1. Along the Ashuelot

I know that a few of you have been looking forward to seeing some photos of fall colors in New Hampshire so this post includes some that I took recently. The above scene is from the Ashuelot River in Keene. We’ve been in a drought for months but we received over 4 inches of rain one day last week and that filled the river’s banks.

2. Ashuelot North

The Ashuelot wasn’t quite as placid north of Keene. The brown color of the water shows that a lot of soil was washed into it.

3. Ferns

Ferns grow all along the river but in a few spots they’ve colonized the entire understory. I think these examples were cinnamon ferns (Osmundastrum cinnamomeum.)

4. In the Forest

This is what our forests look like from the inside right now…

5. Along the Ashuelot

…and this is what they look like from the outside.

6. Old Road

Though there were only yellows and greens showing along this old road when I took this photo by now there are probably many other colors to be seen. It doesn’t matter which road you choose to travel in New Hampshire at this time of year because all of them lead to amazing colors.

7. Lily Foliage

A Canada lily (Lilium canadense) caught my eye.

8. Fall Colors

Fall wouldn’t be the same without the purples, blues and whites of asters mingling with the yellows, reds and oranges of the trees and shrubs. This scene is repeated over and over, all along the edges of our forests.

9. Blue and Yellow

I’ve always liked yellow and blue together and I’m seeing plenty of both this season.

10. Along the Ashuelot

Another view from along the Ashuelot River, across from one of my favorite trails.

11. Poison Ivy-2

Quite often poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) will turn a beautiful scarlet color in the fall but this group of plants decided to wear yellow this year.

12. White Pine

As a gardener I used to get a lot of questions in the fall from people who thought their white pines (Pinus strobus) were sick, but it’s perfectly normal for pines and other conifers to shed a few needles when there is no longer enough light to support them all. Conifer needles photosynthesize just like the leaves on deciduous trees do, but they need plenty of sunlight to do so.

13. Witch Hazel Foliage

The leaves of witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) turn bright yellow in the fall, starting at their edges.

14. Staghorn Sumac

Sumacs are noted for their autumn red hues and this staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina) didn’t disappoint.

15. Half Moon Pond

When the sun rises over the hill that was behind me when I took this photo the first rays fall on the lightest point seen across half-moon pond in Hancock. Coincidentally, that’s where the first fall colors began to show on the trees. Spending a few moments alone with this view is how I start my work day each day, and at this point I don’t think I’d trade it for anything. Actually I’m not completely alone; I share the view with squirrels, chipmunks and bass, which are usually all around me as I stand there and gawp.

I am too rich already, for my eyes mint gold. ~Mervyn Peake

Thanks for stopping in.



1. Mum

There aren’t many garden flowers that say fall in New Hampshire like the chrysanthemum. The trouble is even though they’re sold as “hardy mums” few can survive our kind of winter cold and most will die. This one was given to me by a friend many years ago and despite having no special care whatsoever has survived winters when the temperature fell to 30 and 35 below zero F (-34 to -37 C.) Purple and white seem to be the hardiest of all the chrysanthemums.  Frost won’t hurt this one; it will bloom right up until a freeze.

2. Sweet Everlasting

Sweet everlasting’s (Pseudognaphalium obtusifolium) common name comes from the way it lasts for years after being cut and dried. This example had a fully open flower which is something I don’t see that often. Usually the plant has many buds rather than open flowers. An odd name for this plant is rabbit tobacco, given to it by Native Americans because they noticed that rabbits liked to gather where these plants grew. Because of these gatherings they thought that rabbits must smoke the plant as a way to communicate with the Creator. They apparently decided to try smoking it too because it was and still is used in smoking mixtures by some Native people. I’ve never seen a rabbit near it.

3. Indian Tobacco

Indian tobacco (Lobelia inflata) looks like a fragile flower but it can take quite a lot of frost and the small pea sized blossoms can be seen until late in the season. It gets its common name from its swollen seed pods that are said to look like the tobacco pouches that Native Americans carried.  There doesn’t seem to be any records of Native Americans smoking it but it can make you very sick and they used it as an emetic. Burning the dried leaves is said to keep insects away but burning just about anything usually keeps insects away, so I’m not sure what that would prove for the plant.

4. Yarrow

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) blooms earlier in the season then rests a bit and blooms again in the fall. The plant has more common names than any other that I can think of and one of them, bad man’s plaything, makes me laugh every time I see a yarrow plant. I can’t imagine how it came by such a name but it could have happened thousands of years ago; yarrow is mentioned in the Chinese I Ching, which is said to pre date recorded history, and has also been found in an excavation of a Neanderthal grave site. Yarrow was a valuable healing herb, one of the nine “holy herbs,” and was traded throughout the world since before recorded time, and that is believed to be the reason for the plant being found in nearly every country on earth today. Native Americans used it for everything from snake bites to deodorant.

5. Yellow Toadflax

Yellow toadflax (Linaria vulgaris) is considered an invasive species but I don’t see it that often and I was surprised to see it blooming so late in the year. When the plant is grown under cultivation its flowers are used as cut flowers and are said to be long lasting in a vase. It has been used medicinally in Europe and Asia. It always reminds me of snapdragons.

