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Archive for April, 2014

1. Pennsylvania Sedge aka Carex pensylvanica

Along the river creamy yellow male staminate flowers bloom above the wispy, feather like, white female pistillate flowers of Pennsylvania sedge (Carex pensylvanica.) This is a very early bloomer that usually appears at just about the same time as spring beauties and trout lilies. As the plant ages the male flowers will turn light brown and the female flowers, if pollinated by the wind, will bear seed.

2. Pennsylvania Sedge Clump aka Carex pensylvanica

When it isn’t blooming Pennsylvania sedge is easily mistaken for a course grass. I find it along the river and also in the woods under trees. It doesn’t seem too fussy about where it grows and will tolerate shade.

3. Virginia Creeper

Tendrils of Virginia creeper first exude a sticky substance before expanding into a disc shaped pad that essentially glues itself to the object that the vine wants to climb-in this case, a dead tree limb.  Once the adhesive discs at the tendril ends are stuck in place the tendrils coil themselves tightly to hold the vine in place. Charles Darwin discovered that each adhesive pad can support two pounds. Just imagine how much weight a mature vine with many thousands of these sticky pads could support. It’s no wonder that Virginia creeper can pull the siding off a house.

4. Bittersweet on Grass

Invasive oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus) doesn’t have tendrils so it becomes a tendril over its entire length and winds its way up trees, wires, and even grass stems, as the photo shows. I’ve seen old bittersweet vines as big around as my leg.

5. Lady Fern Fiddleheads (2)

Lady fern (Athyrium filix-femina) fiddleheads are about 2 inches tall. The dark brown scales on their smooth lower stems help to identify this one. This fern doesn’t like windy places, so if you find a shaded dell where a grove of lady fern grows it’s safe to assume that it doesn’t ever get very windy there.

6. Red Maple Seeds Forming

The wind has brought plenty of pollen from the male flowers so now the pistillate female flowers of red maple (Acer rubrum) have begun turning into seeds, which are called samaras. These are one of the smallest seeds in the maple family. It is estimated that a single tree 12 inches in diameter can produce nearly a million seeds, and if the tree is fertilized for 2 years seed production can increase by 10 times. It’s no wonder that red maple is getting a reputation for being a weed tree.

7. Apple Moss

It’s easy to see how apple moss (Bartramia pomiformis) got its common name. This moss grows its almost spherical spore capsules (sporangia) very early in spring. As they age the capsules turn brown but it pays to watch closely because some spore capsules will turn red between their green and brown stages, and that’s when these tiny orbs really look like apples. It’s an event in nature that most people never get to see.

8. Black Oak Inner Bark aka Quercus velutina

The inner bark of the black oak (Quercus velutina) shows why this tree was once called yellow oak. Native Americans made yellow dye from this bark and also used it medicinally. The yellow pigment is called quercitron and was sold in a bright yellow dye in Europe as late as the 1940s. Black oak is a member of the red oak family and easily cross breeds with red oaks to form many natural hybrids.

9. Red Elderberry aka Sambucus racemosa

Elderberry flowers really aren’t much to look at (or to smell) but the flower buds of this red elderberry (Sambucus racemosa) are very beautiful. Since the flowers are white, plum purple is a very odd color for the buds. They remind me of lilac buds.

10. Lilac Buds Breaking

Of course, after comparing red elderberry buds to lilac buds I had to show those as well. This is a French hybrid, deep purple lilac that was given to me by a friend many years ago. Its bud scales have just broken to reveal the flower buds tucked inside. This is part of the magic that is spring, and something I love to watch happen.

11. Unknown Gall on Oak

This is the strangest gall I’ve seen. It looks (and feels) like a group of small deflated balloons. It was growing on an oak limb and I haven’t been able to identify it.

NOTE: Helpful readers have identified this gall as the oak fig gall, caused by the wasp Trigonaspis quercusforticorne. They are specific to the white oak family, apparently. Thank you to David and Charley for the identification. I learned a lot.

12. Rockfoam Lichen

Rock Foam (Stereocaulon saxatile) is a fragile looking lichen but it is really quite tough. As their common name suggests, they are found on rocks and boulders, usually in full sun. These lichens are often used as a prospecting tool because a simple lab test will show what type of rock they grow on and what minerals, like copper or magnesium, are present.

