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Archive for July, 2013

Here are just a few of the flowers that I’ve seen recently.

1. Bull Thistle aka Cirsium vulgare

The spiky basal leaf rosettes of bull thistle (Cirsium vulgare) form the first year and the plant sends a flower stalk up the second year, so when you see its flower you are looking at two years of work. This means it is a biennial, rather than an annual or perennial. The introduced, invasive plant can spread only by seed and does not reproduce vegetatively.

2. Little Floating Bladderwort

The swollen, air filled, modified leaf stems of the native little floating bladderwort (Utricularia radiata) radiate out from a point on the stem like the spokes of a wheel. These modified leaf stems do more than keep the plant afloat-each has small hairs on its end that trigger a trap door when touched by an insect. Once the insect has been sucked inside, the trapdoor closes and it is digested.

 3. Little Floating Bladderwort Blossom

The flowers of bladderworts are one of the hardest to photograph of any that I know of.

 4. Swamp Milkweed

Our native swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnate) is such a beautiful color that I find myself just staring at it when I see it. I can’t think of another flower that can quite match the beautiful, deep pink color. My color finding software sees rose pink, orchid, plum, and hot pink. I find this plant growing near ponds but it is rare in this area. I know of only two small colonies.

 5. Purple Loosestrife

Purple loosestrife is a beautiful bot terribly invasive plant that can be found near just about any pond, lake, stream or river. According to the USDA, it grows in all but 7 states and seems bent on national domination. As is often the case, the plant was brought over from Europe. In New Hampshire it is illegal to produce, sell, or import it. Two species of beetle have been introduced to try and control the plant but what usually happens in such cases is, once the introduced plant has been brought under control by the introduced insect, the introduced insect becomes the problem that then needs controlling.

6. Meadow

No matter how invasive it may be I still have to say that when I see purple loosestrife blooming with yellow goldenrod, white boneset, and pink Joe Pye weed, I feel like I’m walking into a Monet painting.  There are few scenes more beautiful than a meadow full of wildflowers, in my opinion.

 7. Joe Pye Weed

Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium,) as one story goes, was named after a Native American herbalist named Joe Pye. Another version says that Joe was a doctor. Whatever the story of how the name came to be, Joe Pye Weed is known to have been used medicinally by Native Americans for centuries. There are several species of this plant including hollow Joe-Pye-weed (E. fistulosum) which has a purplish stem that is hollow. Sweet Joe-Pye-weed (E. purpureum) smells like vanilla. Three-nerved Joe-Pye-weed (E. dubium) has a purple-speckled stalk and smaller, deep purple flowers. Spotted Joe-Pye-weed (E. maculatum) has a flower cluster that is flatter than the others.

 8. Dewdrop

Dewdrop (Dalibarda repens) is also called false violet because of its leaves, and I think that might be part of why I’ve missed it until recently. Its small white flowers dot the forest floor like so many other small white flowers, and that also makes it easy to pass by with just a glance. A closer look reveals something different though-this plant produces other flowers that don’t open but still produce seeds. They are called cleistogamous flowers and are hidden beneath the leaves. The showy flowers like the one in the photo are mostly sterile.

 9. Dewdrop Colony

Though I found a large colony, dewdrop is endangered or threatened in many states.

 10. Downy Rattlesnake Plantain aka Goodyera pubescens

I found this downy rattlesnake plantain orchid (Goodyera pubescens) about 6 weeks ago, but I wasn’t sure if it would blossom until, two weeks later, it started to send up a single flower stalk. Four weeks after that it finally bloomed. I like the evergreen, silvery leaves on this plant even more than the flowers because they’re so unusual. This is supposed to be the most common orchid in New England, but I’ve only seen it once in my life.

 11.Downy Rattlesnake Plantain aka Goodyera pubescens Flower

After waiting so long for them to appear I have to say that the tiny white flowers were kind of anti-climactic but still beautiful, as most orchids are. They are also very hard to photograph in the dim conditions they like to grow in. The pubescens part of the scientific name means downy or hairy, and the photo clearly shows how the plant got that name. The plantain part of the common name comes from the way the leaves resemble those of plantains, and the rattlesnake part of the name comes from the color and pattern of the leaves. Native Americans used this plant to treat snakebite.

12. Downy Rattlesnake Plantain aka Goodyera pubescens

With its flower stalk present downy rattlesnake plantain might stand 6-8 inches tall. Note the blue bead lily and bunchberry plants that grow alongside it. If you compare the size of its leaves to those of a well-known plant like bunchberry, (just above the orchid) you can get an idea of how small it really is.  This helps explain how I walked by without seeing it so many times last year-a single oak leaf could cover the entire plant.

13. Broad Leaved helleborine aka Epipactis helleborine

The second orchid I found wasn’t a surprise because I saw it here last year. This one is called broad leaved helleborine (Epipactis helleborine) and it is an introduced species that originally hails from Europe. According to the USDA it was first found in North America near Syracuse, New York, in 1878 and has now spread to 31 states. The plants that I found stand about knee high, but they can get taller with more light. Its leaves, though smaller, closely resemble those found on false hellebore and the name helleborine in Latin means “like hellebore.” What I find odd is that neither false hellebore leaves nor the leaves of this orchid look at all like hellebore leaves to me.

14. Broad Leaved helleborine aka Epipactis helleborine Flower

These flowers, about as big as a pencil eraser, seemed huge after trying to photograph the tiny downy rattlesnake plantain flowers. Last year the flowers on these plants had much more purple in them, but color change among flowers is common on this plant. In fact, two plants growing side by side can have completely different colored flowers. Personally, I like the purple version more than the one pictured here.