6. Bee on Aster

New England asters (Aster novae-angliae) and other asters are popular with bees right now but something I noticed last year seems to be true this year as well; the bees visit the lighter colored flowers far more than the darker ones. That could explain why I don’t see the darker colored ones that often, but I wonder why bees would prefer one over the other.

7. Dark NE Aster

This is the darkest colored New England aster I’ve seen this year and though it was blooming profusely there wasn’t a bee on it.

8. Heath Aster

The white heath aster (Symphyotrichum ericoides) is a plant that is so loaded with small white flowers along its stems that it doesn’t look as if you could fit one more on it. For that reason it has another common name; the many flowered aster. Asters were burned by the Greeks to drive away serpents, and the Romans put wreaths made of aster blossoms on alters to the gods. In this country Native Americans used asters in sweat baths.

9. Bumblebee on Heath Aster

Bumblebees preferred the small flowers of the heath aster on this day and the plants were covered with them. They were moving very slowly though, and instead of flying crawled from flower to flower.  Our bee season, like our flower season, is coming to an end.

10. Wild Radish

I’ve seen many wild radish (Raphanus raphanistrum) flowers growing alongside corn fields but I’ve never seen one with such pronounced veins in its petals. Maybe the cold brings them out. Honey bees love these flowers. They can be white, purple, light orange or pale sulfur yellow. Photos I’ve seen of the white version also show pronounced veins in the petals. Wild radish is in the mustard family and is sometimes confused with wild mustard (Brassica kaber,) but that plant doesn’t have hairy stems like wild radish.

11. Dandelion

I’m not sure what’s going on with dandelions (Taraxacum officinale) but I’ve seen very few of them over the last two seasons. I used to see them virtually everywhere I went but I had to look for several days to find one for this blog last spring. I stumbled onto the one shown here. It seems very strange that they’d suddenly disappear, or could I somehow just not be noticing them? Is anyone else seeing fewer of them, I wonder?

12. Phlox

Though phlox seems to me more like a summer than a fall flower many of them will bloom until we see a hard frost. This purplish one was seen in a park so I think it’s a cultivar rather than a native plant, but we do have native purple phlox so I could be wrong. It was a spot of color that grabbed my attention and I was happy to see it, so I thought it needed to have its picture taken.

13. Vetch

Since I like the color blue so much it’s hard not to like vetch, even though it is invasive and is probably responsible for more than a few gray hairs on this head. Once it gets in a garden it is close to impossible to eradicate by pulling alone, and I know that because I tried many times in many gardens over the years. It’s especially annoying when it gets into shrubs. I think this example is hairy vetch (Vicia vilosa,) which was originally imported from Europe and Asia to be used as a cover crop and for livestock forage. It’s now found in just about every meadow in New Hampshire.

14. Witch Hazel

Though I’ve seen dandelions blooming in a mild January witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) is usually our latest blooming flower. Oddly enough the spring blooming witch hazels (Hamamelis vernalis) are among our earliest flowers, so this shrub has both ends of the season covered. Both are called winter bloom because they bloom so close to that season. My father always had a bottle of witch hazel lotion handy, and this plant reminds me of him. Today’s witch hazel lotion recipe might have come down from Native Americans, who used the plant to treat skin irritation in the same way it is used to this day.

I wanted to know the name of every stone and flower and insect and bird and beast. I wanted to know where it got its color, where it got its life – but there was no one to tell me. ~George Washington Carver

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1. Field

Early last Sunday morning I set out to climb Hewes Hill is Swanzey, which takes you to Tippin Rock. I don’t know what I was thinking but I wore sneakers instead of my hiking boots and by the time I had  crossed the field to get to the trail head my feet were soaked from the heavy dew. One unusual thing about this photo is that there is a cloud in it. That’s been a rare sight around here this summer.

2. Frosted Clover

Dew wasn’t the only thing in the field. The red clovers saw their first frost of the season.

3. Frosted Clover Leaves

Each leaf was covered in ice crystals, but it wasn’t enough to harm them. By the time I had come back down the lone cloud had disappeared and the sun was full on the field, but there wasn’t a sign that anything had been damaged by frost.

4. Trail

The trail was shaded and much cooler than I expected. The steady climbing kept me plenty warm enough though.

5. Mossy Stump

Mossy stumps tell the logging history of this place but it’s still very hard to picture these hills barren of trees as most of them were a hundred years ago.  One very unusual thing about this particular piece of land is its lack of stone walls. I was looking for them but didn’t see a single one. I didn’t think it was possible.

6. Greater Whipwort

You have to look closely at those mossy stumps because not all that is green is moss. I saw several stumps covered with greater whipwort liverworts (Bazzania trilobata.) The trilobata part of the scientific name refers to the three tiny lobes at the bottom of each leaf. Though its common name includes the word greater this is a very small liverwort, but the fact that it grows in large colonies makes it easier to see.

