Archive for the ‘Other’ Category

All of the sudden we have bloodroot flowers. They’ve appeared five days earlier than last year and last year’s post said that was the earliest I had ever seen them. That’s what four days of above average heat can do; everything is accelerated. I had a feeling I should go and see if they were blooming and it’s a good thing I did because these flowers don’t last long. On this day I found what seemed to be a very formal grouping for what are entirely native plants.

The flowers were as beautiful as ever. Quite often you find that yellow pollen has spilled onto the white petals but I didn’t see any of that going on so I’m guessing these blossoms must have just opened. Capturing the faint veins in the petals is tricky. Both the light and the camera’s settings have to agree, but it’s worth the effort I think, to show them as they are. The name “bloodroot” comes from the bright red sap in the plant’s roots.

Though I saw only one trout lily blossom it was about 2 weeks earlier than I’ve seen them before. I noticed that it had a friend over, most likely for a meal of pollen. The big yellow anthers seen here can be yellow, orange, or dark maroon. Nobody seems to know why they are different colors on different plants but I’ve always suspected that they changed color from yellow to maroon as they aged.

My favorite part of a trout lily is the maroon coloring on the backs of three of the tepals. Another name, dog tooth violet, comes from the shape and color of its roots. It is said that a colony of these plants can be hundreds of years old.

The trout lilies grow near where the spring beauties live. In just a week these small flowers have gone from a smattering of blossoms to many thousands of flowers carpeting the forest floor. One day a few years ago the thought that all of creation must rejoice when a flower blooms came into my mind, probably when I was in this place, and I realized just this spring that the thought must have come from the pleasure I feel when I find flowers in bloom. I do rejoice, and my thoughts become elevated; free from all but the beauty of life. It’s easy to imagine songs of joy, love, and exaltation ringing throughout the forest when I see something so beautiful. Reverence and gratitude come easy, especially in spring.

Violets have appeared suddenly, in large numbers. I’ve always thought of this favorite of mine as just a white violet but I think it’s a variant of the common blue violet. Violets can be hard to identify and I’m no longer interested enough in knowing the names of things to spend hours (or days) trying to find one. These violets seem to be more common each year. The more, the merrier.

Yellow violets are also blooming. Though they’re said to prefer rich woods I think these I found growing in a local park are round leaved violets. The round leaves never completely unfurl until the flowers are out and that’s a characteristic of the round leaved violet. I found one or two plants a few years ago but now there are several in this group. I hope they keep expanding in number because yellow violets are on the rare side here.

Female willow flowers are blooming and they look very different from male flowers in just about every way. If you don’t know what a bud scale is, it is that dark object on the left at the base of the flower stalk, and not too long ago all of what you see here fit into it as a willow catkin.

Here are some male willow flowers for comparison. If you go just by color the difference between male and female bushes can be seen by quite far off. Male flowers are much brighter yellow.

I looked at the male flower buds on box elders one day and saw no signs of flowers and then just three days later there were flowers everywhere, and that’s the way spring is going so far. Box elders are in the maple family and are considered a soft maple. They are also considered weed trees because they come up everywhere. I pulled one up that was growing in the foundation of my grandmother’s house and carried it home to my father’s house when I was probably 8 years old or so. I dug a hole and planted it and last I knew that tree was still there, still shading that house.

Female box elder flowers consist of lime green, sticky pistils. They’re very pretty things but they don’t last long. It’s unusual to find the female flowers further along than the male flowers but this year everything is a little off track. Usually, the male flowers appear and then the leaves and female flowers will appear a week or so later. This year the male flowers haven’t even produced any pollen yet but the female flowers are ready to go.

The colorful buds of striped maples have grown quickly and I almost missed seeing their beautiful colors this year. For a short time, they’re one of the most colorful things in the forest and a tree full of them looks like a tree full of tiny colored lights.

