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Archive for August, 2013

Wildflower posts are bound to get shorter soon, but for now there’s still plenty to see.

 1. Black Eyed Susan

Our native black eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) can be found in all fifty states and all across Canada. It is believed that they got their start in the great prairies and moved to other locations from there. They were noted in Maryland in colonial times and became that state’s state flower. I saw my first one this year at the end of June and here they are, still blooming.

2. Blue Vervain

Blur vervain (Verbena hastata ) is almost done blooming. You can tell that by the way the flowers are at the tip of the flower stalk. They start at the bottom, a few at a time, and work their way up the stalk. Once done flowering the stalks look almost reptilian.

 3. Bladderwort on Shore

This is something I wasn’t expecting-a bladderwort growing in soil. Apparently, from what I’ve read, this aquatic plant will grow in soil if the conditions are agreeable, but what I don’t understand is how it gets any nutrition when it does. Bladders on its underwater leaves have small trap doors that open quickly to trap insects, making it a carnivorous plant, but if those underwater bladders are buried in soil, then how do they work?

 4. Bladderwort on Shore

This is a close up of the strange terrestrial bladderwort (Utricularia.) It looks like any other bladderwort.

 5. Chicory

Another thing that I never thought I’d see is chicory (Cichorium intybus) blooming in August, but here it is.

 6. Burdock Flowers

Burdock is another import that has escaped and is commonly seen on roadsides and in waste places. Its flowers aren’t real big and showy but they are beautiful. Once the flowers are finished the round, barbed seed heads that we all know so well appear. I read recently that burdock seed heads were the inspiration for Velcro. Unfortunately they can also act as snares and catch small birds that often aren’t able to free themselves.

7. Common Mullein

Common mullein (Verbascum thapsus ) is known as a pioneer plant, meaning that it is often first to colonize burned or disturbed areas. Each plant can produce 100,000 or more seeds each year. Another name for it is flannel leaf because of its large, soft, fuzzy leaves. At one time the plant was thought to be useful in fighting leprosy and Pliny the Elder of ancient Rome used the warmed leaves as poultices for arthritis. Its tall persistent seed stalks really stand out in winter. These seed stalks were dipped in tallow and used as torches by Roman legionnaires. This plant is from Europe and is considered invasive.

 8. Ground Nut Blossoms

The strange, brownish flowers of groundnut (Apios americana) remind me of the helmets once worn by Spanish explorers. Swollen underground stems on this vining plant form small tubers that look like potatoes but have three times the protein that potatoes do. Groundnuts were a very important food source for Native Americans and the Pilgrims survived on them when their corn supply ran out in 1623. Henry David Thoreau wrote that they tasted better boiled than roasted. The only thing keeping the groundnut from becoming a commercially viable food crop is the two to three years it takes for its tubers to form.

9. Hog Peanut Flower

 Native hog peanut (Amphicarpaea bracteata ) flowers are small but beautiful. Like the groundnut in the previous photo the plant is a legume in the bean family.  Like a true peanut, after pollination some of its flowers bury themselves in the soil and form a small, edible, bean like seeds that give the plant its common name. Mice collect these seeds and store them in large caches that Native Americans used to search for. They can be eaten raw or cooked. The plant also forms inch long, pea-like, above ground pods that contain three or four inedible seeds.

10. Hog Peanut Foliage

Hog peanut is a strong, wiry vine that can cover large areas of forest floor and choke out other plants. It is also good a tripping up hikers.

11. Morning Glory

I found this morning glory (Ipomoea) growing at the town landfill. I love its deep blue color but I find the ones that have more white in their throat, like “heavenly blue” more visually pleasing.

12. Tansy

 Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) is a European native that has been cultivated for centuries. The flat flower heads are made up of many button like disc flowers-almost like a daisy without the white ray flowers that we call petals. Tansy is a natural insect repellent and was used as such in colonial times. Dried tansy added to the straw in mattresses was said to keep bedbugs away. Most tansy plants are seen in gardens but it had naturalized itself in New England by 1785 and can still be found growing along roadsides like the one pictured was doing. The ancient Greeks grew tansy for medicinal use but it should be considered toxic.

13. Rabbit's Foot Clover

Rabbit’s foot clover (Trifolium arvense) has appeared here a few times, but not bejeweled with dew like this one.

Flowers have an expression of countenance as much as men and animals. Some seem to smile; some have a sad expression; some are pensive and diffident; others again are plain, honest and upright, like the broad-faced sunflower and the hollyhock. ~Henry Ward Beecher

Thanks for stopping in.

 

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I call these posts “moving things” so I don’t have to call them birds, insects, amphibians, and mammals or some other long, boring title. Since plants don’t move from place to place on their own accord “moving things” in this case means something other than plants. Long time readers know I don’t usually try to photograph these critters, but when they pose for me like these did I can’t resist.

1. Viceroy Butterfly

I posted a photo of a Viceroy butterfly (Limenitis archippus) here not too long ago and mistakenly called it a monarch. Thanks to fellow blogger Mike Powell I learned that monarchs don’t have the black stripe seen here on the lower wing. I’ve seen quite a few viceroys this year but no monarchs.

 2. White Admiral Butterfly aka Limenitis arthemis

A white admiral butterfly (Limenitis arthemis arthemis) landed on a maple tree to get some sun.  Every time I tried to get a photo of this one it closed its wings just before I clicked the shutter release. After doing that at least 10 times it finally let me get a shot with its wings open. Trying to guess what a butterfly is going to do next can be frustrating.

