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Since the last fall foliage post I did I’ve been chasing color, and that isn’t always easy for a colorblind person. I’ve also been chasing light. The past three weekends I think, have been cloudy, and since the only real large blocks of time I have fall on weekends you’ll see what our fall colors look like when it’s sunny and cloudy. But sunshine or clouds these colors are always beautiful, as one of my favorite scenes shows in this photo of birches and maples growing on ledges up in Surry. I built an extensive model H.O. train layout when I was a boy with tunneled mountains I crafted out of plaster. They had small lichen “trees” growing on them and that’s what this scene always reminds me of. Though these are full size trees they look like toys.

And the big difference is, these views are much more beautiful than any you’ll ever find in a model train layout.

Also in Surry is this scene, which always makes me wish I could somehow transport all of you here so you could smell as well as see autumn in New England. The fragrance of all those leaves drying in the sun is sugary sweet and earthy at the same time. Kind of like apple pie, molasses, compost and woodsmoke all rolled into one scent. That scent immediately takes me back to boyhood, when I scuffed my way through the fallen leaves on my way to school each day. Going off to second grade is the strongest memory that comes to mind for some reason, and it is all held there in that wonderful smell.

Staghorn Sumac leaves give us bright reds, purples and oranges and they will often hang onto their color even into death. These leaves were totally limp and the way they hung on the branch made me think of laundry drying on the line.

But you’ll find that most of the color in this post comes from maples. Red maples mostly, because they have the greatest color range. As this shot shows, they are glorious when at their peak of color.

All of the tree color seen in this view of Halfmoon Pond in Hancock is on maples, and by the time you read this all of those leaves will have fallen. My blogging friend Susan likes reflections and this photo is probably the best one for those. October is a windy month but if you get up early enough you can often find water just as smooth as glass.

This was also taken at Halfmoon Pond, with reflections that are a little fuzzier. The wind starts to kick up at about mid-morning.

I stopped at a local post office one morning just after dawn and saw this scene, which I took with my phone. It was still cool enough for mist to be in the field behind the garden shed.

Along the Branch River is always a good place to find fall colors and, since I drive by it twice each day, I can usually get a photo of it in full sunshine.

But it was hard to get good sunshine shots this year and most of them looked more like this one. I’m putting this in to see what you like best. I’ve always thought that fall colors had more “pop” on overcast days but I know a lot of people who would rather go leaf looking on a sunny day.

The Ashuelot River North of Keene is another favorite spot of mine to see fall color. The soft, pale yellows of the silver maples give the eyes and mind a bit of a rest after the loud reds and oranges of their cousins the red maples. The silver maples don’t shout, they whisper in hushed tones.

Red maples certainly do shout, and here are a few more now. This has to be one of the most photographed spots in the entire county. I often see a line of cars here on my way home from work, and sometimes I join them.

I took this shot of what is essentially the same scene with my phone, which has HDR and RAW and all of that if you turn it on. I turned it on and found that it was too “something” that I can’t quite put my finger on. Maybe harsh is the word. The color reproduction is good I think, but everything seems to have an edge to it. I’d be interested in hearing what you think. Should I turn it off again? I’m not sure there is a way to tone it down. It seems on or off is the only option.

Here is a closer look at the hillside with my regular camera. Notice all the bare trees. Already.

Here is another look, just for colors. It’s no wonder this is such a popular spot. Millions of people come here from all over the world each year to see scenes like this. Many just can’t believe such colors can be true until they see it for themselves. They stand and they gawk, lost in the beauty, and we stand and gawk right alongside them because no matter how many times you’ve seen it, it always seems like this is the most beautiful fall color ever.

Here is a beautiful example of a red maple that grows near my house.

Here’s a close look at a small red maple, the star of this post.

But red maples aren’t always colored red in the fall. They can be orange and yellow as well. I think this is actually a sugar maple, which are also yellow.

This is a cluster of colorful trees where I work. I’m going to spend a while cleaning up fallen leaves, I think.

Howe Reservoir in Marlborogh is usually a great place to get reflection shots but every single time I stopped there the wind was blowing, so I had no luck with that. I even went there before sunup one day and sat there waiting but the wind blew then too. Oh well, the trees were certainly beautiful.

That’s Mount Monadnock in the background. Or its flank anyway.

That is the mountain’s summit, taken on a very cloudy and dismal day. But it is this spot in clouds that makes me say that the colors often pop more on cloudy days.

These are all maples and they’re all bare now, so I’m glad I got there when I did. Sometimes an incredible amount of leaf drop can happen overnight so if you wait until “just the right time” you might find that you’ve waited too long. I’ve made that mistake more than once.

The blueberries, both high and low bush, are beautiful this year as they almost always are. They can vary from purple to orange but I usually see mostly red. For a plant that produces blue fruit blueberry shrubs have a lot of red in them.

An ash tree where I work was just beautiful in the early morning sunshine. Ash trees also have quite a color range, from lemon yellow to plum purple.

I’ve been either too early or too late to catch Virginia creeper in all its scarlet glory this year but this one had some color.

On the left is an oak and on the right a beech, and seeing these trees changing together reminds me that it’s time to get to Willard Pond in Hancock to see one of the most beautiful displays of an atumnal hardwood forest that I know of. It’s all oaks and beeches so I hope it will be this scene multiplied and amplified.

Nature is so powerful, so strong. Capturing its essence is not easy – your work becomes a dance with light and the weather. It takes you to a place within yourself. ~Annie Leibovitz

Thanks for coming by.

When I came to this wildlife management area back in September, I saw an amzing number of flowers in bloom but I also noticed the trees. They were almost all maples and of course they were all green then but I thought they must be glorious in the fall, so that’s what this post is about. We’re going into that forest you see in the above photo.

The wires you saw in the previous photo are from the high-tension powerlines that run through here. I played under them as a boy and have walked under them off and on for most of my life, but a few years ago a man was electrocuted very near here when a wooden cross arm failed and a wire fell and touched the ground. The current travels through the ground and will kill you long before you get close to the fallen wire, so now I always look up to make sure all the wires are hanging where they should be. On this day they looked fine but I wasn’t going to be under them long.

It was a cloudy, cool day; the kind of day you find bees sleeping on flowers, and that’s what one was doing. At this time of year I often find bumblebees have died while hanging on to flowers but I saw it slowly move so not this one, not yet. I’ve always thought that there is little in nature more perfect than a bee dying while clinging to a flower. The two are inseperable. In fact the two are really one.

There were pockets of New England asters still blooming beautifully in the sunniest spots, but most are done for this year.

The mowed trail makes it seem as if you are walking through a vast park laid out by a landscape designer but this is still the same forest I grew up playing in as a boy. The path must have been the idea of the local college. I’m happy to see it because it opens the forest up to many people who would have never come here otherwise.

I’m glad this place will be protected. Maybe other children will fall in love with it as I did.

The colors weren’t what I expected and I think that was because the trees here are mostly all silver maples, which turn yellow in the fall. You need red maples for the rich oranges and reds. Silver maple is a short lived tree, and that’s why most of the trees in this post appear young.

I’ve never met a single person out here but I’d like to run into someone who knew what these mile markers are all about. I’ve seen two, this one and another that says 1.56 miles. Without knowing where the start point is they don’t mean much but I’m guessing that local college students must run through here. The area floods so the soil is too soft for a bike race, I would think. It’s almost mud in places.

