Last week I was lucky enough to have two extra days off so I used some of that time to explore the Ashuelot River at a spot that I visit often.
This is a relatively mild spring for the river. The snowstorms have been spaced far enough apart so there wasn’t three feet of snowmelt to fill its banks. This picture shows a wide, flat area where the river can stretch out a bit if need be. Many unusual and beautiful wildflowers grow here and in the woods beyond.
If you want to look for it winter can still be found in shady, out of the way places, but for the most part open land is clear of snow. What is left in the woods is melting fast now and might be gone within a week.
In quiet backwaters green shoots of aquatics are starting to appear. There were hundreds of tiny plants here but I couldn’t get close enough to identify them.
Here and there along its banks, where the current runs slow, the river deposits fine silt. Over the years it has built up so it doesn’t wash away in high water. This is an excellent place to look for animal tracks. Deer, raccoon, muskrat, beaver; all seem to come through here at one time or another.
Others whose tracks I’m not sure of also come through here. Whether Fox, coyote, or dog, it’s hard to tell.
There are enough interesting plants and wildflowers here to make someone interested in nature get on their knees for a close-up eventually. Unfortunately the place is also full of poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans,) so you have to watch where you’re kneeling. Even berries and leafless vines can get you itching. In the summer when I come through here I always keep well covered, no matter how hot it is.
This peat moss (Sphagnum) is one plant that had me kneeling over it, trying to identify it while trying to avoid poison ivy. I bought a new field guide for mosses called Common Mosses of the Northeast and Appalachians by Karl B. McNight and others. It’s a very helpful book but it has 10 different peat moss examples in it and I can’t decide which one is the one in the photo. I’m leaning towards tricky peat moss (Sphagnum fallax) which grows at the water’s edge and can stand being submerged. I’ve seen these plants under water many times.
Not too far in the past people used the river as a dumping ground, and every so often it will wash a bit of that history up on its banks as if to remind us of our past crimes against nature. Thankfully we came to our senses and now fish have returned to this stretch of river.
Bitter wart lichen (Pertusaria amara) and many others grow on the ironwood trees (Carpinus caroliniana) along the river. One way to tell if you have identified this lichen correctly is to taste a bit of it. If it has a very bitter taste, it is bitter wart lichen. Unfortunately nobody can tell me how long the bitter taste lasts, so I haven’t tried it.
From a distance it looked like someone had left a white flower on this old log but it turned out to be a dried out bracket fungus.
Devil’s guts, devil’s hair, devil’s ringlet, pull-down, strangle weed, and witch’s hair are all common names for dodder ( Cuscuta) and may give a clue to its purpose, which is to suck the life from other plants as a parasite. Dodder is a vine that has little chlorophyll of its own and so must rely on a host plant for food. Once it has found a living host the vine’s root attachment to the soil dies and it lives completely off the host, giving nothing in return. These annual vines flower in summer and grow pea sized seed pods like those in the photo. Here along the Ashuelot River, goldenrod is the plant most likely to become food for the dodder vine.
Sit by a river. Find peace and meaning in the rhythm of the lifeblood of the Earth. ~Anonymous
Thanks for coming by.