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Archive for November, 2013

It’s been cold here and any ice that forms at night no longer melts during the day, so I’ve been seeing quite a lot of it along with other, more welcome things.

 1. Icy Puddle

That white, strange sounding ice is forming on puddles and pond edges again and it always reminds me of spring. Trapped oxygen accounts for the color, but I’ve never been able to find out why it makes such a strange hollow, tinkling sound when you ride your bike through it.

 2. Ice Needles

When ground water meets below freezing air it becomes super cooled and freezes, and when hydrostatic pressure keeps forcing the super cooled water out of the soil “extrusions” form. The water slowly moves through hollow needles, freezing and lengthening each needle as it goes. These needles then usually freeze into bundles like that shown in the photo. I found this needle ice at the base of a small hill.

 3. Icy Stream Bank

Time will sometimes let us see how foolish we have been, and as I look at this photo now and think back to how slippery the ice covered rocks on this stream bank were, I realize that standing on them was a foolish thing to do. The water was about 4 feet deep and looked mighty cold, but I wasn’t thinking about any of that when I saw the sun shining on these ice formations.

4. Barberry Fruit

Barberry berries shine like tiny Christmas bulbs in the sun. Unfortunately they hang from the very invasive Japanese barberry ((Berberis thunbergii). One way to identify Japanese barberry in the winter is by its single, unbranched (and very sharp) spines that form in the leaf nodes along its stems.

5. Unknown

This has me completely stumped. It’s one of the strangest things I’ve seen in the woods and I think that it’s a lichen but if it is, I’ve never seen one like it. I’ve never seen a picture or a description of anything like it either. And I’ve never felt one like it-it felt like a fungus. It was large-about the size of an average doughnut. I’ve got to go back to it and see what, if anything it has done.

Note: Thanks to Rick over at the Between Blinks Blog, this has been idetified as the crust fungus Phlebia radiata. There will be more on this in a future post.

6. Common Fern Moss aka Thuidium delicatulum 2

In the late fall and winter fern moss (Thuidium delecatulum) turns yellow-green. This moss is sometimes called log moss because it is often seen on them, but it also grows on the bases of trees and on soil.

7. Foamflower Leaves

The leaves of foam flower (Tiarella cordifolia) slowly turn purple as it gets colder, starting with their veins. We’ve had some real cold weather so I was surprised to see them still so green. Hundreds of these plants grow on a wet embankment near a stream. Their drifts of small white, bottlebrush-like flower heads are beautiful in the spring.

8. Hosta Seed Pods

Since it gets dark so early these days I’ve been using the flash a bit more. I like how detailed it makes some things look. These are the open seed pods of a hosta.

9. Grape Tendril

Here in New Hampshire the two most common wild grapes are the fox grape (Vitis labrusca) and the river grape (Vitis riparia). Both look a lot like concord grapes.

 10. Eastern Arborvitae aka Thuja occidentalis Cones

The dried, open cones of northern white cedar (Thuja occidentalis) look like tiny, carved wooden flowers. Gone are the eight seeds that each one holds, but the flattened, scale-like leaves so common on cedars can be seen in this photo. Native Americans showed 16th century French explorer Jacques Cartier how to cure scurvy with the leaves of this tree and he was so impressed that he named it Arborvitae, which is Latin for Tree of Life. He also had trees with him when he returned to Europe, so Thuja occidentalis became the first North American tree to be introduced there.

Ice burns, and it is hard for the warm-skinned to distinguish one sensation, fire, from the other, frost. ~ A.S. Byatt

Thanks for stopping in.

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Since I did a post about turkey tail fungi last year and, since I have a few photos of some that I’ve seen recently, I thought I’d do another post about them this year.

 1. Turkey Tails

Not that I’ve learned that much more information about them than I knew last year, but I do know that they are one of the most colorful fungi in the forest. They are also one of the easiest to find, because they grow in nearly every state in the country and throughout Europe, Asia. and Russia.

 2. Turkey Tails

Turkey tail colors are described as buff, brown, cinnamon, and reddish brown, but “versicolor” means “having many colors” and as you can see by the photos, they also come in many shades of blue and purple. One of the important things to look for when searching for turkey tails is the concentric banding of colors. Another important feature is the porous underside. If you see gills, it isn’t a turkey tail.

 3. Trametes pubescens

Most turkey tails have hairs or fuzz on their upper surface but some are very fuzzy, as this photo of Trametes pubescens shows.”Pubescens” means hairy or downy and these certainly were. This fungus is often various shades of white, with very weak zoning, but it can also have tan and brown in its color scheme.

 4. Trametes pubescens

Here’s another look at Trametes pubescens, showing how it is often various shades of white and gray.

 5. Possible Blushing Bracket aka Daedaleopsis confragosa

This fungus is not a turkey tail, but I wanted to show it as an example of “weak zoning,” where the difference in colors of the various bands is almost imperceptible. I think this might be a blushing bracket (Daedaleopsis confragosa). This fungus gets its common name from the way the white pores on its under surface “blush” pinkish red when it is handled.

