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Archive for November, 2012

This is another post full of those things that didn’t seem to fit in other posts.                       The last of the crabapples-one that the birds and squirrels have both rejected for some reason. Native evergreen fan clubmoss (Diphasiastrum digitatum) looks like a small evergreen tree.  Clubmosses are some of the oldest vascular plants on Earth. The foliage contains toxic alkaloids so most animals don’t eat it, which means that man is its only real threat. Since they produce spores rather than seeds and a single mature plant can take 20 years to develop from a spore, they should be left alone. Foamflower (Tiarella) is another native evergreen whose fuzzy leaves sometimes turn deep purple in the fall. More often than not though, they look a little blotchy like those in the photo. In the book Forest Forensics, Tom Wessels describes white pine (Pinus strobus) and eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) stumps as “decaying from the outside in.” He also says that it takes 50 years for the wood to completely decay.  I’m guessing that this is the stump of a white pine because hemlock has rot resistant bark that is usually still in place even when the wood has completely decayed. A local river was so calm this day that, if I turn this picture 180 degrees, I don’t know if I’m looking at sky or water. I like the little cups formed by the bracts on common witch hazel (Hamamelis viginiana.) These bracts are at the base of the flower and are where a single brown, box shaped seed capsule will develop over the course of a year. Next autumn these seed capsules will open quickly with a loud snapping sound and shoot the seeds as far as 40 feet from the parent plant. I find native witch hazel shrubs growing along river banks here in New Hampshire.

The bubble gum pink fruiting bodies (Apothecia) held on short stalks above a blue-green background (Thallus) give this candy lichen (Icmadophila ericetorum) its name. I found large colonies of this lichen growing near a local pond. It grew on moist sand in full sun near white pines and blueberries. The ground hasn’t frozen yet so mushrooms are still growing. I see mostly small brown types but this pinkish tan one was growing in the middle of a trail. I think it might be one of the Russulas. Native pipsissewa (Chimaphila umbellata ) seed capsules haven’t opened yet.  At one time this plant, one of the wintergreens, was an ingredient of root beer.  Native Americans had many medicinal uses for the plant and the name pipsissewa is Cree for “it breaks into small pieces.” This is in reference to their belief that the plant broke up gall and kidney stones. The scientific name Chimaphila is from the Greek ceima,”winter”; and filos “lover” because it is evergreen.

Running ground pine (Lycopodium clavatum) is actually a type of clubmoss.  The horizontal branching stems can cover large areas. Here it grows among mosses, American wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens,) and fallen beech leaves. I found this dandelion blooming happily on November 23rd. It still has a ways to go to beat the record of the December 21st bloomer I saw last year. This goldenrod seed head was leaning out over water, which made for a very dark background.

He who walks may see and understand. You can study all America from one hilltop, if your eyes
are open and your mind is willing to reach. But first you must walk to that hill ~ Hal Borland

Thanks for visiting.

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We haven’t had any measurable snow yet, but our mornings have been frosty.

Ice coats everything on some mornings. 

Ice needles will only grow when the temperature at the soil surface is below freezing and hydrostatic pressure forces cooled, unfrozen water to the surface. Though they often grow in bundles like those in the photo, each individual needle can be as thin as a human hair. If you’d like to learn more about them, just click here

Ice crystals are forming on my windshield each morning, and I wondered if I could get pictures of them.

Like snowflakes, each one is different. Our ponds are freezing and staying frozen during the daytime, so we won’t see much open water here until spring. This pond is called Perkin’s Pond and the mountain is Mt. Monadnock, a well-known local landmark.

Alongside the river, ice forms on anything that comes into contact with its water. 

Even tree sap froze as it dripped from a wound. 

Our sunsets are colorful but deceiving; any heat they hold lies only in our imagination.

Frost grows on the window glass, forming whorl patterns of lovely translucent geometry.
Breathe on the glass, and you give frost more ammunition.
Now it can build castles and cities and whole ice continents with your breath’s vapor.
In a few blinks you can almost see the winter fairies moving in . . .
But first, you hear the crackle of their wings ~Vera Nazarian

Thanks for stopping in.

