We’ve had a few really cold days and a little snow but all in all our winter has seen above average temperatures and below average snowfall. I decided to take a walk along the Ashuelot River last weekend to celebrate the relative warmth.
I thought I might see some interesting ice formations since the temperature dropped below freezing the night before, but ice was hard to find. A few baubles had formed on this clump of reed growing in the water.
This one looked like a teardrop. It seems odd that it could have formed in that shape since water drops fall straight down as they freeze, but there it was.
A small but beautiful white feather was trapped in the ice just off shore. I see quite a few feathers and don’t take photos of all of them but I liked what the water had done to this one.
Ashuelot falls in Keene showed no signs of freezing. The dam that creates the falls was first built in 1775 by Elisha Briggs to power grist and sawmills. It was improved over the years and went from wood to stone, and went on to power woolen mills from 1815 to 1935. There is talk of removing it by some, but others want to use it to generate power. I’m for returning it to its natural state. Meanwhile the river rolls on, not caring one way or another.
Black knot disease grew on a black cherry. It is caused by the fungus Apiosporina morbosa which can also attack plums, peaches, and apricots. Spores from the fungus can be spread by rain or wind and typically infect trees from April through June on new growth. Infected stems swell up and produce hard black knots like those in the above photo. This disease can eventually kill the tree so infected limbs should be pruned off 2-4 inches below the knots and buried or burned before bud break the following spring.
There are many gray lichens with black fruiting bodies (Apothecia) growing on trees but I think this one might be tiny button lichen (Amandinea punctata.) An unusual fact about this lichen is how its gray body (Thallus) can sometimes be missing, leaving only the dark apothecia on the tree bark. Something else unusual about it is its tolerance of pollutants and toxins. Most lichens will refuse to grow where there is air pollution but this one doesn’t seem to mind. That’s not a very comforting thought.
I just spoke about the milk white toothed polypore (Irpex lacteus) not too long ago but I keep running into them and I find them very interesting. This is a “winter” fungus that can appear quite late in the year. It is also a resupinate fungus, which means it looks like it grows upside down, and that’s what many crust fungi seem to do. Their spore bearing surface can be wrinkled, smooth, warty, toothed, or porous and though they appear on the undersides of logs the main body of the fungus is in the wood, slowly decomposing it. This is not a good one to see on a live tree.
An extreme close-up of the milk white toothed polypore’s “teeth” shows that they are just ragged bits of spore bearing tissue. They start life as tubes or pores and break apart and turn brown as they age.
It seems like the hairy berries of staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina) would be hard for a bird to swallow but apparently not, because many birds eat them. Native Americans used these berries for thousands of years to make a lemonade substitute that I’ve always wanted to try, and in some countries the berries are ground and used as a lemon flavored spice. It makes me wonder if birds have taste buds. If so they must like lemon flavoring.
I thought this yellow ornamental grass was beautiful against the white of the snow in a public garden. Unfortunately it has encroached on what looks to be a dwarf spirea and I’m glad that I’m not the one who has to weed it out. I’m not sure what the name of the grass is but after some research I’m leaning toward a Japanese forest grass called Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola.’ This grass is said to be shade tolerant and makes a good companion plant for hosta, ferns, and other shade lovers. But not spirea, apparently.
Canadian hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) trees surround my house and that’s a good thing because black capped chickadees love their tiny seeds and that means I get to hear their song all year long. My favorite season is spring when I can hear the male bird’s sad but beautiful Fee Bee mating call. In fact I’ve heard it for such a long time and now it doesn’t feel like spring unless I do.
A wound or a branch stub is an excellent place for a tree to become infected by fungi in the winter months when it is dormant. In spring and throughout the growing season the tree tries to heal its wound and produces callus tissue around the site of the infection. When winter returns the infection appears once again and once again in the warmer months the tree tries to heal with more callus tissue. This infection / healing cycle year after year is called perennial canker and it produced the ring like growth seen in the photo above. Though it doesn’t always kill the tree it always seems to make them look sad, and In this case it’s no wonder; to add insult to injury a woodpecker has been pecking at the wound on this tree.
Imagine; green grass in January. It’s a rare winter sight here, especially when it has survived being snowed on.
I believe the world is incomprehensibly beautiful — an endless prospect of magic and wonder. ~Ansel Adams
Thanks for stopping in.