Wild cucumbers (Echinocystis lobata) have finished flowering for the year…

…and now they’re busy making fruit. My friends and I used to spend a lot of time throwing these soft spined fruits at each other at this time of year.

Smallish asters grew in the woods in the sunnier spots. They were too big and too light colored to be blue wood asters I think, but not big enough to be New England asters.

I saw rose hips but for a change they weren’t on an invasive multiflora rose. They were too big for that rose, so I’ll have to come back next year to see what rose it is.

Some of the staghorn sumacs (Rhus typhina) had changed color and they were getting beautiful. Sumacs have quite a color range, from purple to bright red to pumkin orange.

I walked a few steps to the edge of the river and remembered that these river banks are often undercut, so you can find yourself standing on only an inch or two of soil without realizing it. They’ve crumbled away beneath me before and I didn’t need that, so I took a couple of quick shots and backed off. That’s one of many things I learned here as a boy. Nature taught me much and I dreamed a lot of dreams out here. After reading Ivan Sanderson’s Book of Great Jungles this is where I hatched the plan to become a great plant explorer. I told myself I’d visit all of those jungles I had read about and bring back plants so beautiful people would weep at the sight of them. In the end I had to lower my sights a bit and bring plants back from nurseries instead of jungles. I did indeed bring beautiful plants to people’s gardens but there wasn’t any weeping involved. I might have heard a gasp or two.

Here was one of those muddy spots I was talking about. Much too damp for bicycles I would think, though I have seen those wide tire bikes going through snow.

This was the wettest spot. The river flooded over summer and this land has never completely dried out because of the weekly rains we’re still seeing. Out here is where the fear of high water first took hold of me. We lived very close to the river and almost every spring snow melt made it rise right to the very top of its banks. Luckily the river bank on the side farthest from our house was slightly lower, so if the river topped its banks all the water spilled into these woods and into the many cornfields in the area. I saw it happen again just this past summer and it’s still scary.

I was surprised to find the lots of the pale-yellow flowers of wild radish (Raphanus raphanistrum) out here. These were kind of sulfur yellow but they can also be white or pink. This plant is considered a noxious weed because it gets into forage and grain crops. Everyone seems to agree that this is a non-native plant but nobody seems to know exactly where it came from or how it got here.

Here is another example of the soft, muted color of silver maples. They’re still pretty but for color variation and saturation they can’t match red maples. The day was also cloudy and that can also knock some of the punch out of certain fall colors.

A freshly fallen silver maple leaf on the trail looked nice and bright though.

There were large colonies of foxtail grass (Setaria faberi) out here too. It and all of the other plants in this post don’t mind wet feet, and can even stand a bit of flooding.

In this spot it had gotten so wet in the flooding that all of the grass disappeared from the trail but the sensitive ferns (Onoclea sensibilis) on either side still thrived, and that’s because they don’t mind wet ground. For that reason they’re a good wetland indicator. They always make me happy I’ve had sense enough to wear waterproof hiking boots.

Common milkweeds (Asclepias syriaca) are releasing their seeds. They like to colonize disturbed ground and can form huge colonies in places that are to their liking. They like dry ground though, so it was surprising to find them here. Last summer the spot where they grow was under water for several days.

Because of all the flooding that has gone on here for who knows how many thousands of years the soil is rich and fertile, and nothing showed that better than the chickweeds that grew more thickly and looked healthier than I’ve ever seen. It’s as if they had been fertilized. I believe this was common chickweed (Stellaria media.) Originally from Europe, it has found a home here and has settled in comfortably. It likes damp, shady places.

The Stellaria part of chickweed’s scientific name means star and that’s what the flowers look like; tiny stars shining on the forest floor. They may be considered invasive by some but I think my world is a better place for having them in it. As with most things in this world, if you take a moment to really see them you find that they’re quite beautiful.

In every real man a child is hidden that wants to play. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

Thanks for stopping in.

Normally at this time of year I would say that it was time to say goodbye to flowers until spring but since we haven’t yet had a frost or a freeze you never know what you’ll find. Early one morning I saw this dew-covered white campion blossom (Silene latifolia,) and it was perfect. It shows how what look like ten petals are actually five.

It took me all summer but I was finally able to get a shot of the shine on a buttercup’s (Ranunculus) petals. Though the shine is easy to see, capturing with a camera isn’t as easy as it might seem. Both the light and the camera’s settings have to be just right. The waxy shine is caused by a layer of mirror flat cells that have an air gap just below them, and just below the air gap is a smooth layer of brilliant white starch. These layers act together to reflect yellow light, while blue green light is absorbed. This one had a friend over.

Almost every day I think to myself that I won’t be seeing anymore New England asters (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) and almost every day I’m surprised by one hiding in some out of the way spot, blooming away like it was September.

I also still find phlox blooming here and there. When I stsrted this blog it was rare to find enough flowers to be able to do an October flower post but now I seem to be able to do them later in the month each year. Will there be a November flower post in the future?

Goldenrod (Solidago) is mostly done but as with so many other flowers, you can still find them blooming in surprising places. They say we’ll probably see a frost this week so I may not see them for much longer.

I’ve talked a lot about this garden aster, which has finally come into full bloom. Though it closely resembles an aromatic aster (Symphyotrichum oblongifolium) I can’t detect much of a scent when I smell it. In any event it’s a pretty thing that can stand light frosts quite well, so it has a long bloom period. It grows to about knee high with a mounded habit. This one must be three feet across, covered with inch diameter flowers. It would be a great choice for a garden with plenty of room.

I don’t see many nasturtiums but I found these in a garden full of flowers that I don’t see anywhere else, so they fit right in. By meeting and speaking with various people in this magical garden I found out that the lady who cared for it searched for unusual plants to use in it, and she sure found them. Unfortunately she passed on last summer before I was able to meet her and tell her how much I enjoyed seeing what she had done. Now we’ll just have to wait and see what the future holds for this small but exciting garden.

Pink phlox is a welcome sight at any time but I don’t see much of it. I see more purple and white than other colors. I thought these were real pretty.

Johnny jump ups (Viola tricolor) were always supposed to be a cool weather flower but this year they’ve bloomed all year, so what we thought was summer heat keeping them from blooming might have been summer dryness. This was a very wet summer but quite warm as well, and they loved it.

I saw a very confused rhododendron blossoming in October, which I’m not sure I’ve ever seen. It must have thought it was spring.

Though it hasn’t seen any yet this year monkshood (Aconitum napellus) can take a lot of cold. Its pretty, unusual blooms appear quite late in the season. Though it blooms in the cold there are usually insects still flying about, and if they crawl into the hood, they’ll find the plant’s treasure. It’s one of the very latest flowers to bloom in this area.

This plant is also called wolf’s bane, leopard’s bane, Friar’s cap, and Queen of poisons. If you were found growing monkshood in ancient Rome there was a good chance that you’d be put to death, because the extremely toxic plant was added to the water of one’s enemies to eliminate them.

The hood shaped upper petal of a monkshood flower helps to easily identify it. Aconite, which monkshood is, is one of the most poisonous plants known. In fact, some species of aconite are so poisonous that their aconitine toxin can easily be absorbed through the skin while picking their leaves. Gardeners have died after working around it, and that’s why I leave it alone.

