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Archive for September, 2013

I’m still seeing wildflowers but this will most likely be the last post this season that is devoted entirely to them.

1. Spotted Knapweed

Spotted knapweed (Centaurea maculosa) might be a hated invasive but with such a beautiful flower it’s hard not to forgive it. This plant is native to Europe and Asia and was accidentally imported in a hay seed shipment in the late 1800s. One reason it is disliked is because it releases a toxin that can hinder and prevent the growth of neighboring species. It grows in all but 5 states.

2. Small Flowered Aster

Small flower white aster (Symphyotrichum racemosum) is a curious little plant that gets knee high at best but makes up for shortness by packing every stem with as many small white flowers as possible. Another name for this plant is fragile stem American aster, because its stems are brittle and break easily. Some websites say that this plant can reach six feet tall, but I’ve never seen it more than two.

3. Small Flowered Aster

One good way to identify small flower white aster is by the way its flowers all crowd onto one side of the stem. The flowers are small-maybe a half inch across. For some unknown reason the USDA doesn’t list this aster as one that grows in New Hampshire, but I see it everywhere.

 4. Jimson Weed

Jimson weed (Datura stramonium) is in the nightshade family and all parts of the plant are toxic to humans and livestock. Taken in small enough doses the plant is hallucinogenic, as British soldiers found out when they included Jimsonweed leaves in salad in Jamestown, Virginia in 1676. They were high for 11 days and had to be penned up to prevent them from hurting themselves. When the symptoms wore off they remembered nothing. You can read about the incident by clicking here.

 5. Jimson Weed Fruit

Jimson weed has many common names, one of which is thorn apple. The unripe seed pod in this photo shows how that name came about.

 6. Nodding Burr Marigold aka Bidens cernua

Nodding bur marigold (Bidens cernua) is a very late bloomer, often blooming just before frost. It is an annual plant that has to grow from seed each year so that might explain its late blooming time. As they age the flower heads nod down toward the ground. I find this plant growing on river bans. Mallards are said to love its seeds.

 7. Pink Turtlehead

Rose turtlehead (Chelone oblique) is very similar to pink turtlehead (Chelone lyonii), but this plant grows about a foot shorter and its flowers are a darker shade of pink. A friend gave me a piece of her plant many years ago and it still grows in my garden, getting morning sun and afternoon shade, with virtually no maintenance. All I’ve ever done with this plant is give pieces of it away and it blooms beautifully each fall.

8. Perennial Sow Thistle aka Sonchus arvensis

Sow thistle (Sonchus oleraceus) flowers look a lot like dandelions, but the rest of the plant doesn’t. Its flowers are held about 2 feet high on wiry stems, and its leaves have prickly edges. The seed heads look a bit like a dandelion seed head but are denser because of more seeds. This plant is considered a noxious weed in many places and comes from Europe and Asia. It was first reported in Pennsylvania in 1814 and is now in all but 8 states and most of Canada.

9. Self Heal

Heal all (Prunella vulgaris) is still blooming. Its tiny purple flowers always remind me of orchids. Heal all has been used medicinally since ancient times. It was once thought to be a holy herb sent by God to cure man’s ills and is still sold for medicinal use. Native Americans used it as a food and a medicine.

10. Deptford Pink aka Dianthus armeria

For a while this year I thought that black eyed Susan’s (Rudbeckia hirta) must be the longest blooming wildflower but I have since remembered that there are many others that bloom as long or longer. Deptford pinks (Dianthus armeria) like those in the photo start blooming much earlier than black eyed Susans, and are still blooming.

11. Red Clover

Red clover is another season long bloomer. This one was lighter pink than many I see. Clover first came to North America with the English settlers. Native Americans took to the plant immediately and found many uses for it. It has been used medicinally for centuries-since before recorded history, some say.

12. New England Aster

New England aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) flowers can be so many different shades of pink and purple that you have to wonder sometimes if they’re even the same plant. These plants own the roadsides now and in many areas are the only flower seen blooming. Asters don’t like hot dry weather and will start to lose leaves unless it is cool and moist-like it usually is in autumn in New England. This is the largest flowered aster, with most of its flowers about the size of a 25 cent piece.

13. Dark Colored Aster

This dark flowered New England aster shows the wide color range that can be found in this plant. It seems like for every thousand light colored flowers I find one dark colored one. One day I watched a bunch of bumblebees swarming around both light and dark colored flowers that grew side by side and the bees visited the lighter colors much more than the dark ones. That might help explain why there are more light colored plants than dark ones.