 3. Red Spotted Purple Butterfly aka Limenitis arthemis astyanax

This red spotted purple butterfly ( Limenitis arthemis astyanax) landed on the damp sand in front of me as if to show me the differences between it and the white admiral in the previous photo. The white admiral and red spotted purple are essentially different forms of the same butterfly. I think the harsh sunlight made this one’s red spots almost disappear.

 4. Great Blue Heron

The water that this great blue heron was in was so covered with duckweed, pollen and / or algae that I didn’t see how he could see anything in it to catch. For as long as I watched him he didn’t move, so maybe there was a clear spot he was looking through.

 5. Frog on a Rock

This bullfrog (Rana catesbeiana) would have made a tasty snack for the heron, but he was in a much cleaner pond sitting on a rock. I just read that bullfrogs will eat just about anything that moves, including other bullfrogs.

 6. Toad

Toads probably have better luck getting away from herons than frogs do. This one was out in the woods, away from any water. I’ve seen a lot of much smaller toads in the forest too. Like the bullfrog in the previous photo, this one was big enough so it would have been a handful if I’d picked it up. I think this is an American toad (Bufo americanus.) We only have one other in New Hampshire-Fowler’s toad.

 7. Painted Turtle

This painted turtle (Chrysemys picta) seemed to be sniffing the air like a raccoon. I’m not sure what he was doing, but I wondered if he could smell me standing on the shore.

 8. Crows

One foggy morning these two crows were perched where a great blue heron usually sits to wait for the sun on foggy mornings. Crows are smart birds and usually fly off if anyone points anything at them but these two sat still as I pointed my lens at them.  It’s hard to tell from the photos, but these were big birds. After reading Jerry’s latest post on his Quiet Solo Pursuits blog, I’m wondering if they weren’t ravens instead of crows. They didn’t make a sound while I was there, so I can’t tell by that. Their beaks are another way to identify them but they don’t show very well in this shot.

 9. Great Spangled Fritillary Butterfly

I’ve discovered that fritillary butterflies are very hard to identify, even for experts. This one could be a great spangled fritillary (Speyeria Cybele,) but to be honest I don’t know what it is, other than very beautiful. It was also quite big-bigger than a viceroy.

10. Brown Butterfly

Here is another butterfly I can’t positively identify, but it might be an Appalachian Brown (Lethe appalachia.) It was on a goldenrod.

 11. Milkweed Tussock Moth Caterpillar

The milkweed tussock moth caterpillar (Euchaetes egle) gets chemicals from plants like milkweed and dogbane that protect the moth from being eaten by bats. The moth is also called the milkweed tiger moth. There was one black, white and yellow caterpillar on top of the leaf and another mirror image of it on the bottom of the leaf, but I didn’t get a shot of them both.

12. Hoverfly on Evening Primrose

This hoverfly (Toxomerus geminatus) landed on the outer edge of this evening primrose blossom just as I was about to take a shot of it. As I watched, it crawled into the center so I took its picture instead of the blossom.

13. Puffed Up Sparrow

This song sparrow looked like someone had left it on the fluff cycle in a clothes dryer. I wonder if it’s a juvenile or an adult just having a bad day.

 14. Sparrow

This song sparrow caught what I think is a grasshopper. Maybe it was going to feed it to the bird in the previous photo. It flew from tree to tree as if not wanting to show me what it was up to. I felt kind of guilty, realizing that I was keeping it from doing what it wanted to do, so I left it alone after a few quick photos.

15. Cedar Waxwing

I was at the Ashuelot River recently and this cedar waxwing kept flying from rock to rock, acting agitated. Every now and then it would fly toward me and then pull up and turn when just a few feet away. I wondered what it was trying to tell me and then I remembered that these birds eat fruit.  I just happened to be standing between it and a bush full of ripe silky dogwood berries, so I took a few photos and let him be.

Not to hurt our humble brethren is our first duty to them, but to stop there is not enough.  We have a higher mission — to be of service to them wherever they require it.  ~St. Francis of Assisi

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Here are a few more of those odd and unusual things that I see that won’t fit into other posts.

1. Big Bluestem Grass aka Andropogon gerardii

I like discovering grass flowers and this one is a beauty. The flowers of native big bluestem grass (Andropogon gerardii) grow in pairs of yellowish male anthers and feathery, light purple female stigmas. This grass gets its name from its blue green stems. It is the dominant grass of the tall grass prairie in the U.S.  Before Europeans arrived this grass had a quite a range; from Maine to the Rocky Mountains and from Quebec to Mexico. At one time it fed thousands of buffalo. Because of its large root system, early settlers found it was an excellent choice for the “bricks” of sod houses.

 2. Club Coral Fungi Clavariadelphus truncatus

Some coral fungi come to a blunt, rather than pointed end and are called club shaped corals. I thought these might be Clavariadelphus truncatus but that mushroom has wrinkles down its length and these are smooth, so I’m not sure what they are. More often than not I find these growing in the hard packed earth near trails and they have usually been stepped on. The broken one in the photo shows that these are hollow. They were no more than an inch tall.

 3. Curly Dock Seeds aka Rumex crispus

The seeds of curly dock (Rumex crispus,) when the sun is shining just right, look like tiny stained glass windows.

