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1. Trail

If you’re tired of all things winter then this post isn’t for you because it’s about being in a freezer of sorts; a man made canyon blasted out of solid rock where seeping groundwater freezes into icicles that grow to the height and diameter of tree trunks. I visited this place last week because I thought that, since this was just about the coldest February that we had ever seen, I’d be able to see some big ice. I wasn’t disappointed.

2. Green Ice

I think this is the biggest “icicle” that I’ve ever seen. It had to have been 15-20 feet out from the rock face and 40-50 feet tall. It is the sweetheart of the ice climbers who come here and, if you look carefully at the very top of the photo, you can see the legs of two ice climbers dressed in blue who were tying off their ropes, preparing to climb down this monster.

3. Black Ice

Right beside the green ice in the previous photo was this black / brown ice, which I’ve never seen here or anywhere else before. I’d guess that it was either soil or minerals that gave it this color. Note how the snow below it looks dirty.

4. Colorful Rocks

You can see colored stone all through this place and, though some of the color comes from lichens and algae, much of it is from minerals like iron that leach out of the soil.

5. Mineral Stains on Stone 2-2

Many of the mineral stains are orange but some are yellow, red, green, and very few a light blueish gray color.

6. Orange Ice

The last time I came here I saw this orange ice for the first time, and by now it had tripled in size. The orange mineral stain on the stone face in the previous photo was very near this spot, so I’m fairly certain that iron must be staining the ice.

7. Blue Ice

My favorite color is the blue ice, and this was the bluest ice I’ve ever seen. There was water running down the rock face behind this ice column and it was as noisy as a rushing stream in spring. I’ve heard that blue ice is very dense and that its color comes from the way certain wavelengths of light are absorbed by it and others are reflected by it.

8. Trail

It seemed as if you could pick a color and there it would be, frozen into the ice. It also seemed like the ice had covered all of the mosses, liverworts and every other growing thing that lives here.

9. Delicate Fern Moss

There were still small islands of green to be seen here and there but I didn’t see any liverworts. You wouldn’t think that moss with a name like delicate fern moss (Thuidium delicatulum) could grow in a place like this but there it was. Maybe it’s not quite as delicate as its name suggests.

10. Spinulose Wood Fern

Ferns too could be seen peeking out from under the ice. I think this one is a spinulose wood fern (Dryopteris carthusiana,) which is one of our few evergreen ferns. It likes lots of water. In the summer almost every inch of these vertical walls is covered by some form of green, living thing. They must all be quite tough to survive essentially being frozen inside of ice for the winter.

 11. Lichen on Stone

I saw a few interesting lichens but I couldn’t get close enough to them to know what they were. Typically in winter there is a good 2 to 3 feet of snow on the rail bed, and if you add that to the foot or so depth of the ditches from dry ground, it’s quite a drop. Getting down into them isn’t too bad but getting out can mean a crawl in the snow.

12. Ice in Drainage Ditch

I was surprised to see that the ditches weren’t frozen over in many areas. As cold as gets in this place I can’t imagine what keeps them from freezing.

13. Ice Column

I saw one ice column that looked like someone had sculpted it into a real column like shape. It was taller than I was.

 14. Diagonal Seep

It was easy to see how groundwater seeped from this diagonal crack in the stone face. When you think about the water that froze and expanded inside the crack it’s not hard to understand how Ice can tear stone apart.

15. Green Ice

It’s starting to slowly warm up a little now, so I’m not sure that it’ll be a good idea to come here again until the ice has melted. These ice columns are tall enough to cross the entire trail when they fall and are easily heavy enough to crush a person, so this is a good place to stay away from when the ice starts rotting. I saw a few ice formations in sunny spots that were already rotten.

For those who aren’t familiar with rotten ice; when ice rots the bonds between the ice crystals weaken and water, air or dirt can get in between them and cause the ice to become honeycombed, and to lose its strength. You know that clear ice is rotten when it turns a milky grayish-white color, looks to be full of small bubbles, and has a dull sound when it is tapped.

In the winter, the world gets sharp. Beautiful things happen. ~Peter Fiore

Thanks for coming by.

 

1. Snow Pile

I heard two girls talking in a store recently. “Winter should become a verb now,” one said to the other, “we should call it wintering, meaning an awful thing that you have to do every year.” The other girl readily agreed and I was left to ponder their conversation.