 14. Witch Hazel

Last winter the witch hazels (Hamamelis virginiana) along the river bloomed well into January. This year they are off to an early start. Extracts of its leaves, twigs, and bark have been used medicinally for centuries and witch hazel preparations can still be found in drug stores today. I remember my father using a witch hazel ointment on his hands.

The flower that smells the sweetest is shy and lowly. ~William Wordsworth

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Here are a few more of those odd or unusual things that I see which don’t seem to fit in other posts.

British Soldier Lichens

British soldier lichens (Cladonia cristatella) are so small that I often can’t see them clearly when I try to get their photograph. I sometimes have to just set the camera down on the moss next to them, press the shutter release, and hope for the best. What you see is what the camera gave me this time. There is a very similar lichen called lipstick powder horn, but it doesn’t branch near its tips like this lichen does. Both kinds can be found on well-rotted fallen logs and stumps.

Bootstrap or Honey Fungus aka Armillaria mellea_gallica

Bootstrap fungus is caused by honey mushrooms (Armillaria), which send out long root like structures called rhizomorphs between the wood of a tree and its bark. When fresh these rhizomorphs are cream colored but darken to brown or black as they age. I found the above example on a fallen tree that had lost its bark. The fungus is also called armillaria root rot. It kills many species of hardwood trees.

Honey Mushrooms

These are the honey mushrooms (Armillaria) that cause the bootstrap fungus shown in the previous photo. These were growing on a standing, living tree, but it probably won’t be living or standing long.

Canada Mayflower Fruit

Canada Mayflower (Maianthemum canadense) berries are ripe and their leaves have turned yellow. This plant is sometimes called two leaved Solomon’s seal or false lily of the valley. The “May” part of the name refers to its flowering time. Native Americans used the plant for headache and sore throats.

Brown Jelly Fungus

Brown jelly fungi (Exidia recisa) have started to appear on downed trees and limbs. This fungus can absorb water until it eventually weighs over 60 times its dry weight. When dry it becomes a tiny black speck, hardly noticeable on tree bark.

Dewy Web 2

It took all summer but I finally saw a dew covered spider’s web.

Large Fishing Spider aka Dolomedes tenebrosus on Goldenrod

I also saw a gargantuan spider on another web, built on a goldenrod that was leaning out over the river. The people at bgguide.net tell me this is a fishing spider but unfortunately I didn’t get any photos of its abdomen so they couldn’t tell me its scientific name. These spiders get their common name from the way that they occasionally catch fish. This one must have been at least 4 inches from leg tip to leg tip.

Wooly Bear

 According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, the wider the brown stripe in the middle of the wooly bear caterpillar is, the milder the winter will be. “Between 1948 and 1956, Dr. C. H. Curran, curator of insects at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, collected these caterpillars and counted the number of brown segments on each. Average brown-segment counts ranged from 5.3 to 5.6 out of the 13-segment total, meaning that the brown band took up more than a third of the woolly bear’s body. As those relatively high numbers suggested, the corresponding winters were milder than average.” In case you’re wondering, the one in the photo has about 5 1/2 brown segments.

Garter Snake

One day a small garter snake was pretending to be a stick. If it wasn’t for the stone I might have stepped on him.

Hawthorn Fruit

My color finding software sees hot pink, crimson, brick red, Indian red, and pale violet red in these hawthorn (Crataegus) fruits (berries). The fruit is high in pectin, so they are often added to other fruits when making jelly. Nobody seems to know how many species of hawthorn there are, but some say that it could be a thousand or more. Native Americans used the often tasteless fruit in ointments and other medicines.

Fern

Fall always starts at the forest floor and ferns show some of the most colorful signs that it has arrived.

Turkey Tails

Last fall and winter I didn’t see many turkey tail fungi (Trametes versicolor) but this year there seems to be plenty of them. Like most mushrooms most of this fungus lies below the bark of the trees it grows on. I wonder if the width of the rings or “zones” reveals what the weather has done like the rings on trees do. Last year the few turkey tails that I saw had quite wide zones and, as the photo shows, this year they are very narrow.

Maple Leaf Viburnum

Maple leaved viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium) leaves seem to start out colored just about any color you can name in the fall, but after their red / yellow / orange/ purple phases all of the leaves eventually become a very pale, ghostly pink, making this shrub’s fall color among the most beautiful in the forest, in my opinion.

Unknown Wading Bird 2-2

I saw two of these wading birds probing the shore of a local pond. They weren’t very big-maybe a little bigger than a robin. I’ve been trying to identify them since I took their photos but haven’t had much luck. I think they must be some kind of sandpiper, but I can’t find one with spots on its back. If anyone reading this recognizes it is I / we would love to hear from you.

