What is That? Jill Eudaly

What is That?

One of the reasons I like being outdoors is that I always find something that stops me in my tracks and makes me scratch my head. What is that?

After I investigate and take photos I then try and find an answer to “What is that?” I’ll admit up front, I’m kind of lazy about looking stuff up. Usually when I want information about nature I show a picture of it to my friends at the environmental education center. They usually can identify what’s in the photo. If they can’t they grab books or hop on the internet. They love learning new things. I do too but they are faster at finding answers.

Once I learn the name of a plant or other bits from the natural world I then spot them everywhere. How did I go so long not seeing them before?

Here a few fun things I have seen lately. My hope is once you see them, you will start to notice them too on your next hike in the woods.


Last week I was walking around a pond and spotted several muddy holes like this one near the edge of the water. I’ve seen other holes like this  before but the dirt was piled more vertically, like a chimney. Burrowing crayfish lived in those holes. I’m 90% sure this is also a burrowing crayfish hole. Yep, crayfish do come out of the water on to dry land. If anyone has a different theory as to who dug this hole let me know!    Snake is not an option.


Oil or gas spill? I don’t think so but there is a chance that it is. More likely this iridescent sheen on top of the water was made by microbes. A large concentration of anaerobic (no to little oxygen lovers)  microbes live in this shallow puddle. Most anaerobic bacteria emit methane which evaporates into the air. Sometimes when there are a lot of microbes in one puddle they make larger hydrocarbon chains. These chains are to heavy to evaporate so they float on the water surface. These hydrocarbon chains are of the petroleum variety. So it is a natural oil spill of sorts.


These green curls might not be so hard to identify. They are sure signs that spring is underway. These fiddleheads will grow into the lush green ferns that carpet the woods in western PA.  The umbrella shaped plants behind the fiddleheads are May Apples.


Many trees around the world are called Ironwood trees due to their hard nature. This particular variety is in the Ostrya family – birch. ( I’m pretty sure Ostrya, Ironwood for sure)

I read that foresters consider this tree to be a weed. Must not be a lot of uses for it’s wood. I think this tree is crazy looking. It’s trunk looks like it is made of muscle. Do you see it?

Between the way it looks and the smooth feel of it’s bark, this tree stopped me in my tracks. Love when that happens!


I don’t know about you but I like lichen. (it’s the round spots on the rock)  Lichen is interesting. It’s actually a combination of fungus and alga. They live together in harmony but the fungus is the dominate entity. Lichen on trees is often of a greener shaggy variety. I believe there a four family types of lichen.

So lichen might not seem like a show stopping find, but there is a reason you should be happy to see lichen. This wonderful twosome is a clean air indicator. It is very sensitive to air pollution. Next time you see a rock covered in lichen, smile and take in a few deep breaths of clean air.


More Lichen? Yes but what else do you see? Any guesses?   It’s natural.

Iron ore. This sandstone has many “rivers” of iron. The sides of this stone has large areas of less dense iron. It is not in river or bump form but one can see it as a rusty red coloring.

Next time you are out in the woods look for a few of these natural wonders. Better yet, put your shoes on and go look for them today. Nature is waiting!

by Jill Eudaly

photos by Jill Eudaly



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