I’m the first to admit that I’m not a winter lover but neither am I a winter hater. The problems that winter brings are real, as in the extra work and the added cost, and it’s easy to view winter as a way of life rather than a period of time but like life, winter is what we make of it. As someone once said “When it snows, you have two choices: shovel or make snow angels.”

2. Beech Tree

I choose to make snow angels, figuratively at least, and only when I’m not shoveling the stuff. I wanted to tell the girls that even the worst winter has a few good days, and how much better they’d feel about it if they just took a walk in the woods on a sunny day and saw what a little sunlight and blue shadows can do to a beech tree.  In the end I didn’t say anything. I just took the walk myself.

3. Beech Leaf

They say in the 145 years that they’ve been keeping records of such things here in New Hampshire, that this has been the coldest February that we’ve ever seen. I can believe that; I don’t think I’ve ever had to wear as many layers just to go outside as I have this year, but it’s still better than being inside. More than a day or two of that and I start feeling as if I’m going a little stir crazy.

 4. Boulder

There are as many beautiful things to see in winter as there are in summer but because they aren’t wildflowers and butterflies, many people don’t bother going out to see them. Beauty takes on different forms in winter and you can see a lot of things that you can’t see in summer. You might see winter hug a stone, for instance. Though one is just as cold as the other, together they might generate a warm smile.

5. Smoky Eye Boulder Lichen

A closer look will show that even in winter the stone is alive with hundreds or even thousands of life forms, including the beautiful smoky eye boulder lichen. It’s no wonder that winter had to throw its arms around the stone with jewels like this encrusting its surface.

6. Fallen Branch

Stones aren’t the only place to find beautiful and interesting things in winter. Fallen branches almost always hold a surprise or two.

 7. Empty Cocoon

You could have a chance to look around an insect’s home.

8. Liverwort on  Bark

Or you might find a Frullania liverwort crocheted on the bark.

9. Tree Tops

Not surprisingly, the maple syrup makers say that the season will be starting late this year. It could be a week or it could be two, but not until daytime temperatures reach the mid-30s F and the nights fall to just below freezing will the sap run.

 10. Ashuelot River

In a way, when I think of all the things that they’ll see in the woods I envy of the tree tappers, but I don’t envy their having to wade through such deep snow. The weather people say that this was also the third snowiest February in 145 years of record keeping. There was enough windblown snow up at the old abandoned road to even cover many of the vertical ledges that the mosses, lichens and liverworts grow on, so that meant that we had to cancel the Pathfinders hike because of it. I’m hoping that we see some melting soon because I was really looking forward to showing them around. We don’t want it to melt too quickly though; so much snow melting too fast could cause flooding.

11. Stream

I hope the girls in the store will one day discover that all of the seasons are beautiful in their own way, and I hope that they’ll give nature in winter a chance. The artist John Sloan said “Nature is what you see plus what you think about it.”  I think that goes for winter too.

All seasons are beautiful for the person who carries happiness within. – Horace Friess

Thanks for stopping in.

 

1. Blueberry Stem Gall

It might look like a fermented kidney bean on a stick but this is actually a blueberry stem gall. Last summer a shiny black wasp called Hemadas nubilipennis damaged a bud while laying her eggs on a tender shoot. The plant responded by growing a kidney shaped gall around the eggs, and this is where the larvae will overwinter before emerging as adults in the spring. This plant was a highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum) but this wasp isn’t choosy and will also use lowbush plants (Vaccinium angustifolium.) These galls do no real harm to the plants.

2. Witch's Broom on Blueberry

Witch’s broom on highbush blueberry is a deformity that causes a dense mass of shoots to grow from a single point. It’s not caused by an insect but by a fungus called Pucciniastrum goeppertianum. This fungus spends part of its life cycle on the needles of balsam fir (Abies balsamea) so bushes should never be planted near fir trees. When the fungus releases its spores and they land on the stems and leaves of the blueberry, the bush becomes infected. The fungus overwinters on the bush and in the spring again releases spores which will infect even more balsam fir trees, and the cycle begins again. The disease infects the entire plant so pruning off the witch’s broom won’t help. If you have a blueberry plantation and want to keep other plants from becoming infected then any bushes with witch’s broom need to be removed and destroyed.

