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Posts Tagged ‘American Robin’

Last Sunday I decided that a walk along the Ashuelot River in Keene was in order because this stretch of river is one of only two places I know of where gentians grow, and I wanted to see how they were coming along. They should bloom in a little over a month.

People have been walking along this path since long before I came along and it’s still a favorite of bike riders, dog walkers, joggers and nature lovers. On a good day you might see ducks, geese, blue heron, beavers, muskrats, squirrels, chipmunks and more birds than you can count here, as well as a wide variety of wildflowers and fungi. There have also been quite a few recent reports of a black bear in the area, but I was hoping that it was taking this day off.

You might even see something you’ve never seen before; that was my experience with this Asiatic dayflower (Commelina communis.) This is the first time it has appeared on this blog because this is the first time I’ve ever seen it. I was surprised by how small it was. I thought it would be as big as a tradescantia blossom but it was only half that size. It is an introduced plant from China and Japan but it could hardly be called invasive; it seems to be quite rare here. I love that shade of blue.

Another introduced plant that can be called very invasive is purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) and I was sorry but not surprised to see it here. If left unchecked it might very well be the only plant on these river banks a few years from now. It eventually chokes out almost every native plant it contacts.

Native Joe Pye weed (Eupatorium purpureum) grew along the river bank as well, and I hope it doesn’t lose the battle to purple loosestrife. I like seeing its dusty rose flower heads at this time of year.

Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis) also grew on the river bank but I couldn’t get near them because they were growing in the water. I was surprised because every other time I’ve seen this native shrub it was growing up high on the river bank well away from the water. The waterfowl will appreciate it being so close because they love the seeds.

This was one of a few strange things I saw on this day. I don’t know what it was all about but what struck me as even stranger than its being here in the first place was that hundreds of people have walked by it and nobody has touched it. I must have seen at least ten children walking or bike riding with their parents and I don’t know why they left it alone. They must be very well behaved. When my own son and daughter were little this would have been like a magnet to them.

This was another strange thing I saw. It was nailed to a pine tree and I don’t have any idea why.  I do know for sure that Europeans weren’t nailing metal tags to trees in New Hampshire in 1697 though.

Yet another strange thing I saw was a turtle that appeared to be trying to fly. It kept putting its hind legs up in the air and wiggling its toes in the breeze. I don’t know what it was trying to do but it seemed very happy to be doing it. Maybe it was just celebrating such a beautiful day.

A young robin flew into a nearby bush and watched the turtle trying to fly. It didn’t seem real impressed, but what bird would be?

Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum) and gray goldenrod (Solidago nemoralis) grew near the turtle’s log. At a glance common boneset looks like white Joe Pye weed. That’s because the two plants are closely related. In fact they can often be found growing side by side, but boneset blossoms a little later than Joe Pye weed here. I find it on river, pond and stream banks; almost always near water. The “perfoliatum” part of boneset’s scientific name means “through the leaf,” and that’s what boneset leaves look like; as if they had been perforated by the stem. The leaves joining around the stem as they do looked like bones knitting together as they healed to ancient herbalists, and that’s how the plant got its common name.

I’ve never seen pink lady’s slipper orchids (Cypripedium acaule) blooming along this stretch of the Ashuelot but the plants are here. I must not have walked this trail at the right time but I’ll be here next spring when they bloom.

There are many side trails off the main trail and every time I come out here I tell myself that I’m going to explore them one day but, even though I’ve been coming here since I was a boy, so far that day hasn’t come.

A crust fungus had nearly engulfed this entire tree stump. I think it was the netted crust fungus (Byssomerulius corium,) but I’ve never seen it get so big. It looked as if it was oozing right out of the stump.

White rattlesnake root (Prenanthes alba) is sometimes called white lettuce but it isn’t a lettuce, though they are in the same aster family that the lettuces are in. It’s probably thought to be another lettuce because it blooms at the same time and in the same locations as the wild lettuces do, but instead of the daisy like petals of lettuce flowers these look more bell shaped and lily like. The Native American Choctaw tribe used the tops of the plant in tea that they used to relieve pain. It is said that the common name comes from the way that some Native American tribes used the plant to treat snakebite.

