Visiting the Reverend Mother Tree, 07-26-21

I got up around 5:30 this morning and headed out to William Pond Park for a walk.  There was a weird overcast in the morning and it was a humid 64°, but heated up fast. The water in the river was very low; I could have walked across it in some spots if I was willing to.

The American River

When I first got into the park, I could hear quail chipping and squeaking to another in the overgrowth by the trail. Then a couple of young females jumped up into the lower branches of an elderberry and started pigging out on the berries. One found a perfect spot where a large bunch of berries held her weight, but the other youngster kept trying to go out on the ends of the limbs… which subsequently bent under her weight, making it hard for her to stay on much less eat.

In the fennel and Yellow Starthistle there were Lesser Goldfinches eating the seeds. It’s always cool to me how each species has its own feeding niche.

I had gone to the park in part to look for the tarweeds and vinegarweed that should be showing themselves this time of year, and was happy to find them out and doing their thing. There was Pit-Gland Tarweed with its spikey thorny flowers bracts and Fitch’s Tarweed, all soft with smaller flowers.  The Pit-Gland has sticky dew-exuding glands all over it, whereas the Fitch’s seems to only have them on the flower heads. They grow in the same area as one another and both have yellow flowers.  The Vinegarweed was in bloom in some places… and smelled strongly of its turpentine smell.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

On one of the tarweeds, I found a single Lace Bug. According to the University of California: “…Over a dozen species of lace bugs (family Tingidae) occur in California. Each feed on one or a few closely related plant species. Hosts include alder, ash, avocado, coyote brush, birch, ceanothus, photinia, poplar, sycamore, toyon, and willow…” There are about six of those host plants along this part of the river.

Lace Bug, Corythucha sp.

“…Adult lace bugs [have] an elaborately sculptured dorsal (upper) surface. The expanded surfaces of their thorax and forewings have numerous, semitransparent cells that give the body a lacelike appearance, hence the name ‘lace bugs.’ The wingless nymphs are smaller, oval, and usually dark colored with spines…” There was a nymph on the tarweed, too, but I was so focused on the adult that I didn’t get any clear shots of the nymph. Keep in mind, though, that the adults are 1/8 of an inch long. I think they’re such fascinating tiny things.

“…Lace bugs develop through three life stages: egg, nymph, and adult and have several generations a year. Females insert tiny, oblong eggs in leaf tissue and cover them with dark excrement. Nymphs (immatures) develop through about five, increasingly larger, instars (growth stages) over a period of weeks before maturing into adults…  [They] feed on the underside of leaves by sucking fluids from plants’ photosynthetic tissues. This causes pale stippling and bleaching that can become very obvious on the upper leaf surface by mid to late summer. Adults and nymphs also foul leaves with specks of dark, varnishlike excrement; and this excrement sometimes drips onto pavement and other surfaces beneath infested plants…”

I had gone to the park, too, to visit what I call the “Reverend Mother Tree”, a huge Valley Oak that usually has a wide variety of galls on it.

The “Reverend Mother Tree”, a large Valley Oak, Quercus lobata. Note her size compared to the trail to the right.

Although I could see the beginnings of some galls, there weren’t many aside from some Spiny Turbans, Round Galls (fuzzy, on the twigs) and some Jumping Galls that hadn’t jumped yet. Of course, the large Oak Apple galls were here as well on some other Valley Oaks. On some of the live oak trees I found a few Two-Horned galls.  Not a lot exploding here, yet. They’re all going to be “late” this summer, I guess.

There were still some lerps (and eggs) on the leaves of the eucalyptus trees, but they’re starting to “tarnish” and fall off, making a mess on the plants beneath them.

Lerps of the Red Gum Lerp Psyllid, Glycaspis brimblecombei, at various stages of development

I also found a cocoon of the Ribbed Cocoon-Maker Moth, Bucculatrix albertiella. Apparently, depending on what instar they’re in in their development, the cocoon can be round (first instar) or elongated and ribbed like this (third instar). The caterpillar builds a little fence around itself before building the ribbed cocoon, and you can see that in the photo.

