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Posts Tagged ‘American Elm Buds’

We were finally able to say good bye (and good riddance) to March last weekend, and this photo sums up why I was happy to see it go. It has been a strange and seemingly backwards  winter, with above average temperatures in January and February bookended by bitter cold and snowstorms in December and March. And ice; most of the trails have been ice covered all winter, which sure takes a lot of the fun out of being in the woods.

In spite of all the snow and ice spring still happens. I saw several reticulated iris (Iris reticulata) blooming in the snow as if it were nothing out of the ordinary.  I’ve read that the plant comes from Turkey, the Caucasus, Northern Iraq and Iran but I know little about what winters are like in such places. They must be very cold.

This one was almost completely buried by snow, but still it bloomed.

American elm buds (Ulmus americana) started to open but then thought better of it and have been at this stage for weeks now. I’m hoping to see its flowers soon. They say we might see 70 degrees next week.

 

A hornet’s nest had fallen out of a tree and it made me wonder what hornets do in the winter. After a little research I found that all but the young queens die and the nests are abandoned in winter. The new, young queens (and their eggs) spend the winter under tree bark or inside warm human habitations. In the spring the queen builds a new nest. That explains the wasp I saw a week or so ago in the shop where I work.

The paper of the hornet’s nest reminded me of natural, undyed wool. They make it by chewing wood into a papery pulp.

I’ve been listening to hear if red winged blackbirds have returned but so far there have been no signs of them in the swamp near where I live. There are plenty of cattails that have gone to seed for the females to line their nests with. This example looked to be soaking wet, but it will dry out.  Native Americans used the roots of cattails to make flour and also wove the leaves into matting. Cattails produce more edible starch per acre than potatoes, rice, taros or yams, and during World War II plans were being made to feed American soldiers with that starch in the form of cattail flour. Studies showed that an acre of cattails would produce an average of 6,475 pounds of flour per year, but thankfully the war ended before the flour making could begin.

Beech leaves still provide a flash of color here and there even though many are falling now. Soon their opening buds will be one of the most beautiful things in the forest. Beech was an important tree to Native Americans. The Iroquois tribe boiled the leaves and used them to heal burns. They also mixed the oil from beechnuts with bear grease and used it as a mosquito repellent. Though the nuts are mildly toxic the Chippewa tribe searched for caches of them hidden by chipmunks. The chipmunks gathered and shucked the nuts and saved the people a lot of work. The Chippewa saw that chipmunks never stored bad nuts, and that’s why they searched for their caches. Rather than make flour from the nuts as they did other species, Natives seem to mostly have used beech nuts medicinally.

The male speckled alder catkins (Alnus incana) are still opening slowly but I haven’t seen any signs of them releasing their dusty pollen. The brown and purple scales on the catkin are on short stalks and there are three flowers beneath each scale, each with a lobed calyx cup and three to five stamens with anthers, which are usually covered in yellow pollen. The flower parts are clearly visible here but there is nothing that looks like pollen. It could be because they were very wet.

I finally got a photo of almost fully opened female speckled alder flowers but they’re so small I couldn’t see them when I was taking the photo, so more of them appear in the background than the foreground. The tiny female (pistillate) catkins of speckled alder consist of scales that cover two flowers, each having a pistil and a scarlet style. Since speckled alders are wind pollinated the flowers have no petals because petals would hinder the process and keep male pollen grains from landing on the sticky female flowers. These female catkins will eventually become the cone-like, seed bearing structures (strobiles) that are so noticeable on alders.

I never knew that willow catkins were so water resistant. I was hoping to see them blooming with their yellow flowers but like the elms, they’re waiting for warmth. This week is warmer but with lots of rain. If we ever have a day with both sunshine and warmth I think I might just fall over.

Amber jelly fungus (Exidia recisa) is common and I find it on oak and poplar limbs. They have the color of jellied cranberry sauce and the best time to look for them is after it rains or snows, because they can absorb great amounts of water and grow several times bigger than they are when dry. I often find them on branches that have fallen on top of the snow as the oak branch pictured had.

If you look at a jelly fungus carefully you’ll notice that they have a shiny side and a matte finish side. The spores are produced on the shiny side and from what I’ve seen most of their spore production happens in winter. I suppose it could be that they’re simply easier to see in winter because of the lack of foliage, but I rarely see them at other times of year so I think of them as “winter fungi.”