Striped maple buds are a good example of why, when a bud or flower catches your eye in the spring, you should watch it every day because changes come quickly. In a day or two your beautifully colored bud might have become leaves. That’s what happened this year to the ones I was watching but luckily bud break is staggered so it doesn’t happen on all trees at once.

Last week I showed a plantain sedge about to bloom and this week they’re in full bloom. This is a flower that grows to about ankle level so most people walk right by them without seeing them, even though the woods are full of various sedges blooming at this time of year. The butter colored flowers at the top are male flowers and the wispy white bits lower down are the female flowers. They are wind pollinated and this is a good year for wind pollinated plants because we’ve had plenty of it.

The seeds (samaras) forming on the silver maples wear furry white coats for just a very short time before becoming a beautiful, vibrant red. I’d guess there must be many billions of seeds getting ready to let the wind take them to new places. They love to grow near rivers and wetlands.

Though many female trees have formed seeds the male maple flowers are still going off like fireworks in many of the trees. This staggered bloom time from tree to tree over a month or more is all about seeing to the continuation of the species. If we have a hard freeze not all of the flowers on all trees will die. It’s a plan that works well as long as we humans just let them be.

Lilacs really got ahead of me this year. It looks like they’ll bloom early.

Forsythias are blooming about a week early I think but from what I’ve seen most have just their lower flowers blooming. This is common with Forsythias because any buds that aren’t protected by snow will die off if it gets too cold. If we had two feet of snow depth you’ll see bushes everywhere you go with flowers blooming two feet off the ground and the rest of the bush with none at all. I have a feeling that the below zero cold we had in February must have done it but how this one in a local park and a few others I’ve seen escaped, I don’t know. It could be that evergreen tree cover protected them enough.

This magnificent magnolia lives at the same park as the Forsythia and it is also blooming about a week early.

The wrinkly flowers of Tibetan cherries have appeared about a week early. They always remind me of someone who didn’t have time to iron their clothes. Cherry blossoms are very susceptible to frost so I’m hoping we won’t see frost until next fall. This cherry is also called the paper bark cherry because of the way its bark peels as it ages, much like a birch. It is used as an ornamental tree as much for its bark as for its flowers.

Years ago, when this country was young and people had next to nothing, they would trade plants from neighbor to neighbor, and one of those plants was vinca, also called myrtle. I often find it flourishing out in the woods as the patch in this photo does, without any tending at all. It’s usually near old cellar holes along with lilacs, orange daylilies, and peonies, all still blooming away as if they received daily loving care. They are the toughest of garden plants, of the plant it and forget it type.

One of my favorite spring flowering bulbs is the little scilla size striped squill. It’s a very beautiful thing and I’m determined to find some and grow them here. I find this one blooming in a local park each spring.

Japanese andromeda is an early spring flowering shrub but I think even they are earlier than usual this year. I’ve always liked the way the porcelain white flowers hang from golden bracts. If someone could make a chandelier or lamp out of these shapes done in porcelain or alabaster and gold leaf I think it would be a beautiful thing.

Speaking of beautiful things, this hellebore grows in a friend’s garden. Though hellebores are called “Lenten rose” this one missed lent and Easter too. But it was worth the wait. I think its easily the most beautiful hellebore blossom I’ve seen.

Those who find beauty in all of nature will find themselves at one with the secrets of life itself. ~L.W. Gilbert

Thanks for coming by.

Note: While I know that this post is already too long something just fell into my lap that I think should be shared. If you haven’t seen the newest photos of Jupiter by NASAs Juno Spacecraft just scroll down for a few photos of something miraculous.

This is Jupiter, the largest planet in out solar system, seen like it has never been before. The black spot on the left is a moon shadow.

The detail and colors in these photos are amazing, especially when you consider that Jupiter is 552.94 million miles from earth and we would never see them otherwise. How I’d love to swoop down over the (ammonia) cloud tops and see this in person. It looks like something peeled from the mind of a deranged artist but it is all very real.