7. Blaze

This trail is well blazed but many aren’t. I’m not sure that those who maintain trails understand how important blazing is, especially at this time of year. Though well-worn trails might seem obvious to those of us who follow them regularly, when the leaves fall they cover them-often to the point where they can’t be seen. Without blazes on the trees it’s very easy to lose your way in the fall and I’ve had several people tell me that they won’t go to one place or another because the trails are so poorly marked. I think that people who are unfamiliar with a trail should help blaze it, or at least have a say in where the blazes appear.

8. Face

Sometimes trail blazers get a little carried away, but not often.

9. Bent Tree

This tree started down a crooked path but finally decided to straighten up. Much like a few humans I know, I thought as I continued on up the trail.

10. Tippin Rock Sign

In the past when I’ve done a post about this place I’ve mentioned how “Captain Obvious” must have put this sign up, but I can’t get a good shot of both the sign and the rock it points to to prove it.

11. Tippin Rock

The sign is mere feet from this 40 ton glacial erratic boulder, which would be real hard to miss even in the dark. The boulder gets its name from the way it rocks (tips) back and forth if you push it in the right place. I’ve never been able to move it but I’ve talked with someone who saw a group of kids all stand on one end to make it move. If you look closely at the underside you can see that it comes down to a point like the keel of a boat. Someday I’ll meet a group of younger people up there who’ll be frantic to make it tip.

Meanwhile though, I think I’ve finally solved a mystery about this rock that has bugged me for quite a while. A photo from circa 1900 show this face of the boulder covered with lichens, but as you can clearly see in the above photo there is hardly a lichen on it.

12. Old Photo of Tippin Rock

Here is the photo that I’m speaking of. This is the same face of the boulder as that seen in the previous photo and it’s covered with rock tripe lichens (Lasallia pustulata.) The mystery was, how did they all disappear in 100 years? Lichens don’t do that; there should be more of them, not fewer.

I’m not sure who the lady in the photo is but she illustrates very well how big this stone really is. I’d guess that it’s about 8-9 feet high, 18-20 feet long and 8-9 feet wide.

13. Wire Brush

Anyone who has worked in a park or a cemetery knows that the easiest way to remove lichens from stone without harming the stone is with a wire brush, and here is one tied to this tree just a few feet away from the boulder. Really, I wondered, someone has that much free time? I appreciate their efforts and I know their heart is in the right place but a naked rock looks a little out of place and unnatural when all the other rocks in the neighborhood are wearing lichens.

14. Rock Tripe

Rock tripe (Umbilicaria mammulata) is a large green lichen that fades slightly and turns crisp like a potato chip when it dries out. It sticks itself to stone by way of a single, navel like attachment point. The rest of this lichen hangs from this central point and when wet enough feels like a cooked egg noodle. I can imagine that scrubbing them off stone with a wire brush would be challenging.

15. View

I came here early in the morning because last year I climbed in the afternoon to take photos of the fall foliage and I was disappointed that the bright sunlight didn’t let the colors come through very well. If you stand where I was standing when I took this photo the sun shines directly at you in the afternoon and the camera doesn’t seem to be able to cope with such blinding light, even if I underexpose. This morning light from the left is gentler on the eyes and colorful foliage should be much easier to see.

16. View

For now we’ll have to imagine the brilliant reds, oranges, and yellows. And if we’re real lucky a purple might appear here and there.

17. Rock Outcrop

There are some amazing outcrops of stone up here, with cliff faces so high and sheer that rock climbers come here to climb. The one pictured was small compared to the one the rock climbers use, and it was as big as a 2 story building.  That’s a full sized white pine tree standing there; I’d guess 50-75 years old.

18. Scattered Rock Posy

The rocks have lichens like this scattered rock posy (Rhizoplaca subdiscrepans) all over them. I was surprised to see the orange fruiting bodies (Apothecia) considering how dry it has been here. This is a small lichen that looks completely white or grayish unless you look closely.

19. Toadskin Lichen

I couldn’t come up here without stopping to say hello to my friends the toadskin lichens (Lasallia papulosa.) They’re beautiful, interesting little lichens and I like to visit them when I can but they don’t make it easy; the only place I’ve ever seen one is on top of a hill. They are a cousin of the rocktripe lichens and the two often grow side by side. I think of them as rock tripe lichens with warts. They fasten themselves to the stone in the same way, and you can see the navel at the top center of this example. The tiny black dots are their spore producing structures (Apothecia) which they seem to have year round.

I don’t want to be the one who says life is beautiful. I want to be the one who feels it. ~Marty Rubin

Thanks for stopping in.


1. Clouded Sulfur

I saw a clouded sulfur butterfly (Colias philodice) on an aster recently. It moved from flower to flower but was willing to sit still long enough for a couple of photos. I like the color combination.

2. Painted Turtle

Painted turtles are still lazing in the sun along the Ashuelot River. Soon they will burrow into the mud on the river bottom. As the water cools their internal temperature will drop to nearly match the water temperature and their metabolism will slow. They will take up enough oxygen to stay alive through their skin and hibernate until the weather warms in spring.