Update: This bird has been identified by two readers as a Solitary Sandpiper. Here is a link with a photo of that bird: http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Solitary_Sandpiper/id

Unknown Wading Bird

Here is a side shot of the maybe sandpiper. They seemed to be finding plenty to eat in the pond shallows.

There is a love of wild nature in everybody, an ancient mother-love showing itself whether recognized or no, and however covered by cares and duties. ~ John Muir

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1. Blue Heron Tree

Thursday September 12th started off a little murky and then it began to rain harder than I’ve seen it rain in a long time. And it rained and rained-we had what was essentially a continuous thunderstorm that lasted for several hours and dumped almost 6 inches of rain. I didn’t get any photos of it, but I saw a local pond top its banks and overrun roads for the first time in over 20 years. When I saw that I knew we would see some washouts.

 2. Washout

Scenes like this were common the next day. It was too bad that this particular spot washed away because a coltsfoot colony had taken hold here, and this is where I used to get my coltsfoot photos in the spring.

 3. Flattened Grass

You didn’t have to be a detective to figure out what direction the flood waters took.

 4. Embankment Repair

This was the repair. It’s just like the earlier repair that washed away in this storm, so I don’t expect it to last long. There are many coltsfoot plants buried under these tons of rock, and I’ll be amazed if they appear anywhere near here next year.

 5. Road Washout

Some places had it even worse. This hole where a road used to be is about a foot deep.

 6. Flooded Trail

The trails weren’t impassable, but it was sloppy going in places.

 7. Ashuelot on 9-13

The river was on full boil and didn’t look too inviting. Before I got to a spot where I could get a clear shot I watched 3 teenage boys go down the river in an aluminum rowboat, going so fast it looked like they were being towed by a speedboat. All I could do was stand there and gape, not believing what I was seeing. They made it through these rapids without capsizing and I hope that they made it out of the river safe and sound. I did some dumb things as a teenager but I never took on the river when it boiled like this.

 8. Ashuelot on 9-14

Imagine getting turned sideways in an aluminum rowboat and facing this. These waves were high enough to easily jump the sides of the boat and swamp it. And then there are the boulders that cause the waves. The roar of the river on this day was as loud as I’ve ever heard it.

9. Waterfall

Everywhere you looked it seemed like water splashed and roared. This is the outflow of a local lake.

 10. Dim Sun

All day Friday the sun tried to burn through the murkiness, but was having a hard time of it.

 11. Clouds over the Ashuelot

Finally the clouds began to break up and things started to dry out. It was good that they did-this stretch of river wouldn’t have taken much more rain.

Rain! whose soft architectural hands have power to cut stones, and chisel to shapes of grandeur the very mountains.  ~Henry Ward Beecher

NOTE: The flooding we saw here it is nothing compared to what the poor folks of Colorado have gone through, so let’s not forget them.

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We had a light frost here yesterday morning, so there probably won’t be too many more wildflower posts for this year. I’m going to miss them!

1. Field Milkwort

I found a few of these native field milkwort (Polygala sanguinea) flowers in an old pasture, growing in very sandy soil. One way to identify this plant is by its taproot, which smells like wintergreen. Another way is by its leaves, which should be alternate as the photo shows, and not whorled. The sepals on this flower shade from purple at the top to white at the base in this case, but its flowers can also be white or green. The “poly” part of the scientific name means much in Greek and “gala” means milk. It was once thought that cows eating this plant would produce more milk, and that’s how the plant got its common name.

2. Beech Drop Plant

Beech drops (Epifagus virginiana) are parasitic plants that insert a root-like structure called a haustorium into a beech tree’s root, taking what they need from the tree to stay alive. Since they are parasitic they don’t need chlorophyll and aren’t green. Instead the leafless stems are pale, yellowish green and the flowers can be wine red to pink to yellowish in color, sometimes with brownish purple stripes. This plant is also called cancer root because of the false belief that it cured cancer. It is related to Indian pipes and pinesap plants. Native Americans made a bitter tea from it.

3. Beech Drop Flowers

A closer look at the small flowers of beech drops. The plant is self-fertilizing but is also visited by insects.

4. Dodder

Dodder (Cuscuta) is another parasitic plant, but it isn’t limited to one kind of host like the beech drops. It can live off many different kinds of plants. Dodder is an annual and grows from seed in the spring. It wraps itself around the stem of another plant and pushes growths called haustoria into the stem of the host plant. If you look just to the upper left of the white flower in the photo you can see how the orange dodder stem has burrowed into the goldenrod stem. Once it is feeding on its host it loses all connection to the soil. This plant has no chlorophyll and its stems are bright orange. The round growths are seed pods.

