Caterpillars & Poplar Fluff

Little green caterpillars and gentle flurries of poplar seeds are one the annual signs that tell me that summer is so very close to officially arriving. These two make their appearance near the end of spring and signal the end of brisk morning rides and pleasantly warm evenings.

The caterpillars are Larger Boxelder Leafrollers and they mostly feed on the leaves of Manitoba Maples. As there are no shortage of these trees in the river valley, Edmonton cyclists using the trails are accustomed to suddenly riding into swarms of the caterpillars . You will be zipping along when the light filtering through the foliage will illuminate a host  of little jade Leafrollers rappelling down from canopy above on invisible lines. Attempts to dodge them are futile; you are bound to accumulate a number of tiny hitchhikers.

Larger Boxelder Leafroller

Larger Boxelder Leafroller.

These hungry little critters can defoliate an entire tree. Luckily the weedy Manitoba Maple is such a rugged character that within a few weeks it can grow complete new set of leaves.

In addition to Manitoba Maples the river valley is well provided with poplar trees. Throughout late spring these trees will form seed pods that release steady flurries of white fluff. It gathers in drifts throughout the woods, sometimes nearly carpeting the entire forest floor. This year we have had so much rain that, although there has been lots of poplar fluff falling, it has not been able accumulate in the cloud-like, landscape-transforming blankets that I love. I tried to take some photos of the fluff flurries today but my camera or myself (or both) were not equal to the task. I did take a video, but at the time of writing I don’t have the energy to coax my ancient, hand-cranked computer into editing the file. Please just imagine a juxtaposition of giant snowflakes and vibrant greenery; you will have a good approximation. One of my great spring pleasures is cycling through the falling poplar seeds. Contrary to many people’s belief, the poplar fluff does not cause allergic reactions: the poplar seed season coincides with the grass pollen season, the real culprit of springtime sniffles.

Poplar fluff

Poplar Fluff

Seed Pod

A fallen seed pod. One of many.

Moments after taking this photo, my bike fell on top of my crouching self, drawing blood. I hope you appreciate my dedication...and carelessness.

Moments after my taking this photo, my bike fell on top of my crouching self, drawing blood. I hope you appreciate my dedication…and stupidity.


4 thoughts on “Caterpillars & Poplar Fluff

  1. Have you noticed in your area a strange defoliation of poplar trees around their mid-sections, with abnormally large leaves growing at the end of branches? I’m noticing this all over Calgary this spring, and don’t recall seeing this before. And I can’t find info about it on the web. From what I can tell the leaves have not been eaten, they just didn’t seem to grow out in sections of the tree.


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