Eugene Weekly : It’s About Time : 8.5.10

By David Wagner

Vines bearing pretty little purple flowers with yellow center posts are growing all over town in alleys, around ponds and along waterways. These will develop succulent looking red berries later in the month. The plant is known as deadly nightshade and its berries are indeed poisonous. Eating even a few can make one very ill. With so many excellent wild berries starting to ripen, this is a good month to teach a child to discriminate the edible ones from the inedible.

Lakes and ponds may be reported to have a “toxic algae bloom” as waters get warm. It is unfortunate that algae are blamed for a problem caused by bacteria. The proper name for the offensive goop is cyanobacteria. Maybe if we start calling it “blue green bacteria” instead of “blue green algae” the general public will kick its scientific appreciation up a notch.

Queen Anne’s lace dances in open grassy areas now. Its flower buds start out in saucer formation, then bulge out like a balloon as the flowers come into full bloom. Later in the season most of these clusters will have a dark, purplish maroon sterile flower in the middle. This is a dead fly decoy, a mimic that attracts flies to come and pollinate. As the seeds mature the flower cluster turns in on itself again, often harboring a spider in the urn-like center of the seed cluster.

The August full moon is a pleasure to behold. Gaze at the moon before bedtime the 23rd.

David Wagner is a botanist who has lived in Eugene for more than 30 years. He teaches mosses and leads plant walks. He may be reached at