3. Oak Apple Gall

The first recorded mention of ink made from oak galls and iron was by Pliny the Elder (23 -79 AD). Tannic acid extracted from fermented oak galls was mixed with scrap iron, gum arabic, and water, wine, or beer to make a dark black ink that was used for many centuries in virtually every country on earth. Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Johannes Sebastian Bach, Victor Hugo, George Washington and countless others wrote, sketched, and composed with it. The Constitution of the United States was written with it and the U.S. Postal Service even had its own iron gall ink recipe. Chemically produced inks became widely available in the mid-20th century and oak galls went from being prized and sought after to those strange growths seen on forest walks.

4. Willow Pine Cone Gall

If you can stand hearing about one more gall, the willow pine cone gall is an interesting one that isn’t seen that often. The parts of the willow that would have once been leaves were converted into a gall when a fly called a gall gnat midge (Rabdophaga strobiloides) laid an egg on its stem. The resulting larva released a chemical that convinced the willow to produce this gall rather than the leaves that it normally would have. The little pink larva rests inside all winter and emerges as an adult when the air temperature warms up in the spring.

 5. Fishbone Beard Lichen

Fishbone beard lichen (Usnea filipendula) is one of many different beard lichens that we have here in New Hampshire. It is a forest species that seems to prefer growing on spruce limbs and anyone who has ever deboned a bony fish like perch will understand where its common name comes from. The main branches are covered with shorter, stubby branches and the whole thing looks a lot like fish bones. One of the ways I find lichens in the winter is by picking up and looking at fallen tree branches. They almost always have lichens on them.

6. Powdered Ruffle Lichen

This powdered ruffle lichen (Parmotrema arnoldii) grew into a V as it followed the shape of the forked branch it grew on. This is a beautiful foliose lichen  that I don’t see very often because it seems to grow high in the treetops and the only way that I can find it is by inspecting fallen branches. Features that help identify this lichen are the black hairs on the lobe margins, which are called cilia, and the black to brown undersides. There are several similar lichens with the same common name but different scientific names.

7. Sidewalk Firedot Lichen

Sidewalk firedot lichen (Caloplaca feracissima) gets its common name from the way it likes to grow on concrete. In this photo it is growing on the concrete between the stones in a stone wall. If it is seen on stones it’s a good indication that they are limestone or contain some lime because this lichen almost always grows on calcareous substrates. Something unusual about it is how it is made up almost entirely of tiny, almost microscopic fruiting bodies (Apothecia) and doesn’t appear to have a thallus (body) like most lichens.  Firedot lichens can be red, orange, or yellow. There are also granite firedot lichens (Caloplaca arenaria) and sulfur firedot lichens (Caloplaca flavovirescens).

 8. Frost Crack on Gray Birch

A couple of posts ago I talked about frost cracks on trees. Here’s a severe example on a gray birch which probably happened a year or two ago and never healed and which, in this case, will probably kill the tree. Frost cracks happen when the sun warms the tree during the day and the temperature drops quickly at night.

9. Frost Rib on Red Oak

Frost cracks can heal in the summer when the tree produces a new layer of inner bark to heal the wound but then can crack again in winter. When this repeated healing and cracking happens over the course of a few years the buildup of new tissue can create a frost rib like that seen in the photo. It almost looks as if a young tree has somehow grown onto the side of an older tree but that’s only because of the differences in the age of the bark, which of course is much younger on the healed frost crack.

Thanks very much to Michael Wojtech’s book Bark: A Field Guide to Trees of the Northeast for helping me identify and understand this process. If you are serious about nature study this book is a must have.

10. Polypody Ferns

Though it might seem like polypody fern fronds curl in response to the cold in winter, it is really dryness that makes them curl. Polypody ferns are one of a few vascular plants that can rehydrate after drying, much like non vascular lichens and mosses do. Once the soil thaws they will begin to once again absorb water and will return to normal.  When they curl like this it’s a good time to study the spore cases (sori) on the leaf undersides, and a good time to reflect on how dry winter soil can be even though it might be covered by 3 feet of snow.

 11. Woodpecker Holes

 

Long, rectangular holes with rounded corners are made by a pileated woodpecker, probably looking for carpenter ants. It’s hard to tell which woodpecker made the round holes but I’m guessing it was the same pileated woodpecker because they were quite big.

12. Woodpecker Holes

One of the smaller woodpeckers made these holes; maybe a hairy woodpecker. They looked fairly fresh and there were wood chips on the snow so I probably scared this one away.

