FOXFIRE, PURPLE LOOSESTRIFE & A MANTIS...

Time is running out, and there is so much to report! I will start with FOXFIRE! A specimen of phosphorescent wood was brought to me last week by a puzzled camper. The glow is caused by the presence of a fungi. We must remember that the mushrooms we see are just a small part of the plant. Most of it is underground – little fibrous rootlike structures that invade the earth. Since these plants lack chlorophyll they absorb their growth material from the ground or other plants. Their presence causes decay in some instances. There are two mushrooms that "glow in the dark" – one will cause you to be very sick if eaten, called a Jack O Lantern. The other is edible and called a Honey Mushroom. It is the latter’s underground "wiring" that most likely caused the wood to glow on our island. Why is it called Foxfire? Frankly, I didn’t find a good answer to that. However, this phenomenon has been used for centuries as a "natural lantern". In Sweden, people venturing into the woods at night would mark their trails with luminescent wood to find their way out. Also, in WW1, soldiers would stick a piece of the glowing wood on their helmets to keep track of their fellow combatants. Native Americans also made use of these night lights. Maybe the fox does too….!

The second subject I wish to share, has to do with going out to Gooseberry Island, that wonderful little place just off Sanddune Beach. I quickly realized why this is a "destination" for campers who can find a way out to the island. At low tide, the tide pools and rock crevices provide endless exploration opportunities. Also, the vegetation of the island proved to be diverse and colorful. People who get uptight about Purple Loosestrife might be concerned to discover a thriving patch on the island. However, a beautiful caterpillar was dining on the leaves of this plant, so maybe we have a natural predator at work. The caterpillar is that of a moth, called an Eight Spotted Forester. I have never seen the moth, but it is black with yellow and white spots on its wings. Strange, not to have seen it – perhaps it is because it is black. Its caterpillar, however, is quite striking.

On our hike over the Mountain to Seawall Beach, we found a Praying Mantis. It was trying to take off from the beach with wet wings. We picked it up and placed it on the dune grass where it beautifully blended in while drying its wings. This is the third Mantis found this summer. The others were very little. One was found on the ground by the gatekeeper’s house.

I am pleased to report that our Octopus has been confirmed. Again, it was "rare, but not unheard of". Finally, two red fish swam into our waters. I am going out on a limb, calling them Rose Fish. What next?

Ó 8/23/02 Ronnie