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Posts Tagged ‘Aconite’

1-purple-cort

Do mushrooms wait until it rains before they fruit? This purple cort (Cortinarius iodeoides) would have me answer yes to that question because it’s the latest I’ve ever seen them. I usually find them in August. Mushrooms are the fruiting body of mycelium, which is found underground. The mycelium could be compared to a tree and the mushroom its fruit. The fruit is what we see growing above ground, but this fruit has spores instead of seeds. Rain helps mushrooms spread their spores., so it would make sense for them to wait for rain to fruit. We had a good day of rain recently and finally, here are the mushrooms. Purple corts often have a slimy cap and are toxic enough to make you sick. Slugs are the only critters that I’ve seen eat them.

2-velvet-shank-mushrooms

Velvet foot (Flammulina velutipes) mushrooms are considered a “winter mushroom” and they can usually be found from October through early spring. Though many say that they grow on logs I always find them growing in clusters on standing trees, particularly on American elm (Ulmus americana) as they were in this photo. They are very cold hardy and I sometimes find them dusted with snow. This group had just appeared and was very small; no more than an inch and a half high.

3-velvet-shank-mushrooms

On another nearby elm tree this grouping, probably about six inches from top to bottom, grew. The orange caps of these mushrooms often shade to brown in the center and are very slimy and sticky. The stem is covered in fine downy hairs that darken toward the bottom and that’s where their common name comes from. When the temperature drops below freezing on a winter day it’s a real pleasure to see them.

4-velvet-shank-mushrooms

Still another grouping of velvet foot mushrooms grew on another nearby elm, and these had reached full size, with caps maybe 3 inches across. Though the caps are slimy it was raining on this day so they were also wet. They aren’t usually this shiny. I’ve never been able to find an answer to the question of why some mushrooms wait until cold weather to fruit. Another one that is commonly seen when it gets cold is the fall oyster mushroom (Panellus serotinus.)

5-turkey-tails

Turkey tails (Trametes versicolor) have been all but invisible this year but I did find the brown ones pictured here recently. I was hoping for another year like last year when they grew in beautiful shades of blue, purple, and orange but I suppose the drought has affected them. This bracket fungus gets its common name from the way it resembles a turkey’s tail, and according to the American Cancer Society there is some scientific evidence that substances derived from turkey tail fungi may be useful against cancer.

6-lion-s-mane-fungus-aka-hericium-americanum

Bear’s head, also called lion’s mane mushroom (Hericlum americanum) is a beautiful toothed fungus that looks like a fungal waterfall. Soft spines hang from branches that reach out from a thick central stalk. As it ages it will change from white to cream to brown, and the brown tips on this example means it has aged some. This one was small; about the same size as a hen’s egg, but I’ve seen them as big as a grapefruit. They seem to fruit toward the end of summer but this year they’re later than in recent years.

7-wolfs-milk-slime-mold

I keep my eye out at this time of year for what look like small, pea size white or pink puffballs. They aren’t puffballs though, so if you squeeze them you’ll be in for a surprise.

8-wolfs-milk-slime-mold

The “puffballs” are actually a slime mold called wolf’s milk slime mold (Lycogala epidendrum) and if you squeeze them when they’re young instead of the smoke like spores you would expect from a puffball, you often get pink or orange liquid. Though books say that the consistency is that of toothpaste I almost always find liquid like that seen in the photo. As it ages the liquid will become like toothpaste before finally turning into a mass of brown powdery spores. By that time the outside will have also turned brown and at that stage of its life this slime mold could probably be confused with a small puffball. I think these examples were very young.

9-fallen-tree

Something you don’t hear much about until you have a drought is how the dryness weakens the trees enough to make them topple over. Dryness can cause the root system to shrink and makes it hard for the roots to hold onto the dry soil. Without a good strong root system trees can become almost top heavy. Sometimes all it takes is a gust of wind to bring down a big tree like the one in the above photo, so you have to watch the weather before going into the woods. I just heard that, rather than a single summer of drought, this current one has been ongoing for about 4 years. Though that may be true this was the first year that it was so obviously dry in this corner of the state.

10-maple-leaf-viburnum

Falling trees or not I’ll be going into the woods because that’s where you find things like this beautiful maple leaf viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium.) The leaves on this native shrub have an amazing color range, from purple to orange to pink, but they always end up almost white, with just a faint hint of pastel pink.

11-bittersweet-berries

There are many berries ripening right now and the birds are happy. Unfortunately they love the berries of invasive Oriental bittersweet and help it in its quest to rule the world. This vine is very strong like wire and as it twines its way around tree trunks it strangles them. Once it reaches the tree canopy it grows thickly and covers it, stealing all the light from the tree. It’s common to see a completely dead tree still supporting a tangle of bittersweet, and sometimes the vine is the only thing holding it up.

