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Posts Tagged ‘Aster’

1. Aster

In a nutshell, Indian summer is a warm spell that follows cold weather. Since we saw several below freezing nights in October and then temperatures in the 70s F for the first week of November, I’d say that we saw Indian summer. Some of the flowers thought so too, like the aster pictured above.

This explanation of where the term Indian Summer originated is from the Old Farmer’s Almanac: “Early settlers would welcome the arrival of cold wintry weather in late October when they could leave their stockades unarmed. But then came a time when it would suddenly turn warm again, and the Native Americans would decide to have one more go at the settlers. “Indian summer,” the settlers called it.”

2. Indian Summer

A very strange thing happened on Friday, November 6th; as if someone flipped a switch somewhere, almost all the leaves fell from the oak trees, all at once and in one day, as if it were a leaf avalanche or a leaf waterfall. People wrote me from Vermont saying the same thing happened there and I’ve heard several people, including old timers, say that they’ve never seen anything like it. If you know oak trees at all you’re probably as baffled by this behavior as the rest of us because here in New England many oak trees don’t lose their leaves until winter is well under way, and some hang on until spring. It’s one of the strangest things I’ve ever seen nature do and I don’t have any idea what might have caused it. Did the same thing happen in your area too, I wonder?

3. Goldenrod

Goldenrod (Solidago) still blooms be sparsely, here and there.

4. Red Clover

This could very well be the last red clover blossom (Trifolium pretense) that I see until spring.

5. Forsythia

This forsythia thought that spring had already arrived.  I wonder what it will do when spring really does come. It would be too bad if the cheery yellow blossoms didn’t shout that spring had arrived, but I’m grateful for the taste of spring that this plant gave me in November.

6. Ladybug

A lady bug landed on my pant leg and stayed for a while before flying off. She didn’t say what she was looking for but I was surprised to see here so late in the year.

7. Slug

A slug was either sleeping or browsing on a moss, fungi, and lichen covered log. I just realized that I have no idea what slugs do in the winter.

8. Blue Purple Gray Fungi

There are still plenty of fungi appearing. These examples were blushing a blueish lavender color. I don’t know if they were blueish lavender aging to gray or if it was the other way around, so I haven’t been able to identify them.

9. Turkey Feather

A wild turkey lost a feather in the woods recently. You can see an acorn or two poking out of the forest litter and it makes sense that the feather would be among them because turkeys love acorns. This is one bird that flies with a lot of historical baggage; Native Americans first domesticated wild turkeys around 800 B.C. and raised them for their feathers.  It wasn’t until 1100 A.D., almost 2000 years later, that they started eating them. It is thought that only the Aztec turkey breed survived into the present day. The turkeys we eat today could very well be descendants of those same turkeys that the Aztecs raised, and wouldn’t that be amazing? A history nut could almost overload on information like that.

10. Hawk

According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, with a 4 foot wingspan red tailed hawks are one of the largest and also one of the most common birds that we see here. This one had caught something but I couldn’t see what it was. All I had with me was my small Panasonic Lumix camera that I use for macro photos and this bird was really too far away for a good photo, but I tried anyway. It came out very soft but at least you can see the beautiful hawk, which is something you don’t see very often on this blog.

11. Squirrel Tail

I don’t know if it was a hawk, bobcat, or another predator, but something took the squirrel and left the tail.  New Hampshire’s gray squirrel population is thriving this year because an abundance of food in the forests and predators are very happy about that.

12. Burning Bushes

I know a place where hundreds of burning bushes (Euonymus alatus) grow and I visit there in the fall because seeing them all turn a soft shade of pastel pink at once is a beautiful sight. This year for some reason they decided on yellow-orange instead of pink but still, even with the unexpected color they were enough to make me stop and just admire them for a few moments. Even though they’re terribly invasive it’s hard to hate a shrub that delights the eye as much as this one does.

13. Queen Anne's Lace

I wonder sometimes if every leaf changes color at least a little in the fall. These yellow ones are young examples of Queen Anne’s lace (Daucus carota.)

14. Beech Leaf

Isn’t it interesting how the path to the coldest season is strewn with the warmest colors?

