Attack of the Hangy Downy Things

June 11, 2007

It happens every spring. Just about the time we get the planting done, yard trimmed, and begin to settle in for summer…the attack of the hangy downy things. It seems like one day everything is neat and clean and the next day you are tracking these little nubbins in on your shoes, pant legs, and even the dog’s feet. They’re everywhere. Not only that, you can’t get rid of the little devils because they fall apart into tiny little leavins that are just large enough to feel gritty on the floor, but small enough that they run from the broom.

I always forget that they’re coming which seems pretty silly because it happens every darn year, but it irritates me just the same. Granted it doesn’t last that long, but you might as well wait until they’re all on the ground to rid yourself of them.

I don’t know who in my family coined the name “hangy downy things”, it might have even been me since I can’t remember ever hearing it from someone else. The meaning is pretty common knowledge though, among our clan anyway. This is how it usually goes. “Ewwwwe, what is that thing on the floor?”, “Oh. It’s another one of the hangy downy things.” “Ah. One of those hangy downy things.”

The Oak trees always seemed to be the likely culprit, so I was pretty surprised yesterday to find acorns on one of them already. Surely the hangy downy things come before the acorn. Google is a wonderful thing; Oak tree growth cycle, led to acorn, which led to Oak fruit, which led to Oak flowers here and here. Who knew? So now those little suckers have a name. Catkin: named for its resemblance to a cat’s tail; a slender male cluster of pollen producing flowers. They are usually located somewhere on the same branch near the female flowers which eventually produce the fruit. Sound familiar?

So anyway, why does this oak already have little acorns? It turns out that this is a Red Oak and they produce fruit on a two year cycle; acorns every other year. No catkins here, at least not this year.

Then it must this big daddy, or mama, or both as is the case. The Bur Oak produces fruit every year, but there sure wasn’t a visable sign of catkins or acorns, anywhere. My guess is that they are few and fall directly into the grass. So I miss them.

It was surprising to find out that the bad boy girl tree turned out to be the Pignut Hickory. I should have known. This tree has been a bit of a trouble for many years. Most recently we were denied satellite television because it sits directly in front of where the dish needs to go. Back in the day I dried and pressed its leaves for a 4-H project that resulted in a disqualification because “The Pignut Hickory is not indigenous to Indiana.” Yeah. Sure.

This one seems to be doing quite well in Indiana, and from the looks of things there will be plenty of nuts in the fall, which will turn out to be the second most irritating thing this tree does; with a little help from the squirrels anyway.

Fortunately autumn will bring the most beautiful golden yellow leaves…

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6 Responses to “Attack of the Hangy Downy Things”

  1. dilling71 Says:

    everything produces something….
    i just swept and mopped the entire house yesterday, top to bottom, and am finding “debris” everywhere today…..not cool on a white tile floor!
    Every day there is yellow pollen on the windshield of my car and dog walking has left multitudes of “stuff” on my shoes, in the cuffs of my pants and elsewhere….argh!

  2. mjd Says:

    Do you think that these Pignut Hickory nuts are edible? Our oldest son was always interested in having hickory nut pie (something that he saw on Letterman), but I think the edible nuts are from a Shagbark Hickory.

    Those 4-H people are tough. The tree grows in Indiana, and we are just on the edge of Indiana…two edges if you think about our location.

  3. Nessa Says:

    I think Hangy Downy Thing is the technical term. Sometimes Mother Nature can be so insistent.

    Great pictures.

  4. gawilli Says:

    Dilling – It’s hard to remember the wonderful when the irritating is all you can see, but you are exactly right – everything produces something. I would not trade my trees for anything although I have been tempted to get rid of this one on occasion.

    MJD – We have never eaten them, but the squirrels love them. What I have seen on-line says they are bitter. As for the 4-H part, they had a book of 50 trees common to Indiana and it wasn’t in there. Bummer.

    Nessa – I’m glad she is insistent. She sure is one smart cookie to put the male and female part together on the same tree. Very interesting.

  5. corky Says:

    Luckily I live in Kentucky where everything dies by July 1st because it’s so hot and never rains. But at least I don’t have to worry about tracking stuff into my home!
    But all that green looks nice where you’re at.


  6. Oh, the picture of the acorns made me homesick. We don’t get oak trees in Alaska, and I grew up with them and love them so.


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