Native long leaved pondweed (Potamogeton nodosus) also grew in the calm shallows. It likes to root in the mud and grow in full sun in warm standing water up to 4 feet deep. Many types of waterfowl including ducks and swans eat the seeds and leaves of this plant and muskrats like the stems. Many species of turtle eat the leaves, so it seems to be a plant that feeds just about every critter on the river. A man and woman came along when I was taking this photo and the woman came over to see what I thought was so interesting “Yuck, that’s disgusting!” she said. Since I see nothing disgusting about it her reaction to this important pond weed baffled me. Maybe she just doesn’t get out much.

Poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) is doing well this year; this plant was loaded with berries. They’ll ripen to a chalky white from the green seen here. I get into it every year and this year was no exception. One of my fingers has had a blister on it for about a week and is itching as I type this. Luckily it stays put on me and doesn’t spread, but I’ve known people who were hospitalized by it.

Tall blue lettuce (Lactuca biennis) isn’t being very blue this year. I keep hoping to find a plant with deep blue flowers but so far all I’ve seen are ice blue examples. There are hundreds of plants along this stretch of river and I know of many more that grow along a stream and some near a pond, so the plant must like to be near water, possibly due to the increased humidity.

Though I usually look for narrow leaf gentians (Gentiana linearis) near mid-August the bottle gentians (Gentiana andrewsii) along the Ashuelot were nowhere near blooming. Last year I found them blooming in mid-September, so I’ll wait awhile and come back. The plants looked good and healthy with plenty of buds and hadn’t been eaten by bug or beast, so they should bloom well.

I was born not far from this river and I first put my toes into it just about 50 years ago. I’ve been near it pretty much ever since but even after all this time I still see many things along its banks that I’ve never seen, and I guess that’s why I keep coming back. I hope there is a river in your life as well.

If you have a river, then you should share it with everyone. ~Chen Guangbiao

Thanks for stopping in.

 

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1. Striped Maple

Some of the most beautiful things that happen in a northeastern forest are happening right now, and I hope everyone living in the area will have a chance to witness them. Bud break, when a plant’s bud scales open to reveal the new leaves within, can be a very beautiful thing, as we see here in the velvety pink buds of striped maple (Acer pensylvanicum.) The larger center bud’s scales have just opened and leaves will appear shortly. Bud break can go on for quite some time among various species; striped and sugar maples follow cherry, and birch and beech will follow them, and shagbark hickory will follow birch and beech. Oaks are usually one of the last to show leaves. That’s just a small sampling that doesn’t include shrubs like lilac and forest floor plants that also have buds breaking.

2. Horsetail

Even the lowly horsetails are breaking bud beautifully. The fertile spore bearing stem of a common horsetail (Equisetum arvense) ends in a light brown, cone shaped structure called a strobilus. Since it doesn’t photosynthesize at this point in its development the plant has no need for chlorophyll, so most of it is a pale, whitish color. When it’s ready to release its spores the cone opens to reveal tiny, mushroom shaped sporangiophores.

3. Horsetail Closeup

The whitish “ruffles” at the base of each brown sporangiophore are the spore producing sporangia. When the horsetail looks like the one in the photo it has released its spores and will soon die and be replaced by an infertile stem. Nature can seem very complicated at times but it always comes down to one simple thing: continuation of the species.

4. Horsetail Infertle Stem

More people are probably familiar with the infertile stems of horsetail, shown here. They grow from the same roots as the fertile spore bearing shoots in the previous two photos and they do all the photosynthesizing.  Horsetails spread quickly and can be very aggressive. If they ever appear in your garden you should remove them as soon as possible, because large colonies are nearly impossible to eradicate.

5. Bittersweet on Elm

Invasive Oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus) is an expert at continuation of its species; not only does it produce berries that birds love; it also strangles the tree it uses to reach the most abundant sunshine. That can be seen here as this bittersweet vine slowly strangles an American elm. The vine is like a steel cable that wraps around the tree’s trunk and since the tree can’t break it, it often slowly strangles.

