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Posts Tagged ‘American Chestnut’

In 1889 George A. Wheelock sold a piece of land known as the Children’s Wood to the City of Keene for a total of one dollar. This area was eventually combined with an additional parcel of land purchased from Wheelock, known as Robin Hood Forest, to form Robin Hood Park. It’s a 110-acre park located in the northeastern corner of Keene and it is a place that has been enjoyed by children of all ages ever since. I decided to go there last weekend because it had been quite a while last time I had been there. On this day the pond surface was so calm it was a mirror, showing me twice the beauty.

In March I come here to see the coltsfoot that grow along the shoreline and in July I come to see the pickerel weed (Pontederia cordata) that grows just off the shoreline. Who needs a calendar? Or a clock for that matter; it’s the same here now as it was 50 years ago. Native Americans washed and boiled the young leaves and shoots of pickerel weed and used them as pot herbs. They also ground the seeds into grain. The plant can form huge colonies in places and it gets its name from the pickerel fish, which is thought to hide among its underwater stems.

Meadowsweet (Spirea alba) also grows along the shoreline, along with many other plants. In fact if I listed all the plants that grew here the list would be very long indeed. For a nature nut coming here is like visiting paradise. There are interesting things to see no matter where you look.

I once worked in a building that had outside lights on all night and in the morning when I got there the pavement would be littered with moth wings of all shapes and sizes. The wings were all the bats left after they ate the moths, I guessed. On this day I saw many wings floating on the surface of the pond. This was the prettiest. Bats eat many insects during the night, including mosquitoes and biting flies.

A frog meditated on an old plank. This told me that there were probably no great blue herons here this day. I see them here fairly regularly though, along with cormorants, and one winter there was an otter living in the pond.

There were many dragonflies here on this day, flying up out of the tall grass by the pond. I think this one is a widow skimmer but I wouldn’t bet the farm on it.

There is a trail that follows all the way around the pond but it gets rocky in places and there are lots of tree roots to trip over, so you have to watch your step. The trail wasn’t as empty as this photo makes it seem; I saw a few people walking. Some were fishing, some were sitting on benches and some, the littlest ones, were running and laughing, bursting with joy.

In two places seeps cross the trail. This one looked like a beautiful stream of molten sunshine. Hydrologically speaking a seep is a wet place where water reaches the surface from an underground aquifer and this one stays just like this winter and summer. It never freezes solid and it never dries out.  

I saw many broken trees here. This red maple must have just fallen because its leaves weren’t wilted yet. The woodpecker hole tells the story; most likely the tree is full of insects and, if it had stood, it would probably have had fungi growing on it as well. It’ll be interesting to see how long it takes fungi to appear on what’s left after it’s cut down.

A young white pine grew in the arms of a much older tree. Some of these pines can be hundreds of years old.

An older white pine has very thick, platy and colorful bark. But these are very common trees in these parts and I think few people notice.

Robin Hood park is a great place to find mushrooms and slime molds and with our recent rains I thought I might find a fungal bonanza but no, this was one of only two I saw and it was in sad shape.

By far the biggest mushroom that I’ve ever seen is Berkeley’s polypore (Bondarzewia berkeleyi.) This example was easily 2 feet across at its widest point. They grow at the base of hardwoods in the east and in the west a similar example, Bondarzewia montana, grows at the base of conifers. It causes butt rot in the tree’s heartwood. The wood turns white before rotting away and leaving a standing hollow tree.

Indian pipes (Monotropa uniflora) are white and ghostly and grow in the dark places in the forest but they aren’t fungi. They can get away with doing that because they don’t photosynthesize, but they do have flowers and when the flowers are pollinated they stand straight up toward the sky.

This is what the flowers look like once they’re pollinated. The seeds are fine like dust and I think the flower standing up straight must have something to do with rain being able to splash the seeds out of the capsule. Many plants and mosses use the same strategy for seed and spore dispersal. Fresh Indian pipe plants contain a gel that Native Americans used to treat eye problems, and the common name comes from the plant’s resemblance to the pipes they smoked.