Flowers don’t worry about how they’re going to bloom.  They just open up and turn toward the light and that makes them beautiful.  ~Jim Carrey

Thanks for stopping in.

 

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It takes about a half hour to get there from my house but the trip to Rhododendron State Park in Fitzwilliam, New Hampshire is always worth the effort and is a trip I try to make at least once each week at this time of year. It’s out in the middle of nowhere and is one of those places that approaches what the true wilderness must have looked like before European settlers arrived.

 1. RSP Sign

This park is a true botanical park and the only one of its kind in the state. People from all over the world come here to see the native rhododendrons (Rhododendron maxima) that grow here. The park contains the largest grove of these rhododendrons known to exist in New England. Common in south eastern states, they have reached the northernmost point of their growth here. The park was designated a national Landmark in 1982.

 2. RSP Marginal Wood Fern

Paths are wide and level in most areas. They are also shaded for the most part, and lined with marginal wood fern (Dryopteris marginalis) and many other plants.

3. RSP Wildflower Sign

Signs clearly mark the trails. I took a photo of this one because I come here for the wildflowers rather than the rhodies. Most wildflowers that grow here are quite common and what you would expect to find in New England. Partridgeberry, teaberry, wild sarsaparilla, bunchberry, blue bead lily, pink lady’s slipper, painted trillium and many others too numerous to list grow here. There are other orchids besides lady’s slippers, but they are very hard to find.

 4. RSP Rhododendron Grove

This native rhododendron isn’t like others-it blooms in mid-July rather than in spring. The land that they grow on is low and often quite wet and I think that’s why they have been left alone since Captain Samuel Patch settled here in 1788. The higher surrounding land was farmed but not where the rhodies grew. In 1901 a subsequent owner almost had the land logged off for timber but instead it was bought and given to the Appalachian Mountain Club with the stipulation that it be protected and open to the public forever after.

 5. Native Rhododendron Maxima

The National Park Service calls them pink, but I see white when I look at the blossoms. Though most of these plants are quite tall it is still easy to get close to the blossoms.

6. RSP Trail

The trunks of the shrubs grow in impenetrable thickets in places, and are so tall that you walk through “rhododendron tunnels” as you follow the pathways.

 7. RSP Mushroom

 With all of the large leaves of the rhododendrons overhead reaching for the sun it can be quite dark in some areas. That is why this park is also one of my favorite mushroom hunting places.

8. RSP Slime Mold

You know there isn’t much sunlight reaching the ground when you see slime molds. Sunlight is their number one enemy.

9. RSP Tiny Orange Mushroom

Some of the most interesting things here are small and hard to see. I’ve seen people walking the paths quickly as if they were in a hurry to be out of the park, and I often wonder how much they might have missed. This is the kind of place where you need to walk very slowly while scanning the woods along the sides of the path if you are to see very many wildflowers. I just found an orchid growing right beside the path that I must have walked by at least 20 times last year without seeing. It’s a small thing that isn’t blooming yet, so it doesn’t appear in this post. I’ve also found other plants here that I haven’t ever seen anywhere else.

10. RSP Stone Wall

What makes this place so special for someone like me is how the land has gone virtually untouched by man since at least 1901 because there are certain plants that absolutely refuse to grow in anything but old, undisturbed soil.  Unless a tree falls across a trail nature is allowed free reign here. As you can see in the photo a tree fell on a stone wall a long, long time ago and was left where it fell. This kind of hands off approach is important to many species of plants, and you really never know what you’ll find here.

 11. RSP Pipsissewa

Seeing pipsissewa (Chimaphila umbellate) growing in sunny spots was one of the clues that I might see something even more special. I’ve noticed that this is a plant that prefers growing in undisturbed soil.

12. RSP Striped Wintergreen

Only another plant hunter will understand how my pulse quickened when I saw this striped wintergreen (Chimaphila maculate) with flower buds. This plant is rare in all of New England but seems especially so in this corner of New Hampshire. I know of only two small plants and I’ve never seen them bloom until now. Someone from Connecticut wrote to tell me that they knew of a few colonies there on undisturbed land and I have also heard of isolated colonies in New York where it is listed as exploitably vulnerable, meaning when people see it they pick it or dig it up. The plant grows as far west as Illinois, but it is endangered there and also in Maine.

If you happen to see this plant please do not dig it up or pick the flowers! It will not grow in your garden, so leave it in the forest for the rest of us to enjoy.

 13. RSP Striped Wintergreen Blossom

 There is a fairly good chance that if you live in New England, you have never seen this flower. This was my first ever glimpse of it and I was surprised to see how much the blossom looked like that of pipsissewa. I shouldn’t have been though, because both plants are native wintergreens. If you’d like to see the pipsissewa blossom just click here.

 14. RSP Striped Wintergreen Blossom 3

I hope the small flies that are on the blossoms are pollinators so the plants will set seed.

15. RSP Patch House

Included in the park is the center chimney cape that Captain Samuel Patch built with his son sometime before he died in 1817. Captain Patch served in the Revolutionary war and took part in the battle of Bunker Hill and, though his house has changed hands a few times since being built, it looks to be true to its original footprint.

 16. RSP Sign

The house is closed to the public but what I like most about it is its old gardens that contain some very old plants like valerian and wood betony. This is also the location of the only moth mullein plant that I know of.

If you’d like to read more about the park just click here. I’ll be going back there today hoping to find an orchid finally blooming. I’ve been waiting for 6 weeks to see its flower.

