Eugene Weekly : It’s About Time : 6.4.09

By David Wagner

Elgaria coerulea, northern alligator lizard

June means Solstice! to people who track the seasons. We celebrate the day, the 20th this year, as has been done for as long as the human mind could share comprehension of the notion. The longest day of the year marks the beginning of summer. Did you ever wonder why Solstice didn’t mark the middle of summer? The hottest days always come later because it takes a long time for the oceans to warm up. Ocean temperature controls the temperature of the air that blows into town.

 Licorice ferns have dried up on the tree trunks they make home. Like the mosses they grow with, they flourish in the rainy season and go dormant in the summer. Their spores probably won’t germinate until fall, but nobody knows for sure.

 Gardeners know that even though Oregon is thought of as a rainy state, long dry spells are likely in the next months. Investing in a timer that sends daily water to your petunias and potatoes means taking long hikes in the mountains without worry. Remember, snakes and lizards are your garden friends. They eat what you would otherwise want to poison: slugs and bugs.

Seeing a doe in the meadow at Mt. Pisgah reminds me that fawns will be born soon. If you should happen across a fawn in the wild, just back away and leave it alone. It is just lying quietly waiting for Mommy to return for the next feeding, and Mommy won’t come back until you are gone.

David Wagner is a botanist who has worked in Eugene for more than 30 years. He teaches mosses and is president of the Eugene Natural History Society. He may be reached at