13. Rockfoam Lichen Closeup

A closer look at rock foam lichen. When it is dry it feels as rough as it looks.

 14. Orange Oak Leaf

I’m seeing a lot of orange oak leaves this spring and I’m not sure what makes them turn this color. It must be some kind of bacteria or fungus.

15. Hairy Cap Moss aka Polytrichum commune

This hairy cap moss (Polytrichum commune) with its water droplet reminded me that flowers aren’t the only beautiful things to see in spring. There is plenty there for the seeing if only we take the time to look.

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new landscapes, but in having new eyes. ~ Marcel Proust

Thanks for stopping in.

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1. Coltsfoot

One colony of coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) that I used to visit was washed away in a flood last year and another much larger colony was plowed up by a logging skidder, but I found more growing alongside a dirt road near here. The Tussilago part of the scientific name comes from the Latin tussis, meaning cough, and ago, meaning to cast or to act on. Coltsfoot was originally brought from Europe by early settlers, to be used to treat coughs. I remember being given Pertussin cough syrup as a boy, but I don’t know if it had coltsfoot in it. I hope not, because scientists have found that the plant can cause liver tumors.

2. Coltsfoot

If you aren’t sure if you have found coltsfoot or dandelions just look at the stems. Coltsfoot stems are scaly and dandelion stems are smooth. Another clue would be that coltsfoot doesn’t grow leaves until after the flowers fade.

3. Diurnal Lightning Beetle aka Ellychnia corrusca on a Beech Bud

I saw a bug on a beech bud and spent quite a while trying to identify him, with little luck. I was able to get as far as learning that he was a beetle before asking the folks at bugguide.net for help. In no time at all they told me that I had found a diurnal lightning beetle (Ellychnia corrusca), which is a winter firefly that doesn’t light up. What he does do is drink sweet tree sap and is known to be a bit of a pest to maple syrup makers.

4. Diurnal Lightning Beetle  aka Ellychnia corrusca on a Beech Twig

This beetle lives in the crevices of maple bark all winter, not leaving the tree until March. I’m not sure why he was on a beech. He crawled down the twig and turned to face me and there we were, eye to eye, each studying the other.

5. Downy Rattlesnake Plantain Orchid

I used to drive for 45 minutes to see the one little colony of downy rattlesnake plantain orchids (Goodyera pubescens) that I knew of. Of course, you never know when a plant will bloom so I made this pilgrimage once or twice a week until I saw the flowers. Then, late last summer, I found a large colony of these beautiful plants not 5 minutes from my house. Proof once again that what we have been trying so hard to find is often right in front of us.

6. Box Elder Flowers

Years ago my grandmother had a large box elder tree (Acer negundo) in her front yard. Box elders are considered a weed tree but they provide excellent shade and that’s what my grandmother was interested in. They are very prolific as you can see by the photo of the flowers, and each tree grows thousands of very viable seeds. The seeds used to fall beside the foundation walls of my grandmother’s house and grow into small trees, so every year she would pay me a quarter to go around the house and pull them all up. One year I pulled up what I thought was a particularly fine specimen and I took it home with me. By the time I got it home the roots had dried out but I dug a hole and planted it anyway. That tree grew faster than anything I had ever seen and, at about 7 or 8 years old, gave me my first hint that plants and I just might get along.

7. Bluets

Cheery little bluets (Houstonia caerulea) have suddenly popped up in lawns. These flowers can range from nearly white to dark blue and each year I try to find the ones with the darkest color. Those in the above photo were much darker than those on nearby plants, so I chose them. Bluets are also, in my opinion, one of the hardest flowers there are to photograph. Rarely do I get a good sharp photo of them and on this day, 40 mile per hour wind gusts didn’t help.

8. Native Ginger Leaf

I was poking around in a spot where I know that our native wild ginger (Asarum canadense) grows, looking for signs of life, when I found this single new, very downy leaf unfurling. Though it might have been only minutes old and was hardly bigger than a mouse’s ear, an insect had already eaten a hole through it.