What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness?  ~John Steinbeck

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1. Coneflower Seed Head

When I walk through the fields and forests in the fall I’m always struck by the great abundance of food that nature provides, from seeds to nuts to berries. Everything from bees to birds to bears relies on it and it’s always good to see a year like this one when they can easily find plenty.  Some is saved and not eaten right away but coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea) like the one in the above photo always seem to be stripped of seeds almost as soon as they form. Goldfinches especially love these seeds.

2. Aster Seeds

If you’d like a photographic challenge try a shot of a single aster seed. If that seems too easy try it when the wind is blowing. Turkeys, goldfinches, sparrows, chipmunks, and white-footed mice all eat aster seeds. There are so many asters that the seed heads last through most of the winter.

3. Milkweed

There is one oddity in this post and this is it. Though I’ve searched several times for birds, animals or insects that eat milkweed seeds (Asclepias syriaca) over the years I can’t find a single one that does. It’s hard to believe that a plant would produce so many seeds when they don’t get eaten, but milkweed seeds apparently aren’t eaten by anything. Or if they are, scientists don’t seem to know much about it.

4. Buttonbush

Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis) grows along rivers and streams and this is the perfect place for ducks and other waterfowl to get at the seeds. Deer feed on the shrub’s leaves and wood ducks often nest in its thicket like branches. Native Americans chewed its bark to relieve toothache pain.

5. Winterberry

Winterberry (Ilex verticillata) is our only deciduous native holly. Many birds including robins, catbirds, mockingbirds, bluebirds, and cedar waxwings love these berries and will eat them throughout winter. Though the berries are toxic it is thought that their toxicity lessens the longer they stay on the shrub, so that might help explain why many of the berries can still be found in late winter.

6. Grapes

It’s a great year for grapes; I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many on the vines. These in the photo are river grapes (Vitis riparia), so called because they grow on the banks of rivers and streams. They are also called frost grapes because of their extreme cold hardiness. The freeze we had finished the leaves on this vine but not the fruit, which probably became sweeter. Many birds eat these small grapes including cardinals, mockingbirds, catbirds, robins, wood ducks, several species of woodpecker, cedar waxwings, blue jays, and turkeys. Many animals also love grapes, including foxes, rabbits, raccoons, skunks and opossums. Deer will eat the leaves and new shoots and many birds use the bark for nest building; especially crows.

7. Apples

In the mid-1800s for several different economic reasons the bottom fell out of farming in this area and many farms were abandoned, with the farmers and their sons going off to work in the woolen, shoe and paper mills that were springing up everywhere in New England. What they left behind is mostly gone now except for many miles of stone walls, an occasional cellar hole, and apple orchards. It isn’t at all unusual when out in the middle of nowhere to stumble upon apple trees that are still bearing bushels of fruit. Of course since they receive no care the apples aren’t very good for much besides cider, but many animals and birds love them. Deer and bears will travel long distances for ripe apples and just the other day I saw two gray squirrels fighting over a half-eaten one. Robins, blue jays, bobwhites, cardinals, cedar waxwings, crows, grackles, downy woodpeckers, bluebirds, grosbeaks, catbirds, hairy woodpeckers, house finches, mockingbirds, orioles, purple finches, red-bellied woodpecker, red-headed woodpecker, and titmice all eat apples.

8. Virginia Creeper

Though Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) are poisonous to humans many birds love them, including thrushes, woodpeckers, warblers, vireos, mockingbirds chickadees, and turkeys. So do mice, red fox, skunks, chipmunks, squirrels, and deer. I’ve read that birds are attracted more to red fruits than the blue black berries of Virginia creeper, so the vine compensates by having red leaves and stems in the fall. When the birds land amidst all the attractive red hues they find and eat the berries. Since thirty five species of birds eat them it must be a successful ploy.

9. Partridge Berry

I don’t know about partridges, but I do know that turkeys eat the berries of partridge berry plants (Mitchella repens) because I’ve seen them doing so. Bobwhites, grouse, red foxes, skunks, and white-footed mice are also said to eat them. This little trailing, ground hugging vine makes a great native groundcover if you’re looking to attract birds and wildlife.