 5. Flowering Raspberry

I was surprised to see this purple flowering raspberry (Rubus odoratus) in September-it usually starts blooming in June and might bloom into July in a good year. This shrub is in the rose family and might be mistaken for a rose if it wasn’t for its large, maple-like leaves. Its stems are hairy but not prickly like a rose. The native shrub will reach 3-6 feet tall and twice as wide under the right conditions.

6. Silverrod Flowers

Silverrod (Solidago bicolor) is in the goldenrod family and is also called white goldenrod. It is the only white flowered goldenrod found in the northeast and is a native. Seeing these flowers always reminds me that the growing season is nearly over. I usually find it in dry, gravelly places at the edge of the woods. As the flowers age they fade and change color slightly, and that’s where the bicolor part of the scientific name comes from.

 7. Obedient Plant Flowers

Obedient plant (Physostegia virginiana) is native to central and southern U.S. but in my experience, will grow just about anywhere.  I planted some in my yard several years ago to try to attract hummingbirds and it has been trying to take over ever since. Each year I weed it out, thinking that I’ve finally gotten rid of it only to find it growing in a different spot the following year. Its small snapdragon like flowers can be white or pink and are quite beautiful.

8. Slender Gerardia

The small, hairy flowers of slender gerardia (Agalinis tenuifolia ) are small and grow close to the ground, so they are easily missed. This plant is also called slender foxglove because its tube shaped flowers are similar in appearance to those of foxglove. The narrow leaves and wiry stems remind me of toadflax. An odd fact about this plant is that it turns black when it is dried, so it is not a good plant to press for herbarium specimens. It grows in fields and gravelly waste areas-often next to forked blue curls (Trichostema dichotomum).

9. Slender Gerardia

Slender gerardia flowers last only for a single day, opening in the morning and closing at night. By midafternoon they begin to take on a wilted look, so photographing them is best done at mid-day. Bees pollinate these flowers, and I see plenty of them when I visit these plants.

10. Sand Jointweed

I find sand jointweed (Polygonella articulata) growing in sand, just as its common name suggests. These plants grow to about a foot tall with thin, wiry stems and small white or pink flowers. The leaves are very small and lie against the stem so the plant appears leafless. The plant gets its name from the curious way the stems are jointed. I’m not sure why, but this is one of the hardest plants to photograph that I’ve ever met.

 11. Large Leaved Aster

Big leaved asters (Eurybia macrophylla) grow quite deep in the woods, so they have large leaves with enough surface area to collect what dim light is available. There is no hard and fast rule, but plants with larger leaves can often take more shade. It seems odd to see aster flowers topping a plant with such large, 8 inch long by 6 inch wide leaves. These plants grow in large colonies and I’ve seen entire hillsides covered with them. The flowers can be white, pale violet, or purple. Some Native American tribes used the plant’s roots in soup and its young spring leaves as food or medicine.

12. White Snakeroot

White snakeroot (Eupatorium rugosum ) is very toxic and in the early 19th century killed thousands of people-especially settlers in places like Indiana and Kentucky. In just one Indiana County half the deaths were said to be caused by this plant. A compound called trematol is passed from the plant to cows that graze on it, and their milk becomes toxic. When humans drank the milk before too long they started to show signs of what was called “milk sickness” and in a week or less would be dead from heart or liver failure. Abraham Lincoln’s mother died from milk sickness when he was just 9 years old. All parts of the plant are toxic to cattle, horses, sheep, and humans. Today’s farmers eradicate the plant from their pastures and mix the milk from many cows together, so milk sickness is almost unheard of. A Native American woman from the Shawnee tribe is credited with finally warning settlers about this plant.

Can we conceive what humanity would be if it did not know the flowers? ~ Maurice Maeterlinck

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There is a very beautiful photo which has etched itself into my memory. It was taken in Iceland and showed a black sand beach and a mirror smooth, blue green sea with snow white icebergs looming up out of the water. There were also smaller stranded icebergs on the sand leading down to the water. Two things made the photo so special; first was the incredible depth of field that made it seem to go on forever.  Second was the height perspective-it looked as if the photographer had his camera sitting right on the sand when he took the photo. I wish I could show it to you but I saw it only for a moment on a nature show on television. It made such an impression on me that I’ve never forgotten it, and over the last few weeks I’ve tried to re-create it here in New Hampshire, with somewhat disappointing results. It takes a fair amount of thought and planning to create the illusion of three dimensions in a flat, two dimensional space, not to mention the often large amount of time it takes to find the scene in the first place, so I’m going to show them-disappointing or not.

