Wordless Wednesday 39

If my photo below brings to mind a memory or otherwise inspires you to do some writing — or in this case, if you even recognize what these are — I hope you’ll share a comment.


©2013 Allyson Latta

©2013 Allyson Latta


See more of my photos here. (NEW “view” allows you to scroll easily through previous WW photos.)

And drop in on the following writer friends for their takes on Wordlessness:

Allison Howard


Barbara Rose Lambert

Carin Makuz at Matilda Magtree

Cheryl Andrews

Elizabeth Yeoman at Wunderkamera


Enjoy these recent posts on writing …

“Of Eloquent Blood”: the story of the woman who ran one of North America’s largest fur trade companies

Write on! Deadline for UofT School of Continuing Studies writing competition is almost here

“C” Fundamental (a process): guest post on writing by Carin Makuz

On Memory: Study Finds Our Memories Can Be Reactivated During Sleep

This Story Is Full of Holes, an essay by Kyo Maclear


  1. Oh wonderfully wonderfully weird! My first thought is “prehistoric boots”, for some very misshapen feet (from slogging through prehistoric mud?) but on the other hand there’s a metallic look about these too, though as I peer more closely maybe in fact it’s an organic quality? Okay I give up! A fascinating mystery!

    • Allyson Latta says:

      Oh good (rubs hands together in glee), I was hoping this photo would pique curiosity. Thanks for dropping in, Barbara. I’ll let everyone in on what these are later today.

  2. Holy smokes, I am perplexed! They look kind of like old nests of some kind? Or, old vessels? They certainly have an old beauty about them!

    • Allyson Latta says:

      One of your guesses is warm, but I’m not going to tell you yet which one. I thought too that they have a strange beauty.

  3. Mary says:

    I know exactly where you were when you took this photo. I took one of the same subject, too. Fascinating.

    • Allyson Latta says:

      I wondered if you’d drop in and see this photo, Mary. I know you know where and what — but thanks for not giving it away just yet!

  4. carin says:

    When I was in Chile/Argentina I saw something similar and was told they were nests made of mud. A lovely name in Spanish, which I can’t remember, nor can I remember the bird/creature that made them. Anyway, that’s my guess and I’m sticking with it.

    • Allyson Latta says:

      It’s possible you might have seen these down there, Carin. I know saguaro cactus grows in only a few places in the world — but Chile may be one of them. I don’t know that other varieties of cactus form the same sort of “shell.” It seems specific to saguaro.

  5. carin says:

    ‘Sticking with it’… oh, that’s punny. And really bad. And completely unintentional. Honest.

  6. Cheryl says:

    Weird and wonderful looking thingies … can’t wait for the reveal, Allyson. Do the wasps grow big down there?

  7. Allyson Latta says:

    Here’s the scoop on the “weird and wonderful looking thingies.” The photo was taken in a small museum in Tucson, Arizona, and these objects are “saguaro boots.” I’m going to be lazy here and quote Wikipedia for the explanation:

    “A saguaro boot is the hard shell of callus tissue, heavily impregnated with lignin, that a saguaro cactus (Carnegiea gigantea) creates to protect the wound created by a bird’s nesting hole.[1] The bird pecks through cactus skin, then excavates downward to hollow out a space for its nest.[2] When the saguaro dies, its soft flesh rots, but its woody infrastructure lasts much longer. So does the hollowed-out callus whose roughly boot-like shape gives it the name of ‘saguaro boot.'[3]

    “Several different kinds of birds create nest holes in saguaro cactus. The Gila Woodpecker (Melanerpes uropygialis) creates small holes (about 5 cm across) at midlevel on the cactus, where the ribs are far apart,[4] feeding on larvae under the cactus skin.[5] The larger Gilded Flicker (Colaptes chrysoides) drills bigger holes higher up,[6] where ribs are close together, because its beak is strong enough to break through rib tissue.[4]

    “The saguaro responds to the bird’s damaging its tissue by secreting a resinous sap that, over time, hardens into a bark-like shell that prevents the cactus from losing fluid and also protects the nest hole by making it waterproof.[4] The bird’s nesting hole requires not only the bird’s making a hole but also the cactus’s lining the hole — it is not ready for use as a nest until a year after its creation.[4] Many saguaros are home to multiple nests; if birds excavate adjoining hollows, a saguaro boot may be formed with more than one opening.

    “Native Americans of the Seri group used saguaro boots to store or carry water.[7] It is now illegal to collect saguaro boots from the wild in Arizona.”[8]

  8. carin says:

    What a wondrous bit of information! They must be quite tough to carry water. Ingenious on all counts: the birds, the cactus and the humans… [also the photographer].

  9. Yeah. What Carin said.

    As a dedicated birder, I’m thrilled to have this information, albeit I find the image awfully creepy. But, how clever nature is. Thanks, Allyson.

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