It’s just amazingly beautiful, in my opinion. If you think so too and would like to see more just Google “Juno spacecraft photos of Jupiter.” I think there are close to 40 photos in all. I hope you enjoyed seeing these few and I hope I this post hasn’t eaten up too much of your day.

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Years ago my daughter told me about some glasses that would correct color blindness so I went online to find out about them and of course to check prices. She told me she had watched several videos in which people had put on the glasses and burst into tears because of the beauty they saw for the first time. At that point in time it just didn’t seem that important to me, maybe because it was just too new, and I thought the prices seemed high. But then Ginny, a blogging friend, recently sent me an article that told how National Parks, Museums, Libraries, and other public places were loaning color correcting glasses to the public. So again I went online and found some for $119.00. and that’s what you see above, sitting on their cleaning cloth. They have titanium frames and titanium is just one of seven different coatings on the lenses.

Just so you know, I’m not promoting the Pilestone Company and I’m not receiving any kickbacks from them; they just happen to be the company I chose to do business with. There are others, so if you’re interested you really should shop around. You can spend more if you wish.

So the package arrived from Pennsylvania and I excitedly put the glasses on and said Pink?? I’m going to see the world tinted pink?? What you see above is a photo looking through a lens at a white piece of paper and yes, they really are that color. But they’re that color because that is the color that corrects my particular form of color blindness. Other forms of color blindness need different colored lenses. I’ve seen others that looked blue.

If I understand what I’ve read correctly there are outdoor and indoor lenses because of the difference in the quality of light. Inside when I put them on everything turned pink, so I couldn’t wait to get outside and see if that changed. But then it snowed, and the world went back to black and white. One day impatience got the better of me and I decided that I couldn’t wait any longer, so I went out with them on.

I’ll admit that I was highly skeptical about the glasses because of the pink color but I have to say, when I went outside I found out why the people in those videos were crying, because it was almost as if I was back in the 60s and had taken LSD. What I saw was amazing; everything was sharper, crisper, and colors glowed. It was as if all the colors had become children and here I was, on their playground. They laughed and shouted and were more alive than I had ever seen them. And nothing, not even the snow, was pink. The red of a stop sign looked more like what I’ve always thought of as orange. In fact all the different reds I looked at leaned towards my idea of orange, but one of those ugly blue plastic tarps was so intensely BLUE! it was if I could have seen it from miles away. The yellow on a business sign shouted look at me! They were all old friends but with fresh new faces, and even last year’s dead oak and beech leaves came alive and seemed to vibrate. Life “popped” is the only way I can describe it, and so I wandered around raising and lowering the glasses as if in a daze. I’m very anxious to see flowers now.

I would say, if you happen to be color blind, that you really should give these glasses a try. If they don’t work for you, you get your money back so there is nothing to lose. There is no cure for color blindness so  it is color correcting glasses, contacts, or color blindness, period. You start by choosing a company that offers the glasses, and then you take a simple online test.

I think we’ve probably all seen some version of this test for color blindness, most likely as school children. What I see here is an easily seen number 16 in the upper right corner and a kind of vague, less easily seen number 8 in the lower left. For me, all other circles have no numbers in them, and I think it was in fourth or fifth grade that I first failed a color blindness test and was told that I was color blind. You can take a similar, more extensive test online now at many different websites. The following results are what I saw after taking the test online at the Pilestone Company website:

Dichromats: Deuteranopia (also called green-blind). In this case the medium wavelength sensitive cones (green) are missing. A deuteranope can only distinguish 2 to 3 different hues, whereas somebody with normal vision sees 7 different hues.

Anomalous Trichromats: Deuteranomaly (green-weak). This can be everything between almost normal color vision and deuteranopia. The green sensitive cones are not missing in this case, but the peak of sensitivity is moved towards the red sensitive cones.

