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It's About Time - October 2015

Fried chicken mushroom, Lyophyllum decastes
Fried chicken mushroom, Lyophyllum decastes

Well, the summer has slipped past the equinox without much fanfare, as usual. All we need is for the rainy season to begin and fall will be here. When the bigleaf maple loses its leaves, the licorice ferns uncurl on its branches. Or, as they say in Alaska, “when the fireweed goes to cotton, the summer’s soon forgotten.”

The little birds are crowding our feeders as if we were the only source of suet and finch seed in the neighborhood. They are molting right now, so they have fresh flight feathers for safe migration, more fluff for warmth, and less color to avoid notice by predators. The sunflower seed chunks seem to be particularly desirable.

There is something similar going on down in the east side Delta Pond that had so much red Azolla (mosquito fern) last year. The Azolla has been replaced by a dense cover of duckweed, both the common duckweed and tiny water meal duckweed. I counted over 75 ducks on the day after the equinox, more than I’ve ever seen in that pond. Mallards were in the majority but plenty of other species are present. They were all scooping up the floating feast.

As soon as the rains come, we can plant our winter greens. They grow slowly but have fewer pests than spring-planted salad. The rains will bring on the wild mushroom crop. Only the chanterelles are reliable producers. Learn about mushroom diversity at the Mushroom Festival Oct. 25 at Mount Pisgah Arboretum.