Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Amber Jelly Fungus’

1-crab-apple

Since I often tell readers of this blog that they don’t even have to leave their yards to enjoy nature I like to practice what I preach every now and then and restrict my wandering to my own yard.  This time I found that the birds had eaten every crabapple from my tree except one. Things like this always make me wonder what it is about that one crabapple that turned them away. It also makes me wonder how they knew that it was different from all the others.

2-rudbeckia-seedhead

The seed eaters haven’t touched the black-eyed Susan seeds (Rudbeckia hirta). That’s odd because the birds planted them; one year a few plants appeared and I just left them where they grew.

3-coneflower-seedhead

The birds seem to have gone for the coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea) first, as just about every seed head has been at least partially stripped. I planted one plant years ago but now there are several scattered here and there in the yard and like the black eyed Susans I let them grow where the birds have planted them.  If that makes my gardening abilities seem lax, so be it. The last thing I wanted to do after gardening professionally for 10-12 hours each day was to come home and spend more time gardening, so the plants in this yard had to be tough enough to take care of themselves. I simply didn’t have the time or the inclination to fuss over them, and still don’t.

4-hemlock-cone

The plants in this yard also have to be able to withstand a certain amount of shade, because they’re surrounded by forest.  Eastern hemlocks (Tsuga canadensis) are numerous and so are white pines (Pinus strobus) and both soar into the sky on three sides of the property. Black capped chickadees flock here to eat the seeds from the hemlock cones like the one pictured above. The 1/2 inch long eastern hemlock cones are among the smallest of all the trees in the pine family but the trees usually produce so many of them that the ground is completely covered in the spring. The needles and twigs of hemlocks are ground and distilled and the oil is used in ointments.

5-hemlock-needles

The white stripes on the undersides of the flat hemlock needles come from four rows of breathing pores (stomata) which are far too small to be seen without extreme magnification. The stripes make the tree very easy to identify.

6-the-forest

This view of the forest just outside of my yard shows what messy trees hemlocks are, but it is a forest so I don’t worry about it. It’s too bad that so many are afraid to go into the forest; I grew up in the woods and they have kept me completely fascinated for over a half century. There are dangers there yes, but so can cities be dangerous. Personally I’d sooner take my chances in a forest than a city.

7-hazel-catkins

I found that an American hazelnut had decided to grow on the property line between my neighbor’s yard and mine and I was happy to see it. Now I can practice getting photos of the tiny scarlet, thread like female blossoms that appear in spring. For now though the male catkins will have to do. As I was admiring them I saw a black something clinging to one of them.

8-hazel-catkins-close

I thought the black thing on the hazel catkin was an insect of some kind but it appears to be just part of an insect. I can’t imagine where the other half went. Maybe a bird ate it? I looked up insects that are partial to hazelnuts but none of them had parts that looked like this.

9-cedar

The color blue appears in some surprising places in nature, and one of the most surprising is on the egg shaped female flower tips of the northern white cedar (Thuja occidentalis.) There were three examples of this native tree in the yard when I moved here and I’ve watched them grow big enough to provide welcome shade from the hot summer sun over the years. The Native American Ojibwe tribe thought the trees were sacred because of their many uses, and maybe they were. They showed 16th century French explorer Jacques Cartier how to cure scurvy with its leaves and he was so impressed that he named it Arborvitae, which is Latin for Tree of Life. He had trees with him when he returned to Europe, and that’s how Thuja occidentalis became the first North American tree to be introduced there.

10-cedar-seed-cone

There are many seed pods on the cedars and robins, common redpolls, pine siskins, and dark-eyed juncos eat the seeds. Many small birds use the trees to hide in and robins nest in them each spring. The open seed pods always look like beautiful carved wooden flowers to me.

11-rhodie

When the rhododendron buds look like they’re wearing choir robes you know that they’re singing Baby It’s Cold Outside, and it was cold on this day but at least the sun was shining. That hasn’t happened that much on weekends lately. These rhododendrons were grown from seed and started their life in this yard as a small sprig of a plant. Now some are taller than I am. It is thought that their leaves curl and droop in this way to protect their tender undersides from the cold.

12-quartz-crystals

I built a stone wall in my yard years ago and, since I collected rocks and minerals for a time, many of the stones in the wall have surprises in them. This one is studded with quartz crystals. Others have beryl crystals, mica, tourmaline and other minerals in them.

13-crispy-tuft-moss

It took several years before I could confidently identify the tiny tufts of moss I sometimes saw growing on tree trunks but I eventually found out that its name was crispy tuft moss (Ulota crispa.) Now I see it everywhere, including on the maple trees in my own yard. This one was less than an inch across.

14-fringed-candleflame-lichen

I was happy to find a tiny bit of bright yellow fringed candle flame lichen (Candelaria fibrosa) on one of my maple trees. Lichens simply use tree bark as a roosting place and don’t harm the tree in any way. This lichen is said to be very sensitive to air pollution, so seeing it is a good sign that our air quality is good. I hope it grows and spreads to other trees. As of now it’s the most colorful lichen in the yard.

15-amber-jelly-fungus

I found an oak twig in the yard that had fallen from a neighbor’s oak tree. I saw that it had tiny, hard flakes of amber jelly fungus (Exidia recisa) on it. Luckily though this is a wood rotting fungus it only grows on dead wood so it won’t hurt the tree.  Since the twig was barely bigger than a pencil I decided to try an expiriment and brought it inside.

