Winter Plums, Winter Wildlife: Part 3 (Vines and Other Pals)

Posted Tuesday March 17, 2020

Plums provide sturdy structures used by vines, lichen, and fungi.  Winter reveals their presence!  

I see  the spiny pods of Wild Cucumber (Echinocystis lobata), a native annual and then Ivyleaf Morningglory (Ipomoea hederacea), an annual recently arrived from southern climes. The hairiness is striking!

I was shocked to see something that looked like a milkweed pod high in the plums. I was afraid it was Black Swallowwort, an invasive vining milkweed, native to Europe, hard to eradicate. But a close examination of the withered leaves showed it was Honeyvine Milkweed (Cynanchum laeve), a native milkweed, beloved of pollinators.  This perennial is related to the invader, as both are in the same genus. (Black Swallowwort is C. louiseae.)  We just have to hope Honeyvine Milkweed tells its European cousin to stay home! 

Next is Climbing False Buckwheat, aka  Polygonum scandens, a native perennial Aren't the seeds beautiful?

And here are at least three kinds of Lichen The lichen are lively, despite the cold.  While plants are dormant, the fungi are creating reproductive structures (those hollow "tubes").  

Finally, here are Shelf Fungi, attached to a plum:

It's not what you know, it's who you know. Like vines and lichen, fungi attach themselves to plums, becoming bosom buddies.    

Indeed, otherwise lowly creatures are able to rise up in the world, thanks to plums.   

Spiny pods of Wild Cucumber
Honeyvine Milkweed, Cynanchum laeve
Honeyvine Milkweed, Cynanchum laeve
At least three kinds of Lichen
At least three kinds of Lichen
Shelf Fungi
Honeyvine Milkweed, Cynanchum laeve
Honeyvine Milkweed, Cynanchum laeve
Honeyvine Milkweed, Cynanchum laeve
Climbing False Buckwheat, aka Polygonum scandens
Aren't the seeds of Climbing False Buckwheat beautiful?

(All photos are by Margy Stewart and were taken in the Creek Field at Bird Runner Wildlife Refuge., late December 2019.)

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