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Posts Tagged ‘Arborvitae’

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

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It’s been cold here and any ice that forms at night no longer melts during the day, so I’ve been seeing quite a lot of it along with other, more welcome things.

 1. Icy Puddle

That white, strange sounding ice is forming on puddles and pond edges again and it always reminds me of spring. Trapped oxygen accounts for the color, but I’ve never been able to find out why it makes such a strange hollow, tinkling sound when you ride your bike through it.

 2. Ice Needles

When ground water meets below freezing air it becomes super cooled and freezes, and when hydrostatic pressure keeps forcing the super cooled water out of the soil “extrusions” form. The water slowly moves through hollow needles, freezing and lengthening each needle as it goes. These needles then usually freeze into bundles like that shown in the photo. I found this needle ice at the base of a small hill.

 3. Icy Stream Bank

Time will sometimes let us see how foolish we have been, and as I look at this photo now and think back to how slippery the ice covered rocks on this stream bank were, I realize that standing on them was a foolish thing to do. The water was about 4 feet deep and looked mighty cold, but I wasn’t thinking about any of that when I saw the sun shining on these ice formations.

4. Barberry Fruit

Barberry berries shine like tiny Christmas bulbs in the sun. Unfortunately they hang from the very invasive Japanese barberry ((Berberis thunbergii). One way to identify Japanese barberry in the winter is by its single, unbranched (and very sharp) spines that form in the leaf nodes along its stems.

5. Unknown

This has me completely stumped. It’s one of the strangest things I’ve seen in the woods and I think that it’s a lichen but if it is, I’ve never seen one like it. I’ve never seen a picture or a description of anything like it either. And I’ve never felt one like it-it felt like a fungus. It was large-about the size of an average doughnut. I’ve got to go back to it and see what, if anything it has done.

Note: Thanks to Rick over at the Between Blinks Blog, this has been idetified as the crust fungus Phlebia radiata. There will be more on this in a future post.

6. Common Fern Moss aka Thuidium delicatulum 2

In the late fall and winter fern moss (Thuidium delecatulum) turns yellow-green. This moss is sometimes called log moss because it is often seen on them, but it also grows on the bases of trees and on soil.

7. Foamflower Leaves

The leaves of foam flower (Tiarella cordifolia) slowly turn purple as it gets colder, starting with their veins. We’ve had some real cold weather so I was surprised to see them still so green. Hundreds of these plants grow on a wet embankment near a stream. Their drifts of small white, bottlebrush-like flower heads are beautiful in the spring.

8. Hosta Seed Pods

Since it gets dark so early these days I’ve been using the flash a bit more. I like how detailed it makes some things look. These are the open seed pods of a hosta.

9. Grape Tendril

Here in New Hampshire the two most common wild grapes are the fox grape (Vitis labrusca) and the river grape (Vitis riparia). Both look a lot like concord grapes.

 10. Eastern Arborvitae aka Thuja occidentalis Cones

The dried, open cones of northern white cedar (Thuja occidentalis) look like tiny, carved wooden flowers. Gone are the eight seeds that each one holds, but the flattened, scale-like leaves so common on cedars can be seen in this photo. Native Americans showed 16th century French explorer Jacques Cartier how to cure scurvy with the leaves of this tree and he was so impressed that he named it Arborvitae, which is Latin for Tree of Life. He also had trees with him when he returned to Europe, so Thuja occidentalis became the first North American tree to be introduced there.

Ice burns, and it is hard for the warm-skinned to distinguish one sensation, fire, from the other, frost. ~ A.S. Byatt

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This post is another collection of things that haven’t fit in other posts.

1. Arbor Vitae Seed Pods

The stiff, woody seed pods of arborvitae look like tiny carved flowers. Arborvitaes are in the cedar family and are used extensively in commercial landscaping. I think this one was a Northern white cedar (Thuja occidentalis.) Native Americans used the foliage of this tree to treat scurvy and European explorers called it the tree of life. Its wood is very rot resistant.

 2. Hydrangea Blossom

The back of this single hydrangea blossom reminded me of an insect’s wing.  Hydrangeas are another common landscape shrub with flowers that can be white, pink, or blue. My grandmother always called hers “snowballs,” because that’s what the round clusters of white flowers looked like. The word hydrangea comes from the Greek “hydra” meaning water and “angeoa” meaning vessel, which refers to the shape of its seed pod. The ancient Greeks thought the pods resembled the vessels that they used to carry water in, apparently.

3. The Sky in a Water Drop

One day I as I was going into my house a drop of water fell on my coat sleeve.  As I fiddled with the key, out of the corner of my eye I could see the water beading and glistening like mercury, so I held my arm as steady as I could while I took pictures with my left hand. (I’m right handed) It wasn’t until I got the picture on the computer that I saw that the reflected blue sky and white clouds had turned a simple drop of water into what looked like crashing waves.

4. Barberry Thorn

I wasn’t happy to find Japanese Barberry (Berberis thunbergii) growing alongside one of my favorite trails. This shrub is highly invasive because of its bright red berries that birds love. It spreads easily, will grow in the shade, and is hard to eradicate once it becomes established. The worst part of the plant is its thorns, which are as sharp as needles and easily pierce clothing.

 5. Common Split Gill Fungus aka Schizophyllum commune

Small, white and very fuzzy split gill mushrooms (Schizophyllum commune ) grew on a fallen tree. This fungus is special because it is the most widespread mushroom known and grows on every continent on earth except Antarctica. The only reason it doesn’t grow there is because there is no wood there for it to grow on. Though it looks like a bracket fungus it isn’t considered one because it has gills. This example was about as big as a nickel.

