fair weather and stay home like a sensible creature when the weather is not propitious.

Puffballs are found in all parts of the world, yet are not generally known.  We hope that the Scouts accustomed to go in the woods and fields will keep on the lookout for these puff balls that are rolled along in the sun by the wind and settle down to rest when the rain comes.

On Nature's Trail In:


Signs of Wildlife In:

November - December

January - March








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On Nature's Trail ] Animal Tracks ] Birds in Winter ] Birds Nest Collections ] Nature Collections ] Signs in Jan-March ] Signs: Nov-Dec ] Trees in Winter ] Animals in Winter ] Winter Tree List ] Tree Photography ]

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Last modified: October 15, 2016.