Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Book review: Secrets of the Oak Woodlands, by Kate Marianchild


This sweet little book is a compendium of personal insight amended to standard research. You may already know that poison oak causes contact dermatitis for many of us, but it is oh so charming to read Marianchild's descriptions of golden-crowned sparrows feasting on the plant's berries outside her Mendocino yurt. And curious to know that native Americans used parts of the poison oak plant in crafting and even cooking.

I knew that hummingbirds pollinated manzanitas, but was astonished to learn that native bees use buzz pollination for the same shrubs, vibrating their muscles at a certain pitch until the manzanitas release their pollen in a burst. Now that I'd like to see!

My knowledge of oak galls was slight, and it's been boosted now that Marianchild has explained how wasps secrete hormones that trick oaks into creating distinctive hanging round-shaped homes for themselves.

Other chapters entertainingly educate about mistletoe, woodrats, buckeyes, and more, with hand-drawn illustrations throughout. Worth a read!

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