 6. Common Split Gill Fungus Underside aka Schizophyllum commune

Books will tell you that split gill mushrooms get their common name from the way their gills are split. It sounds simple until you try to picture how they are split. As this photo shows they are split lengthwise. When this mushroom dries out the gills split and get hairy, as the picture also shows. After they get some needed moisture most of the hairiness disappears and they look a lot like the gills on any other mushroom.

 7. Puffballs

If you speak Greek you know that “lyco” means wolf and “perdon” means “to break wind,” so you wouldn’t be at all surprised to find that the common name of these puffballs is “wolf fart puffballs” (Lycoperdon pyriforme.) I found these growing on a log just before our last snow storm.

8. Lipstick Powderhorn Lichens

Lipstick powder horn lichens (Cladonia macilenta) look a lot like British soldier lichens (Cladonia cristatella,) but they have a single, small red tip instead of the larger, multiple red tips of British soldier lichens.

9. Entodon Moss Possibly Entodon cladorrhizans

I think this might be Entodon cladorrhizans moss, but I’m not 100 percent sure. Entodon mosses are called “carpet moss.” These plants were hanging from the side of a stone.

10. Sulfur Firedot Lichen aka Caloplaca flavovirescens

Pale yellow sulfur fire dot lichen (Caloplaca flavovirescens.) likes to grow on stone that is calcium rich. I found it growing on a stone that was part of stone wall that was probably 200 years or more old. This is a crustose lichen, which means that it forms a crust that grows so tightly to the substrate that it can’t be removed without damage.

For observing nature, the best pace is a snail’s pace. ~Edwin Way Teale

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Special Note: In case you haven’t heard today (Saturday) and tomorrow nights are nights of the “super moon,” when the moon is expected to appear 14 percent bigger and 30 percent brighter than at any other time this year. As if that weren’t enough, the Eta Aquarid meteor display also happens this weekend. Now back to our regularly scheduled blog post:

Every now and then I run across something that I think is really interesting so I take a picture of it. Then when I’m putting a blog post together quite often the interesting thing doesn’t really fit in, so it sits and waits for another post. This post contains all of those things that just wouldn’t fit in anywhere else. I hope you’ll think they are as interesting as I did. Opened cones of the Eastern white cedar or arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis.) I’ve seen many thousands of these but the color of these ones was simply amazing; a beautiful non-flower that looks like a flower. There was a big black slug beside these spring mushrooms, and I wondered if it had been eating them. From what I’ve read, this is most likely the slug called black arion (Arion ater,) also known as the European black slug, which is an invasive species. There is a catch all category of difficult to identify mushroom called LBMs, which stands for little brown mushrooms. Some are harmless and some, like those in the genus Galerina are deadly. They can grow in spring, summer or fall and are often found on logs. I wonder if they are toxic to slugs too. Oak marble gall. Galls can be caused by various insects laying their eggs on the twigs (usually a wasp.) The oak tries to protect itself by growing a gall around the insect eggs. Little does the oak know that this is exactly what the insect wants it to do; once the eggs hatch the larva eat their way out of the gall, leaving a tiny escape hole in the shell of an empty brown marble.  If you find one with no hole like those in the photo, an insect larva is still in residence. Iron sulfate mixed with tannic acid from oak galls made ink that was the standard writing and drawing ink from the 12th century until well into the 20th century. Some still use it today.

 This blue bottle fly was kind enough to hold still while I took its picture. I wish I could get a blue heron to do the same. Maybe I just have to start small and work my way up.

 This spent puffball caught my eye because it was bigger than a quarter. It wintered well. I don’t know what plant left these seed heads on all winter, but I like their furry, animal like appearance.

 I haven’t shown any lichens for a while, so here is a nice one. The rain we’ve had recently should plump most lichens up. Because this has a leafy look it is in the foliose lichen family. I haven’t shown any turkey tails (Trametes versicolor ) lately either. Here they are growing on a mossy tree trunk. I see them almost everywhere I go, but I’m still searching for a blue one. If I could find blue turkey tails and some blue lichens I’d be a mighty happy hiker.

These virgin’s bower (Clematis virginiana) seeds shining in the sun were an attention getter. Virgin’s bower is our native wild clematis vine that blooms anytime from July through September. It is usually found draped over shrubs or climbing up trees. Clusters of small white flowers cover the plant, and the hairy looking seeds that follow give it another common name: Old Man’s Beard. I have the cultivated variety that blooms in the fall growing on a trellis in my yard. The fragrance is unmatched. 

 The very top of a pine tree broke off and was lying on the ground in the middle of a trail. My grandmother had a cuckoo clock that used metal pine cones as weights to keep the clock running and those cones looked exactly like this one. I remember as a boy wanting those metal pine cones very badly, but I can’t remember why. Maybe it was because they tried to be as beautifully bronze-like as the real one shown here.

 This lone milkweed was the only one to escape the roadside mowing crew last year, and then it stood all through the winter. For perseverance alone, I thought it deserved having its picture taken. This is another tree root that I thought looked beautiful enough to have been carved by an artist. The smooth, sanded and polished look that comes to wood from weathering is amazing, and I always wonder how many years it took nature to create such a thing. I have a bookcase that holds several wooden art objects like this, and it’s very hard for me to leave these foundlings behind in the forest.  And that is precisely why I don’t carry a saw. 

This is the kind of weather we’ve seen here this week. I’m hoping for clearing so I can see the moon this weekend.

The human spirit needs places where nature has not been rearranged by the hand of man.  ~Author Unknown

I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing these things that I occasionally stumble upon in the fields and forests. Thanks for visiting. Be safe in the woods.

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