6. Cattail Shoot

Cattails (Typha latifolia) have just started coming up. Cattails at the edge of pond can grow faster than fertilized corn in a field and can create monocultures by shading out other plants with their dense foliage and debris from old growth. They are also very beneficial to many animals and birds and even the ponds and lakes they grow in by filtering runoff water and helping reduce the amount of silt and nutrients that flow into them.  Cattails were an important food for Native Americans. Their roots contain more starch than potatoes and more protein than rice, and native peoples made flour from them.  They also ate the new shoots in spring, which must have been especially welcome after a long winter of eating dried foods.

7. Male Mallard

A mallard swam serenely in the pond near the cattail shoots, so intent on something he saw on the far side that he didn’t even hear me walking on the trail.

8. Male Mallard

Or so I thought anyway. He knew I was there but my presence didn’t seem to bother him and he just swam along beside me as I walked the trail. I think he was as curious of me as I was of him.

9. Unknown Shoots

If you looked at the root of the aquatic arrowhead plant (Sagittaria latifolia) you’d see a whitish, chestnut size tuber with a shoot coming out of its top center. The shore of a local pond was littered with many shoots and since I know arrowheads grow here I’m guessing that’s what they were from. Though arrowhead plants are also called duck potatoes mallards eat only the seeds but muskrats, painted turtles and snapping turtles all eat the tubers. I’ve never seen a muskrat in this pond but I’ve seen many of both kinds of turtles here, so they may be the culprits.

10. Turtle

All of the sudden I’m seeing turtles everywhere, as if someone flipped a switch. This painted turtle let me get one photo and then it was gone. Fossils show that painted turtle have been here for about 15 million years. They can be found from Canada to Mexico and Maine to California and can live for over 50 years. Native Americans listened for the turtle’s splash into the water and used it as an alarm and one native legend says that Painted Turtle put his paint on to entice a chief’s daughter into the water. I don’t know about that but they have certainly enticed many a child into the water, and I was one of them.

11. Bullfrog

I doubt that painted turtles bother bullfrogs but I’d bet that snapping turtles do, and there are some big ones in this pond. I wondered if that was why this male bullfrog was sitting in the trail instead of in the water. He didn’t flinch when I walked to within a foot from him, and he let me take as many photos as I wanted. Bullfrogs are big; the biggest frog in North America, and the males do sound a bit like a bull. I’ve seen bullfrogs in the Ashuelot river that were so big they wouldn’t have fit in the palms of both hands held together.

12. Bullfrog

He let me walk around him to take photos of his other side without moving. Since it was just the two of us it’s doubtful that he though I couldn’t see him. Male bullfrogs have very large tympanic membranes that cover their ears. They sit slightly below and behind their eyes and are always bigger than the eye. Females have tympanic membranes that are the same size as their eyes, even though female bullfrogs can be much bigger than males. In some Native American tribes frogs were considered medicine animals that had healing powers and brought rain. Some, like the Chippewa tribes, had frogs as their clan animal. Clan members take their clan animal as their emblem, but they don’t believe that their clan is descended from that animal.

13. Robin

This robin looked like it had been eating very well. I’ve never seen as many as we have lately; large flocks of them. In the past I’ve felt lucky to have seen a single bird in spring.

14. White Baneberry

I love the movement in the young spring shoots of white baneberry (Actaea pachypoda) and I look for it every spring. This example had what looked like a prehistoric hand holding its flower buds while the newly opened leaves gazed down from above, enraptured. I fell under its spell for a while myself; it was such a beautiful and interesting little thing. This entire plant is poisonous and its berries especially so. They are white with a single black dot that gives them the common name doll’s eyes. In summer the berries follow a raceme of white flowers that is taller than it is wide, and which will grow from the tiny buds seen in this photo.

15. Japanese Knotweed

Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica) can be very beautiful as it spreads its new leaves to catch the sun. Unfortunately it’s also very invasive and almost impossible to control. I’ve seen Japanese knotweed shoots killed to the ground by cold in the past, and within 3 weeks they had come right back and grew on as if it had never happened. I’ve heard that the new shoots taste much like rhubarb but the plants grow into large, 4-5 foot tall shrub like masses that shade out natives.