4. Silky Dogwood Berries aka Cornus amomum

The berries of silky dogwood (Cornus amomum) start out porcelain white and slowly change to dark blue. The birds love these berries so they don’t decorate the shrubs for long. This is a large shrub that grows in part shade near rivers and ponds. It gets its common name from the soft, silky hairs that cover the branches. Native Americans smoked the bark like tobacco. They also twisted the bark into rope and made fish traps from the branches.  I wonder if the idea for blue and white porcelain dishes first made in ancient China came from berries like these.

 5. Sumac Red Pouch Galls caused by Melaphis rhois

Red pouch galls on stag horn sumac (Rhus typhina) are caused by the sumac gall aphid (Melaphis rhois.) These galls look like some kind of fruit but they are actually hollow inside and teeming with thousands of aphids. They average about golf ball size and change from light yellow to pinkish red as they age. Scientists have paleobotanical evidence that this aphid has had a relationship with its sumac hosts for at least 48 million years. The galls can also be found on smooth sumac (Rhus glabra.) They remind me of potatoes.

 6. Wolf's Milk Slime Mold

At a glance wolf’s milk slime mold (Lycogala epidendrum) might fool you into thinking it was just another brownish puffball but, if you try to make it “puff,” you’ll be in for a surprise. The diameter of the one in the photo is about the same as a pea.

 7. Wolf's Milk Slime Mold

This is the surprise you get when you try to make wolf’s milk slime mold’s “puff ball” puff-you find that it is a fruiting body full of plasmodial orange slime. This is also called toothpaste slime mold but on this day the liquid inside the sphere was nowhere near that consistency. It was more like chocolate syrup. This slime mold is found on rotting hardwood logs and is one of the fastest moving slime molds, clocked at 1.35 millimeters per second.

John Tyler Bonner, a slime mold expert, says slime molds are a “bag of amoebae encased in a thin slime sheath, yet they manage to have various behaviors that are equal to those of animals who possess muscles and nerves with ganglia–that is, simple brains.”

 8. Puffball

Here is a real puffball-at the size of an egg many hundreds, if not thousands of times bigger than the wolf’s milk slime mold. I think this example might be a pigskin puffball (Scleroderma,) which is poisonous.

 9. Ceratiomyxa fruticulosa Slime Mold

The honeycombed domes of the Ceratiomyxa fruticulosa variety porioides slime mold make it one of the most beautiful, in my opinion. Unfortunately it’s also one of the smallest, which makes getting a good photo of it almost impossible. After many attempts, this was the best I could do. The little black bug on one of the fruiting bodies is so very small that I didn’t see it until I saw this photo.

 10. Purple Cort Mushroom

Here in New Hampshire white and brown mushrooms can be found at almost any time, but the really colorful mushrooms usually start in about mid-July with yellows and oranges. There can also be occasional red ones but orange dominates the forest until the purples appear. Once the purple ones appear there are fewer and fewer orange ones seen.  I’ve watched this for 2 years now and it shows that mushrooms have “bloom times” just like flowers do. In the case of mushrooms, it’s actually fruiting time. I think this one is a purple cort (Cortinarius iodeoides.)

 11. False Solomon's Seal Foliage

The berries have formed on false Solomon’s seal (Maianthemum racemosum ) so the leaves aren’t needed anymore. Fall begins at the forest floor.

 12. Pokeweed Berry

The rounded, five lobed, purple calyx on the back of a pokeweed berry (Phytolacca americana) reveals what the flower once looked like. The berries and all parts of this plant are toxic, but many birds and animals eat the berries. Native Americans used their red juice to decorate their horses and early colonial settlers dyed cloth with it.

 13. White Baneberry Plants

One rainy afternoon I drove by these plants that were loaded with white berries and had to turn around to see what they were. They turned out to be white baneberry (Actaea pachypoda) but I’ve never seen that plant have as many berries as these did. These black and white berries are highly toxic but fortunately they also reportedly taste terrible and are said to be very acrid.

 14. White Baneberry Berries

Another name for this plant is ‘doll’s eyes” and it’s easy to see why. The black dot is what is left of the flower’s stigma. The black and white berries with pink stems are very appealing to children and it is thought that only their terrible taste prevents more poisonings than there are.

Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.  ~Lao Tzu

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Here are a few more examples of what’s blooming in southwestern New Hampshire right now.

 1. Buttonbush

Native button bush (Cephalanthus occidentalis) is blooming along rivers and ponds now, but it isn’t real common. This plant is a shrub that can reach 12 feet tall. The flowers are unusual-the spiky pistils stick out quite far above the petals, giving the round flower head the look of a pincushion. Native Americans used the roots and bark of these shrubs medicinally but modern science has found that the plant contains a compound called cephalanthin, which destroys red blood cells.

 2. American Burr Reed aka Sparganium americanum

American bur reed (Sparganium americanum) looks almost like a miniature version of the button bush in the previous photo. Since they both like water they are often found growing together on the same stretch of shoreline. The round, spiky female flowers of burr reed grow at the bottom of the stem and the male flowers with yellow stamens above them. Ducks and other waterfowl love the seeds.

 3. Partridge Pea

In New Hampshire native partridge pea (Chamaecrista fasciculate) is a quiet little plant that grows in the tall grass at the edge of the woods and you really don’t hear much about it. In other areas it is often grown for honey production.  This annual plant is a legume in the pea family and is a great addition to a wildflower garden because it attracts a large variety of insects and wild life.

