Friday, September 7, 2012

Truro, Provincetown, and a Mystery Solved

It's not every day I get to solve a mystery.  The mystery:  what are these two spherical objects I found a few days ago on the ground outside our cottage?  I  finally figured it out with the help of my arborist friend. 

But not before going to the beach.  Twice. 

First, at about 8:30 this morning, Leah and I went out with the dogs and walked the tidal flats on the beach near our cottage at low tide.

After that, we drove to Truro, where our favorite walk leads past pitch pines, bearberry, and bayberry to a deserted beach, with high dunes and lots of sky.

Along the way, I felt the need to heed the call of nature.  So I did.

As I  was doing so, I said to Leah, "Don't you dare tweet this!"

But she did.

We like this walk because, when we reach the secluded beach at its end, we usually see seals bobbing along in the water.  Today we saw, not the dozens we saw last year, but a few.  Leah got a couple of decent shots.  The images are a little blurry, but at least you can tell they're seals.

When we returned to our cottage after that walk, I picked up my nature guide to see whether I could  identify some of the short, silvery-leaved oaks we'd seen along the path.  That's when I saw a picture of a spherical object like the one I picked up outside the cottage.

My arborist friend said she thought it might be a gall, and suggested that I cut into one of them.  So I did.  It was dense and crisp inside, like a hard green apple, with a tiny hollow at its center, as in this photo I took, with the objects lined up against my knitting ruler.

My friend suggested it might be a pitless plum.  I thought it was plausible that there could be a plum sapling out there, growing from someone's cast-off piece of fruit.  So today I went out looking for a little plum tree among the oaks and pitch pines.  But there were only oaks and pitch pines. 

Later, after our second beach walk,  I found images of similar spherical objects in my nature book, the Reader's Digest Guide to North American Wildlife.  They're oak apples: a gall built by a wasp as an enclosure for a wasp larva.  My arborist friend called it.

Here's Wikipedia on the subject:

Oak apples are caused by chemicals injected by the larva of certain kinds of gall wasp in the family Cynipidae.[1] The adult female wasp lays single eggs in developing leaf buds. The larvae feed on the gall tissue resulting from their secretions.

These images from Google Images look almost exactly like the ones I found here:

Those of you who are not scientifically inclined may want to skip the following Wikipedia description of the gall wasps' building those spheres:

The plant galls mostly develop directly after the female insect lays the eggs. The inducement for the gall formation is largely unknown; discussion speculates as to both chemical, mechanical and viral triggers. The hatching larvae nourish themselves with the nutritive tissue of the galls, in which they are otherwise well-protected from external environmental effects. The host plants and the size and shape of the galls are specific to the majority of gall wasps, whereas about 70% of the known species live in various types of oak tree. One can find galls on nearly all parts of such trees, some on the leaves, the buds, the branches, and the roots.

After solving that mystery, Leah and I spent an afternoon in free-spirited Provincetown, where a thriving LGBT presence co-exists with a strong Portuguese community and an ongoing arts colony among buildings erected in the early 1800s. 

Today on the street, a couple of drag queens were out there advertising their shows. I asked one of them whether I could take a photo,to which s/he replied, sorry, no, not unless you buy a ticket.

Oh, well.

Still, there's lots to see here in P-Town.

Maybe you can't read all the clever sayings on those magnets.  My favorite is on the left hand side, second from the top:  "May I recommend a cheap wine to go with your utter despair?  Or how about third row, middle:  "You just made my shit list" ?

Provincetown Town Hall, a lovely and graceful old building

By 5 pm, Leah and I were both feeling peckish, so we ate a light and early dinner at the Lobster Pot.  Strangely, when I first visited Provincetown, I refused to patronize the Lobster Pot, because, centrally located as it was, I thought it had to be a tourist trap.  Then one day our friends Margie and Rae suggested that we eat lunch there.  Such a surprise.  Delicious seafood, spicy Portuguese dishes, smashing view.  Today, this is what Leah and I saw from our table:

Here's Leah and a glass of chenin blanc.

Here's the banner above the door of the Universalist Church:

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