 14. Beech Bud

The tips of the bud scales on American beech buds (Fagus grandifolia) show just a small hint of the gray, hairy edges that will be on the leaves to come. It is thought that these leaf hairs keep caterpillars and other insects from eating the newly opened leaves, but they also make them something worth watching for. The long feathery hairs disappear quickly once the leaf opens, so you have only a short time to see how very beautiful they are.

13. Beech Bud Break from May 2014-2

I don’t usually reuse photos but since I was on the subject of how beautiful beech buds are when they break I thought that a picture might be worth a thousand words. This is one of the most beautiful things that you’ll ever see in a New England forest in my opinion, and it is just one reason I spend so much time in the woods. It won’t be so very long before we see them again-this was taken in late April last year, just when the spring beauties bloomed.

Natural objects themselves, even when they make no claim to beauty, excite the feelings, and occupy the imagination.  Nature pleases, attracts, delights, merely because it is nature. We recognize in it an Infinite Power.  ~ Karl Humboldt

Thanks for coming by.

 

1. Trail

I noticed that people had broken a path through the snow at a local forest that I visit often, so I decided to follow it one cold and cloudy day. The snow was well packed and easy to walk on and squeaked under my boots. For those of you who have never experienced real cold; when it’s really cold the snow squeaks when it’s walked on, and it does that so nature nuts know that it’s too cold to be out walking on it. At least, that’s my theory.

2. Trail

The path was also only 1 person wide and if you stepped off it into the soft snow at the sides you found yourself up to your knees in it. I suspected that would be the case so I thought ahead for a change and wore my knee high gaiters. I seem to be having some hip trouble so snowshoes aren’t a good idea right now.

3. Common Greenshield Lichen

With the gaiters on I was able to plow through the snow without getting soaked below the knees and boots full of snow, so I could get a look at things like this green shield lichen (Flavoparmelia caperata.) It’s not hard to see how it came by its common name; it looks just like a shield. Its dryness reminded me that winter can be as dry as a desert, in spite of all the snow.

4. Stalked Feather Moss aka Brachythecium rutabulum

One of the best things about walking through the woods in winter is seeing those things which we ordinarily wouldn’t see or which wouldn’t register, like moss on a tree trunk. At other times of the year there is so much to see that most of us would pass a small bit of moss by without a second glance.

5. Stalked Feather Moss aka Brachythecium rutabulum

But if we did we’d probably be missing something beautiful and fascinating, like this stalked feather moss (Brachythecium rutabulum.) Though it doesn’t seem to be moving we know that it is because we can read its movements and easily see how it has crawled up and over the bark plates looking for that perfect spot where it will get all the sunshine, water and nutrients that it needs. It seems to pulse with energy and you can sense how full of life it is. Its beautiful green color offers a welcome contrast to the brown, black and white winter landscape.

6. Red Oak Bark

You don’t always have to see something on the bark of a tree though, because often the bark itself is every bit as interesting and beautiful as anything that might grow on it.  As I took off my glove and ran my hand over the beautiful, deeply furrowed bark of this old northern red oak I imagined that I knew how Adam must have felt when he first laid eyes on the garden. Surely the love of creation must have welled up inside of him like a spring bubbling up from the earth.

7. Snow Depth

The woods might seem hushed and quiet but if you stop and listen you’ll find that spring is in the air. When I stopped squeaking the snow I heard a bird singing a beautiful song just above me in the treetops. I couldn’t see it so I don’t know which bird it was but it wasn’t one of the common, often heard songs. In fact I can’t remember ever hearing it before, but I’d love to hear it again.

8. Wind Blown Snow

The trees will tell you which way the wind blew during the last storm.

 9. Red Oak Buds

There are many northern red oaks (Quercus rubra) in these woods and I stopped to admire the buds of another one.  We have a lot of white oak (Quercus albra) as well but their buds aren’t as sharply pointed as these. There was no sign of these swelling just yet.

10. Oak Branch

Sugar maple buds look very similar to red oak buds because of the overlapping bud scales but an easy way to tell the two apart is by their branching habits. Oaks like the one in the photo have alternate branching and maples have opposite branching. If you’d like to be able to identify trees in winter studying their branch structure and winter buds is a great place to start.