The forest is a peculiar organism of unlimited kindness and benevolence that makes no demands for its sustenance and extends generously the products of its life activity; it provides protection to all beings, offering shade even to the axeman who destroys it. ~ Gautama Buddha

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I’ve had enough vision challenges to know that chasing insects and animals for photographs just wasn’t my thing. Still, that doesn’t mean that I won’t grab shots of things that sit still for more than 30 seconds. I don’t know if it’s the heat and humidity or not but lately a lot of things have been sitting still. I think this is the first post I’ve done that is about nothing but moving things.

1. Belvosia borealis Tachinid Fly

This spiny insect was bigger than a bumblebee and flew slowly from blossom to blossom. I had never seen anything like it and couldn’t find it online so I bought an insect guide. Unfortunately I couldn’t find it in there either so I asked the good folks at bug guide.net if they knew what it was. They tell me that it is a Tachinid Fly (Belvosia borealis.) After much searching for information I found that there are 15 known species of Belvosia in North America, all of which are very similar in appearance.

2. Belvosia borealis Tachinid Fly

According to nature search online, this fly reaches its peak numbers in July and August and takes nectar from flowers. The fly is a parasitoid of the larvae and pupae of moths like the sphinx and silk moth. A parasitoid is different from a parasite by the way it eventually kills its host while a parasite does not.

 3. Female Mallard

This female mallard didn’t hear me coming down the river bank toward her because of the roar of the river. When she turned and saw me she gave me some strange looks and quacked loudly, but since Mallards always seem to be smiling it was hard to take her scolding very seriously. I watched her slip all over the rock she was on until she finally nearly fell off it into the river. Apparently embarrassed that I had witnessed such klutzy behavior, she flew off with one last loud quack.

4. Swallowtail in Daylily

What I think is an eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly was digging deep into this orange daylily blossom.

 5. Large Snapping Turtle

I found this large snapping turtle in the grass quite far away from the river one evening by almost stepping on it. It was probably two feet long from the tip of its nose to the tip of its tail and I was glad I had shoes on because it looked like it could have easily taken a toe or two. It must have been a fast mover because its shell was still wet. It stayed still while I took some photos but when I returned from a walk down the river about ten minutes later it was gone.

Oriental Beetle

This is another bug I had to go to bug guide.net to get identified. I knew it was a beetle but that’s as far as I could go. The experts at bug guide tell me it is an oriental beetle-kind of a cousin of the Japanese beetle. Like its cousins its sole purpose seems to be eating garden plants instead of what it can find in the wild. In this photo it is checking out a coleus.

 7. Peck’s Skipper Butterfly aka Polites peckius

Peck’s skipper (Polites peckius) is supposed to be one of the most common butterflies in New England, but I can’t remember ever seeing it before, even though its brown and tan colors are pretty and it seems like they would be hard to forget. It is said to have black and orange colors on the upper side of its wings.

8. Butterfly on Milkweed

When I bought the insect guide to try and identify the Tachinid fly at the beginning of this post I also bought a butterfly guide to help me with this butterfly. I can get as far as identifying it as a skipper and no further, even with the book. I have also struck out online, so it will probably be the third bug to go to bug guide.net. I wonder if the harsh sunlight has made some of its markings disappear? If so that means that an accurate identification will be difficult. No matter what its name though, I like the look of its green, crushed velvet like wings.

9. Monarch Butterfly

I finally spotted two monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) in a meadow that I visit. One of them was kind enough to sit on this boneset flower flexing its wings while I snapped a few photos. I can’t remember seeing a monarch at all last year.

NOTE: Fellow blogger Mike Powell has pointed out that this is actually a Viceroy butterfly (Limenitis archippus.) The differences are very subtle and have to do with the horizontal line across the hind wing. Mike sent me a very good link to a website that shows and explains the differences clearly:  http://www.learner.org/jnorth/tm/monarch/Viceroy1.html

10 Spider Silhouette

I was on my favorite covered bridge one evening as the sun was setting and I noticed some big spiders repairing their webs in the corners. I took a few photos, not hoping for much because of the poor light, but when I saw this shot it looked like the spider had built a web leading up into the clouds. I don’t know what kind of spider it is, but she’s big and it looks like she’s got a long climb ahead of her.

Each species is a masterpiece, a creation assembled with extreme care and genius. ~Edward O. Wilson

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Here are a few more examples of what is blooming in southern New Hampshire at this time of year.

1. Upright Bedstraw aka Galium album

Upright bedstraw (Galium album) is also called upright hedge bedstraw, and that name is perfect because it describes where this plant is found growing. Where the meadow meets the woods there can be found millions of tiny white, honey scented flowers lighting up the shade. Bedstraws hail from Europe and have been used medicinally for centuries. In ancient times entire plants were gathered and used as mattress stuffing and that’s where the plant gets its common name. The dried leaves are said to smell like vanilla in some species of Gallium and honey in others.

2. Tickseed Coreopsis

Tickseed coreopsis (Coreopsis lanceolata) gets its common name from the way that its seeds cling to clothing like ticks. The plant is also called lance leaved coreopsis and that is where the lanceolata part of the scientific name comes from. Coreopsis is found in flower beds as well as in the wild and can form large colonies if left alone. The yellow flowers are about an inch and a half across and stand at the top of thin, wiry stems.  This is a native plant with a cousin known as greater tickseed that grows in the south.

3. Swamp Candles

Our native swamp candles (Lysimachia terrestris,) not surprisingly, like to have their feet wet most of the time and are common along the edges of ponds and wetlands at this time of year. They bloom at about the same time as whorled loosestrife (Lysimachia quadrifolia) and that is because both plants are closely related. These plants stand about 2-3 feet tall and have a club shaped flower head (raceme) made up of 5 petaled yellow flowers.