16-amber-jelly-fungus-3

This is what the hard little flakes in the previous photo turned into after I soaked the twig in a pan of water for just 15 minutes. What were small hard lumps had swollen to I’d guess about 40-50 percent larger than their original dry size,  and instead of being hard now felt much like your earlobe. In fact they looked and behaved much like the cranberry jelly served at Thanksgiving. These fungi have a shiny surface and a matte surface, and the shiny side is where their microscopic spores are produced.

17-black-knot-on-cherry

I found another twig, this time from a black cherry (Prunus serotina.) It showed that the tree had black knot disease, which 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. Since this tree is a fully grown black cherry and lives in the forest there is little that can be done for it.

18-sedum-seedhead

I don’t know if any birds eat the seeds of the Russian stonecrop (Sedum kamtschaticum) in my yard but I always let them go to seed because the shape of the open seedpods mimics exactly the shape of their bright yellow flowers. It spreads but couldn’t be called invasive. It is a tough little groundcover that can stand drought or flood. I haven’t done a thing to it since I planted it about 30 years ago.

19-white-pine

The tallest and straightest tree in my yard is a white pine (Pinus strobus.) I put my camera on its trunk and clicked the shutter, and this is the result. It doesn’t show much except that it was a sunny day and they have been rare here lately. White pine needles contain five times the amount of the vitamin C of lemons and were used by Native Americans to make tea. This knowledge saved many early settlers who were dying of scurvy, but instead of using the tree for food and medicine as the Natives did the colonists cut them down and used the wood for paneling, floors and furniture. When square riggers roamed the seas the tallest white pines in the Thirteen Colonies were known as mast pines. They were marked with a broad arrow and were reserved for the Royal Navy, and if you had any sense you didn’t get caught cutting one down. This practice of The King taking the best trees led to the Pine Tree Riot in 1772, which was an open act of rebellion. Colonists cut down and hauled off many marked mast pines in what was just a taste of what would come later on in the American Revolution. I think this tree, so tall and straight, would surely have been selected as a mast pine.

Even in the familiar there can be surprise and wonder. ~Tierney Gearon

Thanks for coming by.

Read Full Post »

1. Frost Crystals

The plan was to get out early last Saturday and hike a rail trail since I skipped it last week in favor of a pond, but nature had other plans. We got about 5 inches of snow on Friday and the temperature at 7:00 am on Saturday was barely 17 degrees F. I thought I’d wait for the sun to warm it up a bit and took photos of frost crystals while I waited. They were very feathery.

2. Trail

Eventually I did get out there and found a beautiful warm and sunny day.  Warm was 35 degrees but since last February saw below zero temperatures nearly all month long 35 degrees seemed like a gift.

3. Tire Track

I saw that a bike with balloon tires had gone through the snow. I’ve heard that the tires on them are underinflated, and that these bikes can go just about anywhere. It seems as if it has taken a good part of my lifetime for bikes to get back to where they were when I was a boy. I can remember them with fat balloon tires that always seemed to be underinflated back then, but we just rode them on the streets.

4. Little Bluestem Grass

There is a pasture for horses that runs for a short way along one side of the trail and on the far side of it what I think was little bluestem grass (Schizachyrium scoparium) glowed beautifully in the sunshine. I love the golden color that some grasses have when they’re “dead.”

5. Poison Ivy Berries

Poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) can grow as a shrub or a vine. In this case it grew as a vine on a tree trunk and its white berries gave away its identity, even in winter. I’m glad I saw the berries before I touched the tree trunk. You can catch a good case of poison ivy rash even when the plants have no leaves on them and as general rule I try not to touch plants with white berries. Poison ivy hasn’t ever bothered me much but there is always a first time. Some people get it so badly they have to be hospitalized. Over 60 species of birds are known to eat poison ivy berries, so the toxic part of the plant must have no effect on them.

6. Oak Gall

A gall wasp made a perfectly round escape hole in its near perfectly spherical oak gall. It is said that oaks carry more galls than any other tree. This example is a marble gall.

7. Pine Sap

White pines (Pinus strobus) have shown me that I can use their sap as a kind of thermometer in the winter because the colder it gets, the bluer it becomes. This example was sort of a medium blue which kind of parallels our almost cold winter. I’ll have to look at some if the temperature plunges next weekend as forecast.

8. Trestle

Snowmobile clubs have built wooden guardrails along the sides of all of the train trestles in the area to make sure that nobody goes over the side and into the river. That wouldn’t be good, especially if there was ice on the river. Snowmobile clubs work very hard to maintain these trails and all of us who use them owe them a great debt of gratitude, because without their hard work the trails would most likely be overgrown and impassable. I know part of one trail that hasn’t seen any maintenance and it’s like a jungle, so I hope you’ll consider making a small donation to your local club as a thank you.