Knapweed usually folds up and goes home long before we see cold weather but every now and then you’ll find a hanger on. They’re always pretty no matter what time of year you see them, but even more so when there aren’t many other flowers to be seen.

Rose of Sharon shrubs (Hibiscus syriacus) are still blooming well. This flower was just opening and it had a deeper color than most.

Sunflowers are also still going strong.

Pliny, Hippocrates, Aristotle and Charlemagne each wrote of mint’s (Mentha) virtues and each time we see it we are seeing one of mankind’s earliest memories. In ancient Greece the leaves were scattered on floors as a room freshener, and it was eaten to help indigestion. In fact the Egyptian Ebers Papyrus, one of the oldest surviving medical texts in the world from 1550 BC, speaks of using mint as a digestive aid, so when you need to calm your tummy, think mint.

Low baby’s breath (Gypsophila muralis) is still blooming in sandy waste places in quite large numbers. The tiny flowers are about the same size as those of red sand spurry, and blossom on the ends of wiry stems. It is an annual plant native to Europe and available commercially, sold as cushion baby’s breath. I had never seen it before a couple of summers ago but now I see it quite regularly. I also mow it quite regulalry where it grows in the meadow and that seems to make it bloom even better.

This dahlia was kind of amazing. Plant breeders have done some wonderful things with this plant. Originally from Mexico and the cetral U.S. it isn’t cold hardy but a lot of people dig the roots and hold them over until the following summer. I used to do a lot of that for people I gardened for.

This is the one and only cosmos blossom I’ve seen this summer. People don’t seem to grow as much of this once popular annual as they used to.

Myrtle (Vinca minor) is as confused as the rhododendron we saw earlier. Usually plants thinking its spring again isn’t anything to worry about unless they have a second heavy bloom. Bulbs coming up in fall isn’t good though. In the 1800s Vinca, originally from across the Atlantic, was a plant given by one neighbor to another and I see it in the woods regularly.

That divine inner light. That’s really all I need to say about a purple morning glory because that’s about all that matters.

With all of these other flowers still blooming witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) loses a bit of its special-ness but it’s still a unique bloom with a nice fresh scent. I’ve found it blooming even on warm days in January, and I’d like to see it bloom then this year as well. Whenever I see it I think of my father, who always kept a bottle of witch hazel linament that he used on his hands. It’s been used that way for thousands of years by many Native American tribes, and it’s still used in cosmetic and first aid products around the world today.

He who is born with a silver spoon in his mouth is generally considered a fortunate person, but his good fortune is small compared to that of the happy mortal who enters this world with a passion for flowers in his soul.  ~Celia Thaxter

Thanks for stopping in.

A few posts ago I spoke of having to pull apart a beaver dam, and how beautiful the spot was that the beavers chose to build it in. I’ve wondered about that spot ever since, and what it would look like once the trees turned color, so I had to go and find out. It was even more beautiful than before; a true place of bliss, with the giggling trickle of the stream and the birds singing in the trees and the beautiful reflections, you couldn’t come much closer to an earthly paradise than this.

I’m seeing a lot of purple leaves this year, especially on blueberries.

Here is a closer look at some deep purple blueberry leaves. They don’t all do this. Some turn red, some orange, but a few do this and they are beautiful when they do.

Where I work, we have boardwalks that cross wet ground but this year we’ve had so much rain the boardwalks are floating. I’ve gotten my feet wet several times on them.

Silky dogwood leaves also have a lot of purple in them this year. By the time the leaves do this the pretty blue and white berries have usually all been eaten.

Many white ash leaves (Fraxinus americana) also show a lot of purple in the fall. These trees are among the first to change in fall, and the leaves among the first to drop.

But not all ash leaves turn purple. Most are actually yellow but some will turn red as well.

I’ve seen purple beech leaves but they were on a European beech (Fagus sylvatica purpurea) that is purple all year long. American beech leaves (Fagus grandifolia) turn bright, lemon yellow before going over to orangey brown. Beech is one of our most beautiful trees but insects and diseases are giving them a very hard time.

Usually I find purple maple leaves only after they’ve fallen, but here was one still on the tree. This is the first time I’ve ever seen this.

This is the road I drive to work every day, or one of them, anyway. It’s an old gravel road and there is some beautiful scenery along it. This shot was taken later in the day but I often see deer standing beside it in the early morning. It’s already too dark now to get photos on my drive in though.

When you get to see Half Moon Pond in Hancock every day you don’t need a calendar to tell you fall has arrived. That line of trees on the shoreline is what tells me.

Slowly, the trees on the rest of the hillside change and there is always a bright yellow one right in the top center. It has just started to change in this photo and I can see it because I’ve watched it for nearly seven years, so I know where it is. Otherwise I’m sure it must just blend in for most.

The clouds reflected in the pond caught me and held me there for a time one day and at times, if it wasn’t for the many standing stems, I might have thought I was looking at the sky. The word mesmerize means “To hold the attention of someone to the exclusion of all else, so as to transfix them.”  As I watched the clouds move over the surface of the water, I was all of that.

Bare branches and floating leaves tell me that the season is passing quickly for some maples.

The sweet softness of summer now has an edge; an urgency to put up food and stack wood and prepare for the coming winter, and that urgency is punctuated by the loud honking of the Canada geese that gather here on the pond, sometimes in large numbers. Some were born here and I once knew them as tiny balls of fluff, but most are probably strangers, come to rest and fuel up for their journey to the agricultural fields in the south. For now there is stiil food to be found here, and on most mornings their soft gray silhouettes can be seen pecking at the grass through the heavy ground fog in the meadow that I mow.

Swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) grows on the shores of the pond and this year they are heavy with seed pods and their leaves have gone purple, which is something I can’t remember having seen before.

Green and yellow lake sedge, orangey cinnamon ferns, and the startling blue of black raspberry canes can all be found on the shores of the pond.

The sun shining through the leaves of a Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) was a beautiful moment in a forest filled with them. Tendrils of Virginia creeper first exude a sticky substance before expanding into a disc shaped pad that essentially glues itself to the object that the vine wants to climb.  Once the adhesive discs at the tendril ends are stuck in place the tendrils coil themselves tightly to hold the vine in place. Charles Darwin discovered that each adhesive pad can support two pounds. Just imagine how much weight a mature vine with many thousands of these sticky pads could support. It’s no wonder that Virginia creeper can pull the siding off a house. Still, my mother loved it enough to plant it on the house I grew up in and the beautiful vine has always been part of my earliest memories.

Many poison ivy plants (Toxicodendron radicans) will turn yellow in the fall but this one was beautifully red.

Royal ferns (Osmunda regalis) turn yellow in the fall, but they’re a good indication of damp ground at any time of year. They’re a pretty fern but I’ve found that many people don’t know that they are ferns.

There is a swamp with beavers in it near where I work and the trees are always beautiful there in the fall. These are bold beavers; that’s a lodge right there off the road. Maybe they built there because of the view.

Here is the other half of the beaver swamp. In the summer when the forest is a wall of green you don’t notice how the trees lean into the sunshine, but when they change color in the fall it becomes more apparent. I’ve had people tell me I should correct the lens distortion that makes the trees look like they’re leaning in my photos but no; trees and all other plants will lean toward a light source. Just plant a bean seed and put it on a sunny windowsill, and watch.