4. Swamp Candle

Each yellow petal of a swamp candle flower has two red dots at its base that help form a ring of ten red dots around the five long stamens in the center of the flower. The stamens are streaked with yellow and red.

5. Wild Radish

Wild radish (Raphanus raphanistrum) has pale yellow flowers similar in color to those of the sulfur cinquefoil (Potentilla recta) but they can also be white or pink. This plant is considered a noxious weed because it gets into forage and grain crops. I always find it growing at the edges of corn fields at this time of year, not because it likes growing with corn but because it likes to grow in disturbed soil. Wild radish is in the mustard family and is sometimes confused with wild mustard (Brassica kaber,) but that plant doesn’t have hairy stems like wild radish. 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.

 6. Bouncing Bet

Soapwort (Saponaria officinalis) gets its common name from the way the chopped and boiled leaves produce a soapy lather that is particularly good at removing grease. This plant is a native of Europe and is thought to have been brought over by colonists to be used as a soap substitute. Another common name for this plant is bouncing bet. I’ve heard several stories about how this name came about but I like the one that claims that the curved petals catch the breeze and make the plant bounce back and forth in the wind. The flowers are very fragrant.

 7. Rabbit's Foot Clover

The feathery pink bits on rabbit’s foot clover (Trifolium arvense) are sepals that help hide the tiny white petals on this plant. The sepals are much larger than the petals and make up the larger part of the flower head. This plant is introduced from Europe and grows on river banks and in sandy vacant lots. Its common name comes from the flower’s supposed resemblance to a rabbit’s foot.

 8. Monkey Flower aka Mimulus ringens

I didn’t think I’d see any native Allegheny monkey flowers (Mimulus ringens) this year because it usually starts blooming much earlier than it did. This plant likes sandy soil and sunny, wet places so I don’t see it that often. It is also called square stemmed monkey flower, for obvious reasons. The small but beautiful flowers are supposed to resemble the face of a smiling monkey, but I don’t see it. Does anybody else see a monkey here?

9. Canada Thistle

Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense) is a small plant that is hated for its extensive root system that makes it almost impossible to get rid of in pastures. Not only does it have a taproot but also a large fibrous root system that can spread horizontally for several feet.  Canada thistle isn’t anywhere near as large or prickly as other thistles, but it does have small prickles on its leaf margins. I didn’t see the crab spider on the underside of the blossom until I looked at the photo.

10. Queen Anne's Lace

Everyone seems to be taking photos of Queen Anne’s lace from the backside this year, so since it is such a well-known plant that doesn’t need much in the way of explanation I thought I’d try it too. This plant is also called wild carrot and if you dig up its root and crush it, you’ll find that it smells exactly like a carrot. It should never be eaten unless you are absolutely certain of the plant’s identity however, because it closely resembles some of the most toxic plants known.

11. Hedge Bindweed aka Calystegia sepium

It was another day with bright, harsh sunlight, so I didn’t have much hope for flower photography, but this backlit hedge bindweed blossom (Calystegia sepium) stopped me in my tracks. This has been one of my favorite flowers for a long time-I can remember admiring it even as a small boy-but back then I called it a morning glory. Though it is in the morning glory family hedge bindweed is a perennial, while true morning glories (Ipomoea) are annuals.

12. Fragrant White Water Lily

I was determined to get close enough to a fragrant white water lily (Nymphaea odorata) to get a decent shot and I did, but I also got my feet soaking wet. I wish I could have gotten close enough to smell it, but I would have needed a boat for that. Each blossom of this plant opens for just three days to let insects visit and after that the stalk coils like a spring, dragging the flower under water where it sets its seed. After several weeks the seeds are released into the water so currents can carry them to suitable locations to germinate.

I should like to enjoy this summer flower by flower, as if it were to be the last one for me.~ Andre Gide

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I showed two or three examples of slime molds in an earlier post but since then I’ve been seeing them everywhere and have to do something with all the photos, so here they are. Slime molds fascinate me because of their almost endless variety of shapes, colors and forms. They can be hard to find sometimes because they avoid sunlight and grow only in dark places. This means that photographing them can be challenging, but it can be done. Slime molds can also be very beautiful in my opinion, so I’m going to try to go easy on the scientific jargon and just let you enjoy looking at them.

 1. Large Yellow Many Headed Slime Mold

Some slime molds can be very small and others quite large. This one in its plasmodium stage was easily as big as a dinner plate. When slime molds are in this state they are usually moving-very slowly. Slime molds are very sensitive to drying out so they usually move at night, but they can be found on cloudy, humid days as well. I think this might be many headed slime mold (Physarum polycephalum.)

 2. Yellow Tooth Slime Mold

This photo shows how slime molds, even though sometimes covering a large area, are actually made up of hundreds or thousands of single entities. These entities move through the forest looking for food or a suitable place to fruit and eventually come together in a mass. I think this one might be spreading yellow tooth slime (Phanerochaete chrysorhiza.)

 3. Yellow Tooth Slime Mold Closeup

These are the “teeth” that make up the spreading yellow tooth slime mold in the photo above. They are fruiting bodies that will release spores produced on their surfaces. These fruiting bodies are so small that they are rarely able to be seen with the naked eye.

 4. Unknown Gray Slime Mold

From a distance this slime mold looked like any old gray, fuzzy forest mold, but as I got closer I saw that it was actually thousands of very thin filaments. I’ve never seen anything like it and can’t find it in books or online.

