THE ENCHANTED NATURE NEWSLETTER
Greetings fellow nature lovers
Welcome to the end of the year issue of The Enchanted Nature Newsletter.
by Victoria Vacher
We hope that you all are making the best of the season, whether you're celebrating Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa or any other holiday. The diversity of beliefs and traditions in America is a wonderful thing.
© Christopher Vacher
Autumn has come and gone already. Deciduous trees shouldn't have leaves in their branches!
What are those green leaves doing up in the tree?
Botanically speaking Mistletoe is fascinating. It is a 'Hemi-Parasite'; meaning it is parasitic but is also capable of photosynthesis. Mistletoe has a connective appendage called a haustorium that it sends out to penetrate the tree and extract nutrients and water from the host plant. Though it can be the ruin of trees, it has recently been discovered to be a 'keystone' species in many areas, providing nourishment and habitat for a wide range of animals, birds, insects, and three species of hairstreak butterflies. Who knows how many other species benefit from the plant? Scientists are still discovering the mysteries of Mistletoe.
There are 1300 - 1500 species of Mistletoe. They are mostly found in tropical and subtropical regions. Mistletoe (Phoradendron leucarpum) is native to North America. The common Mistletoe with the distinctive white berries is European Mistletoe (Viscum album) and was introduced to the United States in 1900.
WARNING: THE BERRIES ON MISTLETOE ARE TOXIC TO PETS!
More about Mistletoe...Traditions...
Theories abound concerning the use of Mistletoe as a kissing plant. Some think it is because the plant seems to kiss the tree branch. There is an ancient Greek belief that Mistletoe enhanced vitality and fertility, probably because it stays green as its host plant drops its leaves. It is also believed that it would bring luck to the couple kissing under it. The Romans hung it over doorways to promote peace, love and understanding. The Druids used it in ceremonies. Norse mythology tells of the tears of Frigga representing her strong love of her son Baldur. There are a myriad of Mistletoe myths to explore if you are interested.
There are so many differing viewpoints, we will never truly know the origin of the tradition. We do know, however, that the act of kissing under the Mistletoe, as we know it here in America, began in England in the 1700's. By the 1800's, under the reign of Queen Victoria, it was a firmly established tradition, both in England and the United States.
No matter its origin, I think it is a happy tradition! Over the years, people everywhere have had an abundance of fun and enjoyment kissing under the Mistletoe!
We hope that you keep your eyes out for Mistletoe the next time that you're out and about. It is much easier to find it during the winter while the deciduous trees have lost their leaves. If you find some, please send some pics to [email protected]
From Last Month
In last month's newsletter, we discussed Turkey Tail Mushrooms (Trametes Versicolor) and we asked you to observe the bottom of the mushroom as well as the top. The underside is where the reproductive surface is. On Turkey Tails, the reproductive surface is pores. The picture below was taken with a digital microscope. The surface would appear smooth to the naked eye.
Different mushrooms have different reproductive surfaces. Some have pores, some have gills (like Portobellos), some have teeth, and in the case of Puffballs, the entire inside of the mushroom is the reproductive organ.
Why is this important you ask? It helps us to identify and classify mushrooms. Turkey Tails (Trametes Versicolor) have pores. Another mushroom that looks very similar, called Lenzites betulina has gills. By checking the underside of the mushrooms, the difference is obvious.
Enchanted Nature Tours inc. now has tours listed beginning in March. If you are interested, take a look at our website https://www.enchantednaturetours.com to reserve an adventure. If you don't see a trip that fits your schedule, please contact us to book a date that works for you. We will be happy to help you book accommodations in the the beautiful city of Staunton or in a more "natural" setting.
NATURE IS CALLING, WILL YOU ANSWER
There are many proven health benefits to spending time in nature. It has also been proven that just looking at images of nature can provide multiple health benefits including: reducing depression, speed healing, improve your immune system, prevent dementia, improve your mood, and increase happiness. We try to conclude each newsletter with a short video of a natural scene. Hopefully the videos will provide you with some of the benefits listed above.
is this month's video theme
As you watch our video, try to consider the perspective of something in nature other than yourself. The video has many different visual perspectives and time distorted video. The insects are filmed at high shutter speeds and then slowed down for viewing. Consider how time feels to different organisms or if they even consider time.
Most people look at everything in nature with an "anthropocentric" perspective. An example of this paradigm could be the subject of intelligence in nature. If an organism has "intelligence" then it must have a brain...right? Humans are the most intelligent creatures and they have a brain, therefore...That statement is wholly FALSE! There are many examples of intelligence in organisms that don't have "brains". Slime molds are an excellent example.
Another skewed perspective humans tend to place upon nature is time, gauged by an average human lifespan. One hundred years may seem like a long time to a child. A Mayfly lives only 24 hours while there are trees that have lived over 5,000 years. How would you view the world differently if you were going to live for 2,000 years?
Being a naturalist often requires imagining and considering life from the perspective of the organism that you are studying. Why? There are many reasons. You may want to know why that organism behaves in a certain way. Why do birds and fish migrate? Why do plants grow only in certain habitats? Why do some mushrooms grow in fairy rings? Why? Why? Why? What if you were water? What does Lavender nectar taste like to a Bumblebee? What would it be like to be a bird in a snowstorm? Nature is full of enchanting magic. Enjoy it!
If you don't see the video, link to the it here: https://vimeo.com/495005755
Video was filmed and edited by Christopher Vacher produced by Victoria Vacher ©2020
Stay safe, enjoy nature, and consider perspective!
Happy New Year
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