9. Magnolia Blossoms

Magnolia blossoms showed a tiny bit of browning from frost damage but they were still very beautiful, and fragrant enough to linger in memory long after the flowers were out of sight.

10. Trout Lily Bud

In a colony of tens of thousands of yellow trout lilies (Erythronium americanum) I stumbled onto one that had a bud. Why does this plant have a bud while none of the others do? Does it get more sunlight? Is it something in the soil? These are the kinds of questions that helped fuel my interest in plants at an early age. The answers have been few but I don’t mind. It’s the mystery that puts the magic in life.

11. Spring Beauty

Eastern spring beauties (Claytonia virginica) appeared overnight as they always seem to do. At this time of year I check the spot where they grow every couple of days and I’m always surprised to see them, because just a day or two earlier there was no sign of them. As I do with bluets, I always try to find the flower with the deepest color. I’ve read that it is the amount of sunlight that determines color in a spring beauty blossom. The deeper the shade, the more intense the color, so I look for them in more shaded areas. The same doesn’t appear to be true for bluets because I find dark colored ones in full sun.

12. Female American Hazelnut Flowers

I wanted to take another try at getting a shot of a female American hazelnut (Corylus Americana) blossom, the smallest flower I know of. I think this one came out better than the one I showed here two or three posts ago. I measure the bud on that last plant with Vernier calipers and found it to be only four thousandths of an inch in diameter (.004”), just about the same size as a single strand of spaghetti. You have to look up and down each stem very carefully to find these tiny things.

13. Blood Root Opening

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria Canadensis) had just unfurled its leafy cloak when I found it. The first open bloodroot flower of the season always tells me that May can’t be far away because bloodroot waits to be sure that it is really spring before it shows itself. Native Americans used the blood red sap of its root for war paint. I’ve always wanted to see it I’ve but I’ve never been able to convince myself that it would be okay to destroy one of these plants just to satisfy my curiosity.

14. Purple Trillium

Though last winter was the coldest in 10 years I saw my first purple trillium this week. It has bloomed earlier than the trilliums did both last year and in the spring of 2012, even though that spring was the 4th warmest ever. Whenever you start to think that you have plants all figured out they do something totally unexpected to remind you that you don’t.

There are only two ways to live your life.
One is as though nothing is a miracle.
The other is as if everything is.
~Albert Einstein

Thanks for coming by.

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1. Brickyard Brook Falls

We had about two inches of rain last week and almost all the snow has now melted, so I set off to find out how our streams and rivers were handling all of the extra water. Brickyard Brook in Richmond (above) didn’t look any different than it would in high summer. The small gorge this little brook cuts through is a favorite spot of mine. It’s always shaded and cool and is a great place to just sit and enjoy the sounds of falling water.

2. Bailey Brook Lower Falls

Bailey Brook in Nelson drops considerably more than Brickyard Brook and has two waterfalls along its length. This photo shows the lower falls, which were roaring. This is not the place to come if you’re looking for a quiet day beside a gentle stream.

3. False Hellebores

I was very surprised to see false hellebore (Veratrum viride) shoots about four inches high. Nelson is supposed to be one of the coldest towns in the county but many plants are further along there than they are in the warmer southern towns.

4. False Hellebores Eaten

I was also surprised to see that something had eaten a couple of the false hellebore shoots. This plant is among the most toxic in the forest but I’ve read that deer have a “toxicity threshold” and can eat as many as they like as long as they don’t go above that threshold. This lets them also eat skunk cabbage, another toxic plant. False hellebore can sicken sheep, goats and cattle, and can kill people who sometimes mistake it for wild leeks at this time of year.

5. Bailey Brook Upper Falls

The upper falls on Bailey Brook didn’t have anywhere near the amount of water falling over them as I thought they would. Again, not much more than they would in summer.  I wanted to get closer for a better photo without the tree in the way but I took a fall here last year and almost ended up in the brook, so I decided that I could live with the tree in the shot.

6. Beaver Brook

Further south in Keene Beaver Brook was different. There was a lot of water there, filling the banks.