5. Closeup of Slime Mold

This is a close up of the slime mold in the previous photo. It looks like a pile of tangled fishing line, but each filament looked smaller in diameter than a human hair. I don’t know what benefit there would be to a living thing taking this form, unless it is to increase its surface area. It is certainly one of the oddest things I’ve ever seen in the woods and if I hadn’t seen it for myself I think I’d have a hard time believing that it was alive.

 6. Unknown White Slime Mold

I’ve seen photos online of slime molds very similar to this one but the people who took the photos didn’t have any more luck identifying it than I did. For now all I can say is that it is a white slime mold, possibly a Physarum, in the plasmodium stage. I had to use a flash for many of these photos because of the cloudy day and forest darkness.

 7. Possible Yellow Tooth Slime mold

I think this might be another example of spreading yellow tooth slime (Phanerochaete chrysorhiza.)

 8. Unknown White Slime Mold

This is another white slime mold in its plasmodium stage. Its name and species are unknown to me, but I think this one is very beautiful-almost like coral that has somehow escaped the sea.

9. White Slime Mold

This one won’t win any slime mold beauty contests that I happen to be judging, but it is unusual and the only example of the kind that I’ve seen. I think it might be chocolate tube slime mold (Stemonitis splendens.) The many tiny filaments were hanging from the underside of a log.

 10. White Finger Slime Mold

I showed a photo of this white finger slime (Ceratiomyxa fruticulosa var. fruticulosa) a post or two ago but I’m seeing it everywhere and I like it.

 11. Fuligo septica Slime Mold

I think this might be dog vomit slime mold (Fuligo septica.) That’s an unfortunate name for a very interesting bit of nature. In the plasmodium stage this slime mold is transparent before it goes on to become a sponge-like mass called an aethalium, which is pictured here. An aethalium  is a “large, plump, pillow-shaped fruiting body.” This is also called scrambled egg slime mold because in Mexico, when it is in its plasmodium stage, it is collected and eaten like scrambled eggs. This is usually done on nights with the light of a full moon so the transparent plasmodium can be more easily seen.

 12. Yellow Fuligo septica Slime Mold

I think that this is another example of Fuligo septica. At this stage the slime mold forms a hard crust that eventually degrades and darkens in color prior to releasing its spores.

 13. Fuligo septica Slime Mold

This photo shows the darkening process of Fuligo septica just starting.

 14. Blue Slime Mold

One of the most interesting things about slime molds is the many colors that they come in and how they can change color and form seemingly at will. When some slime molds dry out they become similar to powder on dry leaves. I see this most often with yellow and orange slime molds, but here it has happened with a blue one.  Slime molds can be almost any color. Yellow and white seem to be most common but they can also be green, pink, purple, blue, red, orange, brown, and black.  Part of the fun of slime molds, for me, is trying to find all the various colors and shapes. This is only the second time I’ve seen blue.

I hope you find slime molds as beautiful and fascinating as I do. If so, the next time you walk in the woods after a rain on a humid summer day, look a little more carefully in those dark places that you wouldn’t expect anything to be growing in. You might be surprised by what you find.

I love nature, I just don’t want to get any of it on me.~ Woody Allen

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Another post full of things that don’t fit in other posts.

 1. Deformed Chanterelle Mushroom

I’ve noticed that something is causing chanterelle mushroom deformation this year. I’ve seen this happening in several different places so I was curious as to what might be causing it. After doing some reading on mushroom deformation I found that large amounts of water will cause deformation in chanterelles. That makes sense since we’ve had rain nearly every day for the last 3 weeks. This will not make mushroom hunters happy because chanterelles are considered a great delicacy.

 2. Chanterelle Mushroom

This is what a chanterelle should look like. This one was growing very near to several deformed ones. Why some were deformed and others were not depends on their water intake, I suppose. It seems odd to see mushrooms taking in enough moisture to hurt themselves.

 3. Poplar Sunburst Lichen

I stopped by a local tree to check on an old friend. This poplar sunburst lichen (Xanthomendoza hasseana) hasn’t gotten much bigger since the last time I saw it, but it’s still every bit as beautiful. The white material is new though, and I’m hoping it’s another lichen rather than some kind of disease.

 4. Eastern Spruce Adelgid Gall on Blue Spruce

Years ago when my son and daughter were little I planted a small Colorado blue spruce so we could have an outdoor lighted Christmas tree. I was looking at it the other day and noticed these strange growths on some branches that turned out to be galls, which are caused by a tiny insect called the eastern spruce gall Adelgid (Adelges abietis.) Thankfully the adelgids won’t kill the tree but if I prune the galls off before the eggs hatch it will interrupt their life cycle and put an end to the galls. I hope.

5. Moth Wing

I used to work at a place with overhead lights that stayed on all night and in the morning the pavement under the lights would be covered with moth and other insect’s wings. The wings were all that was left after the bats had fed. I found this wing on a leaf. It looked like its owner had tangled with a spider web before becoming a snack.

6. Black Locust Thorns

Earlier in the season I posted some honey locust flowers that several people thought were black locust flowers. I didn’t have the above photo of black locust thorns or the one below of honey locust thorns to illustrate my explanation, but the thorns are the easiest way to tell the two plants apart. Black locust thorns always grow in pairs where the leaf petioles meet the stem and are relatively short.

7. Honey Locust Thorn

Honey locust thorns grow singly and appear right out of the bark on branches and trunk. They can be 3 to 6 inches long and sometimes branch like the example in the photo. These are thorns that you don’t want to run into accidentally.