11. Black Birch Bud

This bud had me scratching my head for quite a while but the taste test finally told me that it was a black birch (Betula lenta.) Black birch looks so much like cherry that another common name for it is cherry birch, but this bud didn’t look anything like a cherry bud. Actually, it looks a lot like a buckthorn bud but that’s a shrub, not a tree. Chewing a twig revealed a taste of wintergreen and told me immediately what it was. Black birch often fools me because so many were harvested to make oil of wintergreen that I rarely see them unless I go to spots where I know they grow.  Now I know another spot.

12. Hemlock Twig

Eastern hemlock branches aren’t hard to identify; I’ve raked up millions of them.  Hemlocks, much like weeping willows, are a “self-pruning” tree and can be quite messy. The snow in this photo seems to have a strange, luminous quality that I don’t remember seeing in person.

13. Inner Barberry Bark

The yellow inner bark will tell you that you’re seeing a barberry….

14. Barberry Thorn

But in the winter it’s the thorns that will tell you which one. European barberry (Berberis vulgaris) and American barberry (Berberis canadensis) both have clusters of 3 or more thorns but since American barberry doesn’t grow in New England it comes down to European or Japanese, and only the very invasive Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii) has single thorns.

 15. Sunny Snow Storm

I don’t think I’ve ever seen it snow when the sun was shining as much as I have this year. It’s as if the atmosphere is so full of snow that it can’t even wait for the sun to stop shining before it drops more of it, and what looks like spots and smudges on this photo are just that-more of it.

By walking in a snowy forest you can really forget about this world, and every time you forget about this world you leave this world, and every time you leave this world you gain a very special wisdom that does not exist in this world. ~Mehmet Murat ildan

Thanks for stopping in.

 

1. Cone Flower Seed Head

It struck me recently that for close to 4 years now I’ve been telling all of you that you don’t even have to leave your yards to study nature, but I’ve never done a post about what I see in my own yard. This post will start to make up for that.

I started with the purple coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea), which I always leave standing for the birds. They ate most of the seeds from this one but left a little patch of them untouched. Goldfinches love these seeds so it makes me wonder why this tiny bit was rejected. Didn’t they taste good? Were they not ripe enough? I guess I’ll never know.  Since this photo was taken snow has buried it.

2. False Indigo Seed Pod

This false indigo (Baptisia australis) seed pod only had one seed left in it, but others had more. They often rattle in the wind. Sparrows, quail, grosbeaks and many songbirds like these seed and many different butterflies are attracted to the flowers. Deer won’t eat the foliage, and in this yard that’s a bonus.

3. Wild Senna Seed Head

The long, curved seedpods of wild senna (Senna hebecarpa) split lengthwise to reveal the seeds, so even though they don’t look like they’re open in this photo, they are. Many species of butterfly caterpillars like to feed on the foliage of this plant, including cloudless sulfur and orange barred sulfur. Bumblebees are attracted to its bright yellow flowers which open in late summer. This plant reminds me of a giant, 3 foot tall partridge pea.

4. Wild Senna Seed

The seed pod of wild senna has segments and each segment holds a single oval, flat seed that is about 1/4 inch across. The seeds are bigger than many seeds in my yard and bigger birds eat them. Mourning doves and many game birds like bob whites, partridge, turkeys, and quail like them, but there seems to be plenty of seeds left this year.

5. Maple Leaved Viburnum Fruit

The birds ate most of the fruit from the maple leaf viburnums (Viburnum acerifolium,) but there are a few left. I’ve noticed that there are always seem to be a few still hanging on in spring. Many species of birds love these berries, including many songbirds.

6. Crabapple

Birds like the crabapples but they always seem to leave one or two of these behind as well. Do you see a pattern here? Birds, at least the ones in my yard, never seem to eat every seed or fruit that’s available. It seems kind of odd, especially in a winter as severe as this one has been.

7. Hemlock Needles

Eastern or Canada hemlocks (Tsuga canadensis) surround my yard along with white pines, oaks, and maples. The hemlocks provide plenty of seeds for the smaller birds like black capped chickadees. They are a messy tree though, and shed their smaller branches, needles, and cones all winter long. I like the white racing stripes on the undersides of the flat needles. They are actually four rows of white breathing pores (stomata) which are too small to be seen without magnification; even my macro lens couldn’t show us those.

8. Hemlock Cone

The 1/2 inch long eastern hemlock cones are among the smallest of all the trees in the pine family but the trees usually produce so many of them that the ground is completely covered in the spring. The needles and twigs of hemlocks are ground and distilled and the oil is used in ointments, so the next time an ointment helps your sore muscles, thank a hemlock.