16. Cinnamon Fern-2

Both cinnamon (Osmundastrum cinnamomeum) and interrupted ferns (Osmunda claytoniana) have fuzzy shoots, called fiddleheads because of their resemblance to the head of a violin. Ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris) must be up as well, and fiddleheads from that fern are considered a delicacy in many restaurants. Last year I went with a professional fiddlehead forager and saw thousands upon thousands of ostrich fern fiddleheads. Cinnamon and interrupted fern fiddleheads are very bitter and mildly toxic. In fact many are toxic and shouldn’t be eaten unless you know them well or are buying them at a store or restaurant. .

17. White Ash Buds

The male flower buds of American white ash (Fraxinus americana) appear before the leaves and can sometimes be colorful and sometimes black as blackberries. The Wabanaki Indian tribes made their baskets from ash. Some tribes believed ash was poisonous to rattlesnakes and used ash canes to chase them away.

18. Sugar Maple Bud

The buds of sugar maple (Acer saccharum) have just broken on some trees and on others small leaves are already showing. The veins are prominent even on leaves that haven’t unfurled. Deer love to snack on sweet sugar maple buds and quite often you find only branch stubs and this time of year.

19. New Maple Leaves

Red maple (Acer rubrum) leaves live up to their name when they’re this young. The red color in spring leaves is caused by the same pigments that bring the reds of autumn, the anthocyanins. That covers the how but little is really known about the why. One theory says that it’s because deer and moose can’t see red and therefore won’t eat the new, tender leaves. Another says that the red color protects the leaves from cold temperatures and damaging ultraviolet rays, but nobody seems to know for sure. I like to think the colors are there just to make the world a more beautiful place.

I meant to do my work today, but a brown bird sang in the apple tree, and a butterfly flitted across the field, and all the leaves were calling. ~Richard le Gallienn

Thanks for coming by.

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1. Male and Female Alder Catkins

I’ve tried many times to get a fairly good photo of male and female speckled alder catkins (Alnus incana) together but always failed until this time. The male catkin is the large golden object on the left and the female catkins are the long brown pointy objects on the right. They grow on the same bush but are very hard to get in the same photo.

Brown and purple scales on the male alder catkin are on short stalks and surround a central axis. 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.

2. Female Alder Catkins

Each female speckled alder catkin is cone shaped and about a half inch long. A catkin, botanically speaking, is a slim, cylindrical flower cluster, usually with no petals. It is also called an ament. When I look for alder flowers I can only see a faint hint of red in the right light; the flowers are too small to see without a camera or loupe.

3. Female Alder Catkins

Each flower is a thin reddish strand that is the stigma; the part of the flower that receives the pollen. Normally a flower’s central pistil is made up of the stigma on the end of a style which then connects to the ovary. These flowers are so small that I can’t think of anything to compare them to except a hair, but they are bigger in diameter than that. They are certainly the smallest flowers that I try to photograph.

4. Hazel Catkins

The late afternoon sun turned the catkins of American hazel (Corylus americana) to gold. American hazel is a common roadside shrub that I don’t think many people ever see. When I tell people about it and the hazelnuts that it bears they always seem surprised. I wonder if that’s because they like hazelnut flavored coffee.

5. Hazel Catkins 2

The male hazel catkins are just starting to release their pollen. It pays to watch them develop because once they’re releasing pollen the tiny female flowers will soon begin to blossom.

6. Hazel Female Flower

The female hazel blossom is another flower that it’s hard to convey the size of. They are simple sticky crimson stigma just like the alders we saw previously, but since they grow from a bud rather than a catkin they’re slightly easier to see. I still have to look for a reddish blush though, because they’re too small for me to see. Luckily the camera can see very small things.

7. Golden Willow

The willow trees have taken on their golden spring crown but our willow shrubs are still holding on to their furry gray catkins. Maybe this will be the day that they bloom. It’s supposed to sunny and warm.

8. Crocus

Crocuses are blooming a little more but still seem a bit hesitant to really let go and bloom to their full potential. It could be the up and down weather.

9. Crocus

They were in the shade so these crocus blossoms didn’t seem to want to open but that was fine, because I was loving them just as they were. I’ve never seen this variety before.

