Natural events, May 2015

A late April dry spell continued into the first week of May, overlapping almost perfectly the time we would otherwise have expected to find morels. Our farm-total morel count this year was one (technically in late April). Then it turned wet and has remained so; we recorded rain on 18 days of the month. Temperatures were remarkably pleasant, with the warmest days in the low 80s. Despite the overall cool weather, it did not frost in May. Our last spring frost was the morning of April 28, though we just escaped frost on May 20 thanks to persistence in cloud cover. May is always a good month for nature observation; photo highlights below.


The month was caterpillar-iffic. Upper left, some kind of tussock moth. Upper right, Grapevine Epimenis; these were in a rolled up leaf on a wild grape…something to look out for on our newly planted domestic grapes, especially since I saw an adult flying around near the orchard earlier this spring. Lower center, probably a Silvery Checkerspot.


Caterpillars lead to butterflies, and they’ve been reasonably abundant. We’ve especially noticed an abundance of Silver-spotted Skippers (though we didn’t get a photo of one this month). Not certain of the identity for all of these. Left is some type of Skipper; center is Polygonia sp. There’s a great citizen science site for reporting butterfly observations, Butterflies and Moths of North America, that also assists with identification. Time to submit more photos….


Wildflowers are still blooming, though most aren’t as showy as in April. Left is Common Cinquefoil (Potentilla simplex). Right is a white violet (Viola sp.).


For a month as rainy as it was, we didn’t see an over abundance of mushrooms. However, one nice find was this Chicken of the Woods (Laetiporus sulphureus), the first of its kind we’ve seen at Chert Hollow. This is a choice edible mushroom, but one of our id guides, Missouri’s Wild Mushrooms, notes “some people get a bit of stomach upset or swollen lips after eating it.” Therefore, we harvested just a little piece and we ate a test amount, leaving the rest in the woods. It was delicious, and it caused no discernible issues. The photo on the right shows what the unharvested part looked like a week later: very definitely past the eating stage.

may_natural_mushroomsSome other mushrooms from the woods, identities uncertain.


We’re at the fringe of one or more areas experiencing the emergence of periodical cicada broods. We’ve seen the occasional shed of a nymph skin as well as a couple of adults, and of course we’ve been hearing them, too, though only one or two at a time on the warm days.


We generally don’t see deer very often at this time of year, but a walk in the woods makes it very clear that their abundance persists. At left are deer browsed spiderwort and jewel weed plants; middle is a bedding site; right some hoof prints on a farm road. While wandering the woods to look for an orchid, Joanna nearly stepped on a fawn, though it bolted before she could get a photo.

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