3. American Dagger Moth Caterpillar

The American dagger moth caterpillar (Acronicta americana) feeds on the leaves of deciduous trees like birch, elm, ash, hickory, maple, and oak. This one had someplace to be and was moving about as fast as I’ve ever seen a caterpillar move. It had a black head but it wouldn’t let me get a shot of it. American dagger moth caterpillars aren’t poisonous but some people do get a rash when they handle them.

4. Moose Antler

A coworker found a moose antler in the woods and I asked if I could get a photo of it for those who have never seen one. This was from a young moose and wasn’t that big, but some can get very big indeed. One recent trophy moose had antlers that spanned over 6 feet (75 5/8 inches) from tip to tip. Shed antlers aren’t a common site in these woods even though moose wander through every town in the region. Since they are relatively rare large moose antlers can be valuable when found in good condition. The trick is to find them before the mice, birds, coyotes and other critters chew them up.

5. Virginia Creeper

Fall always seems to start at the forest floor and slowly work its way up to the trees. At present it has reached the understory, as this Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) shows. I grew up with this plant; my mother loved it so much that she planted it to grow up the side of the porch. I watched it turn red each fall when I was a boy and now I look for it every year at this time.

6. Burning Bush

Burning bushes (Euonymus alatus) are also showing signs of fall, with more pink leaves coming every day. This shrub is much loved for its fall color but it is extremely invasive so its sale and cultivation are banned in New Hampshire. Our native highbush blueberry bushes (Vaccinium corymbosum) are quite colorful in the fall and are good alternatives for burning bush. Plant breeders have developed cultivars that are even more colorful than the natives. The American cranberry bush (Viburnum opulus var. americanum) is another native shrub that breeders have been working on and some cultivars display amazing color.

7. Burning Bush

They may be invasive but it’s hard to deny the beauty of burning bushes. Along the Ashuelot River in Swanzey there is a narrow strip of woodland where nearly the entire understory is made up of hundreds of these shrubs. It’s a great example of how invasive plants choke out the natives and create a monoculture. I’m not happy about the monoculture but when all of these shrubs turn the color of the leaves shown in the photo it’s an astoundingly beautiful sight. Though I can understand and even agree with every argument that says they should be destroyed, I have to admit that I’d be sorry to see them go.

8. Birches

Birch trees are among the first to turn in the fall but these examples are still showing more green than gold. We’ve had a very dry summer and I’m curious to see what the colors will be like this year; muted or more intense? So far the shrub colors don’t seem to be affected.

9. Lion's Mane Mushroom

Bear’s head or lion’s mane mushroom (Hericlum americanum) is a beautiful toothed fungus that looks like a fungal waterfall. Soft spines hang from branches that reach out from a thick central stalk. As it ages it will change from white to cream to brown. I didn’t think I was going to see one this year but I found this naval orange size example growing from the cut end of a felled tree just yesterday. I took its photo with my cellphone because that’s all I had with me. I haven’t had much luck taking close-ups with that phone so I was surprised when I saw that this shot was useable.

10. Coral Fungus

I think this white coral fungus might be cockscomb or crested coral (Clavulina coralloides.) Crested corals have branches that end in sharp tips which often turn brown. I don’t see these as often as I do other types of coral fungi. They are supposed to like growing under conifers and that’s just where I found it.

11. Golden Pholiota (Pholiota limonella) Mushrooms

Golden pholiota (Pholiota limonella) mushrooms grew on a beech log. The gilled, lemon yellow caps with reddish scales are slimy to the touch on these inedible mushrooms. An oak kindly dropped an acorn beside them for me so I could give you a sense of their size.

12. Pear Shaped Puffballs

Pear shaped puffballs (Lycoperdon pyriforme) grow in clusters on stumps and logs but these examples were growing on a rotted part of a living, standing tree. That’s not good and the tree will eventually have to go. Their common name comes from their upside down pear shape which can’t really be seen in this photo. As they age pores open in the top of each one so its spores can be released.

13. Wild Plums

The wild plums are ripening. I found a thicket of about 3 small trees under some power lines in Swanzey a few years ago and though I’ve taken photos of the flowers I never came back to take any of the fruit until this year. I thought they were American plums (Prunus americana) but I’m not positive about that. They could also be Canada plums (Prunus nigra.) I’m going to have to pay very close attention to the flowers next spring. The fruit is small at about half the size of a hen’s egg but is said to make delicious jelly, whether American or Canadian.

14. Indian Cucumber Root

Botanically speaking a whorl is an “arrangement of sepals, petals, leaves, stipules or branches that radiate from a single point and surround or wrap around the stem,” and nothing illustrates this better than Indian cucumber root (Medeola virginiana.) Its leaves wrap around the stem arranged in a single flat plane, so if you saw them from the side theoretically you would see an edge, much like looking at the edge of a dinner plate. If any leaf or leaves in the arrangement are above or below others it’s not a true whorl.