We have an ornamental grass where I work that catches the light beautifully at this time of year. I believe it’s in the miscanthus family of grasses, which are native to Asia but have been grown in Europe and North America for well over a hundred years. In its native lands its blooms are considered a sign of autumn, and that’s when it blooms here as well. It is used as cattle feed and to thatch roofs, and its fibers can be made into paper.

I drive by this red maple tree on the way to work each morning and every year at this time I watch as it slowly changes from green to a brilliant red. It’s a beautiful thing that grows along the roadside. Many thousands of other trees also grow along the roadside, but few of them do what this one does. It was really still too dark for photos but I tried with my phone and it worked.

Eos, goddess of the dawn, reminds us that foliage isn’t he only colorful thing to watch for. According to the ancient Greeks each morning from the edge of Oceanus she uses her rosy fingers to open the gates of heaven and release the sun, which shines its beautiful life-giving light over all life, in equal measure.

There is a serene and settled majesty to woodland scenery that enters into the soul and delights and elevates it, and fills it with noble inclinations. ~Washington Irving.

Thanks for stopping in.

Some of you who came here expecting to find flowers might be a little disappointed but I’ve been taking a lot of fall foliage photos and I need to put them in a blog post, otherwise I’ll still be showing them in December and everyone will be confused. On this day I wanted to take just a short walk by the Ashuelot River to see if the cinnamon ferns had changed into their beautiful fall pumpkin orange color yet, but everything was so beautiful, what started as a short walk turned into a complete blog post. Sometimes it seems as if nature just throws itself at you and this was one of those days.

Not only was the forest beautiful, the weather was as well. So far we’ve had a very warm October and that has meant that the leaves are changing later than they usually do, so this might be an extended fall foliage year.

I saw a few orange cinnamon ferns but most hadn’t turned yet, which is unusual.

Turtles were even out, still soaking up as much of the weakened autumn sunshine as they could. These were painted turtles, I think. It’s unusual to see them in October.

Other creatures were active as well. Do you see the great blue heron walking along the far shore? It’s over on the far left, just by the last tree on the left side.

The big bird was hungry and on the move. Here it approaches a fallen tree from the left. I couldn’t decide if I wanted to watch the heron or the trees so I stopped to get shots of both.

But then it saw me and froze. I thought it would stay that way but it continued on, very slowly.

I hoped it would see a fish or a frog but it didn’t catch a thing while I was there. I know there are still frogs to catch because I scared a few into the water while getting these photos.

I’ve watched enough blue herons stalking food to know that this wouldn’t be over soon, so I moved on.

When I left it was watching what I was doing rather than looking for food.

I had leaves to see, so I left the bird alone. I didn’t come here looking for colorful foliage but since the trees surprised me by being so beautiful already, I stayed. My color finding software even sees salmon pink in this view.

They were beautiful no matter if you looked forward or back.

I liked this view but it might have been better if if duckweed hadn’t covered the blue of the water.

It was hard to watch where I was going instead of looking up.

The branches on the old sunken tree still looked more like the ribs of a a sunken ship.

The way these polypores were spaced on this tree made me think of squirrel steps.

The forest glowed and beckoned, so I had to go and see. I love walking into scenes like this that have such soft, beautiful light.

I found a fine old American hornbeam, also known as iron wood or muscle wood (Carpinus caroliniana.) The latter name comes from the way it looks like tendons are rippling under its bark. It is common along our rivers but seeing one this big is not common because these trees don’t seem to live long. Low down on its trunk I can see a good example of a maple dust lichen (Lecanora thysanophora) in this shot that I didn’t see in person. It’s that light grayish spot. The tree also had lots of spidery Frullania liverworts on it. They are the darker blotches. They like places where the humidity is high, like here along the river.

New England asters bloomed here and there but they won’t last too much longer.

Many asters looked more like these.

Well there wasn’t peak color here yet, but when leaves start turning they can do it quickly and most of these have started. Sometimes in just a day or two a tree, especially a red maple, can change from green to red or orange so you’ve got to be on your toes if you want to catch them at thier most colorful. I hope you have plenty of color where you live, if not from leaves then maybe flowers. I’m still seeing flowers here so there should be at least one more flower post soon.

The fallen leaves in the forest seemed to make even the ground glow and burn with light. ~Malcolm Lowry

Thanks for coming by.

Two Sundays ago I decided to visit the High Blue Trail up in Walpole. It’s an easy climb with plenty to see and it was a beautiful fall day. Once I hit the trail I wished I had dressed a little more sensibly though. I had worn a short-sleeved summer shirt so I did a little shivering at the outset.

Hobblebush leaves (Viburnum lantanoides) were already changing into their beautiful, deep maroon fall color.

Hobblebush berries go from green to bright shiny red, and then to deep, purple black. You can see a single ripe berry here. The berries are said to taste like spicy raisins or dates and are eaten by cardinals, turkeys, cedar waxwings and even pileated woodpeckers. Bears, foxes, skunks and squirrels are among the animals that eat them. They go fast; I rarely find them fully ripe.

A New England Aster grew in a low spot so wet I couldn’t get to it, so I had to take a long shot. One thing I’ve learned this year is that New England asters like wet places.

Blue wood asters bloomed in sunnier (and drier) spots all along the trail.

Sensitive ferns (Onoclea sensibilis) got that name from colonials who noticed that they turned white at the slightest hint of frost. We haven’t had a frost but it is definitely cooling off, and this fern showed it.

Lady ferns (Athyrium filix-femina) also turn white early. Lady and sensitive ferns make up a large part of the growth found on the floors of many of our forests, so it won’t be long before they seem a little barren. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Once the leaves fall off the trees and shrubs you can see the bones of the forest; the hardscape of stony ridges, glacial erratics, fallen logs and patches of beautiful green mosses bigger than you ever thought they could get.

Speaking of beautiful green moss, here was a quartz stone covered in delicate fern moss (Thuidium delicatulum.) This is a color changing moss and in cold weather it turns bright, lime green. Color blindness usually means that I see it as bright orange but on this day, it was still green to these eyes.

This sign marks the trail to the overlook. So far, we’ve been following an old logging road.

There is magic in a forest and I know it has found me when these blog posts write themselves right there on the trail. I feel as if I’m on autopilot when it happens; all I have to do is take photos and then come home and type the words that have written themselves in my mind.

The corn in the cornfield was short and stunted looking, which was surprising considering all the rain we’ve had. You shouldn’t be able to see over the top of a cornfield like I could here; corn usually towers far over my head but these stalks might have been 5-6 feet tall. Each stalk had ears on it though, so it will help feed the cows this winter.

If there’s any of it left, that is. I saw signs of animals feeding on it.

White crested coral fungus (Clavulina cristata) grew just off the trail. This fungus is not as common as the yellow spindle corals that I see so often. As I was looking this up, I saw sea corals that looked identical to this example. It’s amazing how nature seems to use the same shapes again and again.