 6. Blue Turkey Tail

For years now I’ve wondered what determines the colors that turkey tails display. Why are some brown and others blue? Or orange? Or purple?  If the question has an answer I haven’t found it. Most of the ones I’ve seen this year are shades of blue and purple like last year, but three years ago they were shades of tan and brown.

 7. Bluish Turkey Tail

This is another example of the purple / blue shades that I’m seeing so much of this year.

 8.Turkey Tails

These look much more like the ones I saw three years ago, in various shades of brown and sometimes just a hint of purple or gray.

 9. Ocher Bracket Fungus

I think this might be the ocher bracket fungus (Trametes ochracea), which is much less flexible than true turkey tails (Trametes versicolor.) It can be very dark like the example in the photo or a much lighter, tan color.

 10. Stereum 

This is another example of a false turkey tail and another good example of weak zoning. This Stereum fungus is more of a crust than a bracket fungus and it has no pores. Some varieties of this fungus are hairy and others “bleed” red latex when they are cut.

 11. Turkey Tails

Other than their beauty, the thing that amazes me most about turkey tails is their value in cancer research. They have been used medicinally by the Chinese, Japanese, and Native Americans for thousands of years and the FDA has recently approved them for trials on cancer patients. It makes me wonder what else is in the forest, just waiting to be discovered.

 12. Logged Hillside

Places that have been recently logged off are an excellent place to search for turkey tails because they grow on stumps and logs. Searching for them is a good way to burn off some of that Thanksgiving meal, too. When I visited the logged hillside in the above photo I saw hundreds of them in just a small area, so you don’t have to search very hard.

Mushrooms are miniature pharmaceutical factories, and of the thousands of mushroom species in nature, our ancestors and modern scientists have identified several dozen that have a unique combination of talents that improve our health. ~Paul Stamets

Have a happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Thanks for stopping in.

 

 

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Last weekend I visited a railroad cut that dates from the early 1800s.  I found this rail trail in Westmoreland, a town that’s North West of here, last year and it has become one of my favorite places to explore because of the many different plants that grow here.

 1. Canyon

This cut is deep in places and ice had formed where little if any sun shines. If you have ever stood in front of the open door of a walk in freezer then you know what I felt like while taking this photo. It’s nice and cool in the summer and real cool at this time of year.

 2. Mossy Ledge

Some ice tried to stand up to the weak November sunlight but ion this day it was losing the battle, because it was near 60 degrees. All I could hear was the constant drip of water and the crash of falling ice. I took this photo because at times it was like being in an ice cathedral. This reminded me of a niche where a statue might stand.

 3. Trees on Ledges

Instead of spires this cathedral has trees that soar up to the heavens.

 4. Unknown Plant on Ledge

Instead of gargoyles many different plants perch atop even the smallest ledges. I thought the one in this photo was a spleenwort called wall rue (Asplenium ruta-muraria) but there is a small brook running all along the base of the rock face so I couldn’t reach it. I’ve been able to get close enough by zooming in on the photos that I took to know that it isn’t wall rue, but I have no idea what it is.

 5. Icy LiverwortsThousands of liverworts also grow here, seemingly not minding the ice. The small brook kept me from inspecting these up close, too. These plants have grown here undisturbed for almost 200 years and they obviously like it because there are large colonies of them.

 6. Brook

This is the small brook that runs along the base of the rock face. It’s just wide enough so you can’t straddle it and just deep enough so you don’t want to step in it. If you jumped it you would run smack into stone, so I’ll wait until it freezes. There were some small fish in it but they were so fast that I couldn’t tell what they were. They might have been brook trout-they like cold water.

 7. Unknown Orange Lichen

Some stones were covered with huge patches of orange lichens that looked like moss. I’ve never seen this one anywhere but here and I haven’t been able to identify it. Many lichens are orange, but none seem quite as hairy as this one is.

 8. Shack 

Since the railroad ran through here at one time I’m assuming this was a lineman’s shack, or maybe a storage shed. People have torn off the siding to use as bridges to cross the brook.

 9. Ice on Ledges 

A lot of ice climbers come here in the winter to climb the huge ice columns that form when the temperature gets cold enough. On this day all of the ice was rotten and falling from the ledges, and I made sure I wasn’t standing under any of them when they let go.

 10. Rotten Ice

Rotten ice is ice that has frozen and thawed repeatedly or has layers of snow or water within it or has water or air pockets between its ice crystals. Sometimes it’s clear, sometimes grayish, and sometimes white. Vertical hanging ice usually has bubbles in it that are big enough to be seen without magnification. It is always weak and it sounds hollow when it is tapped, rather than solid. When water gets between the ice and the stone that it’s hanging from it can fall very easily and without warning, so that’s a good reason to not stand under it.

 11. Slipped Ledge

Ice isn’t the only thing falling around here. The face of the slab of rock shown in the photo was about two feet wide and the whole thing must have easily been 10 feet long.