12-burning-bush-fruit

Another invasive that’s fruiting right now is burning bush (Euonymus alatus.) It’s a beautiful shrub in the fall but Its sale and importation is banned here in New Hampshire now because of the way it can take over whole swaths of forest floor. Birds love the berries and spread the seeds everywhere, so it isn’t uncommon to find a stand of them growing in the woods. I know a place where hundreds of them grow and though they are beautiful at this time of year not another shrub grows near them. This is because they produce such dense shade it’s hard for anything else to get started.

13-canada-mayflower-berries

Canada mayflower (Maianthemum canadense) is described as “a dominant understory perennial flowering plant” and dominate it is, often covering huge swaths of shaded forest floor. It forms monocultures in forests and also invades woodland gardens, where it is almost impossible to eradicate. Its tiny white four petaled flowers become red berries that are loved by many birds and small animals. It’s a native plant that acts like an invasive.

14-cranberry

The native cranberries (Vaccinium macrocarpon) have ripened and normally you’d get your feet wet harvesting them, but this year they were high and dry because of the drought. The pilgrims named this fruit “crane berry” because they thought the flowers looked like sandhill cranes. They were taught how to use the berries by Native Americans, who used them as a food, as a medicine, and as a dye. Bears, deer, mice, grouse and many other birds eat the fruit.

15-geese

Each year for as long as I can remember hundreds of Canada geese have stopped over on their way south in the fall to glean what they can from the cornfields. The harvester must spill quite a bit to feed such large flocks of geese.

16-sensitive-fern

Early settlers noticed this fern’s sensitivity to frost and named it sensitive fern (Onoclea sensibilis.) This fern loves low, damp places so when you see it it’s a fair bet that the soil stays on the wet side. I don’t know if they eat it or use it for bedding, but beavers harvest this fern and I’ve seen them swimming with large bundles of it in their mouth.

17-forsythia

A Forsythia couldn’t seem to make up its mind what color it wanted to be.

18-witch-hazel

Another odd thing about this drought is how trees like oak are loaded with acorns and shrubs like witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) have more flowers than I’ve ever seen. They’re very beautiful this year, and fragrant too.

19-monkshood

Witch hazels might be late bloomers but so is aconite, commonly called monkshood (Aconitum napellus.) It’s a beautiful flower which, if you look at it from the side, looks just like a monk’s hood.  This plant can take a lot of cold and its blooms appear quite late in the season. Though beautiful the plant is extremely toxic; enough to have been used on spear and arrow tips in ancient times. In ancient Rome anyone found growing the plant could be put to death because aconite was often used to eliminate one’s enemies. It is also called wolfbane, because it once used to kill wolves.

Beauty is something that changes your life, not something you understand. ~Marty Rubin

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1. Dandelion

The weather people said we were in for a growing season ending killing freeze last Saturday night so I went looking for late bloomers before it happened. I’ve seen dandelions (Taraxacum officinale) blooming in January so I wasn’t real surprised to see one in October, but over the last two years these flowers have been very scarce. I saw 5 or 6 on this day though so I wonder if the very hot temperatures we’ve had in summer lately have something to do with their scarcity, as some of you suggested the last time I mentioned not seeing any.

2. False Dandelion

The flowers of false dandelion (Hypochaeris radicata) look much the same as those of true dandelions in a photo, but in the field they are much smaller and stand on 6-8 inch long, wiry stems.  Its leaves look like smaller and narrower versions of dandelion leaves. The plant is also called cat’s ear, possibly because of the bracts along its stem that look like tiny cat’s ears.

3. Knapweed

Spotted knapweed (Centaurea maculosa) is terribly invasive and hated by pasture owners but its flowers are beautiful. This plant is native to Europe and Asia and was accidentally imported in a hay seed shipment in the late 1800s. One reason it is so strongly disliked is because it releases a toxin that can hinder and prevent the growth of neighboring species. It grows in all but 5 states. Though mowed down earlier by highway crews these plants bounced right back and are again covered with flowers.

4. Bumblebee on Knapweed

It must have gotten too cold for this bumblebee because it died as it lived, hugging a flower.

5. Queen Anne's Lace

Queen Anne’s lace (Daucus carota) sometimes has a second blooming period like yarrow does. Though the flowers are smaller and not as tall they can almost fool you into thinking that it’s summer again.  When freshly cut Queen Anne’s lace flowers will change color depending on the color of the water in which they are placed, so if you put a bouquet into purple water you’ll have purple Queen Anne’s lace.

