it’s that time of year when we often wake up to light dustings of snow. by mid-morning the wind has picked up just enough to send it all cascading. this morning on the way to my son’s school, i was lucky enough to catch this dusted white pine along my driveway, with its bundles of needles weighted down into the shapes of old-fashioned haystacks. by the time i returned it has shaken itself clean like a dog.
frosted white pine fascicles
saint paul, minnesota
after almost an hour of intensive internet browsing, i was just about to give up my search to identify this growth when i threw a hail mary and google caught it in the back of the end zone. this is a cottonwood gall. a deformity caused by a tiny aphid. the feeding aphids in spring transform the emerging leaves into these twisted galls. the galls are green in summer, but turn brown in winter. although there may be many galls on a tree, they cause little harm to the tree. the aphids return to the same galls they left in the spring, so the same tree tends to be infected year after year, while nearby trees remain uninfested.
cotttonwood tree galls caused by poplar vagabond gall aphid
rice creek regional trail, saint paul, minnesota
i bought an indoor fig tree after our first visit to languedoc in 2010. it was both evocative and attractive–a two-fer. then we continued to travel back and forth to southwest france, leaving the fig tree in the care of well intentioned, but un-attached, housesitters. it suffered. today, my fig tree officially surrendered. it shed all but two little leaves. i am going to blame it on the polar vortex, and not my negligence. but we both know better.
fig tree leaves
in my kitchen, saint paul, minnesota
i photographed this tendril not even knowing the leaf didn’t belong to the vine. i was waist deep in snow when i shot the photo, and was a little distracted by the cold and the snow melting down my back. when i got home and uploaded the image, i discovered that little lasso of a tendril that must have reached out in slow motion for a whole summer before finally encircling its target and hog-tying the leaf on the adjacent branch.
wild vine tendril with captured leaf
arden hills, minnesota
non-native ginkgo trees line many of the urban streets in the twin cities. they were one of the chosen replacements for the all the stately elms we lost to dutch elm disease. i love the way the ginkgos let go of their leaves all at once in fall leaving little golden skirts around each trunk. this year i waited all summer for the leaves to turn yellow, because i wanted to make a yellow and green pattern using their distinctive shapes. then i missed the whole deal: the turning yellow, the dropping in golden pools, the scattering in the gutters. i missed it all. so, today, when i stopped by my favorite coffee shop and saw this lonely little fan still clinging to its tree, with brown skin and sun spots like an old man on a florida beach, i carefully plucked him and carried him home, and he’s what you get.
ginkgo leaf in winter
spyhouse coffee shop, minneapolis, minnesota