10. Poison Ivy

I’ve always suspected that birds or animals were eating poison ivy berries (Toxicodendron radicans) because they disappeared so quickly, but it wasn’t until I visited Grampy’s Goat Sass Farm blog that I saw photos of them actually doing so. By the way, if you’re a bird lover you’d be wise to visit Grampy’s blog; you’ll see some of the most amazing photos of them that you’ve seen, including bald eagles. For example I saw some photos of warblers, chickadees and sparrows eating these poisonous berries and thought Ah ha, I knew it! I’ve since read that vireos, cardinals, goldfinches, woodpeckers, deer, black bears, muskrats and rabbits consider the berries a delicacy. For a human, eating these berries would be a very bad idea. People have nearly died from getting the rash produced by poison ivy inside their bodies.

11. Burning Bush

Unfortunately birds also love the berries of the highly invasive burning bush (Euonymus alatus) and spread the seeds everywhere, so it isn’t uncommon to find a stand of them growing in the woods. I know a place where hundreds of them grow and though they are beautiful at this time of year not another shrub grows near them. This is because they produce such dense shade it’s hard for anything else to get started. The sale and cultivation of the shrub is banned in New Hampshire. There are many native shrubs that make a good substitute.

12. Barberry

Another highly invasive plant with berries that are loved by birds is the Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii.) In 1875 seeds imported from Russia were planted at the Arnold Arboretum in Boston, Massachusetts. Birds helped it escape and now it has become a very invasive shrub that forms dense thickets and chokes out native plants. These thickets are so thorny that only the smallest animals can get through them so for years the plant was used for hedges.

European barberry (Berberis vulgaris) and American barberry (Berberis canadensis) also grow in parts of New England but each of those has clusters of three or more thorns while Japanese barberry has a single thorn, as can be seen in the above photo. Thorn count is a good identifying characteristic when the plants have no leaves. This is another shrub that is banned in New Hampshire but I don’t think we’ll ever stop its spread.

13. Rose Hips

Rose hips are a fruit that’s good for birds, animals, and humans; they are one of the richest sources of vitamin C known. During World War 2 vitamin C syrup was made from rose hips because citrus fruits were almost impossible to find. The best rose hips for harvesting are found on Rosa rugosa, named for the wrinkled (rugose) surface of its leaves. Personally I like to leave them for the birds and animals. Squirrels, rabbits, deer, bears, moose, and coyotes are animals that are known to eat rose hips. Birds include blackbirds, robins, grouse, juncos, bluebirds, grosbeaks, pheasants, quail, and thrushes.

14. Shadbush

Shadbush (Amelanchier arborea) is a tree with a lot of historical baggage. The Native American food pemmican was flavored by its fruits along with dried meat and fat. Natives also made arrow shafts from its dense, hard wood and showed early colonists how to use the blue-black berries. The name shadbush comes from the way the trees bloomed in spring when the shad fish were running in New England Rivers. I recently found a spot where many of them grow and they were heavily laden with fruit, which surprised me because bluebirds, cardinals, cedar waxwings, gray catbirds, orioles, red squirrels, and scarlet tanagers all eat the fruit. Beavers and deer eat various other parts of the tree but I didn’t see any signs of them either. It seems odd that there would be so much fruit left and I wonder why the birds and animals haven’t eaten it.

15. Shagbark Hickory

We have many different nut trees here in New Hampshire, including beechnuts, walnuts, butternuts, hazelnuts, acorns, and hickory nuts. We have several hickories here including bitternut and shagbark, like the one in the above photo. Unfortunately most of our chestnuts were wiped out by blight in the early 1900s, but I’ve heard rumors of them possibly making a comeback.

16. Shagbark Hickory

Bears, deer, raccoons, squirrels, chipmunks, turkeys, sparrows, white-breasted nuthatches, yellow-rumped warblers, pine warblers, cardinals, rose-breasted grosbeaks, grouse, pheasants, and wood ducks are just some of the animals and birds that eat our native nuts. Without nuts many forest animals and birds wouldn’t survive.