This might not look like much but it is a rare sight. American chestnuts were one of the most important forest trees, supplying both food and lumber. An Asian bark fungus (Cryphonectria parasitica) was introduced into North America on imported Asiatic chestnut trees and the disease all but wiped out over three billion American chestnut trees. New shoots often sprout from chestnut roots when the main trunk dies so they haven’t yet become extinct. I’ve seen photos of the trees blossoming on other blogs but I’ve never seen it in person. Unfortunately the stump sprouts are almost always infected by the Asian fungus by the time they reach 20 feet tall but since some trees do bloom maybe these particular examples are growing from chestnuts. Many botanists and other scientists are working on finding and breeding disease resistant trees. This forest must have once been full of them because I’ve found three or four young trees growing here. Though the leaves resemble beech leaves they are much bigger with very serrated margins.

This tiny fern would easily fit in a teacup. It has been growing in a crack in this boulder for years, never getting any bigger. It gets a gold star for fortitude.

Something I’ve never been able to explain is the zig zag scar on this tree. I’ve shown it here before and blog readers have kicked around several ideas including lightning, but none seem to really fit. The scar is deep and starts about 5 feet up the trunk from the soil line. If it were a lightning scar I would think that it would travel from the top of the tree into the soil. I happened upon a large white pine tree once that had been hit by lightning very recently and it had a perfectly straight scar from its top, down a root, and into the soil. The bark had been blown off all the way along it. This tree shows none of that.

There are lots of stones here, some huge, but this one always catches my eye because it has a spear of either quartz or feldspar in it. I think, if I remember my geology correctly, that it would be called an intrusion or vein. Granite itself is considered an intrusive igneous rock.

For over half a century I have visited this place. I learned how to ice skate here and swam in the pool and fished in the pond. I listened to band concerts and camped in the woods and now I walk the trails and sit on the benches. It’s a peaceful place full of life and since the 1800s generations of children have come here to play and enjoy nature and many like myself have never really left. Time means little in such a place and this day might have been any of the other days I’ve spent here in the last 50+ years. I’ve done and seen much here but now I think I come here more for the serenity than anything else. I hope all of you have a place like this to go but it doesn’t matter if you don’t; bliss is a fruit always ready to be harvested, no matter where we happen to be.

When was the last time you spent a quiet moment just doing nothing – just sitting and looking at the sea, or watching the wind blowing the tree limbs, or waves rippling on a pond, a flickering candle or children playing in the park? ~Ralph Marston

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1. Pearl Crescent Butterfly

I haven’t seen many pearl crescent butterflies (Phyciodes tharos) this year but this one landed nearby and let me get quite close. I wondered if it needed a rest after flying with such a torn up wing.  I’ve read that males have black antenna knobs, so I’m guessing that this is a female.

2. White Admiral Butterfly

This white admiral butterfly (Limenitis arthemis) landed in the leaves at the side of a path. It seemed like odd behavior for a butterfly but I thought it might be looking for some shade. It was a hot day.

3. Branch River

The branch river in Marlborough has more stones than water in it at the moment. It’s a good illustration of how dry our weather has been. Rain is a rare commodity here lately, but they say we might see showers this weekend.

4. Forest Clearing

Last year at this time I found a northern club spur orchid (Platanthera clavellata v. Ophioglossoides) growing in this spot but this year there wasn’t a sign of it or any other orchid. A tree fell and opened up the forest canopy to let the sunshine hit the forest floor and last year I thought that it might be the reason the orchid grew here. Now I wonder if the extra sunshine is what caused the orchid to no longer grow here. I’ve noticed that many of the smaller orchids I’ve found seem to prefer shade.

5. Hobblebush Leaves

Signs of fall are creeping from the forest floor up into the shrubby understory, as these hobblebush leaves (Viburnum lantanoides) show. This plant gets its name from the way it can “hobble” a horse because it grows so close to the ground. My own feet have been hobbled by it once or twice and I’ve taken some good falls because of it, so now I walk around rather than through stands of hobblebush.

6. Bracken

Bracken ferns are also starting to show their fall colors. This fern is one plant that will not tolerate acid rain, so if you don’t see it where you live you might want to check the local air pollution statistics. We have plenty of it here so acid rain must be a thing of the past, thankfully.

7. Cranberries

This seems to be a bountiful year for fruits as these cranberries (Vaccinium macrocarpon) show. Most were unripe when this photo was taken but you can see one reddish one in the upper right.  Cranberries, along with blueberries and grapes, are the only fruits native to North America that are grown commercially and sold globally.

