Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

What is it?

with 82 comments

Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit.

In spite of T.S. Eliot’s admonition, I will ask “What is it?” On January 18th I noticed this little thing, maybe an inch across, on a local Ashe juniper tree (Juniperus ashei) and I don’t know what it is. Could it be something as mundane as a narrow strip of fabric that the preceding rain turned into a sodden clump (though it didn’t seem to have the texture of anything woven)? Might it be a fungus? Do any of you have other suggestions?

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 13, 2020 at 4:35 AM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , ,

82 Responses

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  1. Chewing Gum 🙄


    February 13, 2020 at 5:07 AM

  2. Chewing gum was the first thought that came to my mind when I saw it too.


    February 13, 2020 at 5:44 AM

  3. I’ll be interested to learn if this is a fungus, or some sort of cocoon. Or just a stray glob of window-glazing putty, if that plant was close to a building. Fungus is most likely, don’t you think?

    Robert Parker

    February 13, 2020 at 5:49 AM

    • Yes, I’m leaning toward a fungus. The Ashe juniper is along a street at the edge of an undeveloped bit of land, so no building is adjacent to it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 13, 2020 at 8:06 AM

  4. a small wad of chewing gum?


    February 13, 2020 at 6:05 AM

  5. I just visited another site dedicated to photographing insects, and that photographer came across a similar form/deposit on a branch and it turned out to be the eggs of a praying mantis which are surrounded at first by a sticky foam which then hardens into a shape not unlike the one in your photograph, though it (the mantis egg deposit) was tan-coloured. That’s the best I can do. I just love a good blog-offered mystery.


    February 13, 2020 at 6:39 AM

    • Thanks for mentioning the mantis egg case. I’ve occasionally seen some of those but have never come across any kind of insect egg case that’s blue. In any case, it’s good to hear you enjoy a mystery.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 13, 2020 at 8:00 AM

  6. I have never spotted anything like this on any of my hikes over the years. I suppose now I’ll be more observant!! It’ll be interesting to see if anyone knows the answer to your burning question. My guess is a fungus of some sort.


    February 13, 2020 at 7:23 AM

    • I’m with you in guessing a fungus. I did some searching but didn’t turn up anything similar. Like you, I don’t recall ever seeing anything like this.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 13, 2020 at 7:53 AM

  7. Perhaps it is a large wad of gum that a careless person had thrown onto the juniper tree. Just a wild guess, Steve!

    Peter Klopp

    February 13, 2020 at 8:09 AM

  8. It almost looks like an early stage of cedar-apple rust fungus. Are there any crabapple trees in the area?


    February 13, 2020 at 8:31 AM

    • Not that I’m aware of.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 13, 2020 at 8:59 AM

    • The pictures you Linked to show little circles, yet the thing I found has a relatively smooth surface. Does your cedar-apple rust fungus have a smooth variety?

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 13, 2020 at 4:18 PM

      • Not that I could find, but I don’t have any direct experience: only an ability to sort through online images. The more I look at this, the less sure I am that it’s even a fungus. I’ve jumped over to the ootheca side of things after seeing this image. Granted, this critter isn’t native, but I did read that many exotic species of mantis have arrived here through the pet trade. It’s hard to imagine a pet mantis as the source of this pile of blue, but odder things have happened.


        February 14, 2020 at 8:12 AM

    • I just found a picture of a smooth specimen but it’s still orange rather than pale blue:


      Steve Schwartzman

      February 13, 2020 at 4:22 PM

  9. I was going to say a gall but I think Shoreacres may be right. Which I think the fungus might be called a gall, too. *shrugs*


    February 13, 2020 at 8:53 AM

    • If it’s a gall, it’s like none I’ve ever seen around here—which of course doesn’t rule it out.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 13, 2020 at 4:19 PM

  10. I was thinking of the cedar apple rust fungus, as well, but I’ve never seen it blue before. Maybe it is a special Texan rust fungus. Or gum, although of course I know it isn’t. Not an insect egg case, though.


    February 13, 2020 at 9:08 AM

  11. Chewing gum


    February 13, 2020 at 9:13 AM

    • When I touched it, it didn’t feel sticky, like fresh chewing gum, or hard, like old gum.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 13, 2020 at 4:24 PM

  12. Interesting mystery … let us know if you find out!


    February 13, 2020 at 9:22 AM

  13. Looks like gum, but my guess is malformed juniper berry, perhaps with the aid of some fungus, virus or insect. There are viruses out there that will cause cockaded plant tissue.

    Lavinia Ross

    February 13, 2020 at 10:32 AM

  14. Fungal beastie would be my guess. You were brave to touch it. 🙂


    February 13, 2020 at 11:49 AM

  15. I thought used chewing gum too, but reading the comments I see you ruled that out. Melissa knows her trees and stuff so, I’ll go with her thought. 😉


    February 13, 2020 at 1:13 PM

  16. I vote for blue bubblegum. I think it shows chew marks, similar to images on “5,700-Year-Old “Chewing Gum” Reveals An Entire Human Genome” https://www.iflscience.com/plants-and-animals/5700yearold-chewing-gum-reveals-an-entire-human-genome/.

