Tuesday, May 17, 2011


Nature Watch

By Susan Thurn,
Cable Natural History Museum

Green. Verde. The color of spring. After the last rains, I looked around outdoors, and the color green is everywhere. It is beautiful, in the grass, in the trees. The word itself resembles the old English verb “growan” which means “to grow.” We are definitely seeing the color green and growth in nature in the north woods.

The color green is often seen in nature due to chlorophyll, the chemical known to assist plants with photosynthesis. Chlorophyll absorbs sunlight wavelengths of most colors, but reflects green light.

Many animals such as amphibians, reptiles, birds, insects or fish, use the color of green as camouflage to blend in with chlorophyll green colors. Again, these animals appear green because of reflected light. Some insects or other invertebrates have pigments, sometimes caused by their diet, that give them a green color. Beetles, caterpillars, spiders, and flies incorporate green pigments into their exoskeletons. A species of sea slug is green because it ingests algae, and it transfers the chloroplast cells from its food into its skin, which then allows it to take the sun’s energy just as plants do. The two-toed or three-toed sloth is so slow that blue-green algae grows in and on their fur, hiding them from their predators, the harpy eagles. Green Turtles get their name from a layer of green colored fat that separates their inner shell from their internal organs. There are many other chemicals and pigments that contribute to green coloring in organisms, even including our very own green pigment in our stomach bile.

It might not be easy being green for Kermit the frog, but it is certainly a common color in so much of the natural world. I have longed for a better green thumb for most of my adult life. Some believe that the grass is greener on the other side. Many of us are going green, taking action to help protect the environment. Whatever it may be, the color green is a welcome to us in spring.

For over 44 years, the Museum has served as a guide and mentor to generations of visitors and residents interested in learning to better appreciate and care for the extraordinary natural resources of the region. The Museum invites you to visit its facility in Cable at 13470 County Highway M. The new exhibit, The Joy of Birds: Feathers in Focus opens in May, 2011. Find us on the web at www.cablemuseum.org to learn more about our exhibits and programs. Also discover us on the web at www.cablemuseum.org, on Facebook, or at our blogspot, http://cablemuseumnaturewatch.blogspot.com/ to learn more about our exhibits and programs.

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