8. Sumac Pouch Gall

Someone from the Smithsonian Institution read another post where I spoke about sumac pouch gall and contacted me to ask if I knew where they grew. They are researching the coevolution of rhus gall aphids and its host plants the sumacs. A female aphid lays eggs on the underside of a leaf and plant tissue swells around them to form a gall. The eggs overwinter and mature inside the hollow gall until spring, when they leave the gall and begin feeding on the plant. Scientists have paleobotanical evidence that this aphid has had a relationship with its sumac hosts for at least 48 million years. They are studying this relationship at the Smithsonian and I told them that I could show them where many of these galls grew. We’ll do that sometime in September, after they collect galls from Georgia, Arkansas, and Ohio.

9. Chanterelle

This chanterelle mushroom held a good amount of water in its cup. I never thought that the coating on a mushroom was water proof, but it looks like I have to re-think that.

10. Chestnut Leaves

This might not look like much but it is a rare sight. American chestnuts were one of the most important forest trees, supplying both food and lumber. An Asian bark fungus (Cryphonectria parasitica) was introduced into North America on imported Asiatic chestnut trees and the disease all but wiped out over three billion American chestnut trees. New shoots often sprout from chestnut roots when the main trunk dies so they haven’t yet become extinct. Unfortunately the stump sprouts are almost always infected by the Asian fungus by the time they reach 20 feet tall. Many botanists and other scientists are working on finding and breeding disease resistant trees. I’ll be watching this one.

11. Mini

Mini the wonder dog comes trotting out of the darkness with tongue wagging, ready to save mankind from the scourge of the chipmunk. Mini lives with friends of mine and I call her the wonder dog because I really have to wonder if I’ll ever see her sit still. She’s very energetic and loves a good chipmunk chase. She never catches them but that doesn’t keep her from trying.

12. Sunlit Clouds

I saw the sun light up the clouds one evening but I couldn’t stop driving right then and had to chase the view until I found a good stopping place. It was amazingly colorful and reminded me of a Maxfield Parrish painting.

13. Sunlit Valley Maxfield Parrish

For those unfamiliar with Maxfield Parrish; he was a painter who moved to Plainfield New Hampshire in 1898 and painted here until he died in 1966. His paintings are known for their saturated colors and sunlit clouds. There is often a beautiful woman dressed in Native American or other unusual clothing somewhere in the painting. This painting is titled “Sunlit Valley.” The clouds I saw reminded me of it.

14. Blue Moon

Last month we had a blue moon and I went out and took photos of it but then forgot to put them into a post, so here is a nearly month old photo of the blue moon. Obviously it isn’t blue but is called blue when two full moons appear in a single month. According to Wikipedia the suggestion has been made that the term “blue moon” arose by folk etymology, the “blue” replacing the no-longer-understood belewe, ‘to betray’. The original meaning would then have been “betrayer moon”, referring to a full moon that would “normally” be the full moon of spring. It was “traitorous” in the sense that people would have had to continue fasting for another month in accordance with the season of Lent.

The appearance of things changes according to the emotions; and thus we see magic and beauty in them, while the magic and beauty are really in ourselves. ~Kahlil Gibran

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OF LOCAL INTEREST: The following was sent to me recently:

2015 NH Permaculture Day – Saturday, August 22, 2015 Anyone who wants to learn ways to live in a more sustainable and self-sufficient way should attend the third annual NH Permaculture Day – Saturday, August 22 from 8 am to 5 pm at Inheritance Farm, in Chichester, NH, presented by the New Hampshire Permaculture Guild in cooperation with UNH Cooperative Extension.  Experts will lead more than 30 activities on such topics as growing, harvesting, preparing, and preserving food; herbs; mushrooms; raising farm animals; historic barns and natural building practices; and sustainable energy. Tickets are $35 for adults, children ages 6-15 are $10, and ages 5 and under are free. A local organic farm-to-table lunch is included.

Locally-made products will be for sale in the vendor’s area, and supervised activities and crafts will be offered all day long in our Children’s Corner.

Tickets can be purchased online (via Eventbrite).  For more information, go to the event page at http://extension.unh.edu/2015-NH-Permaculture-Day.

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