 12. Pink Feldspar

A pegmatite grows quickly in the last bits of magma to cool in granite. They are known for their large crystals of what are often semi-precious stones like aquamarine, tourmaline, garnet and topaz. One of the most common pegmatite minerals is feldspar, which can be white, pink or gray. The photo shows part of a large vein of pinkish feldspar that travels through the exposed bedrock here.  Many fine mineral specimens can be found in feldspar and I used to spend many happy hours searching for them. I think of it as a soup, with feldspar the broth and the semi-precious crystals the vegetables. Feldspar is a weak mineral that is easily broken and it gives off a very distinctive odor when struck with a steel hammer.

 13. Smokey Eye Boulder Lichen

Smokey eye boulder lichens (Porpidia albocaerulescens) are usually a smoky gray color, which is where their common name comes from, but they can also have a bluish tint because of the way their waxy coating reflects sunlight. These are crustose lichens and they form a kind of crust on the substrate that they grow on. The bond between a crustose lichen and its substrate is so strong that it can’t be removed without damaging the substrate.  

14. The End 

I found this on the trail and thought that I might as well get some use out of it.

If nature has taught us anything it is that the impossible is probable ~ Ilyas Kassam

Thanks for coming by.

 

 

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Here are some more of those sometimes odd, often beautiful, and always interesting things that I see in the woods.

 1. Poplar Sunburst Lichen

It’s interesting how nature seems to use the same shapes over and over again in different ways. The round fruiting cups, called apothecia, of the Poplar Sunburst Lichen (Xanthoria hasseana) remind me of the suckers on an octopus or squid. Instead of latching onto things however, this lichen uses its cups for spore production. To give you a sense of scale-the largest of those in the photo is about an eighth of an inch across. The entire lichen might have been an inch and a half across.

 2. Many Forked cladonis Lichen

This lichen had me stumped for a while because I thought that beard lichens only grew on trees, and it was growing on stone. One bristly lichen that does grow on stones is called rock bushy lichen (Ramalina intermedia) but it has flattened branches that resemble noodles, and the one in the photo has round branches. I went back to re-visit it the other day and found that, though it was perched on a large boulder, there was soil on the boulder. That fact led me to discover a lichen new to me-the many forked cladonia (Cladonia furcata,) which grows on soil or stone. It is eaten by elk and reindeer in northern latitudes. This is the only example of it in this area that I know of.

 3. Common Liverwort aka Marchantia polymorpha

I went through most of my life ignoring liverworts, but after seeing one or two of them now I see them everywhere. The one in the photo is the common liverwort (Marchantia polymorpha.) It can often be found growing in nursery pots as a weed, but I found this one by a stream. This is also called the umbrella liverwort, because male plants have reproductive structures (Antheridiophores) that look like the ribs of an umbrella. They remind me of palm trees.

 4. Orange Mushroom Gills

Sometimes I like to take a photo of something I see just because I find it interesting or beautiful, without worrying about its name or how and why it grows the way that it does. That’s all that this photo of orange / brown mushroom gills is.

 5. Fallen Mushroom

Sometimes mushrooms are as interesting dead as they are alive. Sometimes even more so.

 6. Virginia Creeper Berries

Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) stems and berries add color to the landscape. I got to these before the birds did. A paper titled “The dissemination of Virginia Creeper Seeds by English Sparrows” by Bartle T. Harvey describes how the author found 70 Virginia creeper seedlings in fifty square feet of ground under a known English sparrow roost in Colorado.

 7. Possible Jack O Lantern Mushrooms

I think these mushrooms might be jack ‘o lantern mushrooms (Omphalotus illudens,) which are orange and fruit in late fall in clusters on wood. If I could see them at night I’d know for sure, because through bio-luminescence this mushroom’s gills glow in the dark. It is said that they glow an eerie green color and work in much the same way that fireflies do. They are also very toxic.

8. Jack O' Lantern Mushrooms

This photo of glowing jack o’ lantern mushrooms is from Wikipedia. Only the gills glow, even though it looks as if the entire mushroom does.

 9. Orange Jelly Fungus

More orange can be found in the forest in the form of orange jelly fungus (Dacrymyces palmatus.) These are very common but I see more of them at this time of year than I do in warmer months.

 10. Hobblebush Buds

Hobblebushes (Viburnum lantanoides) have already grown their spring leaves and they will remain this way, naked and unprotected, throughout the winter months. I got a good lesson on why they are called hobblebush recently when my feet got tangled in the ground hugging branches. They hobbled me and I went down fast and hard. Luckily there were no stones there to fall on-a miracle in the Granite State.

 11. Maaple Leave ViburnamAnother viburnum, maple leaf viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium), has leaves that turn to just about every fall color , including deep purple,  before they finally fade to an almost imperceptible pastel pink before falling to the ground.

 12. Marple Leaf Viburnum

This is an example of just some of the colors that can be found on maple leaf viburnums.