1. River View

We don’t see too many icebergs here in New Hampshire but we have plenty of rocks, so I tried to show them looming up out of the water like the icebergs in my remembered photo did. It didn’t really work in this river view-the rocks didn’t loom quite the way I wanted them to, even though the camera was almost sitting in the water. Now that I see the photo I think I had the camera too close to them, even though in reality it seemed much farther away.

 2. Waterfall View

This didn’t work either. I think it would have worked better if the waterfall wasn’t there, or was farther off in the distance. The idea is to have the horizon stretching off into infinity and the waterfall is too close for that. The rocks were looming a little more though. There was a drunken cedar waxwing sitting on one of them, waiting for me to leave so he could eat some more fermented dogwood berries.

 3. Meadow View

Not really what I was after, but getting a little closer as far as depth of field goes.

4. Forest View

In the forest this view seemed to go on and on but there are so many trees that they look more like a wall, rather than converging on a point in the distance as they really were. It’s amazing how the camera can create such a flat scene out of what was a good example of depth perspective. In this case I think if I had raised the camera up off the forest floor a bit it might have worked. It took quite a few tries to find what I thought was the perfect spot, so this one was especially disappointing.

 5. Road View

This view of an abandoned road doesn’t work at all. The scene is so distorted you’d think I used a fisheye lens. Something that doesn’t help here is the fact that, though the yellow line was once in the middle of the road, nature has been growing over one side more than the other. If you want to show the yellow line the scene is now skewed, with more open space on the right side of the line than the left.

6. Trail View

This shot has depth but the light is far too harsh and the only thing looming is an old dry leaf. Again, a long walk and a lot of time and experimentation for something that isn’t even close to what I was trying for.

7. Stream View

Another one with some depth, but again the light was too harsh. I almost fell in getting this one-the rocks I was trying to crouch down on were small and slippery.

 8. Pond View

The pond weeds in the foreground help this one, but it’s not a very interesting scene.

 9. Pond View

This was a hard shot to get. Too bad it isn’t what I was hoping for. The camera should have been lower and even though I knew that at the time there was no way to get it there without either going for a dip or crawling around in a patch of poison ivy.

10. Monadnock View

This shot of Mount Monadnock probably comes closest to what I was trying to do but it’s still not quite there, so I’ll have to keep trying.  I think a large part of the problem is that the landscape views that I’m seeing aren’t really comparable to the iceberg photo. But, because of this experiment if the view I’m looking for ever presents itself I think I’ll at least know what not to do when I try to get a shot of it.

Landscape photography is the supreme test of the photographer – and often the supreme disappointment.  ~Ansel Adams

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Here are a few more of those out of the ordinary things that I stumble across in my travels.

 1. Beard Lichen

Like the bones of a prehistoric reptile or the ruins of an ancient castle, beard lichens (Usnea) always remind me of the great age and great mysteries of this earth. This one has become an old friend and I visit it often. Most lichens refuse to grow where there is air pollution, so seeing them is always a good sign.

2. Bubbkegum Lichen

Ground dwelling lichens like this bubblegum lichen (Icmadophila ericetorum) will become covered with leaves and harder to see before too long.  This lichen gets its common name from the bubble gum pink fruiting bodies.

3. Scattered Rock Posy Lichen

Scattered rock posy lichen (Rhizoplaca subdiscrepans) grows on stones in full sun, so it will be visible all winter long. This is one of my favorite lichens and one of the most beautiful, in my opinion.

4. Beechnuts

Beech trees (Fagus grandifolia) are dropping their ripe nuts now and I saw a few places last week where the forest floor was littered with them.  The chipmunks and squirrels have been busy though, so you find more empty husks than anything else.

5. Beechnut  Opened

If you harvest beechnuts and then leave them alone for a day or two they will open like the one in the photo, and out will drop two kernels. Like many trees and other plants, beech trees will have a year of heavy production, known as a mast year, and then produce very few nuts for a few years afterwards. Since most of the kernels I opened were empty I have to assume that this isn’t a mast year.

6. Wild Sarsaparilla Fruit

The black, shiny wild sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis) berries are ripening. This year has been amazing as far as the bounty of nuts, fruits, and berries I’ve seen. I think the birds and animals will have a good winter with plenty to eat.

7. Polypody Fern Sori

Now is the time to turn over the leaves of the common polypody fern (Polypodium virginanum ) to see the naked spore capsules, which are called sori.  Most ferns have a flap like structure called an indusium that protects their spores, so being able to see them exposed like this is unusual. They always remind me of tiny round baskets full of flowers. The Druids though this fern had special powers because of its habit of growing near oak trees. Its roots and leaves have been used medicinally for many centuries and its name appears in some of the earliest herbal and botanical texts.