8. Canada Goose

Canada geese usually turn their backs and walk away but this one seemed as interested in me as I was in him. (Or her.) Maybe it was the designated decoy, keeping me busy while the flock waddled off. There were probably thirty geese in this pasture, including goslings.

9. Deep Blue Dragonfly

This dragonfly (or damsel fly) was deep indigo blue, including its wings, and was a very beautiful insect. I’ve looked online for it but can’t even find anything similar. I suppose that I should get an insect ID guide.

10. Japanese Beetle

No need for a guide for Japanese beetles-I’ve known them for years. I have to say though, that I’ve never noticed the white dots like this one has. After doing some searching I found that these dots are the eggs of the tachinid fly, and once they hatch the larva will burrow into the beetle and eat it. Then they will become flies and lay eggs on even more Japanese beetles. This fly has been found to parasitize 20 percent of the Japanese beetles in Connecticut alone, so if you see a Japanese beetle with white spots, let it be. Biological control of a pest is a good thing.

11. Bee on Knapweed

Butterflies and bumblebees love knapweed, I’ve discovered. They seem to be so engrossed in the flowers that they ignore me completely and let me snap away as long as I want.

12. Ox-Eye daisy

The yellow center of a common ox-eye daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare) is made up of tiny yellow disk florets that bloom from the edge of the disk to the center. These florets are perfect, meaning they have both male and female parts, while the white ray flowers, commonly called petals, are female. It is said that when these “petals” are pulled in the classic loves me / loves me not way the results are almost always favorable, because over 90 percent of ox-eye daisy flowers have an uneven number of petals.

13. Thunderheads

Strong afternoon thunderstorms have plagued this part of the state for 3 weeks now, causing flash flooding in some areas and swelling rivers to bank-full conditions. The air is so saturated it feels like you’re swimming through it. Couple that with hot afternoon sunshine and you have the two things a thunderstorm needs to form. On almost any afternoon the thunderheads grow to tens of thousands of feet and then the downpours start at between 4 and 5 pm. I hope it is a lot drier wherever you are.

 14. Ashuelot River on 7-4-13

This is a recent view of the Ashuelot River, showing how close it is to the top of its banks. It’s also very muddy, meaning that it is carrying tons of New Hampshire soil to the Atlantic.

Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass on a summer day listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is hardly a waste of time.  ~John Lubbock

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Here are a few more of the wildflowers that I’ve seen recently.

 1. Chicory

Blue has always been my favorite color and I can’t think of another flower more blue than chicory (Cichorium intybus.) I’ve read that chicory flowers can also rarely be white or pink, but I’ve never seen them. These plants aren’t real common here but you can find small colonies dotted here and there throughout the countryside. The large, inch and a half diameter flowers on 4 foot tall plants means they’re easy easy to see. The roasted and ground root of chicory makes a passable coffee substitute.

 2. Blue Vervain

Vervain (Verbena hastata) is described as having reddish blue or violet flowers but I see the same beautiful blue color that I see in the chicory flower in the previous photo. Somebody else must have seen the same thing, because they named the plant blue vervain. Sometimes color blindness isn’t so bad! Vervain flowers are considerably smaller than chicory, but there are usually so many blooming that they’re as easy to spot as that plant is. Vervain can get quite tall and has erect, terminal flower clusters. The bitter roots of this plant were used medicinally by Native Americans.

3. Common Speedwell aka Veronica officinalis

Common speedwell (Veronica officinalis) is another flower that looks blue to me, but that some books describe as purple. In other books I’ve seen it described as “blue to white.” In any case the flowers are very small, so you usually have to lie on your stomach in the dirt to get a good photo of them. This plant is a European native and its leaves were once used as a substitute for tea there. It has also been used medicinally for centuries.

4. Ants on Bristly Sarsaparilla

This bristly sarsaparilla (Aralia hispida) flower head had ants all over it, so I’m assuming that’s how it is pollinated. This plant is a native but it isn’t common and isn’t well known. I find it growing in full sun in very dry, sandy waste areas. It is listed by the USDA as endangered in many states. The stems are covered in short, sharp, bristly hairs and that’s where its common name comes from. The lower part of its stem is woody and persists throughout winter, so technically it is considered a shrub.

5. Moth Mullein

Moth mullein (Verbascum blattaria) gets its common name from the way the flowers’ stamens resembled moth antennae to the person who named it. This plant was introduced from Europe and found in Pennsylvania in 1818 and immediately escaped gardens to become a roadside weed now found in every state except Wyoming and Alaska. It isn’t very common in this area however-I only know of one plant. Its flowers can also be white.

6. Tall Meadow Rue

In early spring it is easy to confuse tall meadow rue (Thalictrum pubescens) with columbine because their leaves look so much alike, but as you watch the plant grow to sometimes 6 feet in height it is obvious that it isn’t columbine. The flowers of tall meadow rue don’t have any petals-the yellow tipped white parts are male stamens on the example in the photo. Female plants have white pistils that appear much like the male stamens at a glance. It’s appropriate that these plants bloom near the 4th of July because they remind me of “bombs bursting in air.”

7. Partridgeberry

Partridge berry (Mitchella repens) flowers have filled the woods this year. This is an evergreen trailing plant that can form dense mats that are quite large. The strange thing about partridgeberry is how its two flowers fuse at the base to form one ovary. In one flower the male stamens are long and the female pistil is short. In the other flower the female pistil is longer than the male stamens. This prevents self-fertilization. The two flowers produce one red berry that bears two dimples, showing where the flowers were.  I always try to show the very hairy white petals when I take photos of partridgeberry.