15. Little Bluestem

Native little bluestem grass (Schizachyrium scoparium) catches the light and glows in luminous ribbons along the roadsides. This grass is common, growing in every U.S. state except Nevada and Washington. According to the USDA its appearance can vary in height, color, length of leaves, flowering, and clump diameter from location to location. It’s a beautiful little 2-3 foot tall grass that lends a golden richness to life outdoors. After a frost it takes on a reddish purple hue, making it even more beautiful. The world would be a duller place without it.

16. Little Bluestem Seedhead

There is a lot going on in a light catching little bluestem seed head but I won’t try to explain it; I’ll just let you enjoy its unique beauty.

17. Hindu God Ganesh

I’ve been walking the banks of the Ashuelot River almost since I learned how to walk and I’ve seen some unusual things over the years, but by far the most unusual thing I’ve seen recently is this statue of the Hindu deity Ganesh that I found on its banks in Swanzey. Ganesh is said to be the lord of success and the remover of obstacles on one’s spiritual path. He is also thought to bring education, knowledge, wisdom and prosperity, so I’m wondering what it is the river is trying to tell me. It seems like whatever it is can only be good.

He who has experienced the mystery of nature is full of life, full of love, full of joy. Radiance emanates from the whole existence itself; it does not know the meaning of holding back. ~ Maitreya Rudrabhayananda

Thanks for coming by.

1. Trail

This “deep cut” rail trail is a place that I hadn’t visited for a few months so, since it was a hot day and this narrow man-made canyon has natural air conditioning, down I went. I say “down” because if you look up at the top at the cliff face on the left side of the photo, that’s the height of the road where you park and walk in, and in places these ledges soar to 50-60 feet to reach road level. Somehow the still air on the outside is drawn into this place on a breeze that is created right here and it’s always about 10 degrees cooler.

2. Drill Cut

The railroad workers cut through solid rock by drilling holes into the stone and then blasting. Deep holes like these were probably drilled by steam power and are evidence that black powder rather than dynamite was used. Packing these holes with black powder and lighting a fuse was a very dangerous business and many were killed doing it, but dynamite wasn’t invented until 1866 so it was either black powder or brute force. After the wall face was blasted away someone had to clean up tons of stone. There are several dump sites that can be seen from the highway, but they are quite far from this cut.

3. Stone Wall

Not all of the blasted stone was dumped; stone retaining walls line parts of the cut to hold back the hillside. The railroad must have had stone cutters working right at the site, cutting and fitting the blasted stone into stone walls that have stood since the mid-1800s.

4. The Chesire

A stainless steel 3 car diesel streamliner with “Cheshire” (for the Cheshire Railroad) proudly displayed on its nose ran through here from 1935 until it was retired in 1957. A big 600 horsepower Winton engine was in the first car. The second car was a combination baggage / mail / buffet dining car, and the third car had coach seating for 188 passengers with rounded glass on its end that allowed 270 degrees of countryside observation. A sister train called The Flying Yankee ran on another part of the railway.

5. Wall Growth

What the passengers on The Cheshire saw out of the windows was probably very close to what we see here today. Mosses, ferns, vines, liverworts and many kinds of plants cover every inch of space in areas, making the place look like James Hilton’s Shangri-La or the hanging gardens of Babylon. For a plant nut it’s a wondrous sight.

6. Drainage

Groundwater constantly seeps from the ledges and runs through drainage channels on either side of the rail bed. These channels are filled with water year round and help keep the humidity stable and slightly higher than it would be otherwise. They’ve also kept the rail bed dry for over a century.

7. Great Scented Liverwort

Great scented liverwort (Conocephalum conicum), grows in places where it never dries out so they love growing over the drainage channels here. They are very fussy about water quality and will only grow where the water is clean and pure. Though they like a lot of water they can’t stand being submerged for any length of time and stop growing just short of the water surface. When you crush a leaf of this liverwort you smell a clean spicy aroma that would make an excellent air freshener, and I’m surprised that nobody has bottled it.

8. Great Scented Liverwort

Great scented liverwort is also called snakeskin liverwort for obvious reasons. The reason it looks so reptilian is because of the way its pores and air chambers are outlined on its surfaces. It is the only liverwort with this feature, so it is very easy to identify. I think it’s a beautiful thing.

9. Overleaf Pella Liverwort

Another liverwort that grows here is called overleaf pellia (Pellia epiphylla.) At a glance it looks like great scented liverwort but a close look shows that its leaf surfaces are very different. This liverwort always reminds me of bacon and I’ve learned to spot it from a distance by its shape and wavy edges. In colder weather it often turns purple and shrivels a bit.

10. Cliffs

Because the 3-4 foot wide drainage channels separate anyone walking on the rail trail from the ledge walls I put on rubber boots and walk in the water of the channels to get close to the liverworts. The problem with doing this is rocks can and do fall from these walls; I’ve seen fallen stones that would have crushed half a car. So far I’ve never seen one fall but they are lying around everywhere, so it’s just a matter of time. That thought stays with me when I’m walking in the drainage channels, so I don’t stay in them long.

11. Jack in the Pulpit

Falling rocks or not, who could resist wanting to see things like these bright red Jack in the pulpit berries (Arisaema triphyllum) up close? Jack in the pulpit plants grow all over these ledges and when the berries form their weight makes the stems bend and they are left hanging.