I haven’t found any definitive purpose for the fence anywhere in my research yet, but some have suggested it helps to protect the caterpillar while it’s building its cocoon, maybe acting as a distraction to wouldbe predators.

Coccoon and fence of the Ribbed Cocoon-Maker Moth, Oak Ribbed Skeletonizer, Bucculatrix albertiella

oI walked for about three hours and then headed home. By then it was already 72°,nd the humidity made it feel hotter.  This was hike #65 of my annual hike challenge.

When I got home I was tired and sore, so I changed out of my clothes and put my nightgown on for the rest of the day.

Species List:

  1. American Dog Tick, Dermacentor variabilis
  2. Arizona Mantis, Stagmomantis limbata [large ootheca]
  3. Assassin Bug, Leafhopper Assassin Bug, Zelus renardii
  4. Banded Bee Fly, Villa lateralis
  5. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus nigra cerulea
  6. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  7. California Quail, Callipepla californica
  8. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  9. California Towhee, Melozone crissalis
  10. California Wild Grape, Vitis californica
  11. California Wild Rose, Rosa californica
  12. Chicory, Cichorium intybus
  13. Coast Live Oak, Quercus agrifolia
  14. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus [scat]
  15. Doveweed, Turkey Mullein, Croton setiger
  16. Eucalyptus Gall Wasp, Ophelimus maskelli [speckled; flat galls all over the leaf surface]
  17. Eucalyptus Mid-Rib Gall Wasp, Leptocybe invasa
  18. European Honeybee, Western Honeybee, Apis mellifera
  19. Fennel, Sweet Fennel, Foeniculum vulgare
  20. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremon
  21. Goldenrod Crab Spider, Misumena vatia
  22. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  23. Green Lacewing, Chrysoperla rufilabris
  24. Himalayan Blackberry, European Blackberry, Rubus bifrons [white flowers]
  25. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
  26. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  27. Jumping Oak Gall Wasp, Neuroterus saltatorius
  28. Lace Bug, Corythucha sp.
  29. Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria
  30. Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  31. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  32. Oak Apple, California Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  33. Poison Oak, Pacific Poison Oak, Western Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
  34. Pumpkin Gall Wasp, Dryocosmus minusculus
  35. Queen Anne’s Lace, Daucus carota
  36. Red Gum Eucalyptus, River Redgum, Eucalyptus camaldulensis
  37. Red Gum Lerp Psyllid, Glycaspis brimblecombei
  38. Ribbed Cocoon-Maker Moth, Oak Ribbed Skeletonizer,  Bucculatrix albertiella
  39. Round-Gall Wasp, Fuzzy Gall, Burnettweldia washingtonensis [round, fuzzy, on twigs]
  40. Ruptured Twig Gall Wasp, Callirhytis perdens
  41. Spined Turban Gall Wasp, Antron douglasii [summer gall, pink, spikey top]
  42. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus [heard, caught a glimpse of]
  43. Tall Flatsedge, Cyperus eragrostis
  44. Tarweed, Fitch’s Tarweed, Centromadia fitchii [yellow, no thorns]
  45. Tarweed, Pit-Gland Tarweed, Holocarpha virgata [thorny]
  46. Telegraphweed, Heterotheca grandiflora
  47. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura [flying overhead]
  48. Two-Horned Gall Wasp, unisexual gall, summer generation,  Dryocosmus dubiosus [small, green or mottled, on back of leaf along the midvein]
  49. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  50. Variegated Meadowhawk Dragonfly, Sympetrum corruptum
  51. Vinegarweed, Trichostema lanceolatum
  52. Western Bluebird, Sialia Mexicana
  53. Western Pondhawk Dragonfly, Erythemis collocata [glimpsed a green female]
  54. Yellow Starthistle, Centaurea solstitialis
  55. Yellow Wig Gall Wasp, Andricus fullawayi