7. Tree Over Beaver Brook

Even thought it was high, you could see by how the water stripped the bark from the lower part of this tree that it has been much higher in the past. The exposed part of the log had been bleached silver-gray.

8. Eddy

White foam swirled in eddies in the sheltered areas along its banks.

9. Ice in the Woods

There is still a lot of ice left to melt in shaded areas of the forest.  Maybe this was why Beaver Brook was running faster than the others.

10. Disappearing Hillside Waterfall

The disappearing waterfall on the far hillside was there, just as I thought it would be. It runs for a day or two after a good rain and then disappears, so it can literally be here one day and gone the next. There was still snow in the shaded areas on that side of the brook.

11. Beaver Brook Falls

Beaver brook falls roared over its 30 to 40 foot height. It wasn’t deafening but it was plenty loud. The surface of the brook was made much choppier than it usually is by the force of so much falling water. Since the ice was gone in this spot I was able to climb / slide down the steep embankment to the canyon for an unobstructed view. I’ve wasted many a climb down to the brook only to find the falls in deep shade, but on this day the lighting was perfect.

12. Ashuelot on 4-20

Regular readers of this blog know that this story will end at the Ashuelot River as it must, since all streams, brooks, and rivers in the region drain into it before it drains into the much larger Connecticut River. Its banks are full at the moment. The clouds above it formed an arrow pointing upriver and as I look at the photo I wonder if I should have followed the sign.

For those new to this blog, the name Ashuelot is pronounced ash-wil-ot or ash-wee-lot. I was raised to say ash-wil-ot. In Native American Penacook or Natick language the word means “the place between.” I assume they must have meant “between hills” because we have plenty of those and the river does run between them.

13. Ashuelot Flooding

Downriver in Swanzey the Ashuelot had jumped its banks and turned these hayfields into a temporary marsh. The normal course of the river is off in the distance, just in front of the trees to the left, and it would be hard to see from this spot in summer. This land has probably been flooding since the glaciers that helped form it melted.

14. Canada Geese

The Canada geese seemed very happy with the flooding.

Sit by a river. Find peace and meaning in the rhythm of the lifeblood of the Earth.  ~Anonymous

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1. Snowy April Scene

After reaching nearly 80 degrees last Monday, on Wednesday we woke up to this. Who says Mother Nature doesn’t have a sense of humor?

2. Daffodil

I saw some daffodils blooming before the snow fell.

3. Iris Reticulata

I also saw some beautiful reticulated iris (Iris reticulata). These miniature irises are early bloomers and an excellent choice for rock gardens, especially when planted with a miniature daffodil like Tete-a-Tete. The reticulated part of the name comes from the net-like pattern on the dry bulbs.

4. Forsythia Blossoms

The Forsythia has just started blooming. Soon we’ll see it on every street in town. Such an uncommon display by a common, often ignored shrub.

5. Striped Sqill  aka Puschkinia scilloides, variety libanotica

One of my favorite cultivated spring flowers is striped squill (Puschkinia scilloides, var. libanotica), which is a spring flowering bulb planted in the fall. It seems amazing that an ordinary white flower could become so extraordinarily beautiful just by wearing a simple blue stripe on each of its petals.

6.. Cornelian Cherry Buds

The Cornelian cherry (Cornus mas) had an ice cap on its buds. Soon these buds will turn into small yellow flowers that resemble those of dogwoods, and that’s because this shrub is in the dogwood family. The flowers will produce fruit that resembles a red olive and which will mature in the fall. It is very sour but high in vitamin C, and has been eaten throughout recorded history. The Persians, ancient Greeks and Early Romans all knew this plant. It is a living glimpse into ancient times.

7. Icy Lilac Buds

There was also ice on the lilac buds, but it won’t hurt them any.

8. Ice on Red Maple Flowers

More ice dripped from the female red maple (Acer rubrum) blossoms. It looks like the cold might have burned them a little. Red maples are prolific enough to have many consider them a weed tree, so fewer seeds might be seen as a welcome change.

9. Snowy April Scene

It just didn’t seem right to see snow under such a bright, warm sun but it was beautiful, right or not.

10. American Elm Flowers

A little snow and cold didn’t hurt the American elm (Ulmus americana) flowers any. It seems a shame that such beauty goes unnoticed by so many.

