In the past week some warm and wet days occurred and in addition to encouraging the perennials to bloom, the Eastern red cedars sported these orange growths
which are the fruiting bodies of the fungal disease, Cedar apple rust. This disease is usually non life threatening to the host trees. Apple and crabapple trees exhibit spotting of the leaves once the spores are transferred from the cedars, Juniperus virginiana. You can read more about this disease here with the experts. I find that nature creates some of the most interesting forms in the garden and in life. I can see the toy makers perusing scientific journals to come up with all sorts of new items to entice sales. Haven't I seen squishy balls that look just like this in the store?
I don't know who took this picture but in the interest of fair play, you can find it here. Of course I did have to cut one down from the tree and feel it. It felt like those 'grow in water' creatures which grow to hundreds of times their size when you set them in a bowl of water. I wonder if the same technology which allows these galls to grow tentacles from a hard little ball was used to create those critters also?