9. Warning Wires

Years ago before air brakes came along, brakemen had to climb to the top of moving boxcars to manually set each car’s brakes. The job of brakeman was considered one of the most dangerous in the railroad industry because many died from being knocked from the train when it entered a trestle or tunnel. This led to the invention seen in the above photo, called a “tell-tale.” Soft wires about the diameter of a pencil hung from a cross brace, so when the brakeman on top of the train was hit by the wires he knew that he had only seconds to duck down to avoid running into the top of a tunnel, trestle, or other obstruction. Getting hit by the wires at even 10 miles per hour must have hurt some, but I’m sure it was better than the alternative.

I’ve spent over 50 years wondering what these wires were called and was able to find out just recently. I also discovered that though tell-tales were once seen on each side of every trestle and tunnel, today they are rarely seen. The above photo shows the only example I know of and I chose to walk this particular section of rail trail because of it.

10. Ashuelot

There is a nice view of the Ashuelot River from the trestle. It’s very placid here but its banks seem wild and untamed, and it’s easy to imagine that this is what it looked like before colonists came here.

11. Rivets

Though there is surface rust on the ironwork of the trestle they were built to last and I wouldn’t be surprised if it looks the same as it does now after standing for another 150 years. You can see in this photo that the rust is just a very thin coating on the heads of the rivets.

12. Stone Wall

Stone walls marked the property line between landowner and railroad. I’ve tried to find out how wide railroad rights of way are but it seems to vary considerably. I’ve read that the average setback on each side is 25 feet from the center of the nearest rail. Add 10 feet or so for engine width and you have a 60 foot wide rail trail right of way, which seems about right in this region of the country.

13. Snowshoer

On my way back I was passed by a lady on snowshoes who asked me what I was taking photos of. “Anything and everything,” I told her, but I really wasn’t planning on taking her photo until I realized that she might give the place a sense of scale. This photo shows how, though the right of way might be 60 feet wide the sides aren’t often flat, so this might leave an actual trail width of only 20 feet.

14. Lowbush Blueberry

Railroad tracks have always been a great place to go berry picking. Raspberries, blackberries and blueberries can all be found in great abundance along most trails. In this section lowbush blueberry bushes (Vaccinium angustifolium) looked spidery against the snow.

15. Maple Dust Lichen on Beech

On this trip something I had been wondering about for a few years was finally put to rest, and that was the question do maple dust lichens (Lecanora thysanophora) only grow on maple trees? The one pictured was growing on a beech tree, so the answer is no. So why are they called maple dust lichens? That question I don’t have an answer for.

16. Amber Jelly

I saw the biggest amber jelly (Exidia recisa) fungus I’ve ever seen out here. It was as big as a toddler’s ear and felt just like an ear lobe. As usual it reminded me of cranberry jelly, which isn’t amber colored at all.

17. Sweet Fern

I saw the sun lighting up the orange brown leaves of this sweet fern from quite a distance away. Sweet fern is a small shrub with incredibly aromatic leaves which release their fragrance on warm summer days. They can be smelled from quite a distance and are part of the summer experience for me.  Though they aren’t ferns their leaves look similar to fern leaves. They are actually a member of the bayberry family and the leaves make a good tasting tea. Native Americans made a kind of spring tonic from them and also used them as an insect repellant. On this day I just admired their beauty, glowing there in the sun.

18. Fungi on a Branch

A fallen branch poked up out of the snow as if it had been waiting for me to come along. It showed off what looked from a distance like little orange flowers, but I knew that couldn’t be.

19. Fungi on a Branch

They weren’t flowers but they might as well have been because they were just as beautiful. I’m not sure but I think they were older examples of milk white toothed polypores, which are known to brown with age. These hadn’t reached the brown stage but they were very orange and very interesting.

Each living thing gives its life to the beauty of all life, and that gift is its prayer. ~Douglas Wood

Thanks for coming by.

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

1. After an Ice Storm

Winter can’t seem to make up its mind this year. We’ll get one or two cold days and then two or three warm ones and the snowstorms have left little more than powdered sugar dustings. After the record breaking warmth of December, January is now 6 degrees above average and after last winter I’m not complaining about any of it. The photo above was taken right after a small ice storm as the sun was melting all the ice off the trees and shrubs.

2. Misty Morning

This is what happens when it isn’t light enough for the camera to see. I took this with my cell phone at Half Moon Pond in Hancock at dawn one morning. I was going to delete it but then it started to remind me of a watercolor painting so I kept it. It shows how misty some of our mornings have been lately.

3. Misty Swamp

This also shows how misty it has been but this was taken at sunset after a dusting of snow fell that morning.

4. Pond Ice

Our smaller ponds have started to freeze up but the ice is thin and ice fishermen are getting frustrated.5. Frozen River Foam

The river has hardly frozen at all but one day it was full of these curious white pancakes.

6. Frozen River Foam

The pancakes turned out to be river foam that had collected into discs and then had frozen overnight.

7. Mallards

There was a tiny bit of ice on the Ashuelot River and some mallards swam by it just as I was preparing to take its photo. Two males and a female, with the female leading the way.

8. Glare Ice

This is what happens when a pond freezes and then it rains and the rain freezes; glare ice. If it hadn’t been so thin it would have been an ice skater’s dream come true. Thin ice causes problems every year and this year is no different. I’ve already heard of two boys and a snowmobiler having to be rescued, and a deer was rescued one night as well. They’re all lucky to be alive.

