Fox tales

black cohosh

Walking down the hollow road this morning, I find a white breast feather from a large bird — a hawk? An owl? — lodged between a stem and leaf of foxtail millet. There’s a story here: some small mammal squirming in the talons, raking a feather loose.

Foxtail millet, fox grape, foxfire: pale imitations of their namesakes, lures for the unwary. The wild seen as deviance and degeneration from an original garden. Perhaps. It makes a good argument.

For more than a week, an ambush bug has maintained the same position near the top of a black cohosh inflorescence while the white bloom has migrated up the stalk. I nudge the insect with the tip of my pen to see if it’s alive, and it moves slowly to the other side of the stalk. Fairy candles, some call these midsummer blooms.

So many woodland flowers are white this time of year. Across the road, enchanter’s nightshade is in bloom, delicate white flowers that will turn into sticky little fruits — minimal burrs — and ride away in the silky fur of small animals: skunks, raccoons, foxes.

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Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave’s writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the “share alike” provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).


  1. It’s so great to live in a situation where contact with nature can be part of your day to day life.


  2. I’ve been sitting here, reading this post this half hour and more.

    No idea why. I mean, I like it and all.


  3. Hi, Paul – Yes, I try to remember that.

    Peter – Yikes.


  4. Beautiful photo of the cohosh flowers. I don’t think I’ve ever found a Phymata on one, but I may not have looked — thinking it not the usual spot to find one. I am just imagining the Phymata moving slowly to a new position when disturbed. Sometimes, when they do so, I can almost hear a resigned sigh.


  5. Well, I searched several dozen flowering yarrows this morning, and didn’t find any there, so go figure.


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