 11.Willow Flowers

The willows (Salix) have just started blossoming. The snow and cold won’t hurt them either. They were looking a little damp, but beautiful nonetheless. I find them near ponds and swamps, and on river banks.

12. Willow Flower Closeup

Male willow anthers rely on the wind to carry away their millions of pollen grains.

To the attentive eye, each moment of the year has its own beauty . . . it beholds every hour, a picture which was never seen before, and which shall never be seen again. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Happy Easter, everyone. Thanks for coming by.

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1. Muddy Logging Road

I took a muddy walk up an old logging road through Warner forest to the High Blue trail head in Walpole, New Hampshire recently. It is a walk I’ve taken a few times.

2. High Blue Sign

Before you know it you’re through the mud and at the trail head. I came here not just to see the view but also in the hopes of seeing some coltsfoot in bloom, but the plants that grew here appear to have been destroyed by logging. It’s too bad because it was a beautiful display-the most coltsfoot plants I’ve seen in one place.

3. Coltsfoot Flowers

This photo is of the coltsfoot colonies from last year. They extended off to the right well out of the photo. I’m hoping some of them survived being plowed up by a logging skidder.

4. Hobblebush Bud

Hobblebushes (Viburnum lantanoides) line the roadside up to the trailhead, and their flower buds are just starting to unfold. Their common name comes from the way the stems grow so close to the ground. Unseen under the leaves they can tangle the feet of or “hobble” horses. I got firsthand experience in how they work last year when I was trying to examine a bush. My feet became entangled in the stems and I went down fast and hard. Ever since then I’ve been more careful around them. Soon theses bushes will be covered by large white flowers that are among the most beautiful in the forest.

5. Fan Club Moss

I’ve always called this plant fan clubmoss (Lycopodium digitatum) but some call it southern ground cedar or running ground pine, even though it isn’t related to either pine or cedar. The name fan clubmoss comes from its distinctive shape. This plant was once harvested to near extinction for use in making Christmas wreaths and flash powder, and is still rarely seen. This is one of the few places I know of to find it. It can grow undisturbed here because the plants are off the trail in the woods, so anyone who goes looking for them has a good chance of ending up lost. Every now and then I receive emails from people saying they’ll buy all I can find or asking where they can find it. I’m usually pretty good about answering people’s questions, but those emails go unanswered.

6. Meadow

The meadows are still quite brown but it won’t be long before they green up. There are three or four large meadows in the area, still used for hay cutting as they have been since the 1800s. Since there was no water power for mills in the town, Walpole was dependent on agriculture in its early history.

 7. Pileated Woodpecker Chips

I saw a huge pile of wood chips at the base of a dead beech tree and that was my signal to look up.

8. Pileated Woodpecker Hole

This is the biggest pileated woodpecker excavation I’ve ever seen. It must have been 9 or 10 inches long and at least half as wide. It looked more like a nesting hole than a feeding station.

9. High Blue Sign

I always take a photo of the sign that tells you that you are at the overlook, just for the record.

10. High Blue View

The view across the Connecticut River valley was beautiful as usual, and also very blue. It is this “blueness” that gives this place its name.  The winds were light and the air warm, so I sat for a while admiring the view and the puffy clouds.

11. Stratton Mountain from High Blue Lookout

They’re still skiing on Stratton Mountain over in Vermont, but if we have many more days as warm as this one was it won’t last long.

12. Stone Ruins

As I sit and admire the view from this place my mind always wanders to the people who used to live here. They left pieces of themselves behind in things like this old stone ruin. Some say it’s a chimney and others a foundation, but whatever it is it is clearly very old and is a sign that people once lived here. I was reading a town history a while back that described the many dangers of living in places like this in the late 1700s and early 1800s. Chief among them were mountain lions (catamounts), wolves, and bears, and women and children never went into these woods alone.

13. Stone Wall

I’ve built a few stone walls in my time so I know how much work went into these walls. Add to that cutting all the trees with an axe and pulling stumps and plowing the forest floor with a team of horses and it just boggles the mind. I suppose, when your very existence depends on it, you can do just about anything.

