Mount Hood

Digging into some old, unpublished photographs, I came across a trip to Portland, Oregon, for the annual meeting of the Ecological Society of America in 2012. Jamie kindly hosted Jenn and me in her home (then did so again in 2017), and we took a trip to Top Spur Trail after the meeting’s end. Here are some landscape and panorama images from Top Spur Trail approaching Mount Hood.

Spanish moss seed

Whenever introducing land plants to students, I emphasize Spanish moss (Tillandsia usneoides) as neither Spanish—it looks like a bearded conquistador—nor moss—it’s an angiosperm or flowering plant. Here’s the proof: wind-dispersed seeds protected by a recently split, dried pod. Mosses lack flowers, fruits, and seeds.

Also evident are the flaky trichomes, which help the plant to soak up moisture and nutrients from the atmosphere. It’s not parasitic like mistletoe nor do the live, hanging bunches contain chiggers.

Trap-jaw ant

Trap-jaw ants (Odontomachus bauri) patrol a bed of moss and detritus on a tree trunk, jaws wide open. Disruptions to hairs on the inner side of their jaw trigger an explosively fast and powerful closure—check out the size of their head, which houses the muscles responsible for clamping their mandibles inward. 

The closure is so powerful that the ant itself is sometimes launched off of the ground. In fact, they use the launch to escape predators.

Don’t worry, they’re unable to hurt humans.

Palmetto Tortoise Beetle

There are all kinds of cool things about this Chrysomelidae tortoise beetle (Hemisphaerota cyanaea) on the internet, including:

And look closely… there are POLLEN grains all over the little beetles. Can you imagine having hundreds of sticky bouncy-ball-size pollen grains attached to your body and eyes!? The micro-world of biology is fascinating.

Pulaski Monument

Located in Monterey Square (not Pulaski Square, which is a little southwest) commemorates Casimir Pulaski, a Polish immigrant who lead, fought, and died in the American Revolutionary War. It also likely contains the remains of Pulaski, which, according to the infallible Wikipedia, suggest that he may have been intersex.

Brown-headed Nuthatch

A first spot for me (although I’ve probably seen them before and had misidentified them as red- or white-breasted nuthatches because I learned the nuthatches of Ohio, not Georgia), the brown-headed nuthatch is markedly smaller than other nuthatches, and a few of them hang out near the entrance to the trails at Skidaway Island State Park—they’re an easy bird to watch and their behavioral quirks make them fun too; hanging out upside-down, diving, pecking, all kinds of cools stuff.

Nonsense.