9. Dawn in the Woods

I wonder how the deer get through a winter like this. They can’t stand on the ice very well and sometimes all 4 feet splay out from under them. In some places the woods are full of ice as the above photo shows, so I think the deer are might be having a rough time of it.

10. Hollow Tree

I saw a huge old maple tree that was hollowed out enough for me to have comfortably had a sit down in it if I had been so inclined. There are more hollow trees living in the forest than one would guess.

11. Witches Broom on Pine

Can you see the setting sun in this old pine tree? I took its photo because the setting sun lit up the lichens covering almost every bit of exposed branch. The branches themselves have grown into a witches’ broom, which I rarely see on trees, especially conifers. According to the Arnold Arboretum the English term witches’-broom translates directly from the German word Hexenbesen. Both parts of the German compound word are found in English as hex, meaning to bewitch, and besom, a bundle of twigs, meaning witches’ broom is a bewitched bundle of twigs. Even though that might be what it looks like it is actually a deformity caused by any number of things such as disease, fungi, insects or viruses. Many dwarf conifers have been propagated from witches’ brooms and collecting and growing new specimens is big business.

12. Black Jelly

Winter is when jelly fungi appear and one of easiest to find is black jelly fungus (Exidia glandulosa.) This pillow shaped, shiny black fungus is common on alders here. When it dries out it loses about 90%  of its volume and shrinks down to small black flakes, and it looks like someone has smeared paint or tar on the limb that it grows on. This one shows well that jelly fungi are mostly water.

13. Amber Jelly

Amber jelly fungus (Exidia recisa) is also common and I find it on oak or poplar limbs. You can’t tell from this photo but it has a shiny side and a matte finish side. The spores are produced on the shiny side and if I understand what I’ve read correctly, this is true of most jelly fungi. This one has the color of jellied cranberry sauce.

14. Orange Jelly

This is one of the biggest orange jelly fungi (Dacrymyces palmatus) that I’ve seen. Orange and yellow jelly fungi seem to appear earlier in the season than black or amber jellies do, so I see more of them.  Jelly fungi are fun to see because they add beauty to the winter landscape, but people seem to have a hard time finding them. I think that they probably miss seeing them and many other things because they’re thinking more about where they’re going than where they are, and they walk too fast. To find the small beautiful things in nature I have to walk slowly and focus completely on right here, right now; just the immediate surroundings. If you’re in the woods thinking about what you’ll do when you get home you probably won’t see much, and you’ll remember less.

15. Puddle Ice-2

I’ve seen a lot of puddle ice this year that has grown long, sharp looking ice crystals.

16. Snowmelt

As you’ve seen so far this winter is more about ice than snow, but even that hasn’t approached anything near severe. Winter can’t seem to make up its mind and everyone wonders if it will be as severe as it has been for the last two years. Last year it all happened in February so it’s still a possibility, but I try to think about how each passing day means the sun stays out a little longer and brings us another day closer to March. From that point it’ll be doubtful that we’ll see any severe weather, but anything is possible.

Once you really commence to see things, then you really commence to feel things. ~Edward Steichen

Thanks for coming by.

 

Read Full Post »

1. Snowy Path

There was a blog post coming up in just a few days and I had nothing; not even an idea, and I wondered if, for the first time in almost 4 years, I’d miss a post.  I shouldn’t have wondered at all because I know that all I have to do is free my mind of expectations and walk into the forest. If I go into the woods expecting or hoping to find a certain thing then I usually don’t find it, but if I just walk in with an open mind and let nature lead, I often see things that I’ve never seen before.

2. Snow on Ice

If you have ever walked down a woodland path with a two year old child then you know that they’re open to anything and fascinated by everything. They also walk very slowly down a crooked path, toddling from this to that and back again with a sense of wide eyed wonder. That’s exactly how to see the things in nature that others miss-let yourself be a child again. I walk at the pace of a two year old and my path is never straight. I stop and look around often, never knowing what I’ll see, and if I have to get down on my knees to take a photo I’m sure to scan the forest floor around me for a full 360 degrees before I stand up again. I’ve seen some amazing things by doing that.

3. Orange Crust Fungus

One of the first things I found on this day was this orange crust fungus, which I think is the crowded parchment fungus (Stereum complicatum.) The complicatum part of its scientific name means “folded back on itself.” This fungus often grows on fallen oak limbs and parasitizes some types of jelly fungi.

4. Puffballs

Before I stood up I followed my own advice, looked around and saw these pear shaped puffballs (Lycoperdon pyriforme,) which grew on a log and stood out against what I think is a bright white lichen background, possibly whitewash lichen (Phlyctis argena.)

5. Whitewash Lichen

I walked further down the trail and saw this excellent example of whitewash lichen. From a distance it looks like someone has painted the tree. These lichens can cover quite a large area and can be greenish white, silvery, or bright white. They usually grow on hardwoods but can occasionally be seen on conifers as well.

6. Small Stream

Naturalist John Burroughs once said “to find new things, take the path you took yesterday.” I’ve found that to be very true and am always surprised by what I’ve missed on my first, second and even third visits to a place, so though I’ve followed this small stream a hundred times I decided to follow it again.

7. Partridge Berries

Partridge berries (Mitchella repens) aren’t new to me but though I’ve seen them a thousand times they are always a welcome sight, especially when there is snow on the ground. I don’t know about partridges, but I do know that wild turkeys eat the berries. Though the plant creeps along the forest floor like a vine, botanically speaking it is considered a “sub-shrub,” which simply means that it is a dwarf shrub, usually woody at its base.

