Identification Triptych

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Near the base of the quarry at Occoneechee Mountain, I found a bush that was partially covered in this very curious lichen. Standing a few feet above its position, I was compelled to look more closely to get a sense of any distinguishing characteristics that might be useful in identifying it later. At a closer proximity, I was immediately overtaken by the sense that the lichen resembled the disembodied flesh of a corpse. The black hairs (or cilia) along the edge of the lichen added to the surreal appearance of it, and I was suddenly very glad I wasn’t eating. At the time I had no idea what species this was. I knew it was a lichen, and that was all. After some research, however, I’m fairly certain this is the Powdered Ruffle Lichen (Parmotrema hypotropum). If I’d been responsible for naming this, however, I would’ve called it the Hairy Deadflesh Lichen.

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Back in April, this polyphemus moth (Antheraea polyphemus) showed up at the tennis courts where I occasionally play at night. The lights were bright enough to act as an attractant, and the moth had decided to check out the source. In the process I got this photo and resolved to find out more about these moths. From a cursory online search, I discovered they’re a type of silk moth and employ the spots on their wings (faintly visible in the photo) to mimic predatory species in order to dissuade other predators from making a meal out of them. Specifically the spots are supposed to mimic the eyes of the great horned owl, though I must admit it would take a bit of imagination to reach that conclusion. Fortunately for both of us, I had no designs on making a meal of anyone and went on playing tennis.

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At Haw River Park, I found a patch of bugleweed (Ajuga reptans) which had taken over a small area near the western edge of the park. The thing that struck me first was the brilliant color of the blossoms. Their purplish blue could be spotted from twenty feet away, even in the dusky light under the forest canopy. Apart from the color, bugleweed is also reputed to possess mild wound-healing properties due to its tannin-content. It’s been recommended by herbalists in the past for the treatment of coughs, ulcers, and rheumatism, and it reputedly has a mild sedative effect. I’ve never tried it, so I can’t attest to any of this personally. But I do know it brightened my hike and gave me another excuse to open a book in order to find out more about it.