I’ve known that the perfectly round holes I see in pine logs were made by some type of borer but I have never seen the insect, though I’ve even looked into the holes with a flashlight. These chip marks made by a woodpecker most likely explain why.

A branch collar forms where a branch meets the trunk of a tree, and often appears as a bulge at the base of the branch. It is made up of interlocking layers of cells of the branch and the trunk which will grow to help seal off wounds when branches are broken or cut off.  This white pine (Pinus strobus) had a completely intact branch collar on it, which is something I’ve never seen. I can’t imagine what happened to the branch. Pines lose branches regularly but they usually break off and leave a stub on the trunk.

I’ve never seen a bicolored lichen before but here is one. It was very small but I thought I saw a smudge of color on it and sure enough the photo shows a bit of lavender in its upper half. I don’t think I ever come away from studying lichens without being surprised by their variability. I didn’t bother trying to find this one’s name; I just admired it.

I lost myself in the beauty of these fir needles for a time. Though I know they’re fir (Abies) I’m not sure which species. I think it might be a Canaan fir, which is said to display the characteristics of both Fraser and balsam firs.

I’ve been waiting all winter to get a shot of Mount Monadnock with snow on it and after a few wasted trips to Perkins Pond in Troy I finally got one. I think the mountain is at its most beautiful with a snowy cap, especially when seen from Keene in this view that I grew up with. How lucky I was to grow up being able to see every day something that people from all over the world come to see.

Stop every now and then.  Just stop and enjoy.  Take a deep breath.  Relax and take in the abundance of life. ~Anonymous

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1. Flooded Forest

We’ve finally seen some warm weather here and there is a lot of melting going on.

2. Skunk Cabbage Opening

Skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) spathes have opened to allow insects access to its flowers that line the spadix. The spadix lies deep inside their spathes so the flies and other insects that visit the plant have to enter through the gap to visit the flowers. Through a process known as thermogenesis the plants generate their own heat and experiments have shown that the temperature inside the spathe is much warmer than that of the surrounding air. One theory says that this warmth benefits the plants by enticing insects inside to pollinate the flowers.

 3. Skunk Cabbage With Leaf

The greenish yellow growth on the right side of this skunk cabbage plant is a leaf that hasn’t unfurled yet. I was surprised to see a leaf this early. They don’t usually appear until two or three weeks after the flowers.

 4. Water Spider

I think this is a six spotted fishing spider (Dolomedes triton) but I can’t see any spots on its abdomen. It could be because of the light, which was coming from behind him, or maybe he was a juvenile. According to what I’ve read these spiders will dive under water and grab onto a plant when frightened, and that’s exactly what this one did. They can dive up to 7 inches deep to catch prey, which could be a tadpole, fish, or another spider.

 5. Candleflame Lichen aka Candelaria concolor

It looked as if someone had painted this tree bright yellow around its old wounds, but it was covered with candle flame Lichen (Candelaria concolor).

6. Candleflame Lichen aka Candelaria concolor

Candle flame lichens are so very small that I can’t think of anything to compare them to, but fortunately they grow in large colonies and that makes them easier to see. They remind me of scrambled eggs.

7. Spruce Gum

If you gently heat the resin, called spruce gum, of the black spruce tree (Picea mariana), it will melt down into a liquid which can then be strained and poured into a shallow pan or other container to cool. After about a half hour it will be hardened and very brittle. When broken into bite sized pieces it can be chewed like any other gum. Spruce gum is very antiseptic and good for the teeth. It has been chewed by Native Americans for centuries and was the first chewing gum sold in the United States. You can see how one person makes the gum by clicking here.

8. Elm Buds 2

American elm (Ulmus Americana) buds look like they’re swelling a bit. Elm flowers are small but beautiful and I’m looking forward to seeing them again.

9. Red Maple Buds

Red maple buds are also getting bigger and look like they might break earlier than last year’s date of April 13th. That’s hard to believe after the winter that we’ve had.  I was talking to a syrup maker the other day who said that he had gotten about a fifth of the sap he boiled last year, so the prices will most likely be going up.

10. Blackberry Bud Break

Blackberry buds have broken and leaves will be appearing any day now if it stays warm. That’s my signal to start looking for striped maple and beech buds, which are among the most beautiful things in the forest when they have just opened.

In those vernal seasons of the year, when the air is calm and pleasant, it were an injury and sullenness against Nature not to go out and see her riches, and partake in her rejoicing with heaven and earth.  ~John Milton

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