8. American Wintergreen

 American wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens) is just starting to open its small white flowers that look a lot like blueberry flowers. Wintergreens get their common name from the way they stay green in the winter-what we call evergreen-and this plant is probably the most well-known among natives because of its shiny green leaves that turn purple when it gets colder. I call the plant teaberry because its red berries taste just like teaberry gum. My grandmother always called it checkerberry.

 9. Shinleaf

Shinleaf (Pyrola elliptica) is a common wildflower in the wintergreen family. Many plants in the wintergreen family contain compounds that are very similar to aspirin, and shinleaf was used by Native Americans as a poultice on injured shins and other parts of the body. That’s how this plant gets its common name. Shinleaf leaves form a rosette at the base of the single, 4-5 inch tall flower stalk.

10. Shinleaf Blossom

Ten orange tipped, pollen bearing stamens hide under the upper two petals on shinleaf blossoms. Shinleaf is pollinated by flies.

11. Shinleaf Blossom

The best way to identify shinleaf is by the long, curved style that hangs down from the center of the flower. It’s easy to see how an insect would use the stigma at the end of the style for a landing pad and leave sticky pollen behind.

12. Pipsissewa Colony

Pipsissewa (Chimaphila umbellate or Pyrola umbellata) is also in the wintergreen family and recently I found a large colony of it. This plant likes to grow in groups, but they are usually made up of 10-15 plants. This group had many hundreds of plants and is the largest I’ve seen. The shiny green leaves make this plant easy to find.

13. Pipsissewa Flower

 Pipsissewa has nodding flowers that grow quite close to the ground and this makes getting a good photo difficult. Luckily I found a plant with a bent flower stalk and was able to get a look at the large center pistil and the 10 odd shaped anthers. It is said that the plant’s common name comes from the Native American word pipsiskeweu which means “it breaks into small pieces.” This refers to their belief that pipsissewa would break up kidney stones.

14. Striped Wintergreen

Yet another plant in the wintergreen family is striped wintergreen (Chimaphila maculata,) but unlike pipsissewa, teaberry, and shinleaf, this plant is rare in this area. In fact, it is considered rare in Canada and all of New England. I’ve only seen two in my lifetime and the plant pictured is one of them. This plant is also called spotted wintergreen or striped pipsissewa. The flowers are very beautiful and I’m hoping that I’ll be able to find this plant again so I can show them to you. Native Americans used striped wintergreen medicinally for a variety of internal and external ailments.

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

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We’ve had a lot of rain here in southwestern New Hampshire over the last two weeks and all of the sudden the dark places in the forests are showing some color.

 1. Orange Mushroom

There is a mushroom called Caesar’s mushroom (Amanita caesarea,) so why shouldn’t there be one called false Caesar’s mushroom (Amanita parcivolvata)? I think that’s what this one is but even after reading through three mushroom guide books I’m still not 100% sure.

 2. Purple Edged Bracket Fungi

 Violet toothed polypore (Trichaptum biformis) looks a little like turkey tail fungus (Trametes versicolor,) and I’m fairly certain that I have misidentified it as such here on this blog. Once you get to know the two though, it’s obvious that the purple edges on these are not found on turkey tails. I wish I had taken a photo of the undersides of these as well because it is supposed to be a beautiful lilac purple color and that’s something I’ve never noticed before.

 3. Slug on a Mushroom

A slug was feeding on this mushroom.

 4. Snail Shell

I know that slugs and snails are two different critters but there was a perfectly good shell sitting empty on this leaf that the slug in the previous photo might have been happy to have known about.

5. Unknown Wasp

There is a wasp called the cicada killer (Sphecius speciosus,) but I’m not sure if this is one because their yellow stripes seem to be wider than those on this example. I’m also not sure if the other insect is a cicada. As I was putting this post together I heard about a wasp that is being considered to provide biological control of the emerald ash borer. Emerald ash borers kill ash trees and we have an infestation of them here in New Hampshire but again, I don’t know if the wasp in the photo has killed one or not. This photo asks more questions than it answers, so I’m hoping that someone reading this will be able to answer them.

 6. Indian Pipes

I’ve never seen as many Indian pipes (Monotropa uniflora) as I have this year, including some very large colonies of them. My guess is they love heat, humidity and rain-all of which we’ve had plenty of lately.

 7. Horsehair Mushrooms on Tree

 Horsehair mushrooms (Marasmius rotula) fruit on rotting wood, but I found these growing on the base of a living tree. These tiny mushrooms have caps no bigger than the diameter of a pea that sit on black stalks that are half the diameter of a pencil lead. They like dark, moist places and can be very tough to get a good photo of.

8. Tiny Brown Mushroom

The pine needles scattered around this mushroom show just how small it is. Xeromphalina cauticinalis mushrooms fruit on debris found under conifers, and that’s just where this one was growing. This mushroom is supposed to be a western species that is only occasionally found in the east.

 9. White Honeycomb Slime Mold

You can tell that it has been rainy, hot and humid when slime molds start to appear. Despite the name slime molds aren’t molds and they aren’t always slimy. Unfortunately, though everybody argues about what they aren’t, nobody seems to know exactly what they are. The easiest way for me to think of them is as a single celled organism like an amoeba, with thousands of nuclei.

No matter how you choose to classify them, slime molds can be very beautiful things, as the honeycomb coral slime mold (Ceratiomyxa  fruticulosa  var. porioides) in the above photo shows. When conditions are right and food is running low this organism will produce the white honeycomb shapes seen in the photo. They do this prior to fruiting, which is when they create the spores needed to reproduce. Without magnification this slime mold looks like a white smudge on a log and is far too small for me to see in any great detail. I’m always surprised when I finally see what is in the photos.

