We’re on a temperature roller coaster here in southwestern New Hampshire, with temps in the low 20s one day and high 30s the next. This weekend they say we might hit 50 degrees, so the ice and snow will be melting fast.
Watching water freeze probably wouldn’t be considered high excitement, but if the above shot is compared to the one in last Saturday’s post, taken from the same spot, the slow buildup of ice in the Ashuelot river can be seen.
Last Saturday none of this ice was here.
While I was at the river I walked along the banks to my favorite grove of witch hazel shrubs (Hamamelis virginiana.) I found one blooming here on the day before Christmas, and here it is still blooming. It is supposed to be a late fall bloomer-one of the latest-but seeing it blooming this late is strange. It is only one plant out of many that is doing this, and I’d bet that plant breeders would love to get their hands on it and develop an “ever blooming” witch hazel.
This is what one would expect an American witch hazel to look like at this time of year. The small cups are formed by four bracts that curve back. The petals unfurl from these cups on warm fall days. It takes about a year for the plant to form seeds.
Alder (Alnus) fruits come in the shape of small cones, called strobiles, which contain even smaller seeds, called nutlets. These flat, triangular seeds are an important food source for small birds like chickadees. Alders like a lot of moisture and can be found on the banks of ponds, rivers and streams in full sun.
These are the male staminate flowers of the alder, called catkins, which will open in the spring and release pollen to fertilize the female flowers. The female flowers will then produce the strobiles shown in the previous picture.
Lichens are much easier to see in the winter. This is bristly beard lichen (Usnea hirta) I think. I’m beginning to see that, though they grow almost anywhere, many lichens seem to prefer growing near a water source like a river or a lake. Ledges that trickle groundwater are another good spot to find them.
I’ve never noticed before that the bright red fruits of the burning bush (Euonymus alatus) seem to turn to a kind of orange jelly in the winter. I’m surprised there were any fruits left because birds love them. Burning bush, also called winged euonymus, is one of our most invasive plants and the woods near the river are full of them.
It’s easy to see how whitewash lichen (Phlyctis argena) got its name because it looks like somebody took a paintbrush to the tree trunk that it grows on. This crustose lichen almost always grows on deciduous trees like red maple but can occasionally be found on conifers. It is also called blemished lichen.
I liked these furry looking seed heads but couldn’t figure out what plant they were on. It had a woody stem and stood about a foot and a half tall.
Hoar frost is also called rime and forms when water vapor contacts surfaces which are below freezing. The sun melted the snow around this clump of grass, but then frost formed on it quickly. This frost usually happens when the sky is clear and is also called radiation frost for the radiational cooling that takes place before it forms.
Wilderness touches the heart, mind and soul of each individual in a way known only to himself ~Michael Frome
Thanks for stopping in.