 4. Showy Tick Trefoil

Showy tick trefoil (Desmodium canadense) is another legume in the bean family but it is a perennial. I like it because it blooms in late summer along with goldenrod and I think that the colors go well together. This plant gets its name from the little barbed hairs that cover the seed pods and stick to clothing like ticks. Deer, rabbits, woodchucks and even cows love to eat this plant. Books and websites say its flower is pink but my color finding software sees purple in this photo, and so do I.

5. Hedge Bindweed

I see a lot of white hedge bindweed (Calystegia sepium) but not many bi-color flowers like this one. It’s a beauty.

6. Yellow Toadflax aka Linaria vulgaris

Yellow toadflax was introduced from Europe and Asia as an ornamental but as the old, familiar story goes; it escaped cultivation and is now found on roadsides and in pastures of every state in the country except Hawaii. Called butter and eggs, this plant is hated by cattlemen because it can take over large areas of pasture. Cattle know it is toxic and don’t touch it.

 7. Virgin's Bower

Virgin’s bower (Clematis virginiana) is a late summer blooming native clematis vine that drapes itself over shrubs so it can get all of the sunshine that it wants. I’ve also seen it climbing into trees.

 8. Virgin's Bower

The flowers of virgin’s bower resemble those of sweet autumn clematis (Clematis paniculata), which is a nonnative garden climber that has escaped. The plant is also called old man’s beard and devils’ darning needles. An extract made from it is hallucinogenic and was used by Native Americans to induce dreams. Mixed with other plants like milkweed, it was also used medicinally. It is a very toxic plant that can cause painful sores in the mouth, so it no part of it should ever be eaten.

 9. Wild Cucumber

Native wild cucumber (Echinocystis lobata) is another late summer blooming vine that climbs on shrubs and trees. It likes to grow in sandy soil and prefers shade over full sun. The flower spikes (Racemes) grow to 6 inches or more all along the main stem. These plants are annuals and grow from seed each year. The spiny, 2 inch long fruits have a watermelon shape and boys have been throwing them at each other for as long as I’ve been around. The fruit is not edible.

 10. Wild Cucumber

The greenish white, star shaped male flowers of wild cucumber have 6 petals that are twisted slightly. The female flowers are yellowish green and not at all showy. They grow at the base of the male flower stems. There is usually only one female flower for every 5 or 6 male flowers, which is why there are so few fruits seen on each vine.

11. Black Swallowort aka Cynanchum louiseae

Plant breeders have been trying for centuries to breed a plant with black flowers but nature beat them to it with black swallow-wort (Cynanchum louiseae). The flowers can be black to dark purple and look like tiny stars. This plant is native to Italy, France, Portugal, and Spain and in 1854 it escaped from a botanical garden here in the U.S. and has been trying to take over since. It grows long, wire-like vines that are strong enough to trip you up without breaking. It is for that reason its other common name, dog strangler, came about.

 12. Mad Dog Skullcap

The seed pods of native mad dog skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora) might look like an old fashioned skullcap, but the only thing the plant has to do with mad dogs is the erroneous belief that the it cured rabies. Mad-Dog Skullcap has the smallest flowers among the various skullcaps and they always grow in pairs in the leaf axils. These plants are quite small to begin with but many plants that grow on river banks where the river floods regularly can be stunted and quite smaller than usual, and I think that is what happened to these plants. These flowers were very small-no more than 1/8 of an inch long.

13. Dwarf St. Johnswort aka Hypericum mutilum

Dwarf St. Johnswort  (Hypericum mutilum) grows on the riverbank with the mad dog skullcap but it grows small naturally instead of being stunted. These flowers were about the same diameter as a pencil eraser. Like its bigger cousins the leaves of this plant contain a compound called hypericin, which can make light skinned people more susceptible to sunburn by way of a photosensitive reaction.

14. Forked Blue Curls

Another small flower I find on the upper gravel part of the riverbank is the forked blue curl (Trichostema dichotomum.) These are annual plants that grow from seed each year and I was afraid that all the seeds would have washed away in last spring’s flooding, but here they are. They are very small and you have to get down on your hands and knees for a view like this but it’s worth it because they are beautiful. This native plant grows as far west as Texas.

If you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it’s your world for a moment. ~Georgia O’Keefe

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Quite often when I go here and there searching for plants that are new to me I see interesting and beautiful landscape scenes. I always take pictures but they don’t always make it onto the blog for whatever reason, so I decided to show some of them in this post.

 1. Meadow

I’ve shown shots of a meadow that I visit a couple of times recently on this blog, but this is a different one that I found just the other day. Even though it’s a different meadow, it is still dominated by several species of goldenrod and purple loosestrife.  I can’t help taking a photo every time I see something like this because the color combination is very appealing.

2. Ashuelot on 8-14-13

People who have been reading this blog for a while know that one of my favorite places to hunt for plants is along river banks.  The river that is easiest for me to get to is the Ashuelot, which runs north to south from Pittsburg to Hinsdale New Hampshire for 64 miles. This photo shows boulders out of the water in this section, which means that the water level is about as low as it’s been all year.

 3. Stream

I also follow streams and this one seemed especially photogenic. Sitting beside a stream out in the middle of nowhere is just about the most serene and enjoyable way to pass the time that I can think of.