9. Pink Something on Hemlosk Branch

I’m not sure what this pink bit of wooly fluff was that I found on a hemlock branch, but it was too big to be a hemlock wooly adelgid, which is a tiny, white woolly insect that sucks the life out of hemlocks and can eventually kill them.  I’m assuming that it is a cocoon of some sort.

10. Porella liverwort

After traveling all over the county looking for liverworts, imagine my surprise when I found this Porella liverwort growing on a hemlock limb. Its leaves were very small and at first I thought it was a moss but the photos showed overlapping leaves in two rows rather than the spirally arranged leaves of a moss. This photo isn’t very good so I’ll have to try to get a better one later on. Its leaves are small enough so they took my macro lens right to its limit.

11. Moss on Maple

This coin sized bit of moss was growing on the bark of a red maple. For the most part mosses, lichens and liverworts are epiphytic rather than parasitic and don’t take anything from trees, but I do wonder why they choose to grow where they do. In the case of this moss, it’s on the side of the tree that gets morning sun in summer and there is probably a channel in the tree bark that water runs down when it rains, so it’s most likely a perfect spot for it. It was covered in spore capsules so it’s obviously very happy.

12. Moss on Maple Closeup 2-2

This is a closer look at the spore capsules on the moss in the previous photos. They were tiny things hardly bigger in diameter than a piece of uncooked spaghetti. The capsules were all open so this moss has released its spores. I think this one might be crispy tuft moss (Ulota crispa) because of its curly, contorted leaves and the way the base of its spore capsules gradually taper down to the stalks. It’s a moss that prefers tree trunks.

 13. Maple Sap Flow

Seeing sap flowing from a maple tree might get some excited about spring, but this is just a bleeding frost crack. Anyone who has sat quietly in the woods on a winter night around here has heard the crack of “exploding” trees. It’s as loud as a rifle shot and happens when the temperature drops quickly at night. They usually happen on the south side of a tree where the sun warms the tree during the day. Then at night when the temperature drops below 15 °F, the outer layer of wood can contract much quicker than the inner layer and (bang!) you have a frost crack.  I was sorry to see it on this red maple in my yard because a wound like this is a perfect spot for disease and rot to gain a foothold.

14. Unknown Growth on Maple

It could already be too late for this red maple; I found these tiny fungi growing on the shady side away from the frost crack. At least I think they’re fungi. I’ve never seen them before and have no idea how they appeared in such cold weather. The biggest example was about half the diameter of a pea and appeared to be growing directly out of the tree’s bark. When I can stop shoveling paths, roofs, and decks I’ll have to shovel a path to them so I can watch and see what they do. The snow where the tree grows is about 3 feet deep now.

15. Sring Growth on Blue Spruce-2

The blue spruce in my yard is all ready to grow new buds as soon as it warms up. It’s teaching me patience; since the temperature for the last 23 days has been below freezing, I need a good lesson in it.

Your deepest roots are in nature.  No matter who you are, where you live, or what kind of life you lead, you remain irrevocably linked with the rest of creation.  ~Charles Cook

Thanks for coming by.

 

 

1. Barred Windows

I’m forever telling people that they don’t really have to go anywhere to see nature because it’s all around them, so I thought I’d take a wander around town just to see if I knew what I was talking about. Another reason I went to town was because the sidewalks were plowed and I didn’t have to wade through knee deep snow.

I started out at these barred windows because somebody used to grow beautiful heavenly blue morning glories on the bars and I always thought it would make a great photo. Unfortunately when I finally got a decent camera they stopped growing the morning glories. The windows are barred because this used to be a bank and now is a jewelry store. I wonder if the bent bar means someone tried to get in, or out? I also wonder who could be strong enough to do such a thing.

2. Boston Ivy Fruit

Since I can’t see morning glories I’ll just have to settle for the beautiful cornflower blue of Boston ivy berries. We have a lot of brick buildings here in Keene and Boston ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata) grows well on them. As I usually do when I talk about Boston ivy, I should say that it isn’t from Boston and isn’t an ivy. It is in the grape family and comes from eastern Asia. In the fall its red leaves are one of the most beautiful things in town but since the vines grow mostly on the rear of buildings few notice them.