 13. Larch

The few larch trees (Larix) went out in a blaze of color. Larches lose their needles from the bottom up. It is our only conifer that loses all of its needles in the fall.

 14. River Reflections

The shrubs along the river have lost their leaves. The few yellow leaves that appear here and there are on bittersweet vines.

If you will stay close to nature, to its simplicity, to the small things hardly noticeable, those things can unexpectedly become great and immeasurable. ~Rainer Maria Rilke

Thanks for coming by.

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After over a year of using my moss identification guides to identify various mosses, I think I’m ready to do at least one post on them. I’m fairly confident that the following plants are what I think they are, but I don’t have access to a microscope so none of this information should be taken as absolute gospel. Information about the guides I’ve used can be found under the “Books I Use” tab at the top of the page.

1. Rocky Hillside

My thoughts usually turn to mosses and other forest floor dwellers at this time of year because they’re so easy to see with no leaves in the way. Instead of roots mosses have small, thread like rhizoids. Since they can’t take up water like vascular plants they absorb it like a sponge over their entire surface, and when they’re seen in abundance as in the above photo, it’s a fair bet that the soil is either quite moist or the area is shaded enough to keep  them from drying out between rains. Though some mosses can go for quite a while with no water, most need regular replenishment. Like lichens, mosses can look very different when they are dry, so serious moss hunters like to do their hunting after a rain.

 2. Rose Moss aka Rhodobryum roseum

Since I’ve never paid very close attention to mosses I never realized that some of them, like rose moss, had leaves that are quite big-easily big enough to be seen with the naked eye-and can be quite beautiful. Rose moss (Rhodobryum roseum) gets its common name from the way its rosettes of leaves look like tiny flowers. When rose moss dries out its leaves contort and fold upward like petals of flowers that close at night. I found a large colony of this moss growing on a boulder.

 3. Maidenhair Pocket Moss aka Fissidens adianthoides

Pocket moss gets its common name from the way the lower lobe of its leaf curls around its stem to form a pocket. That feature can’t be seen in the photo and neither can the way the central nerve, or vein of each leaf stops before it reaches the leaf tip, but those two features plus the fact that the example in the photo was constantly dripped on by ground water tell me that this is maidenhair pocket moss (Fissidens adianthoides).

4. Maidenhair Pocket Moss Sporophytes aka Fissidens adianthoides

The capsules where some mosses produce spores are called sporophytes. In the case of maiden hair pocket moss the capsules are like a tiny barrel that is covered on one end by a calyptra, which is a piece of tissue that looks like a stocking cap. When the spores mature the calyptra dries out and falls off, but before it does the fruiting bodies of this moss remind me of cranes. Or herons.  Under the tiny stocking cap is a lid (operculum) that also comes off so the spores can be released. This happens at different times of year for different mosses.

 5. Medusa Moss aka Hedwigia ciliata

The name medusa moss (Hedwigia ciliata) comes from the way this moss looks like a bunch of tangled worms when it dries out. This moss is fairly common but I don’t think I’ve ever seen it grow quite as long as it was here. It was obviously in a good location for optimum growth.

 6. Medusa Moss aka Hedwigia ciliata 2

This is a closer look at the Hedwigia ciliata in the previous photo. It is also called white tipped moss and is almost always found growing on large boulders in the woods.

 7. Membranous Dog Lichen aka Peltigera membranacea 3

The last time I saw a dog lichen it was growing on a rotting stump but this one, Peltigera membranacea, was growing on a mossy boulder. Dog lichens are associated with mossy area because the mosses provide the moisture that they need. This is known as a membranous lichen, which simply means that it is thin and pliable. It is also a foliose lichen, meaning that it is lobed, or leaf like. The upper part of the body (Thallus) is undulating or veined as seen in the photo. This lichen was large and easy to see. It was also probably quite old.

 8. Membranous Dog Lichen aka Peltigera membranacea

The white “roots” on the underside of the lichen body are called rhizines. On some lichens these can be quite bushy but on Peltigera membranacea they are narrow, thin and “fang like”. They are one of the identifying characteristics of this lichen along with its thin, flexible, undulating thallus.

I’ve heard another theory behind the name “dog lichen.”  It says that the name refers to the large, lobed body of the lichen looking like dog ears. It sounds plausible, but so do the other three theories I’ve heard. One says the fang like rhizines look like dog’s teeth, another says the entire lichen body looks like a dog, and yet another says that the apothecia, or fruiting bodies, look like dog ears.

 9. Fan Shaped Club Moss

Fern allies are “seedless vascular plants that are not true ferns, but like ferns, disperse by shedding spores.” Mosses don’t fit this description because, though they produce spores, they are not vascular. Club mosses fit the description perfectly and are called “club” mosses because their fruiting structures (strobili) are club shaped. These club shaped, cone-like structures are where the spores are produced. The club moss in the photo, known as fan shaped club moss (Diphasiastrum digitatum), doesn’t have any strobili showing. In fact, as I was choosing the photos for this post I realized that I have never seen this club moss in its fruiting stage.