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I’m talking about turkey tail mushrooms, of course. The scientific name of these mushrooms is Trametes versicolor and they are a type of polypore mushroom. They are also said to be the most common mushroom in North American woods. They are found mostly on rotting hardwood logs, but I’ve also found them on hemlock stumps.                       

There are also false turkey tail mushrooms. The easiest way to tell if a mushroom is a turkey tail is to look at the underside, which should be creamy white and have pores. If it has gills then it isn’t a true turkey tail.

A true turkey tail also has strongly contrasting zones of color. In fact, versicolor means “having many colors.” (Trametes means “one who is thin.”) If a mushroom lacks these contrasting zones of color or has more subtle shades then it is probably Trametes pubescens (above) or another look alike rather than Trametes versicolor.Nobody seems to know what causes the different colors in turkey tails-or at least, if they do they aren’t talking because I’ve been searching for the answer to that question for a long time. I wonder if the weather has anything to do with color variation. Last year I was finding many that were colored blue or purple and this year I’m seeing a lot of browns, pinks, and oranges. 

Turkey tail fungi cause white rot in trees, and when they grow in the wound of a living tree it means it isn’t long for this world. White rot occurs when fungi eat the brown ligin of plant cells and leave behind the white cellulose. The fungi are also saprophytic, which means that they produce enzymes which decompose dead matter.

Oops-how did he get in here? Trametes versicolor isn’t all bad though; in China, Japan, and parts of Europe compounds extracted from these fungi are being used to treat certain types of cancer. Here in the U.S., fueled by grants from the National Institute of Health, scientists are researching its usefulness in breast and bone cancer therapy.Squirrels, beetles, turtles and other critters eat turkey tails. Fungus gnats and the horned fungus beetle use them for shelter. They are very tough so even though they aren’t considered poisonous, they aren’t very appealing to humans. The part of the turkey tail fungus that we see can be compared to the cap and stem on a traditional mushroom-it is the fruiting body that releases the spores so more generations can follow.

What I like most about turkeys tails are the colors and the fact that they appear from May to December. They add a lot of color to the otherwise black, white, and brown winter landscape. This time of year, when the leaves have all fallen, is the easiest time to find them. I’d be willing to bet that you have some growing very near to where you are because they’ve been found in nearly every state in the country. What better way to walk off that big thanksgiving meal than hiking through the woods, looking for turkey tails? That’s where I’ll be.

In the end we will conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught ~ Baba Dioum

Have a great Thanksgiving, everyone. Thanks for stopping by.

The photo of the Tom Turkey is from Wikipedia.

 

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Last weekend when I wasn’t climbing up Beech Hill in Keene I was climbing another hill in Walpole, New Hampshire. Walpole is a small town on the Connecticut River north of Keene.                       There wasn’t anything remarkable about the trail itself, but it did go up and up-and then it went up some more. Those beech and oak leaves are very slippery and hide loose stones that can give you a nasty ankle twist when they slip quickly out from underfoot, so it is wise to watch where you step at this time of year. This is the view from a granite outcropping at the top of the trail, looking westward toward Vermont. I can’t find the name of the hill that this view is seen from, but it is part of the 165 acre Warner Forest preserve. This trail is called “High Blue,” because at 1588 feet it is higher than the surrounding terrain, and because the view is indeed blue-especially when you zoom in on it with a camera. This photo shows exactly what the camera saw, but I don’t remember everything being quite as blue as it is seen here. The mountain floating on the clouds is Stratton Mountain in Vermont. You know you’re there when you see the sign and the view and need to sit for a bit to catch your breath.

Finding quartz in New Hampshire isn’t special, but finding an outcropping of pure quartz certainly is. This ledge was large and quite long, and it’s the only one like it that I’ve ever seen.Other boulders were covered with rock tripe lichens. Because it hadn’t rained in a while the rock tripe was brittle and would break in half like a potato chip. After a good rain it becomes pliable and bends without breaking. I’m not sure if this is a jelly fungus or a slime mold but there were several large, half dollar size examples on a fallen log. It had a rubbery consistency. Someone used to live up here, and this is all that’s left of their house. Behind this foundation corner was an old chimney that had toppled long ago. Finding stone walls and abandoned foundations in the woods is very common here in New Hampshire. In fact, you could walk for days into the wilderness to a spot where you thought nobody had ever been and you would probably find a stone wall there.I’m still seeing mushrooms in spite of the cold nights. These orange ones grew on a sun washed stump.