6. Pee Gee Hydrangea

The pee gee hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata) is a “panicled” hydrangea, meanings its flower heads are cone shaped rather than round. These plants grow into large shrubs sometimes reaching 10-20 feet tall and nearly as wide. Though originally introduced from Japan in 1862 this plant is thought to be native by many and is a much loved, old fashioned favorite. What I like most about this hydrangea is how the flower heads turn a soft pink in the fall. When they’re cut and dried they’ll hold their color for quite a long time.

7. Goldenrod

Goldenrods (Solidago) still bloom but now the flower heads are smaller and they’re spottily seen here and there rather than everywhere like they were a month ago. According to English apothecary and botanist John Gerard in 1633 goldenrod was “strange and rare” in England and “the dry herbe which came from beyond the sea sold in Buckler’s Bury in London for halfe a crowne for an hundred weight.” It was highly regarded of as a cure for bleeding ulcers and for healing bleeding wounds. The plant must also have been very valuable to early colonials but seeds must have found their way to England because it was eventually found growing wild there and the bottom fell out of the imported goldenrod business.

8. Slender Fragrant Goldenrod

Slender fragrant goldenrod (Solidago tenuifolia) is one of the easiest to identify because of its scent, which is said to resemble anise and sassafras. Since I’ve never smelled anise and sassafras I can’t confirm this, but its fragrance is pleasant so I always bend to give it a sniff when I see it. This plant closely resembles lance leaved goldenrod (Solidago graminifolia) but its leaves are narrower and have a single vein in each leaf. Lance leaved goldenrod leaves have 3-5 veins.

9. Red Clover

Red clover (Trifolium pretense) is very cold hardy and make up some of the latest blooming flowers we see here. I’m never disappointed when I stop to take a closer look at these beautiful little flowers. Though it isn’t a native plant Vermonters loved it enough to make it their state flower. It’s easy to see why; some flowers seem to glow with their own inner light and this is one of them.

10. Asters

Asters of every kind bloom here and after seeing so many you can find yourself thinking if I’ve seen one I’ve seen them all, but this one stopped me in my tracks because of the central blue / purple disc flowers. The center disc flowers of an aster are (almost) always yellow or brown and I can’t remember ever seeing any that were this color. The flowers were quite small; no more than 1/2 inch across with ray flowers that had an odd curving habit. If you know this aster’s identity I’d like to hear from you. I’ve looked in books and online and haven’t found anything like it.

11. Gray Dogwood

Since it blooms in early June seeing gray dogwood (Cornus racemosa) blooming this late in the year was a surprise.  An unusual thing about this shrub is its white berries. White usually signals that the fruit is poisonous, like those of poison ivy, poison sumac, or white baneberry, but though I’ve read that gray dogwood berries aren’t edible I haven’t read anything saying they’re poisonous. Birds certainly love them and gray dogwoods make an excellent choice for those trying to attract them. Though the flowers in this photo look a little sad an 8 foot tall gray dogwood covered with white blossoms in June is a sight not easily forgotten.

12. Black Raspberry

Black raspberry (Rubus occidentalis) flowers in October were as much of a surprise as dogwood flowers. Though it seemed to have only three petals instead of five the flower in the upper right had plenty of anthers. This plant prefers disturbed ground and I see it everywhere. One way to identify it is by looking at the undersides of the leaves, which are whitish and tomentose, which means kind of matted with flattened hairs. Raspberry and blackberry leaves have green undersides.

13. Snow on Sedum

Those are snowflakes and ice pellets on that sedum. Only the toughest plants will bloom from now on.

14. Aconite

David Marsden of The Anxious Gardener blog wrote a great post on aconite (Aconitum napellus) recently. He highlighted the plant’s toxicity in an informative and fun to read post and reminded me of a large group of aconite plants that I found growing in a children’s park once. I decided to go back and see if they were still there and as the above photo shows, they were. The plant can take a lot of cold and its blooms appear quite late in the season. Though beautiful the plant is extremely toxic; enough to have been used on spear and arrow tips in ancient times. In ancient Rome anyone found growing the plant could be put to death because aconite was often used to eliminate one’s enemies.

15. Aconite

A side view of the blossom shows why aconite is also called monkshood. It’s a beautiful thing but I question the wisdom of growing it in a children’s garden.

16. Daisy

I saw this daisy like flower blooming in a local park when snow was falling. It looked like a Shasta daisy on steroids, growing two feet tall with tough leathery leaves that looked much like Shasta daisy leaves. After a little research I think it might be a Montauk daisy (Nipponanthemum nipponicum,) also called Nippon daisy, which tells me that it must be from Japan. It was blooming beautifully after a 28 °F night, so it’s certainly cold hardy. Those are ice pellets on its petals. If only it was a Shasta daisy just come into flower in June.

May you walk gently through the world and know its beauty all the days of your life. ~Apache Blessing

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