Friday, October 31, 2014

Episode 238 (10/31/14 Halloween season episode): American Witch Hazel

Click to listen to episode (3:09)

TRANSCRIPT

From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week starting on Halloween 2014.

SOUNDS – 15 sec


What better than the sounds of creaking, hollow trees, an owl’s screech, and an imaginary witch laugh to conjure up a Halloween landscape?  But for this Halloween-week episode, consider a much quieter, but still mysterious, part of that landscape: the American Witch Hazel plant.  This shrub or small tree—a native to moist, shady habitats in Virginia and throughout the eastern United States—has two noteworthy water connections.  First is the use of its forked twigs in “dowsing,” “divining,” or “water witching” to try to find groundwater, an ancient practice that some people still follow.  In fact, the “witch” in the plant’s common name probably derives from an old English word that means “bend,” apparently referring to the plant’s flexible twigs and, perhaps, also to the belief that a dowsing rod will bend toward groundwater.  Second, extracts from the plant’s bark and leaves have long been used—medicinally and cosmetically—as an astringent, that is, a substance used to dry fluids and shrink tissues.  Besides its reputed water-finding ability and its established fluid-drying uses, American Witch Hazel is also remarkable for its unusual blooming time.  Bright yellow flowers appear in late fall, often seen beside fruits from the previous season.  When those fruits ripen, also in fall, seeds are forcibly ejected some distance, leading to yet another possible origin of the plant’s name: that people attributed to witchcraft the mysterious sound of those far-flung seeds hitting the ground.   And if all of these unusual connections weren’t enough, “witch hazel” is one of many slang terms used for heroin.

From its name, to its uses, to its unusual flowering and fruiting, Witch Hazel offers botanical treats far beyond the season of creepy Halloween cackles.


SOUND – 3 sec

Thanks to Mike Koenig and Soundbible.com for making the laughing witch sound available for public use.

For other water sounds and music, and for more Virginia water information, visit our Web site at virginiawaterradio.org, or call us at (540) 231-5463.  From the Virginia Water Resources Research Center in Blacksburg, I’m Alan Raflo, thanking you for listening, and wishing you health, wisdom, and good water.

SHOW NOTES

[All Internet addresses mentioned were functional as of 10/31/14]



American Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) blooming in Blacksburg, Va., October 6, 2014.
A cultivated, non-Virginia-native species of witch hazel blooming in Blacksburg in March 2011. 
A species native to the Ozarks (Hamamelis vernali) and some Asian species bloom in late winter to early spring.
Acknowledgments
The laughing witch sound was recorded by Mike Koenig and made available (10/26/09 upload) online at the Soundbible.com Web site, http://soundbible.com/1129-Maniacal-Witches-Laugh.html, for public use under the Creative Commons license “Attribution 3.0.”  For more information on Creative Commons licenses, please see http://creativecommons.org/.

Sources for this episode

Etymology of “witch hazel,” The Free Dictionary by Farlex, online at http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/witch+hazel.

“Drug Dictionary/Street Slang,” Clark County, Indiana, Prosecuting Attorney, online at
http://www.clarkprosecutor.org/html/substnce/slang.htm.

“The Mysterious Past and Present of Witch Hazel,” by John-Manuel Adriote, The Atlantic, Nov. 6, 2012, online at http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2012/11/the-mysterious-past-and-present-of-witch-hazel/264553/.

“Plant of the Week: American Witchhazel (Hamemelis virginiana L.) ,” by Larry Stritch, U.S. Forest Service, online at http://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/plant-of-the-week/hamamelis_virginiana.shtml.

“Witch-Hazel: The Last Flowers of the Season,” Carol Gracie, Bedford Chapter of the National Audubon Society (in northern Westchester and Putnam counties, New York), http://www.bedfordaudubon.org/seasons/winter/witch-hazel01.html.

For more information on Witch Hazel and other Virginia plants

Other Virginia Water Radio episodes on plants are listed at our index, online at http://www.virginiawaterradio.org/p/index.html.

VTree
, the Web site for the dendrology course by Dr. John Seiler in Virginia Tech's Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation, offers identification keys and fact sheets to trees and other woody plants throughout North America.  The site is online at http://dendro.cnre.vt.edu/dendrology/main.htm.

The Flora of Virginia Project accompanies the 2012 publication of The Flora of Virginia, the first comprehensive manual of Virginia plants published since the 1700s; online at http://www.floraofvirginia.org/.

The Virginia Native Plant Society, online at http://vnps.org/, provides information about native species and natural plant habitats.