8. Unknown Lichen or Fungus

Here is something new. So new in fact that I’m not even sure what to call it, because I don’t know if it is a lichen or fungus. I’ve never seen a lichen with fuzzy edges like these and I’ve never seen a fungus, even a crust fungus, that was so very thin and flat. I’ve searched all of my books and online and haven’t seen anything close to it, so this one has me stumped. It was a little bigger than a quarter and was growing on the bark of a standing hardwood. If you know what it is I’d like to hear from you.

Note: Biologist and botanical consultant Arold Lavoie has identified this lichen as Lecanora thysanophora, which is also called maple dust lichen. It is supposed to be common in the northeast but I’ve never seen it. Arold is from Quebec and has a website that looks extremely interesting but unfortunately I don’t read French. If you do you can visit the site at http://aroldlavoie.com/ Thanks very much for the identification Arold!

9. Blue Purple Lichen

This bluish-lavender lichen appeared in several spots on a boulder. I’ve never seen it before and I’m not even sure if it’s a lichen but if not I don’t know what else it could be. I’ve spent quite a lot of time looking for something similar in books and online and haven’t found anything. Again, if you know what it is I’d be happy to hear from you.

10. Intermediate Wood Fern

On the same boulder as the lichen in the previous photo, growing out of a crack was a tiny evergreen fern that I think is an intermediate wood fern (Dryopteris intermedia.)  Evergreen plants send sugar into their leaves in the winter to act as antifreeze, so evergreen ferns get a jump on photosynthesizing in the spring, basking in the sunshine for a month or two and growing new leaves before being shaded by tree leaves. By the time other ferns are just poking their fiddleheads from the soil the evergreens are well on their way. The boulder probably soaks up heat from the sun all day and releases it slowly at night, making this little fern’s life much easier.

11. Amber Jelly Fungus

Something else I’ve never seen is veins running through an amber jelly fungus (Exidia recisa.) Amber jellies are common at this time of year on oak and alder limbs and when I find them I like to hold them up to the light and look through them, because they often look like stained glass. They grow like little pillows or sacks of air and I wonder if, instead of veins those are wrinkles. These fungi are also called willow brain but I’ve never found one on a willow.

12. Tree Skirt Moss aka Anomodon attenuatus

I’ve seen tree skirt moss (Anomodon attenuatus) growing on thousands of trees but never on trees this small. The biggest one in this photo was hardly bigger in diameter than an average garden hose.  Tree skirt moss grows up to 3 feet high around the bases of hardwoods, especially oaks. Knowing where certain mosses prefer growing, whether on soil, stone or wood, can help with identifying them.

 13. Smokey Eye Boulder Lichen

Beautiful smoky eye boulder lichens (Porpidia albocaerulescens) are one of my favorite lichens but, though I’ve walked these woods since I was a boy I’ve never seen them growing here. I noticed this one and then took a closer look at the other stones in the area and found that they all had this lichen on them! I have to admit that at that moment I didn’t feel very observant, that’s for sure. It really is amazing what we can miss in the forest, and that’s why I keep going back to the same places again and again. Just when you start thinking that you’ve seen it all nature will show you that you haven’t even scratched the surface.

14. Tiny Pine Cone

The storm we had on Thanksgiving eve brought down a lot of branches, especially those of white pine (Pinus strobus.) There are a lot of tiny pine cones on these limbs which will never grow to release their seeds. Next fall the animals that eat them might have to hope for a good acorn, beech and hazelnut crop.

15. Whittled Branch

I found that someone, probably a young boy with a brand new jackknife, had whittled a pine branch into a tent peg. He had done a good job, too-there was no blood on it. The smell of the freshly carved pine and the thought of whittling took me back to my own boyhood and I’m sure I must have had a bounce in my step when I left the forest on this day. Not only did nature show me several things that I hadn’t seen before, but I felt twelve years old again for a time. How can you ask for a better day than that?

I can’t guarantee that everyone who goes into the woods will come out feeling twelve years old again but I can guarantee that if you walk slowly, stop often, and look closely, nature will show you things that you have never even imagined-mind blowing things, as we used to say back in the day.

Humans who spend time in the wilderness, alone, without man-made mechanical noise around them, often discover that their brain begins to recover its ability to discern things. ~Robert Anderson

Thanks for stopping in.

Read Full Post »

 1. Beaver Brook

Another warm sunny day last weekend prompted me to follow this old abandoned road up to Beaver Brook falls once more. I thought that, the way things were warming up so fast, it might be my last chance to see them in their frozen state.

 2. Blue Ice Formations 

The blue ice on the ledges reminded me of the aquamarine crystals I used to find while mineral hunting. I can’t say that blue ice is rare but I’ve only seen it in two places. As I learned from reading Sue’s Back Yard Biology blog, blue ice happens when the oxygen-hydrogen bonds in water absorb the red parts of the spectrum and reflect blue light back. Further reading tells me that it is also very dense. These ledges are about 15-20 feet high and the ice formations are bigger than tree trunks.

 3. Ice Formations

Beaver brook also had some interesting ice formations growing in it.

