After waking up one morning, I stumbled into my darkened kitchen to make coffee. I almost stepped on this Jerusalem cricket in the middle of the room.
The Jerusalem cricket, Stenopelmatus fuscus, also known as the potato bug, is a slow-moving desert creature that has an almost prehistoric look. Though they look harmless, they’re capable of delivering a painful bite with their strong jaw. They feed on plant roots, decaying matter, potatoes, and other insects – including their mates!
I carefully scooped up my unexpected visitor with a piece of cardboard and took it outside so it could hide under a rock, and not under my bare feet. 😉
To learn more about this strange insects’ mating ritual, watch this video.
I saw this gorgeous pink chrysanthemum on the High Desert Garden Tour last year. Though native to China and northeastern Europe, these plants do well in many parts of the world. The long-lasting flowers are available in a variety of colors. These include pink, purple, orange, yellow, white, and red. Unlike many of the plants that grow in High Desert gardens, this one is not appetizing to deer. A big plus around here!
I call this a double yolk thunderegg because two of these round rocks formed together. Thundereggs are Oregon’s state rock. You never know what’s inside until they’re cut open, like this one, or already cracked open.
This double yolk thunderegg is from Richardson’s Rock Ranch, north of Madras, Oregon. Though you can no longer dig there, you can purchase cut, polished, and raw rocks of many kinds from their large store.
If you want to dig for thundereggs, visit Priday Polka-Dot Agate Beds, about 9 miles northeast of Richardson’s. See my post about this amazing place if you want to uncover ENORMOUS thundereggs.
Here’s a photograph of Euphorbia, up close, growing in the fall. In spring, this type has bright yellow flowers. These plants, also known as ‘spurge’, are drought tolerant and easy to grow. There are more than 2,000 types of Euphorbia.
Here’s a picture of lungwort up close, taken near the North Santiam River in Oregon.
Also known as Lung lichen, this lichen has been used in dyes, teas, and for treatment of lung ailments. Deer and moose browse on lungwort and other animals use it for nest material.
Lungwort is sensitive to air pollution and doesn’t grow well in polluted locations. In fact, the National Forest Service keeps a database on this and other lichens “to detect, map, evaluate trends, and assess the ecological impacts of air pollutants.”
Could this be a pickled herring fossil? I got this fossil from my mom and don’t know anything about it’s history. It looks like the herring fish pictured on this Green River Fossil site. Though I was hoping it was something rare, fossils of this small fish are common.
The Green River Formation, located in parts of Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah, is one of the best places to find fish fossils in the world.
This and that rock from Fischer Canyon, Oregon. According to the Central Oregon rockhounding map, published by the Bureau of Land Management, you can find petrified wood, jasper, and agate here. Other sources list calcite and quartz as being at this site.
This small conglomerate includes several types of rock that merged together.
Last month, we collected petrified wood bits from Bear Creek, south of Prineville Reservoir in Oregon. The following pieces are one inch or less in size. Getting decent photographs of these tiny stones proved to be a challenge.
I set up a tabletop studio and tried a Panasonic Lumix and a Galaxy Ultra phone camera. I had to keep adjusting the spotlights outside of the studio. Each stone was given a quick spritz of water to bring out their color. After many unsuccessful attempts with both cameras, I finally got some good shots with the Panasonic.
This picture of an ammonite fossil up close shows their beautiful spiraling structure. In ancient times they were called “snake stones” or “serpent stones.” The stones were thought to have healing and oracular powers. Fossils of these once abundant, now extinct, marine molluscs are popular with collectors.
This is a beautiful piece of stilbite up close. Specimens like these, from the stilbite subgroup, can be found near Mill Creek, Polk County, Oregon. The crystals on this mineral are gorgeous, but I also like the parallel lines surrounding the cavity in this piece.
Here’s a picture of a piece of polished labradorite up close. This feldspar mineral has a unique appearance. Its iridescence catches your attention and is referred to as “labradorescence.” I like holding a piece with a lot of color and tilting it to see different colors in the light. The parallel lines of color within the stone, the twinning surfaces, reflect the light.
Here’s a photo of blanket flowers up close that I took last summer. These perennial flowers are big and showy. Their contrasting colors make them stand out as a star in any garden. These easy to grow plants are also drought tolerant. They attract butterflies and birds.