What I think might be a goat cheese webcap mushroom (Cortinarius camphoratus) grew just off the trail. Though it’s hard to see in this photo the cap surface has matted fibers on it, and that’s one of the identifiers, as are the lilac color and rather large size. Unfortunately I didn’t smell it, because that would have been the clincher. This mushroom is said to have a powerful odor of “old goat cheese or sweaty feet.” Some also think it smells like camphor, so maybe I should be glad I didn’t smell it. It’s a pretty thing though, and is a fall / late summer mushroom found usually in coniferous forests.

Years ago a hunter put small reflectors on the trees along the trail and they’re still there. I know there are bears up here and I’m fairly sure there must be lots of deer as well, because there are game trails here and there. I followed one once and discovered a lot of cornstalks that had been taken into the woods.

Running club moss (Lycopodium clavatum) grows near the summit. The name comes from the way it sends out long, horizontal stems. All along the horizontal stem erect stems form at intervals and roots form where it touches the ground. All of this happens under the fallen leaves so it can be difficult sometimes to tell this club moss from others. I can’t say that these plants are rare here, but I don’t see them too often. It is also called stag’s horn clubmoss because of its shape.

Wolf’s milk slime mold (Lycogala epidendrum) grew on a log. This slime mold starts out as tiny pink globules (aethalia) but as they age they become darker, like those seen on the lower part of the log. Once they darken the globules look more like small puffballs, so it is easy to be fooled.

If you pop a young one (and they do pop) an orange-pink liquid drips out. As they age this liquid takes on a toothpaste consistency before finally becoming a mass of dark colored, dust like spores. If you see one with liquid like that shown here oozing out of it, you’ll know they aren’t very old. Another name is toothpaste slime mold.

I reached what is left of the old stone foundation. It and the stone walls that snake through these woods are reminders of the days when these hillsides were pastures, and not forests. I don’t know who lived up here but I do know that they were hardy souls. I came here one winter and followed snowmobile tracks as far as I could before running into waist deep snowdrifts that stopped me cold. Up here, living with that kind of snow, miles from anywhere, you would have to be hardy indeed. But it wasn’t just the snow; there were bears and wolves as well, and you don’t run very well with snow shoes on. I just read that the last known wolf in the region was taken in the winter of 1819-1820.

Since there is a small pond here on the summit the people would have had water and food as well if they farmed this land. With food, water and plenty of wood for a fire they most likely just waited out the weather until spring. What long, dark and cold winters they must have seen.

At 1588 feet you aren’t exactly on top of the world but you are on the summit of the highest hill in Walpole New Hampshire.

And as always, the view was very blue. But hazy too.

This view is hazy most of the time when I come here but I could make out Stratton Mountain, off across the Connecticut River valley in Vermont. I don’t how far it is as the crow flies but it’s about 50 miles from here to the mountain if you’re driving.

I’m sure the sharp eyed among you saw signs of fall all through this post, like ripe corn, fall mushrooms, and ghostly ferns. This Indian cucumber root is another sign; it has lost all its green but hasn’t lost that beautiful crimson splash on its top tier of leaves. It’s a beautiful color but the trees are putting on their beautiful fall colors too now, so it won’t be long before you see some very colorful foliage.

The summer sun is fading as the year grows old. ~The Moody Blues

Thanks for stopping in.

Temperatures are cooling quickly now, with overnight lows sometimes in the 40s F and daytime highs in the 60s and 70s. If you go out in the morning before the sun does its work at this time of year you find that bees are very sluggish. Sometimes you can even find them sleeping in flowers. That makes bee photography much easier and it was simple to capture this bee on a knapweed blossom.

The sun was coming up behind these New England asters early one morning, but the light reflected off the clouds and lit them up so the center of each one was lighter than the surrounding rays. They were very beautiful and I stayed with them until the light changed.

I saw a three-foot-tall alfalfa plant (Medicago sativa) growing by itself on the side of a road, so I had to stop and see its beautiful flowers. Alfalfa is an important crop used around the world for hay and silage. I’ve read that it needs a well-prepared seedbed so I’m not sure how it got there by the side of the road.

Alfalfa is a legume in the pea /bean family and you can see that as soon as you look closely at the flowers. They’re quite pretty.

Yellow hawkweed (Hieracium caespitosum) has seen the writing on the wall and knows its days are numbered, but I still see them here and there gently swaying in the breeze. The buds, stem, and leaves of the plant are all very hairy and the rosette of oval leaves at the base of the stem often turns deep purple in winter.

Beech drops (Epifagus americana) are strange plants which grow near beech trees. They are parasitic plants that fasten onto the roots of the beech tree using root like structures. They take all of their nutrients from the tree so they don’t need leaves, chlorophyll or sunlight. Beech drops are annuals that die off in cold weather, but they can often be found growing in the same place each year.

This year the plants had odd shaped flowers that looked to be fully open. Normally they look to be about half opened and point to the side, but this year they were cup like and pointed straight at the sky as if trying to catch the rain.

Some of the flowers were full of I don’t know what. Were they insect larva, crawling up the stem or were they parts of the plant, splashed out of the flower by the rain? I haven’t been able to find the answer online so if you know I’d love to hear from you.

NOTE: A helpful reader with a good library believes that the tiny white object seen here are indeed seeds, being splashed out of the splash cups by raindrops. Something rarely seen!

This is what beech drop flowers have always looked like every time I’ve seen them. Until now.

You might be thinking Oh no-not more jewelweed, but this photo of a jewelweed blossom from last August is just here to illustrate another fascinating fact about this plant.

This is a jewelweed seedpod, for those who have never seen one. When ripe at the slightest touch they will curl up and shoot the seeds in all directions with considerable force. This is where the name “touch me not” comes from. If however, you hold one in your closed hand and let it curl and explode, you’ll be able to catch the seeds. Why would you want to do that? Just read on.

Because this is what the seeds look like. A helpful reader wrote in to say that I should have a look because they were a beautiful robin’s egg blue. After 4 or 5 tries and finding immature seeds, there it was, and it was indeed a beautiful robin’s egg blue. You just have to rub the outer coating from the seed to find it. Nature is just awesome, and so are all of you who visit this blog. Thank you for enlightening us, Ann!

It’s time to say goodbye to crown vetch (Securigera varia) I think. I found a few plants blooming on a roadside and though this one will never win a prize in a flower show, it was the best of the lot. This is another member of the legume family and its bicolor flowers are very pretty, I’ve always thought.

False sunflower (Heliopsis helianthoides) is still blooming strongly. This native plant can sometimes reach 5 feet, and is decorated with pretty yellow, daisy like flowers. I often find it growing along the river as this one was. It also does well in gardens.

Sweet everlasting (Pseudognaphalium obtusifolium) is a funny little plant with maple syrup scented flowers that never seem to fully open. The plant’s common name comes from the way it lasts for years after being cut and dried. An odd name for it 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. It is said to be useful in treating asthma.

Here is a sweet everlasting flower that has opened but when they do this, they’re very dry and it seems as if they have gone or are going to seed. This stage is the end of the changes in appearance for them from what I’ve seen, and if you cut them and put them dry in a vase they’ll stay this way for a very long time.

I still see an occasional black eyed Susan blossom (Rudbeckia hirta) and I’m never surprised, because they’ll go right up until a freeze. Our first frost date is now about two weeks later than average so it could happen any time.

Bees are still happy that they’re open for business.