 4. Amber Jelly Fungus

It was warm enough to thaw the amber jelly fungi (Exidia recisa). I like holding it up to the light so I can see through it because it looks like stained glass, but I’ve never noticed the yellowish spots in it before. Amber jellies are true “winter fungi” and that is when I usually find them.

 5. Aster Seed Head

There are still plenty of seeds on the New England asters (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae). In fact I’m still seeing an abundance of seeds, nuts and berries everywhere I go. That strikes me as odd but it could be that I’ve just never noticed how much is left in the spring before.

 6. Giant Boulder

This boulder sits in the woods on the far side of the brook so I can’t get to it to see if it is a true glacial erratic, but it’s easy to see from where I stand that it’s as big as a house.  There is quite a steep hill on that side of the brook and I wonder what stopped its rolling further down the hill and into the brook.

 7. Smokey Eye Boulder Lichen 

There are some interesting lichens here, like this smokey eye boulder lichen (Porpidia albocaerulescens). One thing that makes it so interesting to me is how the whitish coating on the black fruiting disks (Apothecia) changes color when the light comes from different anglers.  They can appear light gray, dark gray, light blue or dark blue.  They change color because of the whitish waxy coating that reflects ultra violet rays and is very similar to the bloom on plums, blueberries, and black raspberry canes.

 8. Greater Whipwort Liverwort aka Bazzania trilobata

Every time I come here I see something that I’ve never seen here before and this time was no different. In the case of the greater whip wort (Bazzania trilobata) in the above photo I’m sure that I missed it because you have to look closely to see that it is a liverwort and not a moss.  Bazzania trilobata is a leafy liverwort that likes high humidity. It always reminds me of centipedes.

 9. Greater Whipwort Liverwort Closeup aka Bazzania trilobata

I’m not sure why it is called greater whipwort, because each leaf is only about an eighth of an inch wide and the group of plants in the previous photo isn’t 6 inches across. The trilobata part of the scientific name refers to the way that each leaf ends in 3 triangular notches.  The root-like growths are branches.

 10. Beaver Brook Falls 

Ice must be a great insulator because the 40-50 foot tall falls, like the brook itself, was silent. It seems so strange for this place to be silent after hearing the very load roar of the falls in summer.

To get a really good view of the falls you have to climb down quite a steep embankment, which I’ve decided would be foolish to do in winter, so that’s why there are trees in the way in this shot.

 11. Hole in Brook Ice 2

This is part of the reason I don’t climb down the embankment to the falls. If you tipped a Volkswagen Beetle on its side it would fit right into this hole with room to spare.  The depth from the top of the snow layer down to the water surface was about 7 feet, and I stood there thinking that if I accidently stumbled into a hole like this, I would most likely never get out of it. It reminded me once again why you have to have your wits about you when you’re in the woods.

 12. Egg Case Hanging from Moss

This is probably the strangest thing I saw this day. I’m assuming it is a spider’s egg sac, but I’m not sure. It was hanging from some moss by a thread of silk like a tiny Christmas ornament.

 13. Egg Case Hanging from Moss 2

This is a closer look at the whatever-it-is. It had a little stocking cap like growth on top that was opened, but I couldn’t see any of this until I cropped the photo because it was so small. The “orb” itself was no bigger than a sixteenth of an inch across. If you’re reading this and know what it is I’d like to hear from you.

Note: If you’d like to read more about this place just type “Beaver Brook” in the search box in the upper right corner.

The whole secret of the study of nature lies in learning how to use one’s eyes.  ~George Sand

Thanks for stopping in.

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

 1. Keene State Plaque

Recently a little birdie told me that some of the students in a certain biology class at a certain college were saying that it was “too cold” and that they “couldn’t walk in the snow.” And how were they supposed to find anything anyway when there’s “snow everywhere?”

Just for fun I decided to return to college myself just to see how valid these complaints were.

 2. Keene State Parker Hall

This was my chosen starting point on the campus of Keene State College. The great thing about nature study is it doesn’t matter which path you take. Nature will have something interesting to show you no matter where you go. With a willingness to participate and a little extra attentiveness you will learn things that you’ve never even imagined.

Oh-you will notice that the snow isn’t “everywhere.”

 3. Boston Ivy Berries

My first stop was the ivy covered walls of Parker Hall shown in the above photo. This photo is of Boston ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata), which lends its name to the “ivy league” schools. The odd thing about Boston ivy is its name, because it isn’t from Boston and it isn’t an ivy; it’s a member of the grape family and comes from China and Japan. This vine attaches to just about any vertical surface with tiny circular pads that form at the ends of its tendrils.  It secretes calcium carbonate and uses it to “glue” the pads to the surface it wants to climb. The glue can to hold up to 260 times its own weight.

4. Crabapples

If you are a biology student reading this blog then this photo should have you asking questions like why haven’t the birds eaten these crabapples?  You can see the hundreds of them in the background on the snow even though many birds, including robins and cedar waxwings, love crabapples. In a winter as harsh as this one you would think they would be gobbling them as fast as they could, so why aren’t they? Science has shown that birds will leave fruits that are lower in fat for last but are crabapples low in fat? The answers are simple; many crab apples are ornamental cultivars that birds just don’t like. Some other cultivars have fruit that birds will eat only after it has frozen and thawed several times.  If you want to attract fruit eating birds with crab apples (Malus) the choice of cultivar requires some research.