This larch in waiting photo shows one of their tiny cones up close. The western larch needles turn gold in the fall before dropping. The pompom needle clusters in this photo were just beginning to turn. This unique tree is one of my local favorites.
I saw these marigolds up close in a park at the end of July. These vignettes show orange, yellow, and white flowers that were growing in a border planting. Marigolds are an easy to grow annual that blooms for weeks during the summer months.
A couple I once knew had a memorable experience involving mushrooms, up close and personal. They went out mushroom picking with friends in the rainforests near Olympia, Washington. That night, they prepared a fancy meal that included the mushrooms they harvested.
After dinner, they sat around the table exclaiming how wonderful the freshly-harvested mushrooms tasted. Suddenly, they noticed the family cat had jumped onto the counter and eaten a little of the mushroom sauce. She immediately began to vomit.
The dinner guests looked at each other with horror. When they picked the mushrooms, they weren’t sure of the exact species. Even when you look at mushrooms up close they can be difficult to identify. If you eat the wrong type, it might kill you.
Out of an abundance of caution, they decided to go to the hospital. Everyone had their stomach pumped in case the mushrooms were poisonous.
When they returned home, they were surprised to find the cat with a litter of newborn kittens. The cat wasn’t sick from poisoning—the vomiting was due to her labor.
At the time it happened they decided to err on the side of caution, but later, they thought their reaction was pretty funny. 😀
Here are a couple pictures of autumn cascara leaves up close. I spotted these beautiful multi-colored leaves on shrubs near Santiam Junction in Oregon. They were growing within an inhospitable looking lava bed.
This tall shrub is attractive year round. The oblong leaves, with their distinctive parallel veins, are glossy green for most of the year. Autumn cascara leaves have spectacular colors. Cascara produce greenish-yellow flowers in the spring, and dark purple fruit in the summer.
One of their common names is Cascara sagrada, Spanish for “sacred bark.” The bark is well known for its laxative effects. See the Names section of Cascara, Frangula purshiana for funny Chinook names based on these qualities. 😉
Here are three photos of a milkweed seedpod up close. As you may know, milkweed flowers are a favorite of monarch butterflies. North American populations of this butterfly have been rapidly declining.
I got a packet of seeds for free from Deschutes Land Trust, one of our local conservation nonprofits. To find milkweed seeds near you, use the Milkweed Seed Finder courtesy of the Xerces Society.
We planted milkweed starts in our garden this year, but they fried during a week of unusually hot weather. 🙁
My friend, Suzy, planted hers last year and had greater success. This seedpod she gave me measures 4 inches in length. A couple of days ago it split along a seam. Each seed is attached to a little wispy fluff known as coma.
Does this milkweed seedpod remind anyone else out there of the pods in Invasion of the Body Snatchers?
We planted a couple artichoke plants in our garden this year and assumed they died after a week of extreme heat. Several leaves on both plants turned brown from the sun, but the plants survived. Here are their purple blossoms up close. Artichokes are pretty and tasty!
Whirlybirds up close on a maple tree in my High Desert yard. I have fond childhood memories of collecting whirlybirds from the ground and tossing them up into the air. Watching them helicopter towards the ground was cheap entertainment in those days.
This morning I was out taking pictures of the sunrise and noticed this baby bird among the berries. It was lucky to have landed in a place covered with a cushioning layer of western juniper leaves.
I looked up in the tree overhead and spotted the nest. An adult American robin perched nearby, completely motionless. I talked to it and got no response at all. I have read that birds sleep with one eye open but this one didn’t follow that theory.
When we placed the baby bird back in its nest, it squawked and that finally got the attention of its parents. I hope it stays in the nest and fledges with its siblings.
Robins like junipers because they provide shelter and food. In the fall, they and other thrushes eat as many as 220 berries in a day.
Manzanita blossoms are putting on a show right now in Central Oregon. The delicate pink blossoms contrast with the thick, leathery green leaves and red bark. The bark on these shrubs peels like on a madrone tree. It’s one of my favorite local plants but it refuses to grow in my garden. That gives me an excuse to seek them out in the wild.