17. Acorns

I’ve never seen so many acorns on the ground as we have this year. A single large oak can produce 15,000 acorns in a good year and there are so many on the ground right now that walking the trails is like trying to walk on marbles. The blue jays, pigeons, ducks, woodpeckers, squirrels, mice, chipmunks and other birds and animals are having an easy time of it, thankfully. I ate some red oak acorn meat once when I was a boy and I don’t think I’ll ever forget how bitter it was, but acorns were the main food source for many Native Americans tribes who knew how to remove the bitterness.

If you’d like to try to make flour from acorns as the natives did, choose only those with their caps still on, because when acorns are ripe they normally fall fully dressed. Usually only the added weight of a worm thrashing around inside can make them break free from their caps while still on the tree, and you don’t want wormy acorns.

18. Gray Squirrel

My little smiling friend seemed very happy to see such abundance in the forest but it isn’t always this way. Plants go through cycles and sometimes a year of abundance can be followed by a year of scarcity. One way to help animals and birds survive the winter is by planting native trees, shrubs and plants. Our natives often have beautiful flowers as well as fruit that animals and bids love, so you really can’t go wrong in choosing them.

Autumn is the mellower season, and what we lose in flowers we more than gain in fruits. ~Samuel Butler

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1. Dandelion

The weather people said we were in for a growing season ending killing freeze last Saturday night so I went looking for late bloomers before it happened. I’ve seen dandelions (Taraxacum officinale) blooming in January so I wasn’t real surprised to see one in October, but over the last two years these flowers have been very scarce. I saw 5 or 6 on this day though so I wonder if the very hot temperatures we’ve had in summer lately have something to do with their scarcity, as some of you suggested the last time I mentioned not seeing any.

2. False Dandelion

The flowers of false dandelion (Hypochaeris radicata) look much the same as those of true dandelions in a photo, but in the field they are much smaller and stand on 6-8 inch long, wiry stems.  Its leaves look like smaller and narrower versions of dandelion leaves. The plant is also called cat’s ear, possibly because of the bracts along its stem that look like tiny cat’s ears.

3. Knapweed

Spotted knapweed (Centaurea maculosa) is terribly invasive and hated by pasture owners but its flowers are beautiful. This plant is native to Europe and Asia and was accidentally imported in a hay seed shipment in the late 1800s. One reason it is so strongly disliked is because it releases a toxin that can hinder and prevent the growth of neighboring species. It grows in all but 5 states. Though mowed down earlier by highway crews these plants bounced right back and are again covered with flowers.

4. Bumblebee on Knapweed

It must have gotten too cold for this bumblebee because it died as it lived, hugging a flower.

5. Queen Anne's Lace

Queen Anne’s lace (Daucus carota) sometimes has a second blooming period like yarrow does. Though the flowers are smaller and not as tall they can almost fool you into thinking that it’s summer again.  When freshly cut Queen Anne’s lace flowers will change color depending on the color of the water in which they are placed, so if you put a bouquet into purple water you’ll have purple Queen Anne’s lace.

6. Pee Gee Hydrangea

The pee gee hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata) is a “panicled” hydrangea, meanings its flower heads are cone shaped rather than round. These plants grow into large shrubs sometimes reaching 10-20 feet tall and nearly as wide. Though originally introduced from Japan in 1862 this plant is thought to be native by many and is a much loved, old fashioned favorite. What I like most about this hydrangea is how the flower heads turn a soft pink in the fall. When they’re cut and dried they’ll hold their color for quite a long time.

7. Goldenrod

Goldenrods (Solidago) still bloom but now the flower heads are smaller and they’re spottily seen here and there rather than everywhere like they were a month ago. According to English apothecary and botanist John Gerard in 1633 goldenrod was “strange and rare” in England and “the dry herbe which came from beyond the sea sold in Buckler’s Bury in London for halfe a crowne for an hundred weight.” It was highly regarded of as a cure for bleeding ulcers and for healing bleeding wounds. The plant must also have been very valuable to early colonials but seeds must have found their way to England because it was eventually found growing wild there and the bottom fell out of the imported goldenrod business.