 5. Lilac Buds 

One of the ways to identify trees and shrubs in winter is by their buds. The size and placement of buds as well as the number of bud scales can all help with identification. Bud scales are modified leaves that cover and protect the bud through winter. Some buds can have several, some have two, some just one scale called a cap, and some buds have none at all. Buds that have several scales are called imbricate and have scales that overlap like shingles. The lilac buds in the above photo are good examples of imbricate buds.

 6. Cornelian Cherry  Bud  aka Cornus mas

Buds with just two (sometimes three) scales are called valvate. The scales meet but do not overlap. This Cornelian cherry bud is a great example of a valvate bud. In the spring when the plant begins to take up water through its roots the buds swell and the scales part to let the bud grow. Some bud scales are hairy and some covered with sticky resin that further protects the bud.

Cornelian cherry (Cornus mas) is an ornamental flowering shrub related to dogwoods. It blooms in early spring (in March) with clusters of blossoms that have small, bright yellow bracts.

 7.  Powdery Goldspeck Lichen aka Candelariella efflorescens 

Powdery goldspeck lichens ( Candelariella efflorescens) grow on tree bark of all kinds. The round, flattened, yellow patches are very small but grow in large colonies that make them easier to see.  Winter is the perfect time to look for lichens because they aren’t hidden by foliage. I saw plenty on this campus.

Lichens are great indicators of air quality because they refuse to grow where the air is polluted. There was a famous study done by schoolchildren in the United Kingdom in the 1960s. They produced a “mucky air map” that showed the absence of lichens from areas polluted by coal burning. Such a study (on a much smaller scale) done on a college campus might be a real eye opener. The lichens wouldn’t even have to be identified; simply recording their presence is enough. The absence of lichens is not a good thing.

 8. Lenticels in Bark

The Tibetan cherry (Prunus serrula Tibetica) 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. The mahogany bark has very long, closely spaced lenticels that give it an unusual appearance. Lenticels are corky pores that allow gases like oxygen to reach the living cells of the bark. Without enough oxygen, bark can die.

9. Sweet Gum Pod

I was surprised when I finally realized that these were sweet gum seed pods, because Massachusetts is the northernmost point that sweet gum grows naturally in the U.S. and, though it is native to the east coast, it is considered a “southern tree.” But, there is an old (often risky) trick that landscape designers will sometimes use if a client is determined to have a certain plant that isn’t hardy-they use masonry. If a plant that isn’t reliably hardy is planted near masonry it will often survive lower temperatures than it would otherwise because the masonry absorbs heat from the sun during the day and releases it slowly at night, keeping the plant warm enough to survive. There were several of these sweet gum trees near a massive wall of brick, and they were protected from wind by other buildings.

10. Sycamore Fruit

I’ve never heard of a dwarf sycamore tree but this is an empty sycamore seed head that I plucked from a tree with very mottled sycamore bark that stood no more than 7 feet tall. There are a large number of ornamental trees on this campus and I’m not sure how I would identify them all without occasionally asking the head gardener.

 11. White Rot Fungus aka Fomitiporia punctata

White rot fungus (Fomitiporia punctata) covered this fallen oak limb. There are many species of white rot fungi and they play a major part in wood decomposition. Scientists have discovered that they will also biodegrade environmental pollutants and certain chemical wastes. Researching that might be very interesting.

 12. Amber jelly Fungus

Amber jelly fungi (Exidia recisa) were on the same fallen oak limb, but frozen solid by the looks. This is the first time I’ve seen these growing on oak. I usually find them on alder. Some jelly fungi are also good at helping wood rot. This one fruits in late fall and winter and is a true winter fungus. I’ve always wondered why certain fungi only fruit in winter.

13. Barberry Berries

I was surprised to see this very invasive Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii ) growing as a hedge but as I think about it I shouldn’t have been. I’ve planted barberry hedges myself back when we didn’t realize how invasive it was.  I also saw burning bushes used in a hedge. Also called winged euonymus (Euonymus alatus), they are also very invasive and until recently were widely used. The final invasive that I found was oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus). These were growing near a chain like fence-right where a bird might sit for a while after eating its berries.

Exploring their campus for invasive species would be a good project for a biology class and could be done at any time of year. The results might be surprising for those in charge of such things since, in this instance, this is a state college and the state has banned selling or importing these invasives.

 14. Daffodils 

The most satisfying thing I found on this campus was the little taste of spring provided by these inch high daffodil shoots. I was surprised since we had just seen a temperature of 7 below zero the night before.

So, if anyone reading this happens to be a student attending a certain biology class in a certain college, this post is for you. All of these photos and at least twice as many more were taken in less than an hour while meandering around the Keene State College campus and I didn’t once have to step in snow deeper than the soles of my hiking boots. It was cold but I dressed for it. That’s what we have to do to keep warm in a New England winter.  I hope this post has shown how easy it is to find things in nature with very little effort.

The scientist does not study nature because it is useful; he studies it because he delights in it, and he delights in it because it is beautiful.  ~Henri Poincaré

Thanks for coming by.

Read Full Post »

Here is another post full of those odd, hard to fit in a post things that I see in my travels.