10. Reticulated Iris

Reticulated irises (Iris reticulata) are our earliest iris I think, and usually bloom at about the same time as crocus. I love these examples for their color, though I’m not sure what it is. I see blue but my color finding software sees both blue and purple. I’m happy believing they’re all blue. This beautiful little plant comes from Turkey, the Caucasus, Northern Iraq and Iran.

11. Skunk Cabbage1

Something strange is happening to the skunk cabbages (Symplocarpus foetidus) this year. The spathes, which are seen here, aren’t opening fully and the flowers on the spadices inside aren’t producing pollen. Normally you would be able to see the spadix with its flowers inside the spathe at this time of year, dusted with pollen. They’re noting that the same thing is happening with skunk cabbages in New York. It’s a mystery.

12. Male Red Maple Flowers

Many of the male red maple flowers I’ve seen have stopped producing pollen already.

13. Female Red Maple Flowers

But the female red maple flowers seem to be still waiting to be pollinated.

14. Yellow Witch Hazel

The yellow vernal witch hazel (Hamamelis) that grows in a local park was timid and slow to get started this year but now it’s blooming better than I’ve ever seen it. Every branch is loaded with strap shaped petals.

15. Orange Witch Hazel

The orange vernal witch hazel’s branches are as full of blossoms as the yellow but these flowers are smaller with shorter petals. But what they lack in size is more than made up for with fragrance. I’ve never smelled anything else like it and standing downwind from a shrub full of these flowers is like smelling a bit of heaven. It’s such a fresh, clean scent.

16. Coltsfoot

Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) has just started poking out from under the leaves to bloom. These examples were quite small as can be seen by comparing them to the acorn cap in the upper left corner. I expect that I’ll see many more this weekend.

17. Robin

It’s always a little surprising when a bird or animal acts like it has no fear of humans by getting close to you but it also means a great opportunity for photos, and I thanked this robin for swooping down beside me and posing.  Robins used to be harbingers of spring but the people who know birds say that many stay with us year round. That may be, but over the last few years I’ve watched their numbers increase each spring. It’s almost as if someone flipped a switch and suddenly there are flocks of robins everywhere.

18. Snowy Road

Once again the warmth and sunshine gave way to winter’s return, but thankfully it was a short visit. The streaks in the sky in this photo were made by falling snowflakes just after sunrise.

19. Half Moon Pond

This photo was taken in the afternoon of our snow day. By the time it got dark most of the snow had melted but the rest of the week turned cloudy and cool.

20. Red Elderberry Bud

The buds on the red elderberry (Sambucus racemosa) have opened and they didn’t seem to mind the snow. There’s a lot going on in there. The part that looks like it has fingers will be a leaf; when the bud scales are closed tightly one leaf on each side wrap around the flower bud to protect it. The flower buds will be deep purple soon, and will resemble lilac buds for just a short time. As time passes they’ll become greenish white flowers. I hope I can show them to you when they’re at their most beautiful.

Behold, my friends, the spring is come; the earth has gladly received the embraces of the sun, and we shall soon see the results of their love! ~Sitting Bull

Thanks for stopping in. I hope everyone has a happy Easter.

 

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1. Robin

I know what you’re probably thinking; since robins stay here all winter now they aren’t really a sign of spring anymore. I’d agree with you up to a point but this photo is here because I saw this bird yanking earthworms out of this lawn and that means the soil has thawed out, and that certainly is a sign of spring. Unfortunately getting a photo of him yanking earthworms out of the ground wasn’t going to happen. He was too quick for me.

2. Female Hazel Blossom

The female flowers of American hazelnut (Corylus Americana) have opened even though there is still snow on the ground. It could be because the temperature finally shot up to 70 degrees, but whatever caused it they’ve opened before the male catkins. It might be that the female flower’s opening signals the male flowers that it’s time to open. I’ve never paid close enough attention to know for sure. I looked back at last year’s blog photos and found that I first saw these flowers on exactly the same day in 2014, so apparently the severity of winter doesn’t affect their bloom time.

3. Female Hazel Blossom with Paper Clip

Female hazelnuts are among the smallest flowers that I know of. I understand that not everyone who reads this blog has seen a female hazel flower though, so this year I clipped a standard 1 inch paperclip to the branch to give you an idea of just how small these tiny beauties really are. You have to look very carefully to find them; I can just barely see them by eye.