 4. View from High Blue

Recently an old friend came to visit from California where he now lives and we decided to hike a trail called High Blue in Walpole, New Hampshire. At 1,588 feet it isn’t very high but it is always very blue. When I sent my friend a copy of this photo he thought it looked a lot bluer than it did in person. I’ve noticed this too and, even though I’ve taken this photo of Stratton Mountain in Vermont with 3 different cameras, the view is always as blue as you see here.  I’ve even looked at photos online that are also just as blue and I can’t figure out what causes it, other than the atmosphere itself.

5. View from High Blue Trail

This is another view looking across the Connecticut River valley to the surrounding Vermont hills from High Blue trail in Walpole. I like the various shades of blue and how they fade into one to another. I think I’ve seen this same thing in photos from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I’m anxious to see what it looks like when the trees change color, and wonder if it will still be as blue.

6. Lone Tree

 Last spring before it had leaves I visited this lone tree and thought it looked a bit like an elm. Now that I see it fully clothed it looks more like an oak or a maple.  When you live in what is essentially a 4.8 million acre forest any tree that stands alone is a real eye catcher.

7. Hill Deconstruction

I’ve been watching a construction company gnawing away at this hill for over a year now. I’m sure they know more about what they’re doing than I do, but I think I’d be careful about getting under the large over hanging area on the right. It’s hard to imagine what the view will be when the hill is gone.

8. Half Moon

I was disappointed about not seeing the meteor showers and grabbed a few shots of the half-moon instead. I think the craters show better on a photo of a half-moon than they do on one of the full moon.

9. Marlow Odd Fellows Hall

A few posts ago I showed a photo of the church in Marlow, New Hampshire, a small town north of here. This view is of the nearby odd fellows hall in the same town. It’s a shame that the power company put their poles and wires in front of all of these buildings. You can see similar photos online where the photographer has taken great pains to “paint out” the wires and poles. I thought about doing the same but then if a tourist saw this post and came here to see the real thing, they might be disappointed to find the wires in the way.

 10. Monadnock

This view of Mount Monadnock from Perkin’s Pond in Troy, New Hampshire is well known and so cherished by local artists, photographers and residents that the power company didn’t dare block it with poles and wires. Last fall they, at what must have been considerable expense, brought in machinery that pulled the wires under the pond somehow. I saw the machinery but never saw it in action, so I’m not sure how it worked. I imagine it was similar to the process used for installing in-ground irrigation systems, but on a much larger scale.

11. St. Francis Chapel

Another well-known view of the mountain is found on a private road that follows the shoreline of Stone pond in Marlborough, New Hampshire. The road used to be part of a large private estate and the building in the photo was once a private chapel. The Saint Francis Episcopal chapel, built in 1926, is open to the public for weddings and other events. There have been many weddings here, and many photos taken of this view.

 12. Trail

 This is the kind of place I hope to visit today. Happy trails!

Boy, Gramp! Nature’s so much bigger in person than it is on TV! ~ Dennis the Menace

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There is a little bit of everything in this post.

1. Pinwheel Mushrooms

Tiny pinwheel mushrooms (Marasmius capillaris) fruit only on oak leaves and that’s exactly what those pictured were doing. A sunbeam just happened to be lighting them up when I walked by.  Most mushrooms like places with dim light but if I had time to spend watching them I think I’d find that all of them got at least some sunshine each day.

 2. Chanterelle Waxcap Mushrooms aka Hygrocybe cantharellus

Clusters of what I think are tiny orange chanterelle wax cap mushrooms (Hygrocybe cantharallus ) grew all over a log. These little mushrooms have caps with scalloped rims and gills that are slightly paler than the cap. The flash I had to use made the gills appear just a little lighter than they really were but otherwise the colors are true.

 3. Coral Mushroom

Coral fungi grow in places where there isn’t much light and since a flash can sometimes change the color of the subject, at the suggestion of Laura over at the Touring New Hampshire blog I bought an LED light. I haven’t used it enough to say much about it, but this is the first photo I took with it. A couple of things I noticed were, it did not change the color of these mushrooms and lit the scene enough so the camera wasn’t calling for a flash. In fact, at 100 lumens it is so bright that I might need a diffuser.

4. Smallest Orange Mushrooms

These are the tiniest mushrooms I’ve ever tried to photograph. They were so small that this entire group could have been hidden behind a single pea. I never knew that fully formed mushrooms grew so small and I have no idea what they are. Natural light was plentiful (for a change) when I took this photo.

 5. Pinesap Flowers Under LED

The last time I showed pinesap plants (Monotropa hypopitys) you could see the flower buds. In this photo you can see the individual flowers and that is important to note when trying to tell it from its close relative Indian pipe (Monotropa uniflora), which has a single flower. These were also under LED lighting and the colors seem true to what they should be.

 6. Meadow

I decided to get out of the woods and visit a local meadow again before things started going to seed. It’s hard to stay away from such a beautiful place for very long.

7. Bumblebee on Goldenrod

There were many bumblebees in the meadow and most were visiting the goldenrod.

8. Honey Bee

I was happy to also see plenty of honey bees in the meadow. I didn’t notice that this one had shredded wings until I saw the photo. I’ve read this is common among honey bees and comes from them simply over using their wings.

9. Great Black Wasp

Luckily this great black wasp (Sphex pensylvanicus) was too busy with goldenrod flowers to pay much attention to me. This is a digger wasp and he (or she) is big and jet black all over. Solitary females live in holes that they dig in soft ground. They prey on katydids, which are several times larger than they are, so they need plenty of flower nectar to keep that kind of power up. Their sting is said to be very painful, but I didn’t know that when I was taking these photos.