3. Blue Spruce

A Colorado blue spruce poked its colorful branches out of the deep snow. Snow won’t hurt this tree any; it was found growing on Pike’s Peak in 1862 up in the high country, so it’s perfectly cold hardy. Its silvery blue color comes from the waxy coating on its needles, which is similar to the bloom on blueberries and plums. This coating helps its needles (actually leaves) to minimize moisture loss in winter when there is little water available to its roots. Some western Native American tribes used the tree medicinally to treat colds and stomach ailments but today its value comes from its popularity as a landscape specimen.

4. Fringed Candleflame Lichens on Crabapple

This crabapple tree was encrusted with what I believe is fringed candle flame lichen (Candelaria fibrosa.) The city of Keene uses in-ground sprinklers in the summer and the spray keeps the trunks of these trees moist to about 5 feet off the ground and that’s just where these water loving lichens grow. Some trees are so covered with them that it looks as if someone painted them bright yellow.

5. Fringed Candleflame Lichen Fruiting

My book Lichens of North America says that fruiting bodies (Apothecia) are commonly seen on fringed candle flame lichens, but this is the first time I’ve seen them.  They are the cup shaped parts, which were extremely small and difficult to get a good photo of. I think the largest one seen in this photo was probably only 1/16 of an inch across. This lichen is said to be very sensitive to air pollution, so seeing it is a good sign that our air quality is good.

 6. Star Rosette Lichen

What I believe were star rosette lichens (Physcia stellaris) grew among the fringed candle flame lichens.  Star rosette lichen gets its common name from the way its lobes radiate outward like a star. This photo doesn’t show that feature well though, because I was trying to get a shot of the Apothecia, which I’ve never seen on this lichen either. I was excited to see so many lichens fruiting, but it made me realize that the reason I haven’t seen them fruiting before was because I was looking at them in the summer. Does anyone know why so many lichens (and mosses) produce spores in winter? It seems an odd time for a plant to want to reproduce and I’m not sure what the advantages would be.

7. Crabapple

I’ve read that there are fruits, especially those that grow on imported plants, that birds will simply refuse to eat and apparently these crab apples are one of them. Birds won’t eat other crab apple varieties until they have frozen and thawed several times, but those pictured must have done that many times this cold winter. This tree was absolutely loaded with fruit and not a single piece had been eaten. It seems a shame that a more bird friendly variety couldn’t have been planted.

8. Common Green Shield Lichen

There are shield lichens, starburst lichens, candle wax lichens, and ruffle lichens and they all look very similar, but I think this one might be a common green shield lichen (Flavoparmelia caperata.) This is a good example of a lichen which can reproduce itself vegetatively; the granular looking bits toward its center are called soredia. Soredia are meant to fall off and start new lichens, and many lichens use this method of reproduction in addition to producing spores. If you look to the upper left corner of this lichen you will be able to see the size difference between it and the fringed candle flame lichen shown previously.

9. Jumanji Sign

Anyone who has seen the film Jumanji with Robin Williams has seen downtown Keene but they probably didn’t even know it. Many of the exterior scenes, including the animal stampede on Main Street, were filmed here. The film crew painted this sign for a business that never existed on the wall of a downtown building and after Robin Williams died a large memorial covered the entire sidewalk for a few weeks. He was a nice guy who truly enjoyed meeting people, and he became friends with some of our local residents. Next time you watch the movie watch for this sign and you’ll know that you’re seeing downtown Keene.

10. Old Coke Sign

I wonder if the film crew got the idea for their make believe sign from this one, which is the real thing. There is another similar one on the side of another building and both have been here for at least as long as I have. This building housed a well-known drug store for many years and when I was a boy I used to save up my money and buy my grandmother a box of Russell Stover chocolates from them on Valentine’s Day. Of course she would always share them with me and that usually meant that I’d get to eat three to her one. I always looked forward to Valentine’s Day back then.

 11. Ice Cairns

Someone had some time on their hands. And probably gloves, too.

 12. Rose of Sharon Seed Pod

This rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) was loaded with seed pods. I wonder if their seeds are viable; I can’t remember ever finding a seedling. This shrub is in the mallow family and its flowers resemble those of hibiscus, hollyhocks, and mallows. I always think of it as a hardy hibiscus, probably because I pruned hundreds of hibiscus when I worked as a gardener in Florida. That’s probably also why you won’t find a rose of Sharon growing in my yard.