4. Male Hazel Catkins

I was surprised to find the female hazelnut flowers open when the male flowers, shown here, hadn’t even started shedding pollen yet, but maybe this is the way it happens every year. I’ve got to pay a little closer attention.

5. Female Red Maple Flowers

Female red maple flowers (Acer rubrum) look a lot like female American hazelnut flowers, but they are much bigger and easier to see, thankfully. The female flowers mostly wait for the wind to blow some pollen their way, but bees occasionally visit them too.  Female flowers usually happen in clusters with each flower having 5 sepals, 5 petals, and 2 styles. Once pollinated they quickly become pairs of bright red, slightly hairy samaras.  I’ve read that you can find yellow or orange samaras, but I’ve only seen red.

6. Male Red Maple Flowers-2

Each male flower is about 1/8″ long with 5 sepals, and 5 petals like the female flower, but instead of styles has several stamens. The sepals and petals are usually red and difficult to tell apart. Anyone who understands flower parts should easily recognize the male red maple flower because of its stamens, which resemble the stamens of other flowers like lilies, daylilies, tradescantia and many others.

7. Maple Flowers

Each year I try to get a photo of a red maple tree flowering and usually don’t have any luck but this year the sun was in just the right spot to illuminate the flowers. There are many thousands of flowers on a single tree. This means that maple sugaring season has ended. Once the flower buds open the sap becomes bitter.

8. Crocus

I’m starting to see more and more crocus blossoms. The daffodils should bloom soon. They are budded now but not showing any color yet.

9. Bee in a Crocus

This blossom had what I think was a honey bee in it. Its pollen sacs were bulging but it was rolling all around inside the flower as if it had reached bee nirvana and was in an ecstatic frenzy.

10. Single Crocus

When you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it’s your world for the moment. I want to give that world to someone else. Most people in the city rush around so, they have no time to look at a flower. I want them to see it whether they want to or not.  ~Georgia O’Keeffe

11. Scilla

The scilla (Scilla siberica) I planted a few years ago are showing some color. They are also starting to multiply a bit, I’m happy to see. As soon as I raked the winter’s fallen oak leaves off them every squirrel in the neighborhood started digging in the newly uncovered soil. At first I thought they were digging up the scilla bulbs, but they were just digging up the acorns they had buried last fall.

In the book Suburban Safari; a Year On The Lawn, author Hannah Holmes tells how scientists have found that squirrels eat white oak acorns immediately and bury red oak acorns to eat the following year. That’s because the squirrels somehow know that white oak acorns germinate in the same autumn that they fall from the tree and red oak acorns don’t germinate until the following year. The red oak acorns are good for storing but the white oak acorns aren’t, so the next time you see a squirrel burying an acorn it’s a safe bet that it’s from a red oak.

 12. Snow Ment

It’s great to see water instead of ice and snow in the woods.

13. Runoff

We had some rain last week and the soil is saturated so the water really can’t seep into the ground. Instead it runs downhill.

14. Pond Ice

The snow was plowed off this pond all winter to make a place to skate and you can see how the darker plowed ice is melting faster than that which wasn’t plowed, over on the right.  It’s a good lesson in how darker things absorb more heat from the sun. I always have to smile when I hear people complain about the dirty snowbanks in spring. They don’t seem to realize that they melt a lot faster than the clean ones.

Over the years many plow trucks have broken through this ice and ended up on the bottom of the pond. Luckily it wasn’t ever deep enough to harm the driver, but the trucks needed an overhaul and the driver a cup of good hot coffee.

15. Ashuelot

The banks of the Ashuelot River in Swanzey are almost snow free, but on this day you could still see some way down at the far end where it makes a turn. There is still plenty in the woods, too.

16. Canada Goose

Canada geese have returned to the river and are still staying just out of comfortable camera range.

 17. Ashuelot Wave

There is enough melt and rainwater flowing into the Ashuelot River to make some nice big waves again. I like to watch them but I also like trying to get photos of them. When you watch you can tune in to the rhythm of the river but only in a photo can you see all the color, movement and beauty that you missed when everything was happening so quickly.

