Tag Archives: winter

Life under the snow

Photo: Vole tunnels revealed by melting snow, © John Fowler (johnfowler.photoshelter.com), used by permission.

 Note: This is a science outreach piece belonging to a series I wrote for the newsletter of the Fredericton Botanic Garden.  I’d be happy to see it modified for use elsewhere and so am posting the text here under a CC BY-NC 4.0 license. If you use it, though, I’d appreciate hearing where and how.

             On a cold February day, when breath hangs visible in the frigid air and even our winter-resident birds are huddling out of sight, it’s easy to think that life outdoors waits suspended for a thaw.  Think twice, though, because when that thaw comes it will bring evidence – like the networks of vole tunnels in the photo above – that this apparent suspension was just an illusion.  There’s a lot going on, even on the coldest days of winter; but a lot of it is happening out of sight, under the snow. Continue reading

How plants prepare for winter

Image: Winter spruce, CC-0 via Pixabay.com

Note: This is a science outreach piece belonging to a series I wrote for the newsletter of the Fredericton Botanic Garden. I’d be happy to see it modified for use elsewhere and so am posting the text here under a CC BY-SA 4.0 license . If you use it, though, I’d appreciate hearing where and how.


Winter is here, and you’ve probably been getting yourself, and your home and garden, ready. Our Garden is making its own preparations. Our plants can’t head inside, or put on parkas and tuques, so they have to be ready to be cold. And there’s a lot more to that than meets the eye.

There are actually two problems that plants need to solve in winter. Continue reading

Plant galls: how insects co-opt plant development to build themselves homes

(Image credit: Lahvak via Flicker/CC BY-NC-SA)

Note: This is a science outreach piece belonging to a series I wrote for the newsletter of the CC BY-SA 88x31Fredericton Botanic Garden. I’d be happy to see it adapted for use elsewhere and so am posting the text here under a CC BY-SA 4.0 license. If you use it, though, I’d appreciate hearing where and how.


With winter upon us, a walk in the Garden has gotten less colourful: nothing is in flower, and most plants have died back or dropped leaves. But I hope you’ll see this as an opportunity to notice things that aren’t as easy to spot in the full flush of summer vegetation. Plant galls are such a thing, and they’re a piece of natural history that especially fascinates me. A “gall” is an abnormal growth on a plant, caused by an attacking natural enemy such as a bacterium, a virus, or an insect herbivore. I’m a particular fan of insect galls, because they tip us off to a complex web of developmental, ecological, and evolutionary interactions between the insect and its plant host. Continue reading