So there I was at six this morning, opening the very wet field nets, when I noticed the sea anemones in the cedar trees. Huh?
Now, since I consider myself to be fairly intelligent, I guessed right away that they weren’t really sea anemones – but had to be something else, in spite of what they looked like. Whatever they were, they weren’t there yesterday.
The above photo is a typical sea anemone, which looks like a plant but is actually an animal. It lives in the oceans and doesn’t grow on cedar trees at all.
This is what was hanging around on the cedar trees this morning. It is a cedar apple gall, which looks like a sea anemone but is actually a plant. Fungus, to be more precise. The ‘arms’ of the cedar gall were soft and rubbery – not unlike an anemone. In all my life hanging around eastern red cedar trees, I have never seen cedar galls.
After a little research in the RRBO library and then on the web, I am even more fascinated. The cedar gall is actually a fungal disease, Gymnosporangium juniperi-virginianae but it’s goal is to infect apple and other fruit. The fungus spends part of its life cycle on cedars and junipers, and part on rosaceous family hosts, such as apple, crabapple, hawthorn, quince, serviceberry, and pear.
The orange “anemones” that I found this morning are called telia, which produce bright orange spores, called teliospores. The teliospores rely on the wind to take them to an apple tree or other rosaceous host.
After the spores have dispersed, the gall turns brown and hardens. Now that, I’ve seen before. Just never paid attention to what it was, assuming it was some type of insect case.
I always love it when I learn something new – especially by accident. There are no apple trees near these cedars. These spores depend on the wind to find them a suitable host. What a precarious and beautiful thing life is.
Ok Ok – here’s the bird of the day. Blue winged warbler!