8. Cockleburrs

Common cocklebur (Xanthium strumarium) grows in every state except Alaska and throughout most of Canada. The spiny parts of the plant in the photo hide its tiny female flowers parts. Male flowers can be seen in the upper part of the photo, just to the right of center. I find cocklebur growing on riverbanks but it can also grow in agricultural areas. Since it can be toxic to livestock it isn’t a favorite of farmers and ranchers. Historically it has been used medicinally by Native Americans and was once used to make yellow dye.

9. Wild Cucumber Fruit

Young boys just need something to throw at each other (and rarely at young girls if they’re trying to get their attention) and it’s as if wild cucumber seed pods (Echinocystis lobata) were specifically designed for that purpose. The spines are scary looking but in reality are soft and aren’t really prickly until they are dried. This one reminded me of a small spiny watermelon.

10. Foxtail Grass

It’s not hard to see where green foxtail grass (Setaria viridis) gets its common name. This grass is a native annual that grows in clumps. Each bristle, called an awn, comes from a single grass flower and through natural rain and frost action burrows into the ground with the seed once it falls from the seed head. These plants are very dangerous to dogs and other animals because the awns, driven by the animal’s normal muscle movements, can burrow into their skin and cause infection and even death if not treated. Dog owners would be wise to rid their yards of any kind of foxtail grass.

11. Wooly Alder Aphid aka Paraprociphilus tessellatus

This colony of wooly alder aphids (Paraprociphilus tessellatus) on an alder limb was quite large. These insects can be winged or unwinged and need both silver maples and alders to complete their life cycle. Eggs overwinter in crevices in the bark of silver maple trees. In spring, nymphs hatch and begin feeding on the underside of new leaves. In late May through July, they develop wings and fly to alder trees where they feed on twigs and begin reproducing. Soon the colony is composed of aphids in all stages of development and becomes enveloped in white, fluffy wax as seen in the photo. Some aphids mature, return to silver maple trees and mate. Each mated female lays only one egg, which once again starts the overwintering stage.

12. Water Lily Stems

I watched the sun come up over a local pond recently and it was at the perfect angle for lighting up water lily stems. Since this isn’t something I often see I thought I’d show them here. These leaf stalks are flexible and coil somewhat to allow for fluctuations in water depth.

13. River Rocks

I visited a different section of the Ashuelot River one day and found that someone had been stacking rocks. Some Native American tribes believed that stacked rocks were a spiritual method of protecting sacred spaces. They were often built near powerful energy sources like springs or places with high numbers of lightning strikes. Piles and stacks had many different shapes and sizes and each meant something different.

14. Old Red Oak Tree

This large red oak stood next to a trail I was following one day. It isn’t the biggest I’ve seen but it was big. I leaned my monopod against it to give an idea of its size. A small sign nearby said that its age is estimated to be 300 years, and that it probably was never cut because it grew on a stone wall. Stone walls are boundary markers here in New Hampshire and it is illegal to remove stones from them or alter them in any way unless they are on your land. I can picture the farmers on either side of the wall not cutting the tree because their neighbor might have claimed ownership. That’s the way we do things here-not wanting to bother our neighbor, instead of asking we wait and see, sometimes for 300 years.

Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known. ~Carl Sagan

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The temperature fell to 40 degrees one night this week. Soon the leaves will begin to turn and the scent of wood smoke will fill the morning air. This means that the season for photographing flowers is coming to an end and soon we’ll all be wondering what else to use as subjects. For now though, there are still a few here and there. Here’s a sampling of what I’ve seen lately.

 1. Pickeral Weed

Native aquatic pickerel weed (Pontederia cordata) has had a long bloom period this year, but I’ve never paid enough attention to it to know if this is an unusual year for it. I like its fuzzy flowers.  Pickerelweed’s common name comes from the pickerel fish. They were once thought to breed only under this plant’s leaves. Once the flowers are pollinated and seeds form the flower stalk will bend over and drop the seeds into the water. They will have to go through at least two months of cold weather before being able to germinate.

 2. Turtlehead

Turtle head (Chelone glabra) is another native that likes water, but not enough to be considered aquatic. It will often grow right at the water’s edge along ponds and streams, so even the slightest rise in water level will put the plant’s roots under water. These flowers had almost gone by but the photo is a good representation of what they look like. The flowers are said to look like turtle heads, but I’m still not seeing it. The blossom in the upper left corner comes closest to the turtle look for me. Native Americans made medicinal tea from this plant and early colonials used it in the same way.

