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It's About Time - August 2016

Nelson’s Juniper Hairstreak, Callophrys gryneus nelsoni
Nelson’s Juniper Hairstreak, Callophrys gryneus nelsoni

The mosquito fern that covered the eastside Delta Ponds’ surfaces with dramatic purple the past two winters had nearly disappeared by late spring of this year. The duckweed family overtook the mosquito fern and turned the ponds green, much to the gustatory delight of the waterfowl. Suddenly, in July, the mosquito fern has made a resurgence and may regain dominance; observations to come. Even the green is different. Instead of common duckweed, the green is dominated by the tiny water meal (Wolffia) of the flowering duckweed family. Duckweed is small enough, the size of an “o” in newsprint, while each Wolffia plant barely exceeds the dot on an “i.”

Berry season is two weeks early. The tasty, wild and weedy Armenian blackberry started ripening even before the first of August. The juiciest ones tend to be around ponds like the eastside Delta Ponds, where dust from roads is also minimal. As with the strawberries and cherries, they will likely peak early. Gather and enjoy.

In hot weather, gnats form small swarms in the meadows by water. A typical gnat cloud is about 2 feet through and a yard high. Gnats are not fun to walk through but they don’t bite. I remember how my old friend, the late Marge Zane, showed how to herd a whole swarm. She guided them here and there, slowly, with arms spread in a wide embrace. We found that we could pass a gnat cloud from one person to another, the swarm was so coherent.

David Wagner is a botanist who works in Eugene. He teaches moss classes, leads nature walks and makes nature calendars. Contact him directly at fernzenmosses@me.com.