Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Black Cherry

Kodi and I walk around the block morning and evening. On each walk in the last few weeks we pause beneath the black cherry trees that grow along our route. Kodi sniffs the fallen dark purple cherries scattered along the road edge.  It is a good crop this year. He tastes one and spits out the bitter fruit. Perhaps he is a slow learner, but he often tries again on the next walk hoping it turns out to be something sweeter. Lately he's been trotting on by without a sniff.

Wild black cherries (Prunus serotina)

Interestingly, the raccoon scat left in the middle of the road during the night also does not interest him. Thankfully. Perhaps it is because the purple scat is full of cherry seeds. Raccoons seem to relish the cherries, as do coyotes, foxes, bears, and birds.

Another creature likes the cherry tree and is hanging around our neighborhood -- the fall webworm. Often mistaken for tent caterpillars, webworm caterpillars hatch and begin feeding on tree leaves. They spin a protective silken web around themselves while they feed. They construct these feeding nests at the end of a branch. In contrast, tent caterpillars build a nest in the crotch of a tree and leave the nest to feed on leaves.

The webworms are generally not harmful to the tree, although they are unsightly. One of our trees is now nearly nude from webworm chewing.

Fall webworms in our black cherry

The fall webworm thrives on sun and moisture. This has been a good summer for them. The hot, dry days of July have returned this week. Lots of sun. A bit too much heat. In between we had some good rains. I can't reach the webworms living in the top of the cherry. Some others spun their web-like homes in the crabapples. These I can reach by hand and remove. As for the taller cherries, I look to the birds that love the fruits to also hone in on the webworm caterpillars.

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