We do not go to the green woods and crystal waters to rough it, we go to smooth it. We get it rough enough at home, in towns and cities ~ G.W. Sears

Thanks for stopping in.

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Last weekend I decided to visit a place that I hadn’t seen in nearly 40 years. It’s called Sunset Rock and is a place that is locally cherished for its unmatched view of the city of Keene, New Hampshire. My friends and I spent many hours there and in the surrounding forest when I was a teen. We even camped there several times. Though it is called a rock, it is actually a ledge.

This is the view that I remember from so long ago but the problem is, this is not the same sunset rock that my friends and I used to visit so often.  This one is higher up on the hill-called beech hill because of its many beech trees. I also went to the sunset rock that my friends and I knew and the trees had grown up to all but obscure the view. I’m not sure who found this new sunset rock or when, but I’m glad they did. (Even though I had to huff and puff my way farther up the hill!)

When I was growing up Keene was always called a town but in 1964 it was awarded the title “All American City” by the National Civic League. Each year the League bestows this honor on 10 cities that have demonstrated “innovation, inclusiveness, civic engagement, and cross sector collaboration by describing successful efforts to address pressing local challenges.”  Since receiving the award Keene has thought of itself as more a city than a town, even though it only had slightly over 23,000 residents listed in the 2010 census.

This is a photo of Keene’s Main Street from the 60s. It was once said to be the widest paved main street in the world.

Keene has changed and grown some over the years, but it will always be a town to me. 

As you arrive at or leave Sunset Rock, this is what you pass under. This was not on the top of this hill when I was young and, even though I’ve seen the little red light blinking off in the distance at night, I was surprised to see it. I was a little angry at first but after a while I decided that it was all about what the majority of people want.  Here in Keene this is the price that the majority is willing to pay for good cable TV and cell phone reception.

I can understand the need for and even the want of such things but when I realize that there are parts of this world that I have seen which are now impossible for my children to see, I get worried. They will never get to see the top of this hill as nature intended, and I can’t help wondering how many other views they will lose before we stop and ask ”good Lord-what have we done?”  Maybe before we let such things happen we should stop and think about their impact not just on ourselves, but on future generations as well. Maybe we should ask ourselves not only what are we leaving them, but  what we are taking from them as well.

As I walked back down the hill I was able to turn my focus away from the negative and think instead about the things that could never be taken away.

The startlingly beautiful red of an oak leaf will always be with them. Streams will always cascade down from the hilltops. 

Farmers will always mow their meadows and deer will always feed at the edges of them.

And forests will always be mysterious, misunderstood places.

I have to admit that there is plenty of nature left for my kids to see and I don’t suppose you can miss what you’ve never had but still, knowing that I have seen things that they will never see gives me a feeling that is hard to describe. It’s something I can imagine feeling if I were leaving home knowing I’d never return- a kind of lonesomeness, I think.

Sorry if I’ve used this blog as a soapbox but, as A.A. Milne once said: “You can’t always stay in your corner of the forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.”

Thanks for taking the time to visit.

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Last weekend I hiked an old class 6 road for several miles. Here in New Hampshire a class 6 designation means that the road isn’t maintained by either the state or the town and it could be rough going. Class 6 roads are also subject to gates and bars. This one might have been an old logging road or a road between towns long ago.

A lot of the hike was uphill.

There was a nice stream running alongside the road that looked like a good place to fish for brook trout. I wish I could show this spot to my father-he used to love fishing in places like this.

A deer had walked the road not too long before I did. This area is really out in the middle of nowhere so I’m sure many  different animals live here.

Since it was hunting season I wore a fluorescent yellow hat so people with guns could see me.