And then there is this; a “man-made” rudbeckia called Rudbeckia Henry Eilers (Rudbeckia subtomentosa.) It is said to “look like an asterisk” and to be a “standout among black eyed Susans” in nursery catalogs, and I would guess that both of those statements are true. It’s not really my cup of tea but I’m sure a lot of people must grow it. I find it in a tiny local garden along with many other unusual plants that I haven’t ever seen before.

I got there just a bit too late to see the Japanese anemones at their most beautiful but this one was still pretty, just the same. These have been planted in the gardens of a local park so I’ll have to remember to visit them next summer.

I’ve seen dandelions blooming in every month of the year, and I’m hoping to see them in December, January and February of this year.

This roadside view looks quite different now but when it was at its peak like it is here, I took so many photos I hate to let them go without showing them. Being there and walking among such beautiful flowers was like walking into an impressionist painting.

Every bird, every tree, every flower reminds me what a blessing and privilege it is just to be alive. ~Marty Rubin

Thanks for coming by.

I didn’t have a bird in the hand last month, but I did have two in a bush. When I stopped at a local convenience store up they popped out of this overgrown yew. Since I had my camera with me, I took this shot through the windshield.

I think they were juvenile house sparrows, which are not native to the US. They like to nest in or near buildings. Adults have dark bills and juveniles have a more honey colored bill. As I watched another bird flew into the bush lower down on the left and the birds sitting on top disappeared quickly, as if they had taken a down elevator. I’m guessing it was a parent, come home to feed them. If I have misidentified these birds, I hope someone will let me know. I’m not good with birds. (Or colors of birds.)

I didn’t have to look this bird up. Just before I took this shot, I was lucky to see this great blue heron actually moving. As I watched it preened itself for maybe 5 minutes, and I have many shots of what look like a headless heron. This shot was taken just as it decided to rest after its grooming session, and I thought I’d might as well move on because I could tell it was going to be in statue mode for a while. But at least I got to see it actually moving; most blue herons I see act like they’re made of painted bronze. I shouldn’t complain though, because they’ve taught me a lot about being more patient.

I saw this well decorated little insect crawling up a plant stem one day and I was able to get a good side shot, but every time I turned the stem to see its back it would turn too, so I had quite a time getting the next shot.

I’ll probably always remember this one as the frustrating bug, or maybe the highly intelligent bug, but its real name is the green stink bug. Actually it is a stink bug nymph and as it grows it will lose its pretty decoration and become rather plain looking.

I went into the woods to look at a mushroom and instead found many thousands of red ants, both winged and wingless, crawling on the forest floor. I learned later that these were red harvester ants doing something they have done for millions of years: looking for a mate. I was seeing a swarm, and a swarm happens when several ant colonies leave their colonies and come together to mate. There were winged males and females here, along with wingless workers. After mating, the mated females shed their wings and find new nesting sites. Swarms like this one happen in warm weather, after a rain and in the afternoon on a day in August through September, and those were exactly the conditions when I found them. It all takes place in one day and that’s it until the following year. I’ve read that they do something called “hill topping” which simply means finding the highest spot within the swarm, and I’m guessing that was why they were climbing this pile of stones. They do it for the same reason we would; so they can see better and more easily find a mate. It was an amazing thing to watch.

I saw a red backed salamander at the base of a maple tree. The red stripe is there to scare off predators and I’ve read that the stripe can get redder when it perceives a threat and freezes in place  That’s just what happened when I started taking photos with my phone; it froze.

I waited a bit and the salamander relaxed and started climbing the tree. These small amphibians don’t have lungs so they take what gasses they need through their skin, but to do so they can’t let their skin dry out. To keep it moist they hide under tree bark, rocks, logs, anywhere they can stay out of the sun.

As I continued watching the salamander it crawled through a hole that I hadn’t seen and into the tree. I suppose the inside of a tree would be moist enough. It wasn’t until I started reading about this creature that I realized I had been lucky to see one. The day was warm and humid with occasional rain showers, and those are about the only conditions this little creature will wander around in during the daytime.

I’m still seeing monarch butterflies I’m happy to say, but this one ran into trouble somewhere along the line and damaged its wing. I’d guess that a bird got a hold of it. It seemed to still fly just fine though.

Last year a coworker and I had to pull a beaver dam apart and this year, here we were again almost in the exact same spot, pulling another dam apart. After two hours of tugging on miscellaneous tools and a rope tied to a grappling hook, we had it apart and the water flowing. This had to be done so the stream wouldn’t back up and flood roads.

I have to say that these beavers have it made; imagine living in this Eden. It was so beautiful and serene. To be able to walk out of my door and see this every morning would be sheer bliss.

A prophesying bracken fern foretold the future. Or at least the near future.

It had rained the night before and the strong morning sunshine turned the moisture left on this pine tree’s bark into steam. It made me wonder just how warm it must get inside a tree.

In 1906 in this spot trees, chiefly Scot pine and Norway spruce, were grown from seed to be used in reforestation projects. The spruce trees have done well but the Scot pines have not; neither the soil nor climate is right for them. Many of the spruce trees are still here and, as the above photo shows, are tall but have no real girth because they were meant to be transplanted into other areas, not allowed to reach full size. They are far too close together and cast such deep shade that nothing but a few mosses and fungi will grow beneath them. It is a stark, sterile place but it still has its own beauty.

This forest is far more natural. Or as natural as a second or third growth forest can be, anyway. Enough light reaches the forest floor to allow the growth of many species of plants, shrubs and ferns. It is much more natural than what we saw in the previous photo. It is also much easier to walk through than it appears here.

With all the rain I’ve been talking about this summer I’d guess that this photo of the Ashuelot River doesn’t surprise anyone. It rose higher up the bank in this spot than I’ve ever seen. On this day the water level had dropped but it was still making some impressive waves.

I thought I could see an owl coming up out of the water at one point.

This was my favorite wave shot of the day. I should say that the colors in these photos haven’t been changed in any way, and I say that because they’re so amazing they might seem unbelievable. This river has taught me much, and I know if I come here at a certain time of day when the sun is shining and the river is at the right level, it will be at its most beautiful. The sun is slightly behind and to the left of where I stand, and when a wave comes up and crests the sunlight shines through it and exposes all of the colors it contains. It is very beautiful and also mesmerizing to watch as each wave grows and changes its colors.

From the roar of the river to the quiet of the forest. This oak tree burl reminded me of Vincent van Gogh’s painting Starry Night. Burl is an abnormal growth on a tree which grows faster than the surrounding tissue, and all the little circular grain swirls in this one signify branches that tried to grow out of it. It would have looked like a witch’s broom. Burls are thought to grow on trees that have been weakened by stress or damage. Once the tree’s defenses have been weakened insects and/or fungi can attack and cause the abnormal growth. Woodworkers prize burls very highly and make some beautiful bowls and other things from them, which can sometimes sell for thousands of dollars.

After so many years of looking at trees you would think that I would have seen the beautiful golden color of the inner bark of a gray birch (Betula populifolia) before but I guess not, because I was stopped cold when I saw this. Gray birch is a short-lived species, often found in waste areas or other disturbed places. It is a colonizer; often the first tree to grow after a burn. This is also the birch tree that is often seen with hundreds of birch polypores along its length. I see as much of it on the ground as I do standing but I’ve never seen it like this before.

