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It's About Time - October 2016

The equinox passing is reflected in shorter days. The rate of change itself changes. Change in day length is fastest at equinox and slowest at solstice. The day-to-day change at equinox is about 3 minutes a day but only 30 seconds a day at winter solstice.

At the end of September, seeds of incense cedar were scattered to the winds and now their cones are raining down. The cones of incense cedar decompose over winter and are gone by spring. 

The cones of Douglas fir, however, remain on the trees long after seeds are shed and then rot slowly after they finally fall to the ground. In late summer many of them are cut down by squirrels and hidden under logs until recovered later for a meal. 

The cone scales are chewed away to expose the tender, nutritious seeds. Squirrels leave piles of cone scales at the end of logs where they were munched. The cones of true firs disintegrate from top down. The scales and seeds fall separately, a few at a time.

Long dry spells have caused bigleaf maple leaves to dry and turn brown early. Bracken ferns are getting brown on the roadsides and will collapse after the first hard frost. The lady fern will likewise keel over with a frost. Mosquito ferns on Delta Ponds are turning deeper and deeper red as temperatures dip to freezing. Sword fern, deer fern and spleenwort are evergreen ferns. Spleenworts are not common, so finding one is special.

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.