Nature Notes from Common Ground
Week of October 5, 2020
Weekly Nature Note
What's happening in nature this week?
Imagine if, as a baby, you got to live in a tiny home made of your favorite food. Inside this home you were protected from the outside world, and could eat all you wanted as you grew. Imagine you did not need to leave this home until you were an adult, and to leave, you needed to eat your way out.
This is sort of what life is like for many larvae inside galls. Galls are abnormal growths that appear on plants in response to chewing or chemicals produced by insects, though they can also be caused by fungi.
Right now, while walking in the forest, you may find strange greenish orbs on the ground that almost look like spotted grapes. These are oak apple galls, caused when a special type of wasp lays an egg in the leaf bud of an oak tree. Secretions from the wasp larva cause the developing leaf to form into a mostly hollow, globe-shaped structure that protects the larva.
Inside the gall,the larval wasp is protected and has all the food it needs until it pupates, becomes an adult, and emerges. You can also find old brown oak galls on the ground, and sometimes find the tiny hole from which the wasp emerged.
An opened gall. Check out the larva in the center of the upper half - as well as the intricate structure inside.
Cone galls on a witch hazel leaf - caused by aphids.
Notice the holes where the aphids emerged.
Nature activity of the week
Hard Core Crunch Challenge
This week is CT Grown for CT Kids Week. One way to celebrate is by participating in the 5th annual HardCORE Apple and Pear Challenge!
To take part, all you need is a #CTGrown apple or pear and to eat it down to its core!
By participating, you are promoting some of the most readily available local products in the fall in a fun and simple way that can easily engage the entire school community. All of October is National Farm to School Month, in case you want to celebrate all month long!
Make some apple spice muffins!
Outdoor learning spaces and COVID-19 reopening
Natural Dye Workshop
Hike of the Week
Chatfield Hollow State Park
Each week we will share a kid-friendly hike or other outdoor adventure.
This week, visit Chatfield Hollow State Park to hunt for beavers on the boardwalk, explore the caves, climb on some rocks, and discover a covered bridge!
About this series
In this time of virtual learning and social distancing, we seek to support teachers and families in getting outside in safe and healthy ways. We hope this series provides content and activities to help your students or your family engage in nature-based learning, whether you are learning in person or virtually.