 10. Great Black Wasp

Their legs are quite long and hang down when they fly. This is a good way to identify them because most wasps keep their legs close to their bodies when they fly. I like the purple highlights on the wings, which look embossed.

11. Trillium Berry

 The shiny red berries of painted trillium (Trillium undulatum) seem to be everywhere this year, so apparently the high temperatures and heavy rainfall were to their liking. There should be plenty of seedlings in the spring.

 12. False Solomon's Seal Berries

 On their way to becoming brilliant red, the berries of false Solomon’s seal (Maianthemum racemosum) are speckled for a short time. This plant is also called treacle berry because the berries are supposed to taste like treacle or molasses.

13. Fern Shadow

 More often than not when I get down on the ground to take a photo of something I look around carefully before I get back up to see if there is anything else worthy of a photo, and that’s how I ended up with a shot of a fern shadow.

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.

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Here’s a small sample of what is blooming here now.

1. Bifid Hemp Nettle

Bifid hemp nettle (Galeopsis bifida) has a small but beautiful flower that always reminds me of heal all (Prunella vulgaris). This entire plant, including the flowers, is covered with hairs and the sepals end in points that can be sharp. These sharp points catch on animal fur or clothing and spread the seeds far and wide. Hemp nettle looks a lot like a tall mint plant because it is in the mint family.

 2. Forget Me Nots

Forget me nots (Myosotis) are still blooming on the river banks.  It’s a beautiful little weed that gets its scientific name Myosotis from the way the leaves resemble mouse ears.

 3. Enchanter's Nightshade

Though it looks like the flowers of enchanter’s nightshade (Circaea lutetiana) have four petals there are really only two. There are also two sepals and two stamens, with a single style. The ovaries that form at the base of the flowers have tiny barbed hairs, and that means they stick to just about anything. This plant gets its scientific name Circaea from Circa, an enchantress in Homer’s Odyssey with a fondness for turning men into swine. It’s a good story but unfortunately the plant is a native of North America, so Homer most likely never saw it.

4. Liatrus Blossoms

I’ve always know native liatris, often called blazing star, as a garden plant even though it is a native wildflower common to our prairies. I found this one growing on the side of a road and it’s the first one I’ve ever seen growing naturally. There are 37 different species of liatris, and I’m not sure which one this is.

5. Slender Fragrant Goldenrod aka Euthamia tenuifolia

Our native slender fragrant goldenrod (Euthamia tenuifolia) is my favorite goldenrod because of its scent. This plant can be confused with lance leaved goldenrod (Euthamia graminifolia), but it has a single vein in the center of each leaf and lance leaved goldenrod has 3 to 5 veins. It’s that time of year when goldenrod takes the blame for causing hay fever, when in fact ragweed is the culprit. Goldenrod pollen is much too sticky and heavy to ever become airborne, so it is impossible for it to get in noses that way.

6. Spotted jewel Weed aka Impatiens capensis

I keep hoping to find yellow jewelweed (Impatiens pallida) but all I find is spotted jewelweed (Impatiens capensis). It isn’t that I don’t like the spotted variety; it’s just that it is one of the first plants I learned to identify so I’ve had a long time to get to know it. The yellow variety I’ve seen maybe 3 times. This native plant is also called orange balsam and touch me not. Hummingbirds love these flowers.

7. Spotted jewel Weed

It’s easier to see why it’s called spotted jewel weed from the side. These spots are what attract pollinators. The curved nectar spur at the back of the flower can also be seen. It can only be reached by pollinators with long tongues, like butterflies and hummingbirds.

 8. Raindrops on Jewelweed

Jewel weed leaves have a waxy coating that makes rain bead up into drops. When these drops sparkle in the sun they look like jewels, and that’s where the name jewel weed comes from.

9. Pink Steeple Bush

Steeplebush (Spiraea tomentosa) is easy to recognize because of the way its erect stems are unbranched, with steeple shaped flower clusters at their ends. They are usually found near water.  This native plant is available commercially and is an excellent choice for butterfly gardens. Native Americans used a tea made from steeplebush leaves for easing childbirth.

 10. Dwarf Dandelion aka Krigia virginica

 In my opinion it is the leaves more than the flowers that make native dwarf dandelions (Krigia virginica) resemble regular dandelions. Spring leaves look quite different, but as the season progresses they look like hairy, miniature version of the dandelion leaves that we’re all familiar with. It also has seed heads that are similar to common dandelion but they’re much smaller and more brown than gray. This native likes full sun and dry, sandy soil.

11. Whorled Wood Aster aka Oclemena acuminata 2

Native whorled wood aster (Oclemena acuminate) is also called sharp leaved aster because of the way the leaves come to a sharp point. The common name whorled aster comes by way of the leaves appearing to grow in a whorl but it isn’t a true whorl. This is one of those plants that like to grow at the edge of woodland. Pearly crescent butterflies love this plant, so it is a good addition to a butterfly garden.

12. Tall Blue Lettuce

The flowers of tall blue lettuce (Lactuca biennis) are usually very pale blue so I was surprised by the deep color of these. The flowers grow in a cluster at the top of a plant that can reach 10 feet tall under the right conditions. This plant is easily confused with wild lettuce (Lactuca virosa) when it isn’t blossoming but its leaves are hairy while wild lettuce leaves are not. I’m not sure what the red eyed insect trying to hide behind the upper flower is.

