Monarchs and mushrooms

You've probably noticed a lot of mushrooms lately. Mushrooms are just part of a larger organism. Like fruit on a tree, mushrooms are the fruit an organism creates to reproduce. The mushroom's seeds (spores) are microscopic; a mushroom is just spore factory. The organism, the part that corresponds to the tree, is called a mycelium and is found in whatever the mushroom grows in (leaves, soil, rotting tree etc.). It is a mesh of tiny, threadlike cells that consumes nutrients. Mycelia are very important to the environment. Some mycelium help protect the roots of other plants and in exchange they get sugars and amino acids. Other mycelium help decompose dead matter.

The monarch is easily recognized by its dark orange wings with black veins and white edge spots

The monarch (Danaus plexippus), one of the few butterflies that actually migrates, is easily recognized by dark orange wings with black veins and white edge spots. Monarch butterflies of-- eastern North America spend winter in the Gulf-- states and south central Mexico. By May or June most monarchs have returned to North America. Here their journey ends.

The females lay their green eggs on milkweed plants and then die. About one week later, the eggs break open to reveal a yellow-black- and white striped caterpillar. Monarch caterpillars feed exclusively upon milkweeds. Many types of milkweed contain a poison that is not toxic to the butterflies, who actually store it in their bodies. This is a chemical defense against predators. A bird or other animal that tries to eat a monarch caterpillar or butterfly will become ill, and usually will never try eating one again.

A number of plant diseases are beginning to show up on landscape trees now due to the damp conditions we are experiencing. Apple scab is beginning on apples, dogwood anthracnose on dogwoods, and phomopsis and kabatia on ground junipers.

Article by Ginny Brace

Nature Notes for 6/21/2009