14. Elderberry Buds

There are elderberry bushes growing here and I wonder if they were planted, because this hill top is an odd place to find them. Maybe the farmer and his wife sat sipping a little elderberry wine at the end of the day, watching the sunset behind the Vermont hills.

15. Mount Monadnock

As you re-enter the meadow after coming back down the hill, in spring, fall, and winter you are greeted by a view of Mount Monadnock, the largest mountain in the region. It won’t be long before this view is almost completely hidden by tree foliage, and it will stay that way until next fall.

There may be more to learn from climbing the same mountain a hundred times than by climbing a hundred different mountains. ~Richard Nelson

Thanks for stopping in.

 

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1. Purple Crocus

Sometimes you can lose yourself in a flower’s beauty, especially when it’s the first crocus of the season.

2. Deep Purple Crocus

How can you not have a spring in your step and a smile on your face after seeing something like this?

3. Alder Catkins

The male (staminate) flowers of speckled alder (Alnus incana) have just started opening, making the forest edges look as if someone has hung jewels from the bushes.  Soon they will release their pollen and start a new generation of alders.

4. Alder Catkin Closeup

Male speckled alder catkins viewed up close reveal brown and purple scales. These scales are on short stalks and surround a central axis. There are three flowers beneath each scale, each with a lobed calyx cup and three to five stamens with anthers covered in yellow pollen.

5. Female Specked Alder Catkins

The tiny female (pistillate) catkins of speckled alder consist of scales that cover two flowers, each having a pistil and a scarlet style. Since speckled alders are wind pollinated the flowers have no petals because petals would hinder the process and keep male pollen grains from landing on the female flowers. These female catkins will eventually become the cone-like, seed bearing structures (strobiles) that are so noticeable on alders.

 6. Female Hazel Flowers

I’ve known for a long time that the female flowers of the American hazelnut (Corylus americana) were among the smallest I’d seen, but I wondered exactly how small. To find out I measured the tiny bud that the hair-like, scarlet pistils protrude from with the same vernier calipers I use to measure precision machine parts. I found that the bud diameter is almost the same as a single strand of spaghetti, or about 4 thousandths of an inch (.004).

7. Hazel Catkins

The catkins full of male (staminate) American hazelnut (Corylus americana) flowers don’t have the brown and purple scales that speckled alder catkins do. They are longer and more golden in color, but they work the same way as the alder catkins described previously. They seem to glow in the late afternoon sun.

 8. Forsythia Buds

Forsythia buds are showing some color. It’s a very common shrub and it won’t be long before nearly every street in town shouts spring, thanks to its cheery yellow blooms.

9. Witch Hazel

The witch hazels at a local park have finally completely unfurled their strap-like petals. I’ve shown these flowers at various stages of development over the last month and have been calling the shrub “Vernal” witch hazel, which isn’t correct. Our native vernal witch hazel (Hamamelis vernalis) only grows in the southern and central United States. I’m guessing that the shrub pictured, even though it does bloom in spring, is most likely a Japanese witch hazel (Hamamelis japonica), because it is extremely fragrant.

 10. Skunk Cabbage Spathes

If you don’t mind getting down on your stomach in the kind of swampy ground that they like to grow in you can sometimes get a peek inside the spathe of a skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) to see its flowers. A spathe is just a modified leaf or bract which kind of wraps around itself and protects the flower bud. As the plant matures a gap opens in the spathe to let in the insects which will pollinate the flowers. The one on the right has a good sized hole that the lens of my Panasonic Lumix might just fit into.

11. Skunk Cabbage Flowers

Well, the lens fit the hole in the skunk cabbage spathe but the flash didn’t but luckily there was a broken one nearby that allowed a peek at the spadix with all of its flowers-something very few people ever get to see. Each flower on the spadix has four yellowish sepals. The male stamens grow up through the sepals and release their pollen before the female style and pistil grow out of the flower’s center to catch any pollen that visiting insects might carry from other plants.

12. Scattered Rock Posy Lichen

The scattered rock posy lichen (Rhizoplaca subdiscrepans) isn’t a flower but it has both the name and beauty of one, so I let it have a place here. This lichen keeps its pale orange fruiting bodies (apothecia) year round, so seeing it in winter is like finding a flower in the snow.