12. NE Asters

Flowering plants of all kinds, from coltsfoot in spring to the New England asters (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) seen here, grow along the edges of the drainage channels. This is the only place I know of where I can see some form of green growing thing year round. Even in winter there are mosses, liverworts, and evergreen ferns to see.

13. Tall Meadow Rue

One of the flowers that grow here is waxy leaf meadow rue (Thalictrum revolutum.) This plant looks very similar to tall meadow rue and I thought that’s what it was, but the black seeds match only the waxy leaf meadow rue, from what I’ve seen. This is the first time I’ve ever seen this plant so if you know it I’d really like to hear about it.

14. Algae

One of the strangest things growing here are these green algae, (Trentepohlia aurea) which are actually bright orange. A carotenoid pigment in the alga cells called hematochrome or beta- carotene, which is the same pigment that gives carrots their orange color, hides the green chlorophyll in the algae. It grows like small tufts of hair all over certain rocks. I’m not sure what that algae / stone attraction is, but it only grows on certain ones and this is the only place I’ve ever seen it.

15. Algae

The algae are very small and hard to photograph. They are described as “filamentous green chlorophyte algae.” The pigment that masks the green chlorophyll can also be yellow or red. In India in 2001 airborne spores from these algae were in high enough concentrations in to cause a “red rain” that actually stained clothes pink. Yellow, green, and black rain was also reported.

16. Orange Minerals

In the winter ice columns as big as tree trunks grow here and they are colored by what I’ve assumed were minerals leaching from the soil. I’ve seen several shades of blue ice, green ice, orange Ice, brown ice and even black ice. This photo shows what I think is an instance of the ice coloring minerals leaching from the soil. I saw this happening in a few different places.

17. Shack

Each time I come here there is less to see of the old lineman’s shack. Since there is so little left of the walls I expect the roof to cave it, but still it hangs on. There are people’s initials and dates going back to at least 1925 chalked on its walls so people have been visiting it for nearly 100 years, at least.

18. Rotor

This object wasn’t here when I was here last, but there it sat on the floor of the lineman’s shack.  At first I thought it was a piece of equipment used to run the railroad but a friend suggested that it was a television antenna rotor control box, and when I Googled 1950s television antenna rotor control sure enough, I found several images of items that looked much like it. Did they watch television here in the shack I wonder, or did they use an antenna for some other purpose?

There are roads known by everyone and there are roads known by no one. Choose the second, the mysterious one where many glories are hidden. ~Mehmet Murat ildan

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Saturday, September 26th

Join Clif Seifer and Wendy Ward on an inaugural birding expedition along the new boardwalk through Tenant Swamp at Keene Middle School, where we’re likely to encounter a variety of migrating woodland warblers and thrushes. Meet at 7:30 a.m. (until 9 am) at the entrance to the boardwalk, which is located behind the school at the back of the playing fields.



1. NE Aster

Some of you might be thinking what, another aster? Well yes, asters are everywhere at this time of year and though I showed a New England aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) in my last flower post it was much lighter in color than this example. I like the dark colored ones, but they’re much harder to find than the lighter colors. It’s said that if you rub the flower heads of this plant between your fingers they’ll emit an odor similar to that of camphor or turpentine, yet the Native American Ojibwe tribe smoked the root to attract game. I’m guessing that the smoked root didn’t smell like camphor or turpentine.

2. Bladderwort

The swollen, air filled, modified leaf stems of the native small floating bladderwort (Utricularia radiata) radiate out from a point on the stem like the spokes of a wheel and keep the flower above the water while currents carry it over the surface of ponds. The parts of the plant that trail under the water look like roots and are where the bladders are located. Each bladder has small hairs on it which, when touched by an insect, trigger a trapdoor that opens quickly and sucks the insect inside. Once trapped inside there is no escape, and the insect is slowly digested.

According to the book The History and Folklore of North American Wildflowers by Timothy Coffee, Henry David Thoreau didn’t think very highly of this plant. He wrote that it was “A dirty conditioned flower, like a sluttish woman with a gaudy yellow bonnet.” That’s a side of Thoreau that I’ve never seen and it seems an odd reaction for a nature nut like him to have had. I would think he’d have happily studied and written about such an unusual plant.

3. Bladderwort

Gaudy or not bladderwort flowers are among the most challenging to get a good photo of, both because yellow is a challenging color to begin with and the plants float offshore, often just out of reach. Luckily the wind pushed this example very close to shore. You can get to these plants by kayak or canoe but even so, it’s a job to get a good photo.

4. Big Leaf Aster

Big leaf asters are never going to win a blue ribbon at a flower show but I enjoy a special bond with them because they were the subject of the first flower photo that I ever sold, and the biology textbook publishing people who bought it wanted it because it showed both the flowers and leaves. Since the leaves are almost ground hugging and the flowers rise up on 2 foot tall stems, showing both isn’t as easy to do as it might sound. Depth of field is important in the world of flower photography and both the leaves and flowers should be shown whenever possible. This plant’s large leaves are used for gathering as much light as possible because it grows in shade, usually on forested slopes. It can form huge colonies of several thousand plants.