 3. Japanese Knotweed

All of the Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica) plants in this immediate area came up too early last spring and were blackened by a hard frost. As the photo above shows, it didn’t even slow them down. This, along with purple loosestrife is one of the worst invasives, because it spreads so fast and so thickly that it chokes out all other plants. A viable plant can grow from as little as .7 grams of rootstock.

 4. Japanese Knotweed

The flowers are why Japanese knotweed was imported from England back in the late 1800s.

5. Lady's Thumb

Lady’s thumb (Persicaria vulgaris) gets its common name from a black / brown smudge on its leaves, supposedly left there by a mysterious lady we’ll never know. Small pink flowers crowd the flower stalks (Racemes) on this plant in the knotweed family. Each flower has 5 sepals but no petals. Flowers can be pink, red, greenish white, or purple. All of these colors sometimes appear on the same raceme. This plant is native to Europe and Asia.

6. Lady's Thumb

The “lady’s thumb print” on Persicaria vulgaris leaves.

7. Smartweed

Smartweed (Polygonum hydropiperoides) flowers look a lot like those of its cousin lady’s thumb, but the flower spikes are longer and usually droop like the one in the photo. They also usually grow in the water of rivers and streams and have narrower leaves that don’t have the “thumbprint” that lady’s thumb leaves do. This plant is also called water pepper for good reason-the name “smartweed” comes from the very sharp, peppery taste of the stems, which makes the tongue smart. Many ducks, birds and animals eat the seeds.

 8. Pale Jewelweed

 Pale jewelweed (Impatiens pallida) looks a lot like spotted jewelweed, but has larger, pale yellow flowers instead of orange.  This plant is rarely seen here, but I found several large plants growing beside a stream one day. Native Americans used the crushed leaves of jewelweed to stop the itching caused by poison ivy. I’ve used the plant’s juice for the same thing and it works well, and it also works on bug bites.

 9. Pale Jewelweed

The sides of this flower were spotted much like those of spotted jewelweed, but quite often this plant’s flowers will have no spots at all. The nectar spur is shorter and less curved on pale jewelweed flowers as well. I think if I had to choose between the two plants I’d prefer the deep orange spotted jewelweed flowers.

10. Sweet everlasting aka Pseudognaphalium obtusifolium

Native sweet everlasting (Pseudognaphalium obtusifolium) looks a lot like pearly everlasting ( Anapahlis margaritacea) but its flower heads are narrower. The two plants are in the aster family, but aren’t closely related. These flowers are made up of a densely packed outer rim of overlapping bracts with many yellow disc florets in the center. The ‘everlasting” part of the common name comes from the way it lasts after it is dried. This plant is also called rabbit tobacco, but I’ve never seen one smoking it. Native Americans had many uses for it.

 11. Joe pye Weed

Joe Pye weed (Eutrochium purpureum) had a good year and this is just one of many large displays that I saw. Research into exactly who Joe Pye was has been ongoing for many years. The latest evidence says that Joseph Pye was a Mohegan sachem (chief) who lived in western Massachusetts and saved early European settlers from typhus by brewing a tea made from this plant. Joseph Pye was educated by Samson Occam, himself a Mohegan herbalist and Christian convert who kept an extensive diary. Those interested can read more about Joe Pye by clicking here.

12. Goldenrod

I usually stay away from goldenrod identification because even experts have trouble with them, but when I see one that looks like it’s been in a strong wind, with all of the flowers on one side of the stem I know it is gray goldenrod (Solidago nemoralis.) Native Americans used many goldenrods medicinally in the form of salves, syrups and teas.

 13. Purple Aster

The purple asters are beginning to peek out here and there among the whites, which are almost done blooming. I think this one is a bog aster (Aster nemoralus,) but there are so many different ones that it’s hard to identify most of them with any real certainty unless you want to spend half a day doing so. All I know for sure is that it isn’t a New England Aster, which has a much larger flower. These were about the size of nickels.

Flowers whisper “Beauty!” to the world, even as they fade, wilt, and fall. ~Dr. SunWolf

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We’ve seen a return of oppressive humidity and that has triggered daily thunderstorms. Since mushrooms are about 95 percent water, this means we’re having perfect weather for mushroom hunting. I’ve never seen as many as we have this year, of every shape and color imaginable.

 1. Yellow Finger Coral

Last year the season for finger coral mushrooms seemed brief, but this year they go on and on and are still easily found. One fact helpful in identifying these yellow finger coral mushrooms (Clavulinopsis fusiformis) is that they always grow in tight clusters, while look alikes do not. These are also called spindle corals.

