Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Unnatural Happenings in My Backyard
I believe this is the quickest I’ve ever followed one post with another. I’m sitting cross-legged at my writing desk in a thunderstorm. My hand is cramping and I would really like a snack, but I feel compelled to relate the following story.
Yesterday I saw a creature pollinating our petunias that initially appeared to be a hummingbird, but on closer inspection resembled a bumblebee. It had transparent wings with a brown border and a long curly “nose” like a butterfly. Rather than black and white stripes it was yellow with one large, brown stripe. I suspected it to be the lovechild of a hummingbird and a bumblebee, the result of a tryst forbidden by Mother Nature.
Later, chasing a plastic back across the lawn, I stumbled upon a second alien creature in the shade of the woods. I saw a patch of completely white flowers. They looked like wilted rosebuds sucked dry by a vegetarian vampire, a cross between a crocus and a fungus.
After I recovered from the shock of all of the disparate organisms breeding in my yard, I wrote an e-mail to my friend, an authority on matters of plant and animal identification, asking what they were and if I should fear them.
Before she could respond, my curiosity lead me to Google. First, I searched, “Strange hummingbird and bumblebee like insect.” I found this page. The seemingly anomalous insect turned out to be a Snowberry Clearwing Hummingbird Moth. Then I searched “Strange white and transparent flower,” and I got this page. The plant is called Indian pipe. It has no chlorophyll and feeds off of the delicious fungus on the dead leaves. It is also known as Ice-Plant, Ghost-Plant, Corpse-Plant, Plant-of-Death, Ominous-White-Plant, and many other suitable titles.
Later, my friend responded to my e-mail and confirmed my search results. My conclusion is that Google is the boy scout of the twenty-first century.