Hawthorn (Crataegus) fruit is ripe but so far the birds haven’t touched them. The fruit is high in pectin, so they are often added to other fruits when making jelly. Nobody seems to know how many species of hawthorn there are, but some say that it could be a thousand or more. Native Americans used the often-tasteless fruit in ointments and other medicines. The haws, botanically speaking, are pomes, like apples and pears.  One odd fact about hawthorns is how their young leaves and flower buds are edible and can be used in salads. Hawthorns are also important when used medicinally. Hawthorn has been used to treat heart disease since the 1st century and the leaves and flowers are still used for that purpose today. There are antioxidant flavonoids in the plant that may help dilate blood vessels, improve blood flow, and protect blood vessels from damage.

Kousa dogwood fruit looks a little different but it’s the edible part of a Kousa Dogwood (Cornus kousa.) This dogwood is on the small side and is native to Asia. I don’t see it too often. It is also called Japanese or Korean Dogwood. Kousa Dogwood fruit is made up of 20-40 fleshy carpels. In botany one definition of a carpel is a dry fruit that splits open, into seed-bearing sections. Kousa dogwood fruits are said by some to taste like papaya. 

The toxic berries of the native snowberry shrub (Symphoricarpos albus) persist through winter, as the common name implies. This is an old-fashioned shrub in the honeysuckle family that has been grown in gardens for hundreds of years. As a general rule of thumb, it isn’t a good idea to eat white fruit. Poison ivy and poison sumac berries are also white.

White ash (Fraxinus americana) and green ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica) leaves are among the earliest to turn in the fall, usually becoming brilliant yellow and sometimes, the beautiful deep purple seen here in this fallen leaf.

The burning bushes (Euonymus alatus) along the river have started to change into their amazing colors. Before the leaves fall they’ll change from deep magenta to soft pink, and then finally nearly white. To see drifts of hundreds of them, all the same color, is an amazing thing, invasive or not.

Maple leaved viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium) is another plant that goes through many color changes in the fall and I always look forward to seeing what colors I’ll see this year. These were a kind of plum color.

This one was more lavender. This native shrub has a lot going for it and I wish more people new about it. It’s easy to maintain, has great fall color, and attracts birds with its dark purple fruit.

Well congratulations; you’ve made it to the end, but the end is really the beginning as you can see by this beech tree. The beginning of fall that is. Beech trees seem to be turning a little early this year but that doesn’t matter because they’ll be beautiful no matter when they change. Any time now the population of New Hampshire will increase by an expected 3 million souls, all come to see the beauty of the season. If the past few years are any indication they’ll be stunned, right along with the locals. It’s the kind of beauty that takes your breath away, and I hope that you too can experience similar beauty wherever you are.

I meant to do my work today, but a brown bird sang in the apple tree, and a butterfly flitted across the field, and all the leaves were calling. ~Richard le Gallienne

Thanks for stopping in.

What I call the park asters seem to have had trouble getting going again this year and are quite late, or maybe I’m just impatient. These plants get about a foot and a half tall but are large and mounded and once they get going are covered with blossoms. They’re very pretty and I show them in these flower posts so you can see what a long bloom time they have. They’ll also take a hard frost and keep blooming. I’m sure they could be found in a garden center but I don’t know their name.

Bees and butterflies love them. These plants are often covered with both.

Bumblebees are still very active and I see them all over the flowers you’ll see in this post. This one was loving this sunflower.

I took this shot because I love the colors of goldenrod and purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) together. This particular loosestrife was very dark.

And this purple loosestrife, growing just a few feet from the one in the previous photo, was much lighter in color.

The small but abundant blooms of panicled aster (Symphyotrichum lanceolatum) can be found everywhere I go right now. They’re maybe half to a third the size of a New England aster.

And blue wood asters (Symphyotrichum cordifolium) are even smaller. These were a very pale blue, almost white.

If, before you had indoor plumbing, you wanted to hide the outhouse this is often what you would use for a screen, at least in summer. And that’s how this particular helianthus species got the name of “outhouse daisy.” Another name is the Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus) but since it isn’t an artichoke and it has nothing to do with Jerusalem, that name makes little sense. Jerusalem artichokes were cultivated by Native Americans for thousands of years for their tuberous roots, which they cooked and ate much like we do potatoes. They are said to be starchy with a nutty flavor and they were immediately adopted by the early settlers. The tubers have fewer calories than potatoes and the plant’s carbohydrates and sugars can be assimilated by the digestive tract without insulin. This makes them an excellent choice for diabetics. You’d better have plenty of space though. This one had to have been 7 feet tall.

Whatever name you choose to use for it, this is a beautiful late summer / early spring flower.

These New England asters (Symphyotrichum puniceum) surprised me by growing almost in the water at the edge of a pond. Those are cattails behind them. I don’t think of them as water lovers but they do tend to grow in ditches and other places that stay moist.

I was surprised to see the only marshmallow (Althaea officinalis) plant I know of still blooming, but then why not? It’s in the same family as rose of Sharon, another late summer / early fall bloomer. Its flowers are about the diameter of a quarter, or 3/4 of an inch.

Many plants will have a big initial spring or early summer bloom, then they rest and will bloom sporadically again in the fall. Dandelions do it and that’s what I thought tradescantia did as well until I started watching this particular plant, which has bloomed all summer long. Is it all the rain that made it do so, I wonder?

I saw a bee balm I didn’t recognize in a local park. It had a tag that read Monarda Sugar Buzz “Blue Moon.” My color finding software sees “plum” and “medium purple” but for what it’s worth, it looked blue to me. It couldn’t have been more than a foot tall.

Here in the Northeastern U.S. we are big on garden chrysanthemums in the fall and I wonder if people in other countries love them as much as we do. Thought of as a late summer / fall plant, many thousands of them are sold each year and you see them everywhere. Though they are native to Asia and northeastern Europe I never hear much about them being grown in other countries.

Fall mums come in many colors including red. My color finding software tells me this is “Indian red.” Though they are sold as “hardy mums” they are not truly hardy and most of them die in winter, but purple and white ones will often make it through until the following year. Chrysanthemums were first cultivated in China as early as the 15th century, where its boiled roots were used to treat headaches and its sprouts and petals were eaten in salads.

Spotted Deadnettle (Lamium maculatum) is another “spring plant” that has bloomed all year long. I like its little orchid like flowers. Dead nettles are native to Europe and Asia, but though they do spread some they don’t seem to be invasive here. The name dead nettle comes from their not being able sting like a true nettle, which they aren’t related to.

I can’t say that this is the last rose of summer but since we’re past our average first frost date of September 25th, it could be.

Here is another bumblebee on a scabiosa blossom.

Anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) was losing its tiny flowers one by one. It seems odd that though this plant is supposed to be a bee and butterfly magnet I’ve never seen a single insect on it. Though they fly all around it and are on surrounding plants they don’t touch it.

The pee gee hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata) is a “panicled” hydrangea, meanings its flower heads are cone shaped rather than round. These plants grow into large shrubs sometimes reaching 10-20 feet tall and nearly as wide. Though originally introduced from Japan in 1862 this plant is thought to be native by many and is a much-loved, old-fashioned favorite. What I like most about this hydrangea is how the flower heads turn a soft pink in the fall. When they’re cut and dried, they’ll hold their color for quite a long time.