13. Lettuce

The pale yellow flowers of tall lettuce (Lactuca canadensis) are often tinted by red or pink on their edges. This is another native lettuce that can reach 10 feet tall with clusters of small, 1/4 inch flowers at the top of the stalks. The leaves of this plant can be highly variable in their shape, with even leaves on the same plant looking different from each other.  Native Americans used this plant medicinally. The milky white sap contains lactucarium and is still used in medicines today.

14. Tall Rattlesnake Root aka Prenanthes trifoliata

The flowers of tall rattlesnake root (Prenanthes trifoliate) which are shown in the photo resemble those of tall white lettuce (Prenanthes altissima) but the leaves of the rattlesnake root are deeply divided into 3 parts while the lettuce leaves aren’t. It also has a waxy, reddish stem which helps in identification. Its flowers can be white or pinkish. This plant is also called gall of the earth because of how bitter the root tastes. These roots were once made into a very bitter tonic that was used to (allegedly) cure snake bites and that’s where its other common name comes from.

Stretching his hand up to reach the stars, too often man forgets the flowers at his feet. ~Jeremy Bentham

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Last Saturday a good breeze out of the northwest blew away the heat and humidity and, since there was a fall feel to the air, I decided to climb Gap Mountain in Troy, New Hampshire.  Gap Mountain has 3 peaks; north, middle and south, and gets its name from the gap between the middle and southern summits. My GPS said that it was 1.9 miles from the south parking lot to the 1,840 foot high middle summit, but there seems to be a lot of conflicting information online about this distance. The elevation gain is about 640 feet over 1.9 miles for an average 6% grade, again according to my GPS.

1. GM Trail

In the late 1800s there was pasture and farm land all the way to the summit, but now it is heavily forested with second growth forest. This forest is dense enough and has few enough trails to make getting lost a real possibility, but the trail that I used was clearly blazed. It started out easy enough and even went downhill in places, but before too long it became a steady and steep uphill climb.

 2. Indian Tobacco

Indian tobacco (Lobelia inflata) grows all along the trail in sunny spots. This plant’s common name refers to the inflated calyx that is supposed to resemble tobacco pouches carried by Native Americans. Despite its common name it should never be smoked because it is very toxic.

 3. GM Plank Bridge

The trail crosses a stream but this plank bridge keeps your feet dry. This mountain and the 1,160 acre preserve that it sits on are owned and maintained by the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests and open to the public year round, even though there is no winter maintenance.

 4. GM Stream

As you look out at this landscape it’s hard to imagine what it looked like a century ago when it was cleared for farming. Cows or sheep probably regularly drank from this stream.

 5. Hemlock Varnish Bracket Fungus aka Ganoderma tsugae

I saw a large hemlock varnished bracket fungus (Ganoderma tsugae) growing on a huge old hemlock stump. It was about as big as a dinner plate and really did look like someone had varnished it.

 6. GM Boulder

Rocks and tree roots mark the upper part of the trail so you’ve got to watch where you step. The boulders that the farmers left in place were left for a good reason-some are as big as cars.

 7. GM Stairs

Some hiking books and websites (and people) will tell you how easy this trail is. If I was still 30 I’d agree with them but, as an ex-smoker on the downhill slide into 60 years, I looked at these stairs after climbing for close to an hour and thought you have got to be kidding me. I didn’t know it at the time, but they were easy compared to what was to follow.

8. GM Trail 2

It gets a little rocky after the stairs. Easy compared to what, I wondered, Mount Everest?

 9. GM Trail 3

Before long the rocks become boulders and bedrock ledges.  In places you have to use both your hands and feet to crawl up and over them, so if you make this climb you’ll want to make sure your hands are free. I wish I’d known this before I climbed-I was carrying a monopod.

 10. Fringed Loosestrife

Fringed loosestrife (Lysimachia ciliate) has tucked itself in among the boulders and grows profusely near the summit.  This plant gets its common name from the fringe of hairs on its leafstalks. Sometimes the flower petals are also fringed, but not on this example. I was glad to see it because photographing it gave me a good excuse to stop and rest until I was done huffing and puffing.

 11. Apple Tree

Very near the summit is an abandoned apple orchard with quite a few trees that are still producing.  Nearly the entire summit is covered with native high bush blueberries and people climb up here regularly to pick them. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many blueberry bushes growing naturally in one place before. A couple of people were filling plastic containers with them.

 12. Monadnock From GM Summit

When you reach the summit this is the view that greets you. Straight ahead to the north Mount Monadnock rises up out of the forest. At only 3 miles away it seems almost close enough to touch. Mount Monadnock is famous throughout New England and is the second most climbed mountain on earth after Mount Fuji in Japan.  At 3,166 feet it’s high enough to see from just about anywhere in the county.

13. Monadnock From GM Summit

In 1800, fires were intentionally set on Mount Monadnock’s lower slopes to clear them for use as pasture land. Unfortunately the fires burned all the way to the summit, destroying the natural spruce forest that was there. Then in 1820 farmers set fire to the upper slopes to burn out the wolves they thought were living there. That fire burned long enough and hot enough to destroy even the topsoil on the summit and the roots that kept it in place. Before too long rain had washed it all away, leaving the bare granite seen today.