The retina of the human eye contains photoreceptors called rods and cones. Rods are sensitive to light, but cannot perceive color. Cones are responsible for color vision. Absence of, or defect in these cones results in color blindness.

Color blindness I can safely say, isn’t at all like what you imagine it to be unless you are color blind. When I see a photo, or even a real-life scene of something like the above I immediately have to question what I’m seeing. While I’d guess that there are probably red and green peppers in this photo, I see only different shades of green, and the photo on the right looks closest to what I’d call normal or “real.” If there are red peppers and you picked one up and isolated it from the green I’d be able to see the red, but red and green together just make different shades of green to me. I found this photo online and it came with no explanation other than the bold text so I’m left to guess, and that’s what life is for a color blind person. It’s all a guessing game due to what are called “confusion colors.” You can’t trust your own eyes, because you can never be certain that the color you see is the true color.

Confusion colors are pairs or groups of colors that will often be mistaken by the color blind. Confusion colors for red–green color blindness include:

Cyan and Grey

Rose-Pink and Grey

Blue and Purple

Yellow and Neon Green

Red, Green, Orange, Brown

I happen to have all the above, but especially red/ green and blue/purple.

When you try to explain color blindness people will sometimes think you’re faking it, so they’ll try to test you by asking you what color this or that is. This is when their ignorance of what color blindness is shines like a beacon. What they think someone could gain by pretending to be color blind I don’t know, but aha! they’ll say, you can see this color so you aren’t colorblind. They don’t understand that someone who is color blind can usually see the same colors they can, but certain colors overlap and can resemble other colors.

The question I hear more than any other is can I see the different colors in a traffic light? The answer is yes, I can tell whether they are red, yellow, or green. The reason I can see them is because they don’t light up at the same time. If they did I might have to stop driving because with my type of color blindness red can appear green, and that wouldn’t be good. What I do have to be careful with are the single blinking traffic lights, because often from a distance I can’t tell if it’s blinking yellow (caution) or red (stop and then proceed with caution). To solve that problem, I usually just stop at all of them and then proceed. And I hear some horn blowing.

While there are some unfortunate people who can see only black and white, their number is very small. Less than 1% of the population, I believe. Most color blind people (8-12% of men and 0.4-0.5% of women) have color confusion like mine. People who can see only black and white and shades of gray have Achromatopsia, which is also known as monochromacy. It is considered disabling.

Just one of many jaw dropping WOW moments with the glasses on.

In day-to-day life color blindness hasn’t really been much of a problem as long as I didn’t have to choose a paint color or buy flowers or decide to become an artist. If you want to see what color blindness can really do to a person just show them a handful of color chip cards from a paint store; the kind with twenty different shades of gray, for example. I’ve been slowly re-doing this house over the years and one of the rooms gets very hot from afternoon sunlight so I thought I’d paint it a cooler, light gray color. I also thought gray would be the easiest color of all to choose but when I started looking at colors I thought I’d lose my mind. Do we really need so many different shades of gray?

Another WOW moment.

For this blog I use photo editors that allow you to manipulate colors in photos but I rarely use that function. I usually stay with just simply sharpening or maybe lightening a shot. If I made every photo look like what I thought I saw, you might wish you could take my camera away. Before I post a photo here I check it with my color blind software (called What Color?) so I don’t say things like “look at this beautiful yellow flower I found” when the flower is orange. So, if you’ve wondered how I can see the colors in photos, that’s how I do it.