8. Slender Fragrant Goldenrod

Slender fragrant goldenrod (Solidago tenuifolia) is one of the easiest to identify because of its scent, which is said to resemble anise and sassafras. Since I’ve never smelled anise and sassafras I can’t confirm this, but its fragrance is pleasant so I always bend to give it a sniff when I see it. This plant closely resembles lance leaved goldenrod (Solidago graminifolia) but its leaves are narrower and have a single vein in each leaf. Lance leaved goldenrod leaves have 3-5 veins.

9. Red Clover

Red clover (Trifolium pretense) is very cold hardy and make up some of the latest blooming flowers we see here. I’m never disappointed when I stop to take a closer look at these beautiful little flowers. Though it isn’t a native plant Vermonters loved it enough to make it their state flower. It’s easy to see why; some flowers seem to glow with their own inner light and this is one of them.

10. Asters

Asters of every kind bloom here and after seeing so many you can find yourself thinking if I’ve seen one I’ve seen them all, but this one stopped me in my tracks because of the central blue / purple disc flowers. The center disc flowers of an aster are (almost) always yellow or brown and I can’t remember ever seeing any that were this color. The flowers were quite small; no more than 1/2 inch across with ray flowers that had an odd curving habit. If you know this aster’s identity I’d like to hear from you. I’ve looked in books and online and haven’t found anything like it.

11. Gray Dogwood

Since it blooms in early June seeing gray dogwood (Cornus racemosa) blooming this late in the year was a surprise.  An unusual thing about this shrub is its white berries. White usually signals that the fruit is poisonous, like those of poison ivy, poison sumac, or white baneberry, but though I’ve read that gray dogwood berries aren’t edible I haven’t read anything saying they’re poisonous. Birds certainly love them and gray dogwoods make an excellent choice for those trying to attract them. Though the flowers in this photo look a little sad an 8 foot tall gray dogwood covered with white blossoms in June is a sight not easily forgotten.

12. Black Raspberry

Black raspberry (Rubus occidentalis) flowers in October were as much of a surprise as dogwood flowers. Though it seemed to have only three petals instead of five the flower in the upper right had plenty of anthers. This plant prefers disturbed ground and I see it everywhere. One way to identify it is by looking at the undersides of the leaves, which are whitish and tomentose, which means kind of matted with flattened hairs. Raspberry and blackberry leaves have green undersides.

13. Snow on Sedum

Those are snowflakes and ice pellets on that sedum. Only the toughest plants will bloom from now on.

14. Aconite

David Marsden of The Anxious Gardener blog wrote a great post on aconite (Aconitum napellus) recently. He highlighted the plant’s toxicity in an informative and fun to read post and reminded me of a large group of aconite plants that I found growing in a children’s park once. I decided to go back and see if they were still there and as the above photo shows, they were. The plant can take a lot of cold and its blooms appear quite late in the season. Though beautiful the plant is extremely toxic; enough to have been used on spear and arrow tips in ancient times. In ancient Rome anyone found growing the plant could be put to death because aconite was often used to eliminate one’s enemies.

15. Aconite

A side view of the blossom shows why aconite is also called monkshood. It’s a beautiful thing but I question the wisdom of growing it in a children’s garden.

16. Daisy

I saw this daisy like flower blooming in a local park when snow was falling. It looked like a Shasta daisy on steroids, growing two feet tall with tough leathery leaves that looked much like Shasta daisy leaves. After a little research I think it might be a Montauk daisy (Nipponanthemum nipponicum,) also called Nippon daisy, which tells me that it must be from Japan. It was blooming beautifully after a 28 °F night, so it’s certainly cold hardy. Those are ice pellets on its petals. If only it was a Shasta daisy just come into flower in June.

May you walk gently through the world and know its beauty all the days of your life. ~Apache Blessing

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When I was a professional gardener I always assumed that we would have a frost between September 15th and September 30th. More years than not, that assumption was accurate. Then last year happened and all of that went out the window. We still hadn’t had a frost when we got about sixteen inches of snow on Halloween. This year-here we go again-still no frost here. In fact just yesterday it reached the mid-70s.  The heat I can handle, but I’m hoping there won’t be another Halloween storm like the last. In any case, the flowers love it and many are still blooming.

This nodding burr marigold (Bidens) found a home with a roof, so it won’t have to worry about a frost.