14. View From Gap Mountain

There are great views of the distant hills for nearly 360 degrees from Gap Mountain’s summit.

 15. Gap Mountain Southern Peak

Off to the right (east) as you gaze at Mount Monadnock from the middle peak you see the southern peak looming up above the blueberries and interrupting the 360 degree view. The south peak is completely covered by dense forest and it is said that there are no good views from its summit. It’s a great example of what happens to land in New England that is left alone for a hundred years. This view also looks out over the gap that the mountain is named for.

 16. Gap Mountain from Monadnock

This view of Gap Mountain was taken from a trail on Mount Monadnock. The name of the photographer is unknown.

It wasn’t until I reached the parking lot after the climb down that I saw the notice warning that this was a very strenuous hike over steep terrain. I was glad to know that I hadn’t imagined it.

It’s always further than it looks, it’s always taller than it looks, and it’s always harder than it looks.
 ~The 3 rules of mountaineering

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This is another of those posts full of all those things that don’t seem to fit anywhere else.

1. Staghorn Sumac Fruiting

Staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina) berries are forming. This is an extreme close up of them. The fuzziness is what gives the plant its common name.  I watched these berries closely last fall to see how long it would take for the birds to eat them. Much to my surprise, they weren’t eaten until migrating birds like red winged blackbirds returned in the spring. Birds that stay here year round don’t seem to like them.

2. Blue Bead Lily Fruit

The blue of the berries on a blue bead lily (Clintonia borealis) plant is hard to match anywhere else in nature. It’s a kind of electric, neon blue that is very easy to see in the forest.  Birds and chipmunks love these berries though, so they can be hard to find before they’re eaten.

 3. Blue Bead Lily Fruit

Native blue bead lily is also called corn lily, cow tongue, yellow bead lily, yellow blue bead lily, snake berry, dog berry, and straw lily. Native Americans used this plant treat injuries and bruises.

4. Bunchberry Berries

This bunchberry (Cornus canadensis) had a bunch of red berries.

 5. Nipple Galls or Coneheads on Hazel Leaf caused by aphid Hormaphis hamamelidis

The witch hazels (Hamamelis virginiana) have nipple galls, made by the witch hazel gall aphid (Hormaphis hamamelidis). These galls won’t hurt the plant, but they do look a little strange. They are also called cone heads.

 7. Indian Pipes 4

When Indian pipes (Monotropa uniflora) stand up straight from their usual nodding position that means the flowers have been pollinated. Soon after the plants begin to darken as they put all their energy into making seeds.  The plant gets its common name from the way its nodding flowers resemble the peace pipe used by Native Americans. Other names include corpse plant, death plant, ice plant, ghost flower, bird’s nest, fairy smoke, eyebright, fit plant, and convulsion root.

6. Indian Pipe Flower

After fertilization a single seed capsule containing thousands of tiny seeds forms. In spite of its toxicity, Native Americans used Indian pipe medicinally to treat a variety of illnesses. Colonial Americans also used the plant in the same way.

 8. Pinesap

At a quick glance pinesap plants look much like Indian pipes, but a closer look shows that pinesap is a yellow / tan /reddish color compared to the stark white of Indian pipes. Indian pipes also have a single flower and pinesap has several, the buds of which can be seen in this photo. Despite their differences the two plants are closely related.

9. Crushed Glass

I had to go to the local recycling center last week and saw this pile of crushed glass sparkling like gemstones in the bright sunlight. Naturally, I had to get a picture of it.

10.Orange Spindle Coral Fungi aka Ramariopsis laeticolor

This photo of orange spindle coral fungi (Ramariopsis laeticolor) isn’t the sharpest I’ve ever taken, but they are tiny things and it was quite dark where they grew. Soon coral mushrooms of all kinds will be seen all over the forest floor.

11. Blue Slime Mold possibly Ceratiomyxa fruticulosa

This blue slime mold was even smaller than the spindle coral mushrooms and grew in an even darker place. I don’t like to use a flash unless it is absolutely necessary but in this case, it was. Blue is a very rare color among slime molds in this area and I’m always happy to see it. Though I haven’t been able to positively identify it, I think it could be Ceratiomyxa fruticulosa.

12. Scrambled Egg Slime Mold

Scrambled egg slime mold (Fuligo septica) looks just like scrambled eggs at this stage in its development.  Tomorrow it could look entirely different or might have disappeared completely.

13. Tiny Orange Waxcap Mushrooms

Wax cap mushrooms prefer areas that have not been worked by man and I find them in the two or three old undisturbed forests that I visit. There are over 250 species of wax caps and all are very colorful. I haven’t been able to identify these except to assume that they are part of the hygrocybe group.

16. Queen Anne's Lace Purple Flower

If you give a Queen Anne’s lace (Daucus carota) flower head (Umbel) a quick glance you might think that there was a small insect right in the middle of it. That’s not an insect though-it’s a tiny, infertile flower that’s less than half the size of a pea. Not all plants have these central florets that can be purple, pink, or sometimes blood red. From what I’ve seen in this area it seems that as many plants have it as those that do not.

15. Queen Anne's Lace Purple Flower

This is a close up of the tiny purple floret that sometimes appears on a Queen Anne’s lace flower head. I’ve heard many theories of why this floret grows the way it does but the bottom line is that botanists don’t really know why.  It seems to serve no useful purpose, but it might have at one time.

Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean. ~ John Muir

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