    IMO, many Google images for “praying mantis eggs” at https://www.google.com/search?q=praying+mantis+eggs&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwi22te7-M7nAhUKPK0KHSIIBWUQ_AUoAXoECA8QAw&biw=1668&bih=782 show patterns and regularity not evident in the pic.

    No guess nor opinion from me about fungus.

    It’d be good if a dentist or dental hygienist would weigh in. Consider putting the item in a container for showing the next time you see your dentist.


    February 13, 2020 at 1:42 PM

    • Thanks for your comments. The problem with the gum suggestion is that the thing didn’t feel like gum when I touched it. When I went back to look for this thing a few days later, I couldn’t find it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 13, 2020 at 5:02 PM

  17. My first thought was also some sort of fungus. Juniper-hawthorn rust and juniper-apple rust looks sort of similar, but have different surface texture and is much more brown. Possibly a lichen?


    February 13, 2020 at 1:46 PM

    • There’s the color problem with rust. As for lichen, when I touched this thing it didn’t feel like any lichen I’ve encountered.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 13, 2020 at 4:58 PM

  18. Like Linda, my first thought was cedar apple rust also. I get that on one of my cedars in the yard. To some degree this does resemble the items in Number 4 on this page. I’ve only seen mine when they have already become orange and look like little outer space critters.

    Steve Gingold

    February 13, 2020 at 3:26 PM

    • I think that’s the same set of four pictures Linda pointed to. The problem there is that the textures and colors are different from my object.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 13, 2020 at 5:00 PM

  19. Glop!

    Michael Scandling

    February 13, 2020 at 8:19 PM

    • I used to make a wholesome and to my mind tasty dish that I unappealingly referred to as brown glop.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 13, 2020 at 8:30 PM

    • I used to make Turkey Glop after Thanksgiving. With leftover turkey, dressing, peas, gravy, and rice.

      Judy Baumann

      February 14, 2020 at 7:37 AM

      • It’s beginning to sound like we could convene a glop convention.

        Steve Schwartzman

        February 14, 2020 at 8:08 AM

      • My first glop was tuna glop. I learned to make it at summer camp.

        Michael Scandling

        February 14, 2020 at 9:31 AM

        • Your response and Judy’s make me realize that glop has more of a culinary “pedigree” than I thought. I was being sarcastic when I chose the name “glop” because I actually liked the taste of my invented dish. Someone eventually came up with a fancier and more positive name for it: peanut-wheat surprise. Most people guessed that the boiled peanuts were beans (well, they are both legumes) and were surprised to learn the “beans” were peanuts. In addition, almost everyone was surprised that the smaller thingies were wheat berries; I assume that’s because in our culture we turn wheat into flour for baking and almost never eat the grain as a grain. (Notice how we treat rice the opposite way, eating it as a grain and almost never turning it into flour the way the Chinese and Japanese do).

          Steve Schwartzman

          February 14, 2020 at 9:47 AM

        • Perhaps it will feature in your memoirs.

          Steve Schwartzman

          February 14, 2020 at 10:16 AM

  20. Aged blob of Blu Tack.

    Ms. Liz

    February 13, 2020 at 8:34 PM

  21. Could this be a fasciated juniper berry?


    February 13, 2020 at 11:25 PM

    • The fasciated growths I’ve seen have always retained some features of their regular, non-fasciated form, yet I don’t see any trace of a juniper berry here.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 14, 2020 at 8:00 AM

      • The blue color is what made me think it resembles a juniper berry. I do not know what color the berries of Ashe juniper are, or what season in which they develop.


        February 15, 2020 at 2:35 PM

        • Ashe juniper fruit is a dull bluish gray,


          so the colors plausibly match.

          Steve Schwartzman

          February 15, 2020 at 5:30 PM

          • The season does not match though. By January, the seed within the berries should already be getting dispersed. The berries would not be fresh by that time . . . under normal circumstances.


            February 15, 2020 at 6:36 PM

            • Right you are.

              Steve Schwartzman

              February 15, 2020 at 7:47 PM

              • Are there sporadic berries on such junipers at random times, or would deformed berries be likely to linger? Fasciated agapanthus blooms last much later than normal blooms.


                February 15, 2020 at 8:00 PM

                • I’m afraid I don’t know the answers to those questions. I’ve never seen fasciation in an Ashe juniper. Whatever this thing was, it seemed to be resting on the Ashe juniper, rather than being a part of it.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  February 15, 2020 at 9:04 PM

                • gum


                  February 15, 2020 at 9:25 PM

  22. Judy Baumann

    February 14, 2020 at 7:39 AM

    • I found a website that says the spittle eventually shrinks and hardens, but there was no statement of how much it hardens, nor whether the spittle ever entirely loses its bubbly look.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 14, 2020 at 8:16 AM

  23. Gosh for all it’s worth I don’t think it is fungus .. looks like gum? Blue tack .. bet it isn’t! Busting to know now …


    February 20, 2020 at 12:28 AM

    • We never solved the mystery. Gum was the possibility most often mentioned, and yet when I touched the thing it didn’t feel like gum.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 20, 2020 at 2:07 AM

  24. Oh, the wonders you have generated with this photo! Too bad it was gone when you went back.


    February 23, 2020 at 2:30 PM

    • It’s probably better not to have found out what it was. This way we can all imagine what we want.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 23, 2020 at 5:49 PM

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