Sometimes color blindness can be a good thing. Mushroom hunters complain that purple trumpet or black chanterelle mushrooms are one of the hardest of all mushrooms to find, but I find them easily. I wondered why until I read that color blind people are highly sought after by the military because of their ability to “see through” camouflage. According to research done at the University of Edinburgh, people with red-green color blindness can more effectively use pattern and texture recognition. They can recognize differences in the landscape by watching for certain changes in patterns and textures rather than color changes. One theory says color blindness evolved because it would have been useful back when we all foraged for food. Part of our group or tribe would have been better able to see ripe fruit against green leaves and others in the tribe would have been better able to see animal movements in the undergrowth. In that way, everyone got their meat and vegetables. I hadn’t really thought much about it until I read about it but it is true that I’ve always been able to easily see differences in forest litter. For instance, I can often find mushrooms by seeing where a leaf has been lifted away from others by a mushroom coming up under it. Apparently purple trumpets are easier for me to find because what I see first is a disturbance in the appearance of the forest floor, and that leads me to the mushrooms. It makes perfect sense, but only if you’re color blind.

Emerson Moser, who was Crayola’s top crayon molder for almost 40 years, was color blind. It was a good thing he chose that career because you aren’t allowed to be an electrical engineer, a firefighter, a fighter pilot, or a paramedic if you’re color blind. And imagine being treated by a doctor who can’t see red. Testing sees that doesn’t happen.

I decided to do this post for two reasons. First is to let any color blind readers know that there is help out there. One of the worst things about being color blind is always having to rely on others to tell you what color things are, and I hope these glasses will let me and others get away from that. Maybe with them on I’ll be able to buy flowers without having to first find a clerk and ask them if they’re blue or purple. You can’t always go by the tag; some flowers can be more purple than blue, even when it says blue in the name. Such seemingly slight details mattered to the kind of people I used to garden for. One lady wouldn’t hear of having purple flowers in her garden because, she said “purple is for funerals.” Funny, I always thought it was for royalty.

The second reason I’ve done this post is to hopefully give those who aren’t color blind a better understanding of what color blindness is and how color blind people see and deal with life. If someone walks up to you in a grocery store and asks you if the tomatoes they’re holding look ripe, maybe now you’ll have a better sense of what’s going on. And yes, I have had to do this.

Finally, putting this post together has reminded me to always be grateful for being able to see. I’ve lived with the blind, so I know how fortunate I am. Sight, even if it takes the form of monochromacy, is a great gift.

An optimist is a person who sees a green light everywhere, while a pessimist sees only the red stoplight… the truly wise person is colorblind. ~Albert Schweitzer

Thanks for stopping in.

Note: The Crayola stamp shown is part of the U.S. Postal Service’s “Celebrate the Century” series issued in 1998.

American Foundation for the Blind
1108 Third Avenue, Suite 200
Huntington, WV 25701

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Hello Everyone,

This special post is intended for any would be seed collectors out there. I was recently contacted by a seed company that is looking for someone to collect maleberry (Lyonia ligustrina) seeds. Their regular collector is no longer available and they are running low on seed. If you would be interested in doing this, please contact me through the “Contact Me” tab at the top of this page and I’ll send you the contact information for the seed company. This is a unique opportunity for the right person(s) and I hope this post will generate some interest.

This photo shows what can be large terminal clusters (elongate inflorescences) of maleberry flowers. It also shows the shrub’s leaves, which look very similar to blueberry leaves. In fact, maleberry and blueberry often grow side by side along pond, river, and wetland shores and are essentially the same size. If it wasn’t for the fact that blueberries bloom about two months earlier, if the two shrubs were in bloom side by side, at a glance you’d think they were both blueberries. One noticeable difference between the two is how blueberries will grow on mountains and hilltops and maleberries won’t. At least, in my experience they don’t. They seem to like moist roots because I always find them right along shorelines. I often find them growing near or under red maples along shorelines as well.

If you know what a blueberry blossom looks like you quickly see that, though maleberry blossoms might appear the same at first glance, they are really very different. Whereas blueberry blossoms are relatively long and narrow, maleberry blossoms are short and squat, and only about half the diameter.