5. Creeping Bellflower

Creeping bellflower (Campanula rapunculoides) was introduced as an ornamental from Europe and has escaped gardens to live in dry places that get full sun. This is a late bloomer but is usually finished by the time goldenrods have their biggest flush of bloom, so I was surprised to see it. It is an invasive plant that is hard to get rid of once it has become established. It will choke out weaker native plants. I usually find it on forest edges.

6. Soapwort

Soapwort (Saponaria officinalis) blossoms quite late along the river. It always seems fitting to me that a plant that can produce a soapy lather should grow so near water. This introduced plant doesn’t seem at all invasive; in fact I often have a hard time finding it. It’s a plant that always seems to look a bit ragged and weedy and is probably ignored by most that frequent the riverbank, but I like seeing its simple, beautiful white flowers when little else is blooming.

7. False Dandelion

I see false dandelions (Hypochaeris radicata) almost everywhere I go at this rime of year. If you look at the yellow flowers on tall wiry stems without paying attention to the foliage this plant might look like hawkweed, but its leaves are very different and look more like narrow dandelion leaves.

8. False Dandelion

Both dandelions and false dandelions have a rosette of edible leaves and a central taproot. The flower stems of false dandelion are solid, tall and wiry while those of true dandelions are hollow and much shorter.

9. Pink Turtlehead

No matter how often I look at turtlehead plants (Chelone) I don’t see turtle heads, but I know that a lot of people do. This pink flowered plant was given to me by a friend years ago and I’ve divided it and given pieces away several times, so it has brought pleasure to many. Our native turtleheads (Chelone glabra) are white. Since I don’t know the history of this plant I don’t know if it’s a pink version of the native or if it’s a cultivar.  Butterflies and hummingbirds love these flowers so it’s a good addition to a garden. The plant is also maintenance free. In the time I’ve had it I’ve done nothing to it but divide it up to give away.  Native Americans thought highly of this plant and used it medicinally to cure a variety of sores and miscellaneous external ailments.

10. Beechdrops

Beech drops (Epifagus americana) grow in deep shade and can be hard to photograph, but a sunbeam came along and lit this one up for me. This plant grows near beech trees and is a parasite that fastens onto the roots of the tree using root like structures called haustoria. It takes all of its nutrients from the tree so it doesn’t need leaves, chlorophyll or sunlight. These plants are annuals that die off in cold weather.

11. Beechdrops

Tiny pinkish purple flowers with a darker purplish stripe are the only things found on a beech drop’s leafless stems. On the lower part of the stem are flowers that never have to open because they self-fertilize. They are known as cleistogamous flowers. On the upper part of the stem are tubular Chasmogamous flowers, which open and are pollinated by insects and are shown in the above photo. Science doesn’t know much about which insects pollinate this plant. Sitting and watching a group of these plants and recording which insects visit them would be a good project for a budding biologist, but they would have to know their insects well or be very fast on their shutter button.

12. Tearthumb

Native arrowleaf tearthumb (Polygonum sagittatum) is in the smartweed family, which gets its common name from the way your tongue will smart if you eat its peppery parts. Though the flower buds in this family of plants seem like they never open I’ve discovered recently that they do, sort of. They look like they only open about halfway though and I find the buds as pretty as the blossoms. This plant is a kind of rambler / sprawler that winds its way over nearby plants so it can get as much sunshine as possible.

13. Tearthumb Stem

But that isn’t all there is to the story of tearthumb. It comes by that name because it will indeed tear your thumb or any other body part that comes into contact with it. Many a gardener has regretted trying to pull it up without gloves on, because when the small but sharp barbs (prickles, botanically) along its red stems slip through your hand they act like a saw and make you sorry that you ever touched it. It actually uses these prickles for support when it climbs over other plants, and they work well. Tearthumb is considered a wetland indicator because it likes to grow in very moist to wet soil. I find it near ponds, blooming quite late in summer.

Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful; they are sunshine, food and medicine for the soul. ~Luther Burbank.

Thanks for coming by.

1. Foggy Morning

I have a new job and the road that leads to it is lined with things that I’ve never seen before. Half-moon pond is one of them and this is what it looked like early one recent foggy morning. I don’t know the name of the hill but I’d like to climb it to see what the pond looks like from up there. It’s supposed to be shaped like a half circle.

2. Sun Through the Trees

I had to drive through this on the same morning that the first photo of the pond was taken. Maybe this is a special place; I’ve seen this happen several times now but only right here at this spot and nowhere else.

3. Riverbank Grape

River grapes (Vitis riparia) have that name because they like to grow on riverbanks. They are also called frost grapes and have been known to survive temperatures as low as -70°F. Because of their extreme hardiness they are used as rootstock for several less hardy commercial varieties. The grapes are small but birds and animals love them. I like them because of the way they make the woods smell like grape jelly on warm fall days. There is a good crop this year, so I should get my fill of that.

