Winter starkness allows us to bring attention to what can be hidden in the flurry of colors, sounds, and textures of other seasons. My daily walking route revealed a previously hidden mystery this winter. Can you spot three curled leaves hanging onto this young ash tree?

It seemed odd for a tree to have three perfectly rolled leaves remaining through winter. I took a closer look. The connection of the leaf’s petiole (stem) to the branch was reinforced with silk – telling me this was the work of some creature wanting a secure winter hideaway. This elongate shelter hanging on through winter was two inches in length, with a valve-like opening on one end – who do you think could be inside?

The pupa of a Promethea moth nestled in a silken cocoon! In the fall, the pale lime caterpillars with red and yellow knobs wrap a leaf with silk for a snug winter home. In the late spring, they emerge from their cocoon’s opening as winged adults. Search for and mark branches with Promethea cocoons now, and then later this year, after the trees leaf out, watch for the adult moths to spread their wings (or you might see wasps that have parasitized the cocoons!).

The deep red color of the female’s wings could have given the moth their name.
In Greek mythology Prometheus was a Titan who stole fire from Zeus to share with humankind.

Leave a Reply