 2. Golden Coral Mushroom

Crown coral mushrooms come in many colors, sizes, and shapes. This yellow tipped one was as big as a grapefruit. I think it might be a golden coral (Ramaria aurea,) but as my mushroom books say, there are so many similar coral mushrooms that it’s hard to tell them apart without a microscope. I just enjoy seeing them and they are everywhere right now.

 3. Orange Coral Mushroom

I think this pale orange one might be crown tipped coral (Clavicorona pyxidata,) which changes color from white through pink and finally orange.

 4. Gray Coral Fungus

Gray coral (Clavulina cinerea) is heavily branched with sharply pointed tips. Some mushroomers think this might be a variety of cockscomb coral.

 5. White Coral Fungus

Cockscomb coral mushrooms (Clavulina cristata) are ghostly while and, like many coral mushrooms, seem to prefer growing in hard packed earth like that found on woodland trails. These were everywhere the day I took this photo. It’s startling to see something so pure white come out of the dark soil.

 6. Bear's Head

Bear’s head or lion’s mane mushroom (Hericlum americanum) is a toothed fungus that looks like a fungal waterfall.  Soft spines hang from branches that reach out from a thick central stalk. This is another color changing mushroom that goes from white to cream to brown as it ages. I find it mostly on beech logs and trees. This one was large-probably about as big as a cantaloupe.

 7. Butter Waxcaps

I think these small yellow mushrooms might be butter wax caps (Hygrocybe ceracea.) I don’t see very many yellow mushrooms.

 8. Purple Cort

Purple cort mushroom caps (Cortinarius iodeoides) always look wet but they aren’t-they are slimy. That’s why they often have leaves, pine needles, and other forest debris stuck to their caps. This one was quite clean.

 9. Orange Mycena aka Mycena leaiana

Orange mycena (Mycena leaiana) Like to grow in clusters on the sides of hardwood logs. Its stems are sticky and if you touch these mushrooms the orange color will come off on your hand. I think this is one of the most visually pleasing mushrooms and I was happy to see several large clusters.

10. Marasmius delectans

An animal had knocked over what I think is a Marasmius delectans and I found it backlit by the very dim light one cloudy afternoon.  This mushroom is closely related to the smaller pinwheel mushrooms that follow. This one was close to the diameter of a nickel. The Marasmius part of the scientific name means “wither” or “shrivel” in Greek, and refers to the way these mushrooms shrivel in dry weather and then rehydrate when it rains.

 11. Pinwheel Mushrooms

Tiny little pinwheel mushrooms (Marasmius capillaris) can be very hard to focus on. I usually take quite a few photos of them from different angles and end up scrapping most of them. Pinwheel mushrooms are relatively easy to identify because they grow only on fallen oak leaves. The caps on the largest of these might reach pea size on a good day.

12. Fly Agaric

The yellow-orange fly agaric (Amanita muscaria var. formosa) has an almost metallic shine sometimes. The white spots (called warts) are what are left of the universal veil that covered the mushroom when it was in the immature “egg” stage. I usually find these growing under white pine or eastern hemlock trees.

13. Jelly Cup Mushroom aka Ascotremella faginea

I don’t see too many jelly fungi like this Tarzetta cupularis, which is classified as one of the sac fungi. Gelatinous fungi like these can absorb large amounts of water and then shrink down to a fraction of their original size as they dry out. They can appear in any one of many different shapes and colors and little seems to be known about them. There were 2 or 3 of this type growing on a rotting beech log.

14. Orange Jelly Fungus

Orange jelly fungus (Dacrymyces palmatus) is also found on logs and is fairly common. This one was wet and as big as a walnut, but as it dries out it might shrink down to hard little lump that is half the size of a pea. Then, once it rains again it will return to what it looks like in the photo. This is also sometimes called brain fungus and witch’s butter.

15. Black Chanterell

The deep purple horn of plenty (Craterellus cornucopioides) is another mushroom that is very beautiful, and one that I hadn’t ever seen until the day this photo was taken. Also called the black chanterelle, mushroom hunters say it is very hard to find because looking for it is like looking for black holes in the ground. Some have said that they can look right at it and not see it. For once I’m grateful for the colorblindness that makes it easier for me to see such an apparently rare thing.

Information for those interested: I recently bought an LED light to use in dark places instead of a flash, which can discolor some subjects. I used it on the 3rd, 5th, and 14th photos, counting down from the top. Flash was used on the 1st, 9th, and 11th photos, again counting down form the top. The LED light works well and I’m happy with it but I’d still rather use natural lighting, and it was used for everything else.

Nature alone is antique, and the oldest art is a mushroom. ~Thomas Carlyle

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