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Eugene Weekly : It's About Time : 9.3.09




By David Wagner

Corylus cornuta (wild hazelnut)

September marks the beginning of the end as far as summer is concerned. On the one hand, some of our best days occur this month, beautiful and sunny but not too hot. Shortening days are impossible not to notice; the fastest rate of change occurs around the equinox, Sept. 22 this year.

There is a great bird event midmonth: the passage of Vaux’s swifts southward. They roost in huge numbers at various stopping points. In Eugene it is the old chimney of Agate Hall, at 17th and Agate. It is a sight to see them swirling in the evening sky by the thousands, then swoop into the chimney together.

Gardens are bountiful this time of the year. The earliest tomatoes are producing well, the biggest ones need a few more sunny days to mature. If you don’t already practice preservation, this is a good year to learn. Simply chopping and freezing in zipper bags works for much produce, even zucchini. They will be wonderful in a soup come January.

Squirrels and scrub jays are busily burying hazelnuts and acorns. This appears to be a big acorn year for Kellogg’s black oak, not so for the Oregon white oak. The tribes of this area never did use acorns much, but their middens are filled with wild hazelnut shells. It is a marvel that they were able to find enough for a harvest. To a casual botanist nuts are scarce on wild hazelnuts, and competition with squirrels and birds must be tough.

 

David Wagner is a botanist who has worked in Eugene for more than 30 years. He teaches mosses and is president of the Eugene Natural History Society. He may be reached at fernzenmosses@me.com