It’s spring fever, that’s what the name of it is. And when you’ve got it, you want — oh, you don’t quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so! ~Mark Twain

Thanks for coming by.

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1. Purple Crocus

Sometimes you can lose yourself in a flower’s beauty, especially when it’s the first crocus of the season.

2. Deep Purple Crocus

How can you not have a spring in your step and a smile on your face after seeing something like this?

3. Alder Catkins

The male (staminate) flowers of speckled alder (Alnus incana) have just started opening, making the forest edges look as if someone has hung jewels from the bushes.  Soon they will release their pollen and start a new generation of alders.

4. Alder Catkin Closeup

Male speckled alder catkins viewed up close reveal brown and purple scales. These scales are on short stalks and surround a central axis. There are three flowers beneath each scale, each with a lobed calyx cup and three to five stamens with anthers covered in yellow pollen.

5. Female Specked Alder Catkins

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 female flowers. These female catkins will eventually become the cone-like, seed bearing structures (strobiles) that are so noticeable on alders.

 6. Female Hazel Flowers

I’ve known for a long time that the female flowers of the American hazelnut (Corylus americana) were among the smallest I’d seen, but I wondered exactly how small. To find out I measured the tiny bud that the hair-like, scarlet pistils protrude from with the same vernier calipers I use to measure precision machine parts. I found that the bud diameter is almost the same as a single strand of spaghetti, or about 4 thousandths of an inch (.004).

7. Hazel Catkins

The catkins full of male (staminate) American hazelnut (Corylus americana) flowers don’t have the brown and purple scales that speckled alder catkins do. They are longer and more golden in color, but they work the same way as the alder catkins described previously. They seem to glow in the late afternoon sun.

 8. Forsythia Buds

Forsythia buds are showing some color. It’s a very common shrub and it won’t be long before nearly every street in town shouts spring, thanks to its cheery yellow blooms.

9. Witch Hazel

The witch hazels at a local park have finally completely unfurled their strap-like petals. I’ve shown these flowers at various stages of development over the last month and have been calling the shrub “Vernal” witch hazel, which isn’t correct. Our native vernal witch hazel (Hamamelis vernalis) only grows in the southern and central United States. I’m guessing that the shrub pictured, even though it does bloom in spring, is most likely a Japanese witch hazel (Hamamelis japonica), because it is extremely fragrant.

 10. Skunk Cabbage Spathes

If you don’t mind getting down on your stomach in the kind of swampy ground that they like to grow in you can sometimes get a peek inside the spathe of a skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) to see its flowers. A spathe is just a modified leaf or bract which kind of wraps around itself and protects the flower bud. As the plant matures a gap opens in the spathe to let in the insects which will pollinate the flowers. The one on the right has a good sized hole that the lens of my Panasonic Lumix might just fit into.

11. Skunk Cabbage Flowers

Well, the lens fit the hole in the skunk cabbage spathe but the flash didn’t but luckily there was a broken one nearby that allowed a peek at the spadix with all of its flowers-something very few people ever get to see. Each flower on the spadix has four yellowish sepals. The male stamens grow up through the sepals and release their pollen before the female style and pistil grow out of the flower’s center to catch any pollen that visiting insects might carry from other plants.

12. Scattered Rock Posy Lichen

The scattered rock posy lichen (Rhizoplaca subdiscrepans) isn’t a flower but it has both the name and beauty of one, so I let it have a place here. This lichen keeps its pale orange fruiting bodies (apothecia) year round, so seeing it in winter is like finding a flower in the snow.

13. Female Red Maple Flowers

When the female flowers of red maples (Acer rubrum) just start to poke out of their protective bud scales they remind me of female American hazelnut flowers, though they are bigger and much easier to see.

 14..Robin

As I was admiring the red color of the female red maple flowers a robin flew down just a few feet away and began kicking up dead leaves as if he wanted to show me what the color red was really all about. Finally satisfied that he had been admired too, off he flew. My color finding software actually sees more brown than red on his breast in this photo, but he doesn’t have to know that. Let him strut.

