Friday, August 23, 2013

Seen While Eating Lunch

 I was hungry and carrying a heavy load, so I figured, Why not?  I just sat down at the edge of the woods to eat my lunch.  This occurred as I was heading up the paved walkway leading from the main parking lot to the upper campus at FRC.  It's amazing how much more one sees when not driven to get from point A to point B.  The first thing I noticed was a nice patch of grass without an apparent ant population, so I sat down.  The natural reaction to things from this spot seemed to be a comparison of tree trunks, since I was surrounded by them.  Virtually all the common species of this area and elevation were within my view.  First and foremost was a very large White Alder (above), and as my eye moved up the trunk I was startled to see the tree was infected by Tongue Fungus.  Until now, I had seen this interesting phenomenon on only one tree on the main paved road near the science building.  Now I'm seeing it more often.  I don't know if it's spreading or I'm just spotting it more readily.  In any case, the top photo here shows a dried up and possibly dead patch of the fungus surrounding last year's female cones.

 The second photo shows healthy male (the thin ones) and female cones developed during the current season.  Not yet infected, as far as I could tell.  Some dead ones from last summer are in the background to the left.
 The green patch at the center of this photo is a thriving patch of tongue fungus.  It's actually rather pretty and could pass for a natural part of the tree if one didn't know otherwise.
 Despite my looking at things above eye level, my usual habit took over, and I found a dense patch of Ranunculus (Buttercup) at my feet.  There's water moving by this area, perhaps a few inches beneath the surface, or else the Buttercups would be long gone for this season.
 Drat!  The clock dictates that I need to move on.  Will continue this story later this morning.

10:35 a.m., I'm back.  The above and below images of the White Alder were chosen to show the male and female cones from last season.  They are brown and dry, have done their jobs, and will fall off soon making way for a new crop.  The female cones make great miniature pine cones for model railroading and other crafts projects.
When I got my mind off the trees overhead in order to take another bite of my sandwich, I found an acorn of the California Black Oak right under my nose.  It's the signature of this blog.
One other sight that stood out, through my longer lens, was the West wall of my classroom.  Windowless, of course.  It reminded me of some internal features.  As a naturalist, I find myself sizing up indoor environments from a similar perspective to what I have in the forest.  What is the relationship between environment, natural or human-made, and behavior?
First of all, no windows.  No wonder students have the urge to play with electronic devices.  No windows, to me, represents sensory deprivation, but to architects and pedagogues it may represent a lack of distractions.  Hmph!  Also, the desks are bolted to the floor in order to accommodate electrical and electronic hookups.  Thus, the arrangement of the desks, chairs, podium, etc., is consistent with lecture, a pedagogy in which instructor dominates, and students face in the same direction in order to listen.  The arrangement does not lend itself to collaboration.  Fortunately, I have a small class, and we will sit in any configuration our imaginations allow.  We will collaborate. Might have to step outside once in a while.
When I finished my sandwich and got that little curmudgeonly spasm out of my system, I walked the rest of the way up to the main campus and was pleased to see Asters still blooming at the edge of the pavement.
An even closer view.  Click on any photo for still closer views.
Footnote of the day:  The Ambush Bug was still occupying her California Thistle blossom this morning as of 9:00 a.m.

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