Tree Burls and Burl Wood: So Ugly They’re Beautiful

Tree Burls and Burl Wood: So Ugly They’re Beautiful

Biology, The Arts
[caption id="attachment_21404" align="alignright" width="440"] Image: Evelyn Simak CCA-SA2.0 License.[/caption] About 24 years ago, my 4th grade daughter advised us the next day her school science fair project was due. No big deal, ordinarily, we had not been told there was even going to be a science fair! I have a technical background and I hated to think my daughter would appear to be a failure at such an event, so, scratching my head, I figured I'd better come up with something we could accomplish as a father-daughter team, and in a hurry. My Wile E. Coyote (Supergenius) Idea At the time, we were living in a small house in beautiful, forested acres. Our trees included hickory, oak, cucumber magnolia, black gum, linden, tulip poplar, black locust, Paulownia, and (yes!) other…
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How the Tear Ingredient Lysozyme Fights Bacteria

Biology, Chemistry
[caption id="attachment_19802" align="alignright" width="460"] 1,4-beta glycosidic bond[/caption] Human tears largely consist of water, sodium, and potassium electrolytes. However, these are not the only important substances found in tears. There are a number of complex organic substances essential in maintaining the eye. One ingredient is lysozyme, prominent among a group of chemicals which exhibit antibacterial behavior [see the PubChem reference for an image of lysozyme]. Lysozyme Modus Operandum The University of Colorado reference (cited) makes the following statement: "The enzyme lysozyme breaks down bacterial cell walls, which are made of a unique compound called peptidoglycan." Molecular Structure of the Contenders [caption id="attachment_19810" align="alignright" width="330"] cyclohexane chair conformer[/caption] The fifty-cent name for lysozyme is N-acetylmuramide glycanhydrolase. The suffix at the end of the name, -ase, indicates this compound is an enzyme. An…
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Eye Color and Genetic Inheritance: Dominant -vs.- Recessive

Biology, Genealogy
[caption id="attachment_18792" align="alignright" width="440"] Brown eyes, blue eyes.[/caption] Upon dying, a parent may leave his or her child a pecuniary inheritance. Yet, this is not the first one. Even during life, a parent provides his child with more than one genetic inheritance. One such inheritance involves eye color. Each parent contributes one eye color gene to his child. This means there are two different genes that determine the color of a child's eyes. But if the two genes represent different colors, what color will his eyes be? Observe, Note, Predict During the mid-1800s, an observant man, Gregor Mendel raised pea plants. He noted different plants produced peas with predictable variances. Using deductive reasoning, he uncovered the principle of dominant and recessive genes. After his death, his findings were applied not…
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What Is It Good For? The Blood Sucking Mosquito

Biology, Medicine
[caption id="attachment_18353" align="alignleft" width="440"] Gorged with blood[/caption] It's night time. You nuzzle up to your pillow, leaving one ear exposed. Suddenly, disrupting the silence, you hear the kind of music you don't want to hear! The music of the blood-sucking mosquito. Although we continue to grow in knowledge with the passage of time, do we know enough to say the blood sucking mosquito serves a good and useful purpose? We'll present more than one example of how the answer is, Yes! Blood Sucking Mosquito as Food Most of us realize mosquitoes serve as food for many birds. Ever seen bats, at dusk, circling around dipping and diving? You can be sure that a sizeable number of the "bugs" it is eating are mosquitoes. But we would be mistaken if we…
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Where Does the Spit on My Plants Come From? Spittlebugs

Biology, Plants
[caption id="attachment_18007" align="alignright" width="420"] Adult spittlebugs[/caption] It was not until I was in my 50s that I became deeply intrigued with nature. I made up for lost time. I became intimately acquainted with the wildflowers, trees, and other plants and insects of my local county. One of the things that aroused my curiosity was the presence of spit on some of my plants. Have you ever noticed this? If so, you will be interested in its source - spittlebugs. Fingering the Spit Well, there is no better way to unravel the mystery than to finger the spit. I carefully did so, noticing its consistency, its feel. I found within it, a soft bump, a little critter. Researching it, I found the tiny “bug” called spittle bug, due to its shape,…
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Our Year-Round Indoor Red Wiggler Earthworm Farm