The spring came suddenly, bursting upon the world as a child bursts into a room, with a laugh and a shout and hands full of flowers. ~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Thanks for coming by.

 

 

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This post is another full of those interesting and sometimes strange things that I’ve seen in my travels through the woods.

1. Trail

The trails are much easier to negotiate these days. Just a short time ago there was so much snow here that snowshoes were needed.

 2. Bubblegum Lichen

I came upon some bubblegum lichen (Icmadophila ericetorum) a while ago. This lichen gets its name from the bubble gum pink fruiting bodies. They really stand out against the light blue body of the lichen-even for someone as colorblind as I am. This lichen likes dry, very acidic soil. I often find it growing near blueberry bushes.

 3. Hobblebush Bud

The naked flower buds of hobblebush (Viburnum lantanoides) have grown large since the last time I checked on them. We should see the beautiful white blossoms within the next two weeks, I’d guess. This is one of my favorite viburnums.

 4. Bird

Regular readers of this blog know that they won’t see many bird or animal pictures here, but occasionally one will pose for me like this bird did recently. I have a blurry side view that leads me to believe it is an eastern phoebe.  Usually color blindness lets birds and animals blend right into the background when I try to find them, and that’s why I don’t spend a lot of time trying to photograph them.  This day there were several of these little flycatchers darting among the cattails at a local pond, and that made them much easier to see.

 5. Robin

This robin was bobbing along beside a road I was walking on. It seemed important for him to stay just slightly ahead of me, so we played the game of me trying to catch up to him for a while before he flew off.

6. Bittersweet Damage to Tree

Oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus) tried to strangle this tree but the tree grew out over the vine and enveloped it, choking it off instead.  Oriental bittersweet was intentionally imported to help with erosion control. Almost immediately, it escaped and began trying to take over the U.S. Once established it is very hard eradicate.

 7. Large Bittersweet

This example of an oriental bittersweet was as big as my wrist and like an anaconda, had slowly strangled the life out of the tree it climbed on.

8. Amber Jelly Fungus

Jelly fungi like this amber one (Exidia recisa) seem to be much more plentiful in winter and spring rather than in summer.  Common names for this fungus include willow brain fungus and amber jelly roll. It always reminds me of canned cranberry jelly.

9. Yellow Jelly Fungus

Yellow jelly fungi (Tremella aurantia) seem more plentiful in the warmer months. I’ve just started seeing them in the woods again after its being absent for most of the winter. Common names for the fungus in the photo include golden ear fungus. It is very similar to yellow witch’s butter (Tremella mesenterica) but has a matte finish rather than a shiny, wet looking finish. It also seems to more closely resemble a brain.

10. Oak Buds

Weeks after seeing the book Photographing Patterns in Nature I’m still finding patterns everywhere. I like the chevron patterns on these small oak buds. I think these were on a black oak (Fagaceae Quercus.) I could have verified this by looking at the inner bark, which is a light orange color, but I didn’t have a knife.

 11. Cinnamon Fern Fiddleheads

Cinnamon ferns (Osmunda cinnamomea) have fuzzy fiddleheads. They look like they’ve been wrapped in wool but deer don’t mind-they will eat all they can find.  This fern gets its common name from its fruiting fronds that turn a cinnamon color after starting life bright green. These fiddleheads stood about 3 inches tall and are the first I’ve seen this spring.

 12. Twisted Log

I loved the figural grain patterns on this log and wished that I could take it home and make a desk or table from it.  Who wouldn’t want to be able to see such beautiful wood each day?

13. Sedge Flowering

It isn’t often that I see sedges flowering, so I was happy to see this one. Its grass like leaves, purple bracts and relatively large male staminate flowers at the end of the stalk tell me this plant is one of the carex sedges.  Once I got home and looked at the photo I was even happier to see the shiny leaves of broom moss (Dicranium scoparium) in the background. This moss is one of the easiest to identify because of its grass green leaves. They taper from base to tip and also curve in a continuous arc. Another common name is wind swept moss because of the way that the leaves all appear to be pointing in the same general direction. It is, I think, one of the most beautiful mosses.

The forest makes your heart gentle.  You become one with it… No place for greed or anger there.  ~Pha Pachak

Thanks for coming by.

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