This hydrangea is also a panicled variety according to Google lens, but the shape is very different from the example we just saw so I looked it up online. Sure enough there is a panicled hydrangea variety called Quick Fire which was released by Proven Winners, with a photo that looks just like this one. It is said to open white and quickly turn pink. I do like the color but it looked more like a lace cap hydrangea to me.

I saw a huge drift of wildflowers at a local pond recently. They went on like this for many yards.

New Englanders know what witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) blossoming means; winter can’t be far off. Though it usually blooms in cool weather these native plants bloomed on a warm day. I’ve seen them bloom on a warm day in January before but not in September. These flowers have a very subtle fragrance I’ve heard described as being like “fresh clean laundry just taken down from the line.” I haven’t taken much laundry down from clotheslines so I can’t say one way or the other, but it is a pleasant, clean scent. Native Americans steamed witch hazel twigs over hot stones in sweat lodges to sooth aching muscles, and my father always had a bottle of witch hazel lotion in the house.

You can experience the beauty of nature only when you sit with it, observe it, breathe it and talk to it. ~Sanchita Pandey

Thanks for coming by.

I decided I’d done enough climbing for a while so I chose a nice, level rail trail in Swanzey for a hike recently. This is a trail I’ve followed many times but like lots of other trails, every time I follow it see something new. Last time I was here I got to watch a muskrat feeding on the bank of the Ashuelot River, which runs right alongside the old railbed. I doubted I’d see anything that exciting this time, but you never know. It didn’t matter what I saw anyhow, because it was a beautiful day to be in the woods.

Right off I spotted some New England asters growing in a sunny spot along a drainage channel.

There are some nice old box culverts out here, still channeling streams under the railbed as they have for over 150 years now. To see most of them you half to climb far down steep embankments but this one is relatively easy to get to.

The stream that runs through the old culvert eventually finds its way to the river, which is off in the distance a bit in this view. If you follow the stream out to where there is sunshine you can just see hundreds of asters blooming there to the left.

The beauty of the place is what held me on this day, rather than any individual things I saw. Some people lose themselves in artwork, some in music (give me the beat boys,) and some in nature. I’ve always been lucky enough to be able to lose myself in all three, but especially nature. Nature for me is full of artistry and music anyway, so I find all three out here. The birdsong along this trail was beautiful on this day and if, while looking down this trail you don’t see nature’s artistry, you might want to check your pulse. I’d love to have a painting of this scene.

And there was a glimpse of the river. This is near where I watched that little muskrat that time. It’s hard to tell from the photo but we are high above the river here, walking on untold tons of fill the railroad had to use to make a level rail bed. All along here there are deep gullies that had to be filled in, and all have stone culverts at the bottom.

There are also a few ledges that had to be blasted through, but not too many on this stretch.

I finally saw some ripe Solomon’s seal fruit (Maianthemum racemosum.) Dead ripe by the looks, and if so, they won’t last long. Birds and mice snap them up as soon as they become fully ripe.

The dark purple berries of maple leaf viburnums (Viburnum acerifolium) are also ripening. Soon this plant’s leaves will change to purple, pink, orange and other colors.

Female iron wood catkins (Carpinus caroliniana) form in pairs at the ends of the branches and are about a half inch long with a leaf-like bract. The bracts eventually grow to 1 inch or more long, becoming 3-lobed with smooth or irregularly toothed edges. They look like leafy butterflies. Ironwood is also called American hornbeam, blue beech, and musclewood. It’s in the hazelnut family and the name iron wood comes from its dense, hard and heavy wood that even beavers won’t usually touch.

Ferns are losing their deep green color but slowly, a little at a time.

Pink lady’s slippers (Cypripedium acaule) grew here and there, sometimes in groups but usually alone as this young plant was. It was small as lady’s slippers go, so I’d guess that it has a while before it will bloom. It can take 3-5 years for a lady’s slipper to grow from seed to flowering size but compared to the 7 years it can take some plants like blue bead lily, that’s relatively fast. Since the seeds lack the starchy tissue called endosperm, which is the food most seedlings use to grow enough to produce the first pair of true leaves, many orchid seedlings have to rely on fungi present in the soil to get them started.

Big red stem (Pleurozium schreberi) is the moss growing around the lady’s slipper in the previous photo. It is a very common moss that grows all along this trail and it grows faster than any other moss I’ve seen. It also seems like a moss that would soak up a lot of water.

Little starbursts of haircap mosses grew in the drier spots along the trail.

A poplar log had unusual coloring, which I’ve never seen before. I can’t explain where such colors would come from but I do know that poplar logs are one of the favorites of the beautiful cinnibar polypore (Pycnoporus Cinnabarinus.) They appear quite late in the fall. I’ve had to brush snow off them to get a photo.

Parts of this trail get quite a lot of sunlight and of course, that’s where the sun lovers grow.

One of the most common sun lovers here is the blue wood aster (Aster cordifolius,) which is small flowered but prolific. They grow all along the trail. They’ll bloom until a hard frost because they’re usually protected by overhanging branches.

Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) still bloomed here and there but most of them I see are no longer blooming.

We have many different nut trees here in New Hampshire, including beechnuts, walnuts, butternuts, hazelnuts, oaks, and hickory. We have several hickories here including bitternut and shagbark, like the one in the above photo. Unfortunately most of our chestnuts were wiped out by blight in the early 1900s, but I’ve heard rumors of them possibly making a comeback. Bears, deer, raccoons, squirrels, chipmunks, turkeys, sparrows, white-breasted nuthatches, yellow-rumped warblers, pine warblers, cardinals, rose-breasted grosbeaks, grouse, pheasants, and wood ducks are just some of the animals and birds that eat our native nuts. Without nuts many forest animals and birds wouldn’t survive.

Poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) was past its prime but even the bare stems can give you a rash. It grows all along both sides of the trail. It is thought that Native Americans used the oil from poison ivy medicinally but from what I’ve read nobody knows for sure. What is known is that homeopaths use the plant medicinally today to treat pain and arthritis, among other ailments.

And there was the old trestle.

These trestles are much easier to cross these days thanks to the decking put down by snowmobile clubs. I don’t cross this one though, I just use it to see a view of the river that I can’t see from anywhere else.

I could see that the Ashuelot River was at a more normal level after running high all summer because of the frequent rain. It’s hard to believe that we’ve had not inches but feet of rain. Even harder to believe is that there hasn’t been more flooding. Two or three towns in the immediate area suffered washout damage but it could have been much worse.

The river keeps slowly getting wider, and the proof of that is in all the trees that fall into it every year. The soil is washed away from their roots and down they go. This white pine won’t stand much longer, by the looks. Kayakers won’t be happy to find it in the way, I wouldn’t imagine.

Of the six New England states New Hampshire has the most rail trails, with 67 total. We also have the most miles you can travel on rail trails at 535 so we’re lucky to have many options. I hope you have rail trails where you are and I hope you use them if you do. They’re a safe and usually easy way to get deep into the woods to see things that you would never be able to see without them. You’ll be amazed when you see what has been right there in your area all this time; flowing streams and rivers, beautiful stonework, old bridges, forest birds and animals, and lots of peace and quiet.

The forest makes your heart gentle.  You become one with it… No place for greed or anger there.  ~Pha Pachak

Thanks for stopping in.