1. Amber jelly Fungus

The rains we had over Memorial Day made jelly fungi swell up and they can be seen everywhere right now. When it is dry, they will once again shrink down until they are almost invisible. This is amber jelly fungus (Exidia recisa,) also called willow brain fungus because it grows on willow trees. It also grows on alder and poplar. Upper, shiny surfaces of this fungus bear spores and the lower, matte surfaces do not. This example doesn’t seem to have many shiny surfaces, but they often do.

 2. Gray Gilled Mushroom

The rain also helped bring a few mushrooms to fruiting stage. I liked the blue-gray color of the gills on this example. I think it is one of the Amanitas-possibly Amanita porphyria.

NOTE: A reader familiar with the above mushroom has corrected its identity. It is a wine cap mushroom (Stropharia rugosoannulata). Thank you Lisa!

 3. Chipmunk

When I was in high school there was a wooded area near the building where I and several of my class mates would hang out smoking, gabbing, and generally showing off and acting foolish. One day a friend of mine decided to see if he could catch a chipmunk barehanded. He caught it alright-in more ways than one. That cute little chipmunk instantly transformed into something resembling the Tasmanian devil on Bugs Bunny cartoons and gave him some nasty bites to the fingers.  I can’t remember much of what I learned in that school but I’ve never forgotten how sharp a chipmunk’s teeth are.

4. Larch Cone

I had been seeing photos of pink and purple larch cones (Larix laricina) on other blogs and frankly, I was a little jealous because all I ever saw in New Hampshire were dry, brown cones.  But that was because I’m color blind and wasn’t looking closely enough.  Thanks to Chris and her sister Marie over at the Plants Amaze Me blog, I’m now seeing plum colored larch cones. I think they’re as beautiful as many of the flowers that I’ve seen.

 5. Canadian Hemlock

This young Canadian hemlock (Tsuga Canadensis) tree was covered with new, light green growth and seemed to be so full of life that I had to take a picture of it. This tree might grow to 100 feet tall and 5 to 6 feet in diameter at maturity. These trees are also called eastern hemlock and, because of their unusual holding power, are often cut for use as railroad ties. Railroad spikes driven into hemlock ties are not as likely to loosen and work their way free as they are in other species.

6. Chicken-of-the-Woods aka Laetiporus sulphureus

Last year I misidentified a bracket fungus by calling it chicken of the woods (Laetiporus sulphureus .)  (This is a good example of why you don’t eat any old mushroom you read about on blogs.) I thought I’d take another crack at it this year by identifying the fungi in the above photo as chicken of the woods.  Its orange color makes it easy to see, but I don’t see many of them. This mushroom is also called sulfur shelf, and gets one of its common names because of the way that it tastes like fried chicken.

7. Dandelion Seed Head

I like macro photography because it often reveals heretofore unseen things on plants that I’ve seen thousands of times.  Good examples are the ribbed and barbed dandelion seeds, called achenes, that my aging eyes will otherwise never see. The seeds are a fine example of how a dandelion flower is actually made up of many small flowers-each flower produces a single seed. If you counted the seeds you would know how many flowers were on the original flower head.

8. Orchard Grass

Orchard grass (Dactylis glomerata) is flowering now, as are many other grasses. This is a tall, cool season grass that is shade tolerant and drought resistant. I keep watch for grasses with their pollen ready to fly on the wind at this time of year. It is an interesting event that isn’t often paid much attention to.

9. Cinnamon Fern

Cinnamon fern (Osmundastrum cinnamomeum) got its common name from its cinnamon colored spore bearing fronds. Once a cinnamon fern begins to fruit it stops producing fronds and puts all of its energy into spore production. The fertile fruiting fronds will be covered top to bottom with spore producing sori. Sori are a fern’s equivalent of flowers.

10. Royal Fern

Royal ferns (Osmunda spectabilis) have also started producing spores. Another name for this fern is “flowering fern,” because someone once thought that the fertile, fruiting fronds looked like bunches of flowers. Royal fern is the only fern that grows on every temperate continent except Australia, which makes it one of the most widespread of all living species. They are also thought to be one of the oldest living things, with fossil records of the Osmundaceae family dating back over 300 million years. Individual plants are thought to be able to live 100 years or more.

11. White Admiral Butterfly aka Limenitis arthemis

Regular readers will no doubt remember that I wrote about commenting on another blog about how New Hampshire seemed to be in a butterfly drought, and then right afterwards had a butterfly land on the trail in front of me. Well, it hasn’t stopped yet. Apparently nature is teaching me a lesson because this white admiral butterfly landed just a few feet away from me the other day.

12. Red Spotted Purple Butterfly aka Limenitis arthemis astyanax

 Less than a minute after I took a few photos of the white admiral butterfly this red-spotted purple butterfly landed right beside me. When I mowed the lawn that evening there were smaller butterflies landing on the clover blossoms. So okay-I get it. New Hampshire does not have a butterfly drought and I’ll never say that we do, ever again.

Maybe nature is trying to tell me that the butterfly drought might just be my imagination, and maybe all of this came about because I haven’t been paying attention. To that I have to argue that I have been paying attention-to plants, not butterflies.

Nature reserves the right to inflict upon her children the most terrifying jests. ~Thorton wilder

Thanks for coming by.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »