Friday, May 1, 2015

catkins, cones, confusion...thank you, internet.

IT'S SPRING! THINGS ARE POPPING! We're in Pine Barrens, New Jersey country for a couple of days, and I don't have a field guide with me, so I'm being a little lazy with the species ID part, but hey. We'll get over it. We have the internet, and thank god for that, because I'm having to relearn some basic tree sex stuff. 

Oak Kind #1: maybe black oak, no promises. Itty bitty baby leaves. Be still my heart.

Catkins were dancing in the breeze - catkins are the male flowers.

Think of all the urge toward life involved here: each of those catkins was, until very recently, a dream of growth squashed inside a tiny little bud. And look at them now.

Before I started assembling this post, I'd forgotten about how all this works - how there are, in some species, separate male and female flowers, sometimes on the same tree ("monoecious"), sometimes on different trees ("diecious") - meaning, when I was out there taking pictures, I didn't think to look for the female flowers...oops. I did, however, think to look for buds that were just opening up into catkins. Victory!

Sproing-oing-oing-oing-oing! You know me: if I lived here? You'd get a picture-a-day of this thing as it unfurls.

And now, for a red maple: what I wouldn't give, to be this elegant...

Onwards to... I'm guessing choke cherry. Shiny little leaves.

...and flowers. In this case, the flowers are "perfect", meaning, each flower has both male and female parts within it. Stamens, pistils, all that jazz.

Next up, Oak Kind #2 - I'm guessing Black Jack. Based on the shape of the leaf. 

Next up: pitch pine, which has, incidentally, the best scientific name of all: Pinus rigida.

These are male cones. I will confess: as I took these shots, I thought these were "tiny little pine cones". Well, they are. But not in the "conventional" sense. So I became obsessed with wondering why it was that I was seeing all these fat bunches of "baby pine cones"... but when I looked at mature, ripe pine cones, they came in ones and twos. It took the internet to set me straight.

Apparently the male cones darken up as they get ready to open up and disperse pollen...

And check out the twig-and-needle packages, seemingly wrapped in silk threads...those, too, started off as hope compressed in a bud.

I'm guessing all the female cones are up higher out of reach, as The Internet informs me they are. Had I seen any, I would have photographed them, even though I would not have known at the time what they were...

Here is a female cone from a while back - more than one year, I'm thinking - that was fertilized, and is thus developing into what we think of as "a pine cone". It was the only one I saw.

Here's what twigs look like when they're so new, they're still bright green:

I feel fresh and invigorated just looking at stuff like this...don't you? 

Sadness time: this is a hemlock, and I'm pretty sure the white crap is the evil wooly adelgid, or more specifically, their egg sacs. 

Below - and thank you, for otherwise I would have told you lies about what's going on: at left, a male cone. And at right...a female cone! Hooray! Here is where I insert a tasteless joke about incest. "It's not incest if you're a monoecious gymnosperm!" or something to that effect...thanks for coming, I'll be here all week...

Elsewhere, another kind of tree entirely was exploding thusly:

No idea who that is. 

And last but not least, a confection of pink frothy goodness.

It's been a most excellent day. 

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