13. Female Red Maple Flowers

When the female flowers of red maples (Acer rubrum) just start to poke out of their protective bud scales they remind me of female American hazelnut flowers, though they are bigger and much easier to see.

 14..Robin

As I was admiring the red color of the female red maple flowers a robin flew down just a few feet away and began kicking up dead leaves as if he wanted to show me what the color red was really all about. Finally satisfied that he had been admired too, off he flew. My color finding software actually sees more brown than red on his breast in this photo, but he doesn’t have to know that. Let him strut.

The spring came suddenly, bursting upon the world as a child bursts into a room, with a laugh and a shout and hands full of flowers. ~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Thanks for coming by.

 

 

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1. Ashuelot Wave

The Ashuelot River is roaring from snow melt and has some great waves right now. I like trying to see if I can get a shot of the waves just as they crest. It isn’t easy, but it can be done. Rivers have their own rhythm, and the trick is in trying to tune in to that rhythm by just sitting and watching for a while.

 2. Ashuelot Wave 2

 This one was big enough for a beaver to surf on.

3. Rose Moss

There is only one spot that I know of where rose moss (Rhodobryum roseum) grows and I’ve trudged through the snow several times over the last couple of months hoping to see it. Each time though, it and the rock it grows on were covered by deep snow. Finally, just the other day I tried again and found that all the snow had melted. This moss, in my opinion, is one of the most beautiful. It’s easy to see how it got its common name.

4. Lone Tree

I paid a visit to my favorite lone tree a while ago. I’d love to be able to sit under it and listen to the stream that flows along beside it but it’s in the middle of a pasture. It’s as if someone has put it in a museum so it can be seen but not touched. I’ve decided that I’m going to look at its leaves through some binoculars later on, so at least then I’ll know what kind of tree it is.

5. Hair on Barbed Wire

The pasture that the lone tree in the previous photo stands in is surrounded by barbed wire fencing put there to keep the cows from wandering. It looked like one of the cows caught her tail on the fence.

6. Foamflower Leaf

Many plants, though “evergreen,” have leaves that turn purple when it gets cold. Native foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia) does the same, so I was surprised to find nothing but green leaves when I visited the hillside where it grows.  Last fall just before it snowed these leaves were a deep maroon color.

7. Young Foamflower Leaf

I’ve never noticed just how hairy young foamflower leaves are.  I think they must be the hairiest leaves I’ve seen.

8. Turkey Tail

On my way to see the foamflowers I saw some beautiful turkey tail fungi (Trametes versicolor). They can also be very hairy.

9. Nanny Berry Bud

I stumbled onto a nannyberry shrub (Viburnum lentago) recently. It’s long, beaked buds reminded me of a great blue heron. This native shrub is also called sweet viburnum. I can’t say that they are rare but I don’t see them very often here. I think this is the first one I’ve seen in at least 3 years.

10. Nanny Berry Fruit

Another name for nannyberry is wild raisin but to me this example of last year’s fruit looked more like a grape than a raisin. It even had a face. Nannyberry fruits, which have a single large seed and botanically speaking are drupes, are edible and were a favorite of Native Americans. They are low in fat so they are often passed over by birds looking for food with higher fat content.

11. Red Maple Flowers

Trees are the first to whisper the rumors of spring’s arrival but, as the red maple flowers (Acer rubrum) in the above photo show, the whisper is becoming a shout.

Listen to nature’s voice—it contains treasures for you. ~Huron Tribe proverb

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1. Flooded Forest

We’ve finally seen some warm weather here and there is a lot of melting going on.

2. Skunk Cabbage Opening

Skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) spathes have opened to allow insects access to its flowers that line the spadix. The spadix lies deep inside their spathes so the flies and other insects that visit the plant have to enter through the gap to visit the flowers. Through a process known as thermogenesis the plants generate their own heat and experiments have shown that the temperature inside the spathe is much warmer than that of the surrounding air. One theory says that this warmth benefits the plants by enticing insects inside to pollinate the flowers.