4. Autumn Olive Fruit

Autumn olive (Elaeagnus umbellata) was imported for cultivation from Japan in 1830 and is one of the most invasive shrubs we have. It’s a plant that’s hard to hate though, because its berries are delicious and their content of lycopene is 7 to 17 times higher than tomatoes. Also, the pale yellow flowers are very fragrant just when lilacs finish blooming. It is a very vigorous shrub that is hard to kill but birds love its berries and spread it far and wide. Cutting it only makes it come back twice as bushy so digging it out is the way to go. The sale of this plant is prohibited in New Hampshire but that will do little good now that it grows along forest edges almost everywhere you look.

5. Black Raspberry

Many plants like the first year black raspberry cane (Rubus occidentalis) pictured here use the same powdery, waxy white bloom as a form of protection against moisture loss and sunburn. On plants like black raspberries, blue stemmed goldenrod, smoky eye boulder lichens, and the river grapes seen previously, the bloom can appear to be very blue in the right kind of light. Finding such a beautiful color in nature is always an unexpected pleasure.

6. Flying Machine

I heard a loud droning buzz when I was exploring the edges of a swamp recently and before long this –whatever it is- came into view. What is it, a flying machine or maybe an ultralight? I’m not sure what I should call it but there were two people in it and now I know how the people who watched Wilbur and Orville Wright fly that first plane felt: flabbergasted.

7. Jack in the Pulpit Berries

Jack in the pulpit berries (Arisaema triphyllum) are turning from dark green to bright red, and when they’re all nice and ripe a deer will most likely come along and eat the whole bunch of them, frustrating nature photographers far and wide.

All parts of this plant contain calcium oxalate crystals that cause painful irritation of the mouth and throat if eaten, but Native Americans knew how to cook the fleshy roots to remove any danger. They used them as a vegetable.

8. Pokeweed Berry

I love seeing the little purple “flowers” on the back of pokeweed berries (Phytolacca americana.) They are actually what’s left of the flowers’ five lobed calyx, but mimic the flower perfectly. People do eat its new shoots in the spring but all parts of this plant are considered toxic, so it’s wise to know exactly what you’re doing if you choose to try it. Native Americans used the plant medicinally and also used the red juice from its berries to decorate their horses.

9. Milkweed Aphids

I went to visit my favorite swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) recently and found it covered in bright orange milkweed aphids (Aphis nerii). Since I didn’t have a hose to wash them off with I had to let nature run its course.

10. Milkweed Aphids

Milkweed aphids (Aphis nerii) or any other aphid will literally suck the life out of a plant if they appear in sufficient numbers. When conditions get crowded and there are too many milkweed aphids females will grow wings and fly off to find another plant, which is what I think might have been happening here. Swamp milkweed is one of my favorite flowers and I really look forward to seeing them each summer, so I hope the aphids won’t weaken this plant too drastically.

11. Winged Sumac Aphids

While we’re on the subject of aphids, by an unfortunate coincidence the Smithsonian Institution people who wanted to collect sumac pouch galls sent me an email to tell me they were coming just as I changed my service provider. They were here and I didn’t know it but they found the galls they wanted and all is well. For those who haven’t heard, the Smithsonian is studying how staghorn sumacs and sumac gall aphids (Melaphis rhois) have co-evolved, and they have been collecting sample pouch galls from several states around the country. Science has shown that the sumacs and aphids have had an ongoing relationship for at least 48 million years. This photo shows the winged adult aphids that have emerged from the pouch gall, which is the thing that looks a bit like a potato. It’s hard to comprehend being able to see the very same thing now that could have been seen 48 million years ago.

12. Orange Xeromphalina kauffmanii Mushrooms

It’s amazing what you can see on an old rotten tree stump. The small orange mushrooms covering this one were enough to get me to stop. And then I started to look a little closer…

13. Slug

and saw that slugs were feeding on the mushrooms…

14. American Toad

and then I saw that American toads were there too, hoping to eat the slugs. Can you see the scary face on its back?

15. Orange Mushroom Gills

The mushrooms that caught my eye in the first place were cross-veined troop mushrooms (Xeromphalina kauffmanii,) which grow in large groups on hardwood logs and stumps. At least I think that is what they were. There is another nearly identical mushroom called Xeromphalina campanella which grows only on conifer logs and stumps. Whatever their name they are pretty little things, even when upside down. The largest was hardly the size of a penny.

16. Frog

The wood frog (Rana sylvatica) is vernal pool-dependent here in New Hampshire but its numbers are said to be in decline due to habitat loss. As dry as it has been here for the last couple of months it’s just not a good time to be a little wood frog. I hope this one found a pond.

17. White Pine Bark

Something (or someone) peeled some of the outer bark from an old white pine tree (Pinus strobus) and exposed its beautiful inner bark. I stood and admired its beauty, running my hand over it and thinking that it looked just like stained glass, and how fitting it was to find it here, in this outdoor cathedral.

It was in the forest that I found “the peace that passeth all understanding.”  ~Jane Goodall

Thanks for stopping in.




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