The song "Witch Hazel," by Tom Gala, offers a musical account of how the cold-season blooming of witch hazel species can connect to human events and emotions.  The song is available online

https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/tom-gala/id250857231.


Monday, October 27, 2014

Episode 237 (10-27-14): Bugs, True Bugs, and Aquatic True Bugs

Click to listen to episode (3:20)

TRANSCRIPT

From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week of October 27, 2014.

SOUND – 4 sec.


What tiny word conjures up a huge world of crawling, flying, swimming, and sometimes buzzing and chirping creatures, but scientifically refers just to one particular group?  Have a guess while you listen to about 20 seconds of a recent festival devoted to this multi-legged world.


SOUND – 21 sec.


If you guessed, bugs, you’re right!  Those were sounds from the 2014 Hokie Bugfest, held October 11 in Blacksburg, Va.  This annual event, organized by Virginia Cooperative Extension and the Virginia Tech Department of Entomology, treats hundreds of visitors to displays and information about insects, spiders, and other creatures commonly called “bugs.”  But entomologists classify one particular group of insects as the so-called “true bugs.”  That group’s distinguishing features include top wings that are in part thick and leathery and also in part thin and nearly transparent; immature and adult forms that look alike; and mouthparts designed for piercing plants or prey and sucking out fluids.  Of over 3500 species of true bugs in North America, about 400 species inhabit freshwater environments, but only in slow-moving or standing water, although one group, the water striders, contains species that can live on the ocean.  Unlike many other aquatic insects, aquatic true bugs don’t have gills for breathing oxygen dissolved in water; instead, as a group they have various ways of using oxygen from air, such as tubes that can be stuck above the water surface, or the ability to submerge with bubbles of air trapped beneath their wings.  These and other features make aquatic true bugs an interesting addition to any bug fest.


Let’s close with some common aquatic bug names, courtesy of several Blacksburg friends.


SOUND – 13 sec.


For other water sounds and music, and for more Virginia water information, visit our Web site at virginiawaterradio.org, or call us at (540) 231-5463.  From the Virginia Water Resources Research Center in Blacksburg, I’m Alan Raflo, thanking you for listening, and wishing you health, wisdom, and good water.


SHOW NOTES

[All Internet addresses mentioned were functional as of 10/27/14]



A scene from Hokie BugFest, October 11, 2014, in Blacksburg, Va.

Giant water bug specimen (lower right corner of box) at the Virginia Tech Insect ID Lab display at Hokie BugFest, October 11, 2014.

Acknowledgments

The sounds from Virginia Tech’s Hokie Bug Fest were recorded October 11, 2014, in Blacksburg.  Sponsored by Virginia Cooperative Extension and the Virginia Tech Department of Entomology, Hokie BugFest is an annual fair to promote interest in entomology and celebrate the life of Virginia Tech’s first entomologist, William Bradford Alwood.  More information about Hokie BugFest is available online at http://hokiebugfest.ext.vt.edu/.

The aquatic bug names were recorded October 26, 2014, in Blacksburg.  Thanks to friends in Blacksburg for their participation in those recordings.


Sources for this episode

Borror, Donald J. and Richard E. White.  Field Guide to the Insects of America North of Mexico.  Peterson Field Guide Series, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, Mass., 1970.


Voshell, J. Reese, Jr. Guide to Common Freshwater Invertebrates of North America, McDonald & Woodward Publishing, Blacksburg, Va., 2002.


Other sources of information on insects

BugGuide, online at http://bugguide.net/node/view/15740.


McCafferty, W. Patrick, Aquatic Entomology: The Fishermen's and Ecologists' Illustrated Guide to Insects and Their Relatives, Jones and Bartlett Publishers, Toronto, 1998; available online at http://books.google.com/books?id=wiTq7x-fI_0C&dq=aquatic+gnats&source=gbs_navlinks_s.


University of Florida Department of Entomology, “Featured Creatures” Web site, http://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/.


Virginia Tech Department of Entomology Insect Identification Lab, online at http://www.insectid.ento.vt.edu/.


Other Virginia Water Radio episodes on insects

Dragonflies - Episode 119 (7/16/12), at http://www.virginiawaterradio.org/2012/07/episode-119-week-of-july-16-2012.html.


Mosquitoes – Episode 78 (9/5/11), at http://www.virginiawaterradio.org/2011/09/episode-77-september-5-2011-little.html.


True flies – Episode 221 (7/7/14), at http://www.virginiawaterradio.org/2014/07/episode-221-7-7-14-true-flies-or.html.