 10. Running Club Moss

Another club moss that I have never seen fruiting is running club moss (Lycopodium clavatum). This plant gets its name from the way it sends out long, horizontal stems. All along the horizontal stem erect stems form at intervals and roots form where it touches the ground. I had to brush the leaves away from the horizontal stem so we could see it, because when it’s buried it’s difficult to tell this club moss from others. I can’t say that these plants are rare here, but I don’t see them too often.

 11. Baby Tooth Moss aka Plagiomnium cuspidatum

Baby tooth moss (Plagiomnium cuspidatum) doesn’t look like a moss at all to me, with its long, vining habit and (relatively) large leaves, but it is one. Though far too small to be seen in the photo, this moss gets its common name from the way the upper margins of the leaves are toothed. The cuspidatum part of the scientific name comes from cuspid, which comes from the Latin cuspis and which means a tooth with a single point, like a canine tooth. It is said that this moss is very common in eastern North America, but I can’t remember ever seeing it before I took this photo. It grows in moist hardwood forests on stones, logs, or soil.

12. Brocade Moss aka Hypnum imponens

Brocade is a “heavy fabric interwoven with a rich, raised design” and that description really fits brocade moss (Hypnum imponens), which always looks to me like it was embroidered by elves or some other forest dwellers. This moss, with its orange, yellow, and brown highlights and fern or feather like shape is one of the easiest to identify. It forms dense mats on moist ground. This moss was once used as stuffing for mattresses and pillows and the Hypnum part of the scientific name comes from the word Hypnos, name of the Greek god of sleep.

 13. Plaited Shaggy Moss aka Rhytidiadelphus triquetrus

A good example of why botanists use scientific names instead of common names is this moss, Rhytidiadelphus triquetrus. Its common names are shaggy moss, plaited shaggy moss, big shaggy moss, rough goose neck moss, rough neck moss, and even electrified cat’s tail moss. I kid you not. Apparently someone thought that if you somehow plugged in a cat its tail would look just like this moss.

 14. Yellow Feather Moss aka Homalothecium lutescens

When I saw how pale this yellow feather moss (Homalothecium lutescens) was I thought it was sick, but this is the way it is supposed to look. It has kind of a loose, airy look that I like. It’s also called ragged yellow moss and fossil evidence has been found that dates it as far back as the Pleistocene epoch, from about 2,588,000 to 11,700 years ago.

Our minds, as well as our bodies, have need of the out-of-doors. Our spirits, too, need simple things, elemental things, the sun and the wind and the rain, moonlight and starlight, sunrise and mist and mossy forest trails, the perfumes of dawn and the smell of fresh-turned earth and the ancient music of wind among the trees.~ Edwin Way Teale

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1. Dim Sun

Here in New Hampshire November is always the cloudiest month but I looked out the window one recent morning and saw a beautiful, sunny day. I didn’t want to waste it so I set off for the High Blue trail north of here in Walpole. By the time I parked at the trailhead the sun was just a white smudge on a sky so flat and gray it looked as if it had been painted by a melancholy watercolorist. It would have been a great day for wildflower or foliage photography, but it wasn’t too good for landscapes.

 2. High Blue Sign

The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests maintains the trail that leads to ledges that, at 1588 feet above sea level, look out over the Connecticut River valley into Vermont. It’s an easy, quick walk to a great view and I come here quite often.

 3. Mossy Ledges

I especially like to come here at this time of year when the bones of the forest are revealed. At any other time of year you could walk right by these mossy ledges without seeing them, but now they really stand out. This is a great place to find many different lichens and mosses.

 4. Rock Tripe Covered Boulders

A closer look shows large boulders covered with rock tripe lichen (Umbilicaria mammulata)

 5. Rock Tripe

It is said that soldiers stationed at Valley Forge under George Washington ate rock tripe to stay alive. But they also ate their shoes, and rock tripe is considered barely edible even though science has shown that it has a very high nutritional value. On this day it was dry and brittle but when it rains it will become pliable and algae will blossom up to its surface, turning it dark green.

 6. Beech with Beech Bark Disease

Rain isn’t going to help our beech trees, I’m afraid. This is called beech bark disease and I’m seeing it more and more. Sometime around 1890 a European Beech was imported in Nova Scotia, and it was infected with a scale insect called wooly beech scale. This scale is a sucking insect and it makes holes in the bark to get at the sap. These wounds allow certain types of fungi to begin growing and killing the inner bark of the tree. If there are enough wounds and they circle the tree it is girdled and killed. Since both the scale insect and the various fungi that follow it are wind borne, the future doesn’t look bright for the American Beech (Fagus grandifolia) in this part of the country.