Just about the time blueberries are ripe enough for picking, the seed capsules of maleberries begin to form. Each maleberry seed capsule is 1/8 to 5/16 inch in diameter and hard and woody. They ripen from green to brown and when ripe start to split open into 5 segments, as this photo taken in January 2020 shows. They form in July or August here in New Hampshire and mature through summer and fall and finally start to open in January or February of the following year. Seed capsules can be collected through April of the following year but waiting much after that will increase the chances that they will have already released their seeds. I have seen many hundreds of capsules on a single shrub. Even after the seeds are released the dry capsules turn to a grayish color and will stay on the shrub in some form or another year-round, and are helpful for identification. Plants live for about 20 years.

There are certain considerations that a seed collector must think about. Number one is, never take all the seeds. A good rule of thumb is, take one out of every twenty. If you come upon a colony of black eyed Susans for example, you would take one seed head out of every twenty. The same is true for maleberries, you would take one group of 5 or 6 seed heads for every twenty groups. You do not cut all the seed heads from a single plant, ever.

Maleberry flowers grow on the previous year’s stems, which means they should be pruned in late winter or very early spring, which is exactly when the seedpod harvest would take place. You need to know how and when to prune any flowering shrub, and I would guess that this information would be easily found online.

Since I haven’t spoken to the seed company in depth about this all I know is they want the seeds so they can sell them. I don’t know or care who they will sell them to; I’m just doing this post as a favor to both them and the maleberries. Maleberries are at risk in certain places. In Nova Scotia for instance there are only 33 known mature plants, and they are being threatened by off road vehicles and invasive plants. Throughout Canada maleberry is now considered an extremely rare species. In the United States plants grow up and down the east coast from Maine to Florida, and west to eastern Texas and Oklahoma. If you live in any of these places collecting seed would be possible. Does the seed company need more than one collector? This I can’t answer but I can’t see that it would be a problem.

Please save questions like “How much will I be paid?” for the seed company, because I don’t know. I would guess that you would be paid by the volume of seed collected and sent in, as in dollars per ounces or grams.

Since right now is the time to collect maleberry seed, time is of the essence.

If you’d like to peek into the life of a seed collector, you can read an interview done with seed harvest and restoration technician Keith Bennett by the Nature Conservancy here: https://www.nature.org/en-us/magazine/magazine-articles/seed-collector-missouri/

One seed births a thousand forests. ~Matshona Dhliwayo

Thanks for coming by.

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One afternoon I woke from a nap with a thought: Let my last act on this earth be one of kindness.
I wondered where it came from and what I had dreamed. Or had I heard it or read it somewhere? I still don’t know.

I had a cup of coffee and thought about it. Though it sounds simple enough, “Let my last act on this earth be one of kindness” is a very tricky thing. It kind of sneaks up on you from behind when you aren’t paying attention, because none of us knows when, where, or how our last act is going to happen. So, if you want your last act to be one of kindness but you don’t know when it will happen, that means you’ll have to be kind all the time, right?

I thought about that and wondered “Can I be kind all the time? Is it possible?”

Maybe not, but I can explore the possibility by keeping the thought in the back of my mind. And if I’m thinking about being kind maybe my success rate of doing so will climb a bit. Maybe one day I’ll even reach the point of being kind without having to think about it. Maybe I can even be kind to those who are unkind. If I must have a goal, that seems like a worthy one.

Be the reason someone smiles. Be the reason someone feels loved and believes in the goodness in people. ~Roy T. Bennett

Thanks for stopping in.

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There is the orderliness of the city
So sharp and well defined
With a brash intensity that leaves you feeling raw
Only half a self
And there is the randomness of nature
So soft and seemingly chaotic
With a silent stillness that leaves you at peace
Whole and complete

Where are you meant to be?
Listen to the rain.

Inspired by Rain and the Rhinoceros by Thomas Merton
With a thank you to Deb Black for the introduction.

Nobody started it, nobody is going to stop it. It will talk as long as it wants, this rain. As long as it talks, I am going to listen. ~ Thomas Merton.

Thanks for stopping in.

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