Wednesday, May 18, 2011

What IS a Banana Slug?

I am a full-fledged member of the Banana Slug Club.  Here I am at the initiation ceremony.  Notice the size of the Banana Slug.  They can be over nine inches long.  Tom captured the ceremony on VHS tape ten years ago.  This was before he had progressed to digital videos. 

With me is a member of the Banana Slug String Band, Steve Van Zandt, also known as Solar Steve.  The band from the Santa Cruz area of California named themselves after the banana slugs found along the coast of California, often among the giant Redwoods.  The band specializes in environmental education for young people through the use of songs and other activities.  They have a wonderful collection of CDs available at their web site.  I like their songs because of the environmental themes running through them but also because they use many musical genres. Water Cycle Boogie is a Boogie.  Penguin Parade is from the upbeat New Orleans tradition. The River Song is contemplative and peaceful.  Each year the band spends most of a week  at Garbry Big Woods Reserve jamming with elementary children from our county.  They bring their environmental message to about three thousand children in our county each year.

Banana Slugs are popular in Santa Cruz.  The mascot of the University of California, Santa Cruz, is the Banana Slug.  At one time there was a movement to change the mascot to the Sea Lions, but even after a sea lion was painted on the basketball floor, the crowds still rooted for the Slugs.  The powers that be gave in after five years and now it's official.  The UCSC mascot is Sammy the Slug.

Slugs are an important part of the ecosystem.  They are primarily decomposers, turning dead organic material on the forest floor back into soil.  I found the slug in the picture below on the boardwalk at Garbry Big Woods Sanctuary. It is a typical Ohio slug, probably a little over an inch long. I picked it up and put back in the dead leaves so no visitor would accidently step on it.

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