Biology
[caption id="attachment_17753" align="alignleft" width="380"] Eisenia fetida or red wiggler.[/caption] About 35 years ago, a friend and I decided we would raise red wiggler earthworms for gardening and for fish bait. Not simply for personal use, we decided we’d raise hundreds of thousands and possibly millions, for commercial sales. Friend Huey was already immensely successful growing garden produce for his wife and twelve kids. He enjoyed reading publications by the Rodale Press that showed him how to achieve success. But he also was an avid reader of publications penned by red wiggler enthusiast Earl B. Shields. Shields promoted raising earthworms outdoors. Our Take Times were tough. Work was hard to come by. We were in a position to devote time to developing our own red wiggler business. At first we were…
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Cedar Apple Rust Gall – A Troublesome Look-Alike

Biology, Plants
[caption id="attachment_17604" align="alignright" width="440"] Eastern red cedar rust gall. Image Ohio Department of Natural Resources[/caption] I live in Nelson County, Virginia. I frequently travel the county and as I do, I always look around for whatever I can discover. I’m sort of a naturalist, I suppose. Well the other day I saw a “horse chestnut” on the ground—or, rather, several horse chestnuts. But there were no nearby horse chestnut trees. When I picked one up, I realized a horse chestnut was not what I had found. I’d found something new. It looked like a small chunk of horse manure with short protrusions covering it. Searching online, I discovered I’d found a late winter cedar apple rust gall. Quick Sketch of a Cedar Apple Rust Gall [caption id="attachment_17606" align="alignleft" width="320"] Horsechestnut,…
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Mistletoe Tree Parasite – the Beautiful Herb of Wintertime

Biology, Medicine
[caption id="attachment_15887" align="alignright" width="440"] A single clump of mistletoe tree parasite.[/caption] If runners develop athlete’s foot, what do rocket scientists develop? –Mistletoe. So goes a bad joke. Most people are familiar with the use of the mistletoe tree parasite in holiday celebrations. The history behind such use is readily available online. But just what is mistletoe? How does it grow? And what is mistletoe good for? Let’s check it out. Mistletoe Tree Parasite There are many varieties of mistletoe. They grow as independent globular clusters in tree branches and some shrubs. As a result, mistletoe in trees becomes most visible in cold weather, when leaves fall.  Although the plants largely subsist on nutrients produced by the host plant, mistletoe does produce some of its own food via photosynthesis. So officially…
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Black Knot Tree Fungus on Fruit Trees – Development and Health Issues

Biology, Health
[caption id="attachment_15378" align="alignright" width="440"] Image by Robert McNeish, courtesy Jerry Sprouse.[/caption] Black knot tree fungus (Apiosporina morbos) produces swellings on branches, limbs, and even trunks of fruit trees that can appear smooth to grainy to pebbly, depending upon the size of the knot. Photos in this article feature large specimens. Note the texture in the black knot close-up. Black Knot Tree Fungus on What Trees? Black knot tree fungus favors trees of the genus Prunus growing in a temperate zone. This genus falls within the Rosaceae or rose family of plants. This includes such fruit trees as plum, cherry, apricot, and peach. Interestingly, the almond tree is also a member of Prunus. These trees (yes, even the almond tree) feature showy flowers and fruits with large seeds, many of them…
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Stemonitis Chocolate Brown Slime Mold – A Health Threat

Biology, Health
Visiting a friend’s clapboard house, I noticed on an outside surface what appeared to be (and was) a fungus - the stemonitis chocolate brown slime mold. A friend offered the use of her cell phone to take a photograph. It is the image associated with this article. This fungus was located in the area right next an air conditioner condensation runoff. The weather has seemed unusually humid to boot. Stemonitis, while not the most toxic of molds, is of serious concern to health conscious individuals. It is closely associated with decaying wood. This was the first time the author ever came across the mold. The spore output of this chocolate brown thready mess is astounding, perhaps astronomical. The following high-speed YouTube video imagery is very impressive. The actual required time…
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