7. Beech Drops

Beech drops (Epifagus virginiana) is a plant that parasitizes the roots of beech trees, but doesn’t do any real damage to them. I usually look for this plant in the fall when it blooms, but this time I found it gone to seed. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into, because information on this plant’s seeds and how they are dispersed is just about impossible to find. In fact, I found only one other photo of its seeds, and it was out of focus, so the photo here is something of a rarity, apparently. If only I’d known when I was in the woods! I did find one article that said it is thought that raindrops, landing in the open, cup shaped pod seen in the photo, would disperse the seeds, but nobody really seems to know for sure.

1. Toothed Fungus

I thought this odd colored toothed fungus was interesting. I think it is a bear head fungus (Hericium americanum) but I’m not sure if that comes in this color. It was a very cold morning though and this and other fungi were frozen solid, so that might have affected the color and changed it from the usual white. The icicle like appearance of this fungus was very appropriate on such a cold morning.

8. Stone Wall

If you like stone walls this is the time of year to look for them. They’re much easier to see now that the leaves have fallen. Here in New Hampshire you don’t have to go very far to find one-any forest will do. Many, if not most, of these old walls still mark property boundaries.

9. Foundation Stones

Cellar holes and old stone foundations are also much easier to see. This is the corner of what was once the foundation of someone’s house. We might wonder why someone would be living “out in the middle of nowhere” because it’s easy to forget that just one hundred years ago most of these hills were cleared and used as pasture land.

10. High Blue Cairn

This is new. When I was up here last August I didn’t see any cairns, but now there are three. I’ve never seen a source of loose stone here either but there must be one nearby. I can’t imagine anyone carrying that much stone all the way up here. Cairns have been built since before recorded history for many different purposes but I’m not sure what, if anything these ones are supposed to mean.

11. High Blue View

The view of the Green Mountains off to the west from the ledges was blue as it always is, but also hazy. I think the clouds were low enough to limit the viewable distance somewhat. The wind was coming at this spot from right over Stratton Mountain and it was cold.

12. High Blue View

It’s no wonder the wind coming over the mountain was so cold. According to the Stratton Mountain Ski Area web site, they’ve been making snow and are expecting some natural snow someday this week. If it snows I hope it stays on that side of the Connecticut River and doesn’t make it this far east. I’m not ready for it yet. I wish I had made it up here when the foliage colors were peaking.

 13. Monadnock from High Blue Trail

As you walk down the trail at this time of year Mount Monadnock can be seen to the south east. It too will be snow covered soon.  When there are leaves on the trees this view is mostly blocked.

You never climb the same mountain twice, not even in memory. Memory rebuilds the mountain, changes the weather, retells the jokes, and remakes all the moves. ~Lito Tejada-Flores

Thanks for stopping in.

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 1. In the Woods

I found myself in a pocket of beech trees one day and took a few photos. Beech and oak and a few shrubs are all we have for colorful foliage now. 

2. Beech LeavesAmerican beeches (Fagus grandifolia) have great fall color that starts when maples, birches, and others are finishing.

 3. Beech Leaves Browning

Beech colors don’t last long though, and before you know it the leaves turn brown and curl. Like some oak leaves most beech leaves will stay on the younger trees through winter, rattling in the wind. Some believe that the beech hangs onto its dry leaves to hide its young buds from browsing animals.

 4. Burning Bushes

Some shrubs still have good color too, like these burning bushes (Euonymus alatus) that grow in great long swaths along the river. They’re beautiful, but also one of the most invasive shrubs in the state. They grow in such impenetrable thickets that native plants can’t get a start. Another name for this one is winged euonymus and you are not allowed to sell it, import it into, or plant it in New Hampshire.

5. Burning Bush Fruit

This is what makes the burning bush so invasive. Birds love its fruit and spread it far and wide. Introduced in the United States from Asia in 1860 as a garden ornamental, it is now present in 25 states and parts of Canada.

 6. Bittersweet Berries

Another invasive plant is Chinese Bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus.), It is a vine so tough that it can strangle young trees and topple older ones by growing in and adding a lot of weight to their crowns. Burning bushes and Chinese bittersweet are in the same family and both are very invasive. The bittersweet was introduced in 1879 and has made it as far west as the Rocky Mountains, as far south as Louisiana, and north to Maine. There is an American species of bittersweet (Celastrus scandens ) and the two plants hybridize naturally, making eradication close to impossible.

 7. Dried Jack in the Pulpit Berries

Usually deer will come along and chomp the entire head of berries from a Jack in the pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum ) stem, but in this case it looks like both the deer and birds have shunned these examples. They look a little deformed so maybe the birds and animals know something about them that I don’t. A similar plant, also in the arum family, is called lords and ladies in the U.K.

8. Winterberry

Our native holly that is called winterberry (Ilex verticillata) looks nothing like the evergreen hollies we grow in our gardens. In fact for most of the year it is unremarkable and if you weren’t looking for it you wouldn’t pay any attention to it. Even its tiny flowers are hard to see, but in autumn after the leaves have fallen this plant announces its presence with a loud, red berried shout.  Birds don’t eat these berries until very late in winter because they have a low fat content, so many people cut the branches and bring them inside for the holidays. I like to see them against the snowy background.