10. White Finger Slime Mold

White finger slime (Ceratiomyxa fruticulosa var. fruticulosa) is a good description of the way this slime mold appears. It’s hard to relate just how small these are, but in each ‘finger” would be less than the diameter of a toothpick, and in length possibly 1/16th of an inch. As if that didn’t make photographing them tough enough sunlight is an enemy of slime molds, so they are only found in very dark places like the undersides of logs.

 11. Yellow Slime Mold with Sow Bug

This sow bug, which also called a wood louse, helps show just how small slime molds are.

 12. Many Headed Slime Mold

 Many headed slime mold (Physarum polycephalum) likes decaying organic matter like leaves and logs because this is where it finds its food supply of bacteria, yeasts, mushroom spores and microbes. The slime mold in the photo is in a vegetative phase called plasmodium, which is when it can move by ”streaming ” at about 1 millimeter per hour. The plasmodium is made up of networks of protoplasmic veins and many nuclei which move to seek out food. Once it finds something it likes it surrounds it and secretes enzymes to digest it.

Only spread a fern-frond over a man’s head and worldly cares are cast out, and freedom and beauty and peace come in.  ~John Muir

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I knew that false hellebores were blooming so I set off to find some over the past weekend. I’ve been promising for almost two years that I would show you the flowers, but I’ve had quite a time finding plants that are mature enough to blossom.

1. Forest Path

One of the places I visited had a path I like to follow. Can you see it? Why, I wondered as I climbed, is everything worth seeing uphill? Why, I have to ask, can’t beautiful things ever be found on flat, level ground? I suppose that one of the answers would be that it is hard to find a waterfall on level ground.

2. Woodland Boulder

I took a rest from climbing to get a shot of this boulder covered with polypody ferns. They are living up to their common name of rock cap fern. It wasn’t until I got home and looked at the photo that I saw all the bracket fungi on the tree in the background.

3. Forest Bench

I don’t know who carried this piece of plank here, but it makes a nice spot to sit and catch your breath, so I’m glad they did.

4. False Hellebore Flowering

This is what I came to find-the flowers of false hellebore (Veratrum viride.) These plants are hard to find in flower because they do so only when they are mature, which means ten years or more old. When they do blossom they do so erratically, so you never really know what you’ll find. When they finally bloom they carry hundreds of flowers in large, branched terminal clusters.

5. False Hellebore Flowers

The small flowers aren’t much to look at, but it’s easy to see that the plant is in the lily family by their shape. These flowers are the same color green as the rest of the plant but have bright yellow anthers. There are nectar producing glands that ants feed on and when they do, they pollinate the flowers. Animals leave this plant alone because it is one of the most toxic plants known, and people have died from eating it by mistaking it for something else.

6. Waterfalls

This is the other reason I came to this particular place. Though this stream was within its banks there was evidence everywhere that it had flooded recently-probably just the night before. We’ve had a lot of rain over the last week including some thunderstorms that triggered flash flood warnings, so I wasn’t surprised to see that it had flooded. Roads have washed away in some towns.

7. Evidence of Flooding

The flooding wasn’t strong enough to take down trees but it sure flattened almost everything else in its path. I learned a few things here-first and foremost was that, although false hellebore plants appear to have weak stems, they are actually very strong. They were one of very few plants left standing in the path that the water carved out of the forest.

8. Grass Under Water

This grass was underwater and it isn’t aquatic, so the water level of the stream was still several inches higher than it had been when the grasses grew.

9. Yellow Button Mushroom

All of the warmth and moisture was prompting some mushrooms to fruit. I think this one was possibly fly agaric (Amanita muscaria) in the button stage. It was about half the size of a grape.

10. Marlow Church

All but one of these photos were taken in a small town called Marlow, New Hampshire, which is about a half hour north of Keene. I thought I’d include the kind of photo that you see in tourist brochures-almost a cliché view of the small New England town, but those of us who live here enjoy it. The mill pond in the foreground is part of the Ashuelot River, which has appeared in this blog many times.

 11. White Water Lily 2

The mill pond is full of fragrant white water lilies (Nymphaea odorata) that I couldn’t get very close to, so my camera’s zoom was almost fully extended for this one.

 12. Ashuelot Rapids on 6-30-13

 Not long after it leaves the mill pond the Ashuelot River is squeezed between narrower banks and so begins to rage-especially because of all the rain we’ve had. This is a favorite spot for kayakers and I saw two of them unloading kayaks as I was leaving. You wouldn’t catch me riding a tiny plastic boat through these churning waters. I stood on an old wooden plank bridge to take this photo and that was enough for me, because the water level had almost reached the underside of the bridge. What does someone in a kayak do, I wondered, when faced with a bridge they can’t get under while speeding down a raging river? Maybe I’m better off not knowing-I’d still like to buy a kayak someday.

 13. Ashuelot Rapids on 6-29-13

If you have ever been swimming and heard the noise that somebody makes by doing what we used to call a cannonball, imagine that sound repeated over and over countless times in rapid succession. It creates a loud roar that is heard long before you can even see the river.

 

 14. Butterfly on Knapweed 2

 A cabbage white butterfly was interested in the knapweed (Centaurea) that grows along the river bank and let me stand there taking photos as it went from blossom to blossom. Mike Powell showed an excellent close up of this butterfly recently on his blog that revealed its green speckled eyes. They were quite beautiful-and unexpected.

It is life, I think, to watch the water. A man can learn so many things. Nicholas Sparks

Thanks for coming by. Have a great 4th of July.

 

 

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