 3. Skunk Cabbage With Leaf

The greenish yellow growth on the right side of this skunk cabbage plant is a leaf that hasn’t unfurled yet. I was surprised to see a leaf this early. They don’t usually appear until two or three weeks after the flowers.

 4. Water Spider

I think this is a six spotted fishing spider (Dolomedes triton) but I can’t see any spots on its abdomen. It could be because of the light, which was coming from behind him, or maybe he was a juvenile. According to what I’ve read these spiders will dive under water and grab onto a plant when frightened, and that’s exactly what this one did. They can dive up to 7 inches deep to catch prey, which could be a tadpole, fish, or another spider.

 5. Candleflame Lichen aka Candelaria concolor

It looked as if someone had painted this tree bright yellow around its old wounds, but it was covered with candle flame Lichen (Candelaria concolor).

6. Candleflame Lichen aka Candelaria concolor

Candle flame lichens are so very small that I can’t think of anything to compare them to, but fortunately they grow in large colonies and that makes them easier to see. They remind me of scrambled eggs.

7. Spruce Gum

If you gently heat the resin, called spruce gum, of the black spruce tree (Picea mariana), it will melt down into a liquid which can then be strained and poured into a shallow pan or other container to cool. After about a half hour it will be hardened and very brittle. When broken into bite sized pieces it can be chewed like any other gum. Spruce gum is very antiseptic and good for the teeth. It has been chewed by Native Americans for centuries and was the first chewing gum sold in the United States. You can see how one person makes the gum by clicking here.

8. Elm Buds 2

American elm (Ulmus Americana) buds look like they’re swelling a bit. Elm flowers are small but beautiful and I’m looking forward to seeing them again.

9. Red Maple Buds

Red maple buds are also getting bigger and look like they might break earlier than last year’s date of April 13th. That’s hard to believe after the winter that we’ve had.  I was talking to a syrup maker the other day who said that he had gotten about a fifth of the sap he boiled last year, so the prices will most likely be going up.

10. Blackberry Bud Break

Blackberry buds have broken and leaves will be appearing any day now if it stays warm. That’s my signal to start looking for striped maple and beech buds, which are among the most beautiful things in the forest when they have just opened.

In those vernal seasons of the year, when the air is calm and pleasant, it were an injury and sullenness against Nature not to go out and see her riches, and partake in her rejoicing with heaven and earth.  ~John Milton

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1. Grape Tendril

I thought I saw a beautiful Hindu dancer in this grape tendril.

2. Feather

I see a lot of feathers in the woods. This white one had landed on a hemlock twig.

 3. Stream Ice

Red wing blackbirds have returned and there are buds on the daffodils but after the third coldest March in 140 years, there is still a lot of ice left to melt in the woods.

4. Ashuelot Ice

Where the river sees sunshine the ice is melting at a faster pace.

5. Orange Crust Fungus aka Stereum complicatum

This orange crust fungus (Stereum complicatum) was so bright on a rainy day that I could see it from quite far away, like a beacon guiding me into the forest.

 6. Slender Rosette Lichen aka Physcia subtilis

Gray rosette lichens are common enough so we often pass them by without a nod but some, like this slender rosette lichen (Physcia subtilis), are worth stopping to admire.

7. Smokey Eye Boulder Lichen 3

I don’t know what it is with smokey eye boulder lichens (Porpidia albocaerulescens) this year but the wax coatings on their fruiting discs are bluer than I’ve ever seen them. It’s like someone sprinkled candy over the stones.

8. Beard Lichen

Beard lichens (Usnea sp.) always remind me of ancient, sun bleached bones. This one grew on a gray birch limb.

 9. Alder Catkins

Soon these alder (Alnus) catkins will to turn yellow-green and start to release pollen. If you look closely at the catkin on the far right you can see it just beginning to happen.

 10. Stair Step Moss

I’ve been looking for stair step moss (Hylocomium splendens) and I think I might have found it. This moss gets its common name from the way the new branches step up from the backs of the old.

11. Stairstep Moss

Stair step moss is feathery and delicate and quite beautiful.

At some point in life, the world’s beauty becomes enough. ~ Toni Morrison

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