 On a recent rainy day I found a clump of native beechdrops (Epifagus virginiana) growing near the road. The Epifagus part of the scientific name means “upon the beech” and that is where these parasitic plants grow. They don’t produce chlorophyll to make their own food so instead they insert a root like structure called a haustorium into a beech root and take what nutrition they need to survive. Native Americans made a tea from this plant that was used to treat mouth sores.

Purple-brownish beechdrop flowers are very small and hard to photograph. Each flower is tubular and has two lip-like “petals.” They produce nectar and attract insects. Tiny, scale like leaves press flat against the stem and are very hard to see. These plants are found from Canada to Florida and west as far as Louisianna. 

Native Blue toadflax (Linaria Canadensis) is another tiny flower, but easier to get a picture of than beechdrops. I found this one growing in full sun on a riverbank recently. It had just about finished blooming. This plant resembles Kalm’s Lobelia (Lobelia kalmia) but the lobelia lacks the nectar spurs found in blue toadflax blossoms. Toadflax boiled in milk is said to make an excellent fly poison.

 Native small flowered water plantain (Alisma subcordatum) was also blooming along the river a couple of weeks ago. The blossoms have now faded but the plants still thrive. These small white flowers have only tree petals so they are hard to confuse with other plants. The egg shaped, thick, fleshy leaves are also unusual. There is also a large water plantain (Alisma triviale) with flowers that are about twice the size as those shown. These plants often grow in the water at the edges of ponds and rivers. Native Americans used to eat the dried root. 

It’s easy, especially at this time of year, to be fooled into thinking that this plant is an aster, but it is actually a chrysanthemum-another popular fall garden plant. I found this one growing in a local park. Its leaves give away its identity.

This is an aster that I found growing on the side of the road. I turned around and went back to get a picture because it was such a deep, dark and beautiful purple-much different than the lighter purple varieties seen.

 This jimson weed (Datura stramonium) is another roadside plant, but it was growing in a pasture along with hundreds of others. Jimson weed is considered poisonous to both humans and livestock so I was surprised to see it in a cow pasture.  This hallucinogenic plant in the nightshade family is also called loco weed and was used by Native Americans on spiritual quests. The original common name was “Jamestown weed” which was given to it after English soldiers in the Jamestown colony began to behave oddly after eating leaves of the plant. It is said that they “behaved like animals for several days.”  This plant is considered exceedingly dangerous due to poisonings and deaths by people trying to get high.

 I have a white flowered native obedient (Physostegia virginiana) plant trying to overtake my gardens and not too long ago someone posted a picture of a beautiful pinkish purplish one like the one in this photo. I told the blogger that I hadn’t ever seen that color obedient plant flower and then, that very day, I found this one. It seems like if I can’t find a plant all I need to do is say that I can’t find it on this blog and before you know it, I’ve found one. That has happened several times.

Red clover (Trifolium pretense) is looking a little bedraggled, but still blooms just about everywhere I go. Native Americans made a tea from the plant for use as, among other things, a cough syrup. Today scientists are researching its value as a cancer treatment and for respiratory ailments.

 I wasn’t surprised to find sand jointweed (Polygonella articulata) growing in pure sand along an old road but I was surprised to see it at all, because I had been watching for it for 2 or 3 weeks without any luck. These plants grow to about a foot tall but the thin, wiry stems and small white flowers easily blend into the sand and make them hard to see.  The leaves are small and lie against the stem so the plant appears leafless. The plant gets its name from the way the stems are jointed.

These sand jointweed (Polygonella articulata) flowers looked like they had a bit of pink in them. These plants seem very hard to photograph-I had to make 2 or 3 attempts before I got something I could live with.

 

It’s easy to see why sedum is such a hit in the fall. This pink one I found in a local park is probably a cultivar called “Autumn Joy, “which is an old favorite. I think it would be even more beautiful planted with some dark purple asters.

 When I took its picture I thought this was the last rose of summer that I’d see on my rose bushes. They had a hard time this year with the extreme heat and dryness, but once the rains started in they bloomed more and more until now they are loaded with blossoms. Last year it was still blooming in December.

Listen! The wind is rising, and the air is wild with leaves,

We have had our summer evenings, now for October eves ~ Humbert Wolfe

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