I saw some beaver ponds than I plan to re-visit next spring-several areas looked like prime orchid habitat. This beaver dam was about as high as I am tall and was holding back a very large amount of water. If it had let go while I was taking this picture I probably wouldn’t be writing this post. The largest beaver dam ever found is in Canada’s Wood Buffalo National Park and spans about 2,800 feet. It has taken several generations of beavers since 1970 to build and it can be seen from space. Imagine how much water it is holding!

I saw some nice beard lichen, as well as many other types. I think this is bristly beard (Usnea hirta.) According to my lichen book, studies have shown the usnic acid found in these lichens has antibiotic properties and, in some cases, is more effective than penicillin in treating burns and wounds.

I also saw some pinkish brown jelly fungus. Some types of this fungus are called wood ears because they resemble an ear. They can fruit throughout winter and it is said that they are edible but have little to no flavor. Why, I wonder, would someone bother to eat something that had no flavor? Especially something that might make them sick.

I saw witch’s butter, which is a yellow to pink to reddish orange or orange jelly fungus, growing on a plank that was part of an old wooden bridge that crossed the stream. I think this one might be an apricot jelly (Tremiscus helvelloides.)

Lemon drops (Bisporella citrina) are another type of fungus. These were so bright against this dark stump that it looked as if there was a spotlight on them. These start life as either flat disks like those in the photo or round orbs. As they age they turn more cup shaped. They are usually very small but grow in large groups.

These bracket fungi were brick red and a bit shriveled. I can’t seem to find them in any of my mushroom books.

I saw a tree that was trying to eat its neighbor.

Another tree had the biggest burl I’ve ever seen on it. This must have been at least 2 feet from top to bottom.  A wood turner could make quite a bowl from this one.  Burl grain is dense, deformed, and very hard, which is why it makes such a good material for bowls. Burl wood was a favorite of Native Americans, who used it for bowls, cups, and other objects.

I saw many evergreen ferns including intermediate wood fern (Dryopteris intermedia,) which I think this is. These ferns look much more fragile than evergreen Christmas ferns.

I think my favorite part of this hike was sitting beside still pools like this one, hearing nothing but beech leaves rattling in the wind. The serenity made the 6 hour walk even more worthwhile.

To the attentive eye, each moment of the year has its own beauty . . . it beholds every hour, a picture which was never seen before, and which shall never be seen again ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thanks for stopping by. Remember-there are hunters in the forest.

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As I write this the weatherman is telling me that we will see the 20s tonight, so that will be the end of flowering for all but the hardiest plants for this year. Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been watching to see which plants were going to hold on until the very end.                       

The last thing I expected to see were low-bush blueberries blossoming (Vaccinium angustifolium,) but here they are. 

This striped wintergreen (Chimaphila maculata) didn’t have any flowers but I think the leaves are as beautiful as the flowers. They turn a deep purple color as it gets colder. This plant is also called spotted wintergreen but I don’t know why because it isn’t spotted at all. Native Americans used this plant medicinally and as a flavoring. It is still used to flavor some candies today. From what I have seen it is very rare in this area, and might be endangered.

A few asters are still blooming where they were protected from frost. Goldenrod (Solidago) also still blooms were it has been protected by overhanging tree branches. Last year I saw a dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) blooming on December 21st. This one might make it to that date-it looked good and healthy.

Fern leaved bleeding heart (Dicentra) can take a lot of cold and often survives light frosts. This plant had a lot of trouble with the dryness this summer. I found this display of chrysanthemums and asters at the local college. They even had ornamental cabbage and kale tucked in here and there. Red clover (Trifolium pratense) is probably the flower most seen here right now. It can take a lot of cold and will survive heavy frost. Yarrow (Achillea millefolium ) is going into its second blooming period and I‘ve been seeing it regularly. Sweet everlasting (Pseudognaphalium obtusifolium) holds its flowers in tight buds that seem to never open, but I came across this plant with open flowers. What look like petals are actually bracts that open and fall off as the seed ripens. This plant is also called rabbit tobacco and resembles pearly everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea.Common Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) is another plant that holds its disc flowers with no petals in tight buds, but these had opened slightly. Tansy is a cultivated plant that has escaped into the wild. It is also a very old plant and has been used medicinally for centuries. Tansy is also an excellent natural insect repellent and in colonial times meat was often packed in its leaves.