 9. Frosty Windshield

We’ve had both frosts and freezes here now so I took my camera out one icy morning to gather the evidence.

10. Frost Bitten Fern

Actually, the evidence of frosts and freezes is everywhere you look, as this contorted fern frond shows.

11. Frosted Helianthus

This helianthus didn’t even have time to drop its petals before being flash frozen.

Frosty River

One frosty morning even though the Ashuelot River was steaming it still looked dark and cold. It won’t be long before ice forms along its shores and slowly creeps toward its middle.

If months were marked by colors, November in New England would be colored gray. ~Madeleine M. Kunin

Thanks for coming by.

 

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I’d heard about a very special place in Antrim, New Hampshire, a town that lies about 20 miles northwest of Keene. The place is called Loveren’s Mill, named after Josiah Loveren, who in 1864 became the third owner of a combined saw and grist mill originally built in 1798. The mill changed hands several times until it finally closed in 1920. It isn’t the mill site that I went to see however-there is an Atlantic cedar swamp on the property that pollen tests have shown is at least 4000 years old, and most likely much older.

1.Trail Sign

The Atlantic white cedars (Chamaecyparis thyoides) here aren’t cedars at all-they are white cypress-but they are also very rare and appear in just a few pockets along the Atlantic coast. One reason they are so rare is because they grow so slowly, in some cases taking hundreds of years to reach a foot in height.

 2. Stone Foundation

I don’t know if this old stone foundation was for a mill, house, or barn but it sits close to the north branch of the Contoocook River.

 3. Contoocook

The Contoocook river is notable as the only river in New Hampshire to run north instead of south. This photo was taken near the site of the mill, which stood a little way upriver on its far side.

 4. Plant Covered Boulder

 As you move away from the river deeper into the woods you can feel that this is an ancient place. Every stump, boulder and log is a garden, covered with mosses, liverworts, ferns, lichens and fungi.

5. Boardwalk

 Before too long, off the main trial to the right, a 200 foot long boardwalk leads through the spongy peat mosses into a grove of cedars.  Atlantic white cedar swamps are rare in New Hampshire and are considered globally rare as well. This swamp is unusual because of its 1,083 foot elevation and by the way the surrounding hills funnel cold air down into it. Because it stays so cool it supports plant life that is usually found only in boreal forests much farther north. I’ve heard that in spring the trails are lined with pink ladies slippers and native pink azaleas. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a great variety of orchids here, along with sundews, pitcher, and other plants that like cool, acidic water.

 6. Cedar Swamp

You don’t want to step off the boardwalk because you would probably sink into the floating mat of mosses up to your knees if you did-the trees in this photo are growing in standing water. They can’t stand much fluctuation in the water level, and their survival here shows that things haven’t changed much over the millennia. Still, I have heard that the boardwalks are sometimes under water in spring from snow melt, so it must fluctuate some.

 7. Cedar Fruiting

Fruiting cones show that the cedars which are actually cypress must be happy. The flat, scaly leaves and grayish, peeling bark are common to both cedar and cypress, so it is easy to confuse the two. Though many cypress are deciduous, these Chamaecyparis thyoides are evergreen, which makes identification even more difficult.

 8. Larch Branch

Eastern larch (Larix laricina) is another tree that prefers wet, swampy ground and they do quite well here in the swamp. They like to be cool and can stand temperatures down to -85 degrees F. Other trees found here include balsam fir (Abies balsamea) and red spruce (Picea rubens) and like the cypress, these trees are usually found much farther north in boreal forests.

 9. Fern Moss aka Thuidium delicatulum

There were so many different mosses growing here that I might have to do a post on just mosses. This beautiful thing is one of the fern mosses called delicate fern moss (Thuidium delicatulum). It is very lacy and fragile looking and I don’t see it too often. This moss forms large mats and will grow in sun or shade as long as the soil is moist. It is available commercially for moss gardens.

 10. Dog Lichen (Peltigera polydactyla)

I saw many lichens in the area, but I didn’t expect to see this dog lichen (Peltigera) growing on a moss covered stump. I should have gotten a few photos of its underside-that would have made species identification easier. I’ve never seen it before so I’ll have to re-visit it to be sure about its identity. It grows right beside the trail so it shouldn’t be too hard to find again.

 11. Dog Lichen Apothecia

This is one of the fruiting bodies (apothecia) of the dog lichen in the previous photo. I’ve heard three different stories of why this is called “dog” lichen. One says that the lichen itself is shaped like a dog. Another says spiky projections on the lichens look like dog teeth, and the third says that the apothecia curl into a shape that resembles a dog’s ear, which you can see happening in this photo.