13. Magnolia Buds-2

The magnolias had their winter fur coats on. They are of course bud scales that protect the tender bud within from the cold.  Though some people think that shrubs and trees grow buds in the spring the buds are actually set during the previous year’s growth and only swell up and open in spring.

14. Barberry Fruit

I thought the red of these barberry berries (Berberis) would be appropriate for Valentine’s Day. I’m not sure which plant it is but I am sure that it’s an ornamental rather than an invasive species.  Birds had eaten most of the fruit but there were a few left.

All of the plants and lichens in this post (and many more) grow in plain sight on the streets of Keene, but I doubt that most of the hundreds of people who pass them by every day even know that they’re there.

The most beautiful things in life go un-noticed. ~Omar Hickman

Thanks for stopping in. Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

1. Backyard

There’s a high pressure system sitting and spinning in Canada that’s dragging down bitter cold air and one snowstorm after another, sometimes as many as three in a single week. With nothing but cold weather between the storms the snow doesn’t melt but instead just builds up. I tried taking a photo of the trees in my backyard during one storm. Judging by the blurry spot on the right one of the flakes landed on my lens, but I didn’t see it until just now. I never have great luck taking photos when it’s snowing but I wanted to try to show you what it was like.

2. Snow Depth

I didn’t realize I had cropped this photo so the yardstick said “the finest pain” but it fit so I left it that way. Actually, I don’t know if I could call the pains I have from shoveling my roof “the finest,” but they’re right up there in the top five. If I have to shovel it once more they might make it to number one.

The snow had settled some when I took this shot in my back yard and the spot was in a hemlock shadow, so it’s not entirely accurate.  I think 24 inches is closer to reality, but I was too worn out to wade through anymore knee deep snow that day.

3. Evergreens

Evergreens always look nice when they’ve been frosted by show, especially when they’re not in my yard and I don’t have to shovel the frosting.

 4. Bent Birches

It’s been so cold that the snow has been very light, dry and powdery, but the heavy wet snow that we had in November on Thanksgiving eve bent many of the birches. Though most of them stood right back up again there are some that didn’t, and I’m curious to see what will become of them. I wonder if they’ll just grow on in their bent state or if they’ll die.  I’m guessing that they won’t last long.

5. Beech and Oak Leaves

The beech and oak leaves add such beautiful colors to the winter woods, especially when the sun breaks through the clouds.

6. Ashuelot

You know it’s cold when you see the Ashuelot River frozen from bank to bank in this spot in Swanzey. I’ve only seen it happen twice; last year and this year. Both winters had extended periods of zero degrees F or below at night.

7. River View

You would think that the farther north you went the more likely a river would be to freeze over but the strength of the current plays a part in it as well. In this spot north of Keene, I’ve never seen it freeze over completely so I’m guessing that the current must be quite strong.

8. Roadside Icicles

There’s no problem with water freezing on the ledges along the side of this highway. I’m guessing that it must be close to 100 feet from the top of the hill, so these are some of the longest icicles that I’ve seen.

9. Roadside Icicles

They’re bigger than tree trunks and have a blueish tint. I don’t want to be anywhere near them when the temperature starts rising.

10. Ice Fishing Hut

The bright sunshine can be deceiving. It was bitter cold here this day with the wind coming hard across the pond so I took a couple of quick shots and jumped back into my truck. The ice fishermen were all huddled in their huts and I didn’t blame them.

11. Dim Sun

There are a few photos of sunny days in this post but most of our days have looked more like this, with the sun trying but not quite able to burn through.  There was actually snow falling when I took this, in spite of what the sun was doing.

12. Monadnock

I went to get a closer look at Mount Monadnock on one sunny day because, though it’s easily seen from Keene, I don’t get to see it up close that often. I grew up in the shadow of this mountain and it’s good to know that, no matter where you are in this part of the state, all you have to do is look over your shoulder and there it is, like an old friend.

13. Monadnock

I’ll never forget climbing up there in mid-April one year through waist deep snow. It must be shoulder deep right now so I think I’ll just stay down here and admire it. The snow might make it harder to climb but it also makes it more beautiful to see.

“It’s snowing still,” said Eeyore gloomily.
“So it is.”
“And freezing.”
“Is it?”
“Yes,” said Eeyore. “However,” he said, brightening up a little, “we haven’t had an earthquake lately.” ~A.A. Milne

Thanks for coming by.

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