Just living is not enough. One must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower ~Hans Christian Andersen

Thanks for stopping in.

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This is another post full of all of those pictures that don’t seem to fit in other posts.

 Well, leave it to beavers. I found a spot where they had dammed up a small stream so close to the road that the road was in danger of flooding. The town will destroy the dam and let the water drain, and then the beavers will dam it back up. This goes on a lot around here and if the beavers persist they will eventually be trapped and relocated.

Beavers can sense when the water level is dropping, even from inside their lodge.

This flock of turkeys wasn’t much better behaved-they were scratching up a golf course.

I tried to puff one of these puff balls but instead of puffing it dribbled a pinkish brown liquid.  That’s because it was a wolf’s milk slime mold (Lycogala epidendrum) and not a puffball.

Eastern larch trees, also called tamarack larch or just tamarack, (Larix laricina) turn brilliant golden yellow in the fall and are one of the few conifers that shed their needles in winter. This tree, for some reason, decided to turn orange this year, which is something I’ve never seen. It could be a Japanese or European larch, which I’ve heard sometimes turn yellow-orange. They also have longer needles and larger cones than our native trees.

I wanted to get as close as I could to these common burdock (Arctium minus) seed heads so we could see what made them stick to everything so readily. As the photo shows, each bract is barbed at the tip like a fish hook. This plant is very dangerous to small birds like goldfinches and hummingbirds that can get caught in its burr clusters. If they can’t break free they will die of starvation. This grasshopper sat in the sun on a post and let me click away as much as I wanted. I thought he might yawn from boredom.

Thousands of virgin’s bower (Clematis virginiana) seed heads can be seen on vines draped over trees and shrubs along roadsides. I like the way they resemble feathers.

Pinesap plants (Hypopitys hypopitys) have also gone to seed. You can tell that they’re pinesaps and not Indian pipes (Monotropa uniflora) by the multiple spent flowers along the stem.  Indian pipes have a single flower at the end of a stalk. Pinesaps are also yellowish to reddish and Indian pipes are usually white. Oriental Bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus) berries are ripe when the orange outer husks open to reveal the dark red berry. Oriental bittersweet is a very invasive vine that smothers shrubs and chokes out trees. One way to tell it from the much less invasive American bittersweet is by the berry cluster locations. American bittersweet (Celastrus scandens) fruits at the tips of its stems and oriental bittersweet fruits all along the stem.

Even though it is also very invasive-so much so that it is now banned from being sold-it’s hard to think of anything quite as beautiful as a grove of burning bush (Euonymus alatus) in the fall woods. This shrub is also called winged euonymus. 

I wondered who had been eating all the mushrooms in the forest before I could get pictures of them, and now I know. I’m surprised that this gray squirrel was snacking while sitting on the ground though, because I usually find mushroom stems and pieces up on logs or flat stones that have been used as tables. 

This part of New Hampshire has an abundant black bear population and I’ve even had them in my yard a few times. I’ve been wondering when I would meet up with one in the woods though, and have been hoping that he or she will have read the same literature that I have and will magically run away when I clap my hands and yell “Hey Bear!!”  Of course, that plan hinges on whether I can still speak and move when we meet. Anyhow, this cave looked like a likely place for a bear to hang out, but I didn’t see one in or around it. 

Every time I see this black cormorant the sun is behind him and he is too far away for a flash to have any effect. This makes for some very challenging photography and I’m beginning to wonder if this bird isn’t smart enough to want it that way. He seems to be getting used to people though, and let me walk right out into the open on shore to get his picture. I’ve read that this spread wing posture is common among these birds but this was the first time I saw him do it. Black cormorants are quite large with wingspans of 5 or 6 feet.

The farther one gets into the wilderness, the greater is the attraction of its lonely freedom~ Theodore Roosevelt

Special note: I have finally gotten around to updating my favorite links, found on the far right side of this page. The blog names that I’ve added are indeed favorites and I read each one daily. If you would like to learn more about nature in other parts of the country and the world, I hope you’ll take a look at each one.

Thanks for stopping by.

 

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