It's Complicated


The Shawnee News-Star Weekender June 1st 2019

Becky Emerson Carlberg

Something was up with thehickory.  Some of the leaf surfaces hadround red/orange shiny circles.  Hangingoff the edge or underneath the leaves were small ivory colored vases withfluted tops.  The distinctive globesresembled the blossoms now appearing on Persimmon trees"tiny blond balloonswith frilly tops.  In appearance only,since the hickory was not blooming but hosting an orgy of galls. 

Perplexing.   The hickory phylloxeran (Phylloxera caryaecaulis) is an aphid relative that overwintered as an egg on the bark.   Its moth parents mated in the fall and there is where the female laid her eggs. In early spring the eggs hatched and hungry nymphs made their way to the leaves, pierced the blades with their sharp needle-like lips and suck leaf juices.   Those nymphs persuaded the hickory, through chemical manipulation, to form globes around themselves.   Safely protected, the nymphs developed into mature females that laid eggs inside the gall. Without the help of any male (parthenogenesis), the eggs hatched into larvae which morphed into male and female moths.   The galls split open late May and released the broods to fly, cavort, have the time of their lives and then go bye-bye, leaving only the orphan eggs to survive until next year.   Who thought of this life cycle?   It's complicated.

Confusing.  Bordering the lake road are the most strikingblooms.  The Carolina rose has takencenter stage.  The quiet unobtrusiveplant spends its days rambling along sides of ditches, in pastures and edges ofwoods blending into the background. During the spring this old-fashioned wild rose comes alive.  Covered with vibrant blushing flowers, eachwith five petals around a center full of yellow styles and stamens, the rose attractsadmiration. Not far away hugging the fence is the taller Japanese rose, but withgroups of white blooms.  Each flower,thought smaller, also has five petals and yellow middle.   The singlepink Carolina rose (Rosa carolina)versus the many flowered white Japanese rose (Rosa multiflora)

Rosa multifloracomes from Eastern China, Korea and Japan. In the late 1700's rose hips arrived in wildlife food and by 1866 theperennial was used as rootstock in rose breeding programs.  This insidious invasive was touted aswonderful for erosion control, use in natural barriers and wildlife cover.  Our own better suited native alternatives werenot even considered.   

Multiple prickly stems reaching lengths up to 15 feet host dozens of fragrant white, sometimes deceivingly pink, flowers which later form red rose hips (fruits) full of Vitamin C and seeds.   These plants are highly aggressive and have knocked out native roses in many areas.   Maps plot the takeover of the opportunistic rose in the eastern US and Canada as well as the western US coast.   Only the Rocky Mountain states don't consider it a problem..yet. To identify the multiflora rose, look at the base of one compound leaf (3 to 9 leaflets) similar to other roses.   If there are small leaves with many slender bristly teeth, you are holding the noxious pest.  

The native Carolina or pasture rose is more compact; the stemsprotected by hooked prickles, can rise up to six feet.  In May, the scented pink flowers only occurin singles and less often as pairs or triplets. Moths, especially the Apple Sphinx moth, feed on leaves.  Other insects, especially native small beesand bumble bees, go wild for the nectar and pollen. Cardinals, cedar waxwings,thrushes and other birds cherish the fruit. The traitors also eat multiflorarose hips. 

Carolina roses exhibit good resistance to many diseases and slowlygrow in the eastern half of the US.  Theyare fighting a mighty battle.  Go see foryourself.  Drive around and look at thewild fence roses.  How many have clustersof white flowers versus single pinks?  Nevertheless,each rose species has a lovely fragrance. It's complicated.

Mysterious.  What wasthe animal on top of the giant hay ball at the top of the hill?  As I walked past the redcedars toward the rowsof hay bales, I saw a very tall dog/coyote easily jump to the top of the lastbale and stretch.  It then sat on itshaunches and stared directly north.  Iturned and quickly went the other direction, wondering if this agile animal wasa strange dog suffering from mange or an extremely large, slender, short-hairedcoyote with a long thin tail.  It was theright color for a coyote, and the head and ears fit the coyote description, butthe rest of the body, well

Years ago, two miles to the south, I spotted another animalquite similar to this one but smaller. It was keeping company with a real authentic coyote.  I remember the two of them running from theedge of the pond into the overgrown field where they disappeared. 

Weird coyote mixtures have been seen in the southern states, Mexico, South America and Puerto Rico.   Chupacabra is the official name for a mythological dog animal that supposedly sucks blood or attacks livestock.   Cryptozoologists have championed the Chupacabra, delving into folklore for information and going to places where these animals have been seen.   Big Foot is also on their radar, so perhaps they saw a Chupacabra during one of their searches in Oklahoma.  

On the other hand, it could be a Coydog or Dogote.  This hybrid between the coyote and dog is infrequentbecause of the difference in breeding seasons between coyotes and dogs. Humans inNorth and South America have intentionally bred dogs with wolves or coyotes forthousands of years.  The 1980's Illinois surveyof coyotes revealed up to 15% were actually coyote hybrids.

The rancher who owned the land where I saw the coydog hadposted 'Traps' signs on the gates.  Thearticle in the May 2017 Scientific American 'Why Killing Coyotes Doesn't MakeLivestock Safer' by Megan Draheim reaffirms lethal control (using traps topoisons) kills far more than coyotes, making things much worse. In the resultingvacuum, pack animals produce more offspring to offset the loss.  Cultural attitudes need to shift to optionswhich minimize losses but not unbalance and destroy nature.

Coyotes usually eat snakes, bugs and rodents.  Translated: keep the bunnies and rats incheck without using poisons.  Coyotes arequite wary of humans. To hear the coyote yip and howl at night reminds mewildlife still run free.  They are a partof nature and deserve a place to live where their ancestors did.  My critter might have been a coydog, possiblywith mange.  Best guess is one parent wasa large sleek dog.  Human interferenceagain and again. It's complicated.

Dale Carnegie had a saying: 'One of the most tragic things Iknow about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living.  We are all dreaming of some magical rosegarden over the horizon instead of enjoying the roses that are blooming outsideour windows today.' 

Stop and smell the roses! It's simple.