On November 10 this year, I was taking photographs at Tranquille and decided to examine the corral fencing for opportunities. My first photo depicts the fence lines.
All well and good so then I examined one of the rails that was rotting pretty well. In the decaying depression, I noticed these curious, roundish seeds with a hole in one end. I had no idea what they were or how they got there or what may have bored the hole in one end. Obviously, something went in to feed on the inside I thought, but what might do this? The seeds were hard but thin and somewhat fragile.
Here is a closer view of what I thought could be the inside of Russian Olives as they were about the same size. But I was not aware of any olive trees in the near vicinity.
A couple of days later, I picked some Russian Olives and extracted the hard seeds to compare. Here they are and as you can see, they are not the same.
I published the preceding information on my personal Facebook page and a short while later, Jesse Ritcey wrote that he happened across a photo on the web that resembled my mystery seeds. The photo was labelled as Ghost Beads. Here it is.
They looked pretty similar so I Googled “Ghost Beads” and learned that Navajo people make jewelry from these and they are dried Juniper berries. A common species used is Juniperus communis which is the species we have here. The story is that when the soft berries fall to the ground, ants chew a hole in one end in order to access the fleshy material inside for food. As the hollow shells dry, they become hard, if not somewhat brittle, and they are gathered to be used to make jewelry. You can even buy them from on-line vendors.
My shells have been out in the weather and look a little rough, but I suspect they are the same thing. Now the question is, how did they arrive in a depression in the log over a metre above ground? Could an animal such as a Chipmunk or a bird have moved them there when fresh as a food cache and then they were discovered by ants which no doubt live in the decaying wood?
I plan to collect a few to examine more carefully. I have never seen such a phenomenon before. When in the right habitat, I will look for female juniper trees and examine the ground beneath to see if there are Ghost Beads accumulating there. Best I do this before the snow flies I think.
Love these little mysteries. Does anyone have any ideas?