 12. Worm Like Lichenized Fungi (Multiclavula mucida)

These greenish white growths were the size of toothpicks. I found them growing on a debarked log and as it turned out that is an important identifying characteristic. At least, I’ve identified them as much as I’m able to. Depending on whom you ask these growths are either fungi or lichens.  One web site says they are lichenized fungi, so I’ve decide to go with that. Their name is Multiclavula mucida, and the mucid part of the scientific name means slimy. That’s also important, because these lichenized fungi always grow in association with green algae and the algae is what makes the log in the photo look so slimy. I’ve never seen these before.

 13. Creeping Snowberry 2

Something else I’ve never seen is the evergreen creeping snowberry (Gaultheria hispidula). With no flowers it was hard to identify, but I’m fairly certain that the small trailing plant with alternate leaves in the above photo is it. This plant is classified as a prostrate shrub in the same family as American wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens), which is commonly called teaberry or checkerberry. It has greenish white flowers in spring which are followed by round white berries that are twice the size of the leaves. The berries are said to taste like wintergreen and the crushed leaves smell like wintergreen. This plant is also called Moxie Plum because it is thought to have been an ingredient in the original Moxie soft drink, along with gentian root. Native Americans had many uses for this plant.

 14. Alboleptonia sericella Mushrooms

These small white leptonia  (Alboleptonia sericella) mushrooms were very small and hard to photograph. The largest one is about the same diameter as a pea. I can’t think of anything to compare the smallest one to, but it was tiny. These mushrooms have pink spores and some mushrooms in this family are a beautiful midnight blue.

 15. Contoocook Pool

There were many places where the river widened into pools that would be nice to sit beside for a while, but I didn’t have the time this day. That doesn’t bother me because I know I’ll be coming back in the spring. On just a short 3 mile hike I saw 6 or 7 plants that I’ve never seen before, and that amazes me enough to make re-visiting this place a top priority for next season. I get excited just thinking about what plants I might see from spring through summer in this fascinating place.

As you sit on the hillside, or lie prone under the trees of the forest, or sprawl wet-legged on the shingly beach of a mountain stream, the great door that does not look like a door opens. ~ Stephen Graham

Thanks for coming by.

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We’ve had 2 or 3 hard frosts here so the meadows full of flowers that we enjoyed all summer long have now gone over to browns and grays, but throughout October, here and there and now and then, I’ve stumbled across a solitary blossom, still hanging on to what was.

Toadflax-2

This blue toadflax (Nuttallanthus Canadensis) grew on the river bank and had a single bloom at the top of an exhausted stalk. There was a nice rust brown stone beside it to use as a background too.

Evening Primrose-2

Evening primrose (Oenothera biennis) sneaks in a bloom now and then on a good sunny day but there are few bees left to enjoy them. Bumblebees are moving so slowly that their movements can barely be seen as they crawl rather than fly.

Bluet

A small tuft of bluets (Houstonia caerulea) grew in a lawn that I walked by recently. There were 3 or 4 pale flowers on the plant, and as usual it seemed as if they were competing to see which could show the faintest blue tint on its petals. Deep down, these petals always seem to want to be white and looking for those that are the bluest is always a fun summer activity.

New England Asters 2

New England asters (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) can take a lot of cold but even they have mostly closed up shop for the season. An occasional defiant burst of color can still be seen along the roadsides where there is shelter from the frost.

Queen Anne's Lace

I can’t think of many plants more resistant to cold than a carrot and that is really all Queen Anne’s lace (Daucus carota) is, so seeing it blooming at this time of year doesn’t surprise me. The carrots that we eat come from this introduced wildflower, and any carrot is sweeter after a frost has nipped it. There are however some very similar plants that are among the most toxic known, so when I want sweet fall carrots I go to the farmer’s market.

 Sulfer Cinquefoil

One sulfur cinquefoil (Potentilla recta) plant in a field of thousands of different species had a single pale, buttery yellow blossom, but even though the blossom was pale it still shone like a miniature sun among the browns and grays of the meadow.

Phlox

The phlox (Phlox paniculata) in my gardens have all given up the ghost but this hardy example I saw beside a road was protected by overhead trees and was still blooming as if it were September.

Sweet Everlasting

You never really know what you’re getting with sweet everlasting (Pseudognaphalium obtusifolium) because its flowers look closed even when they’re open. I just noticed this year how cold hardy they are-I’m seeing more of them than any other wildflower.

 Indian Tobacco aka Lobelia inflata

I was surprised to see this lobelia, called Indian tobacco (Lobelia inflata), blooming at the edge of my lawn this late in the season. Apparently it’s not as delicate as I thought. It isn’t under trees so it must have taken the full brunt of the frosty nights. This plant is called Indian tobacco because someone though its seed pods resembled the tobacco pouches carried by Native Americans.

Yarrow

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) usually tries for a second bloom in the fall and this year it just made it before we had a heavy frost. Man has had a close relationship with yarrow that has lasted thousands of years. A sprig of it was found in a Neanderthal Stone Age burial site estimated to be 100,000 years old.

In the cold dark days of the winter, dream about the flowers to get warmed up! ~Mehmet Murat ildan

Thanks for stopping in.

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