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Posts Tagged ‘Asters’

1-trail

We’ve had two good snowstorms recently about six days apart. The first dropped about six inches and the second about seven inches, so unless we get some rain or warm weather I think it’s safe to say that we’ll have a white Christmas. This view shows a trail around a pond that I follow quite regularly. I wasn’t the first one here on this day.

2-pondside

The pond is frozen but isn’t safe for skating yet. This is a very popular skating place and once the ice is thick enough the City of Keene will plow it so it can be used. Hopefully the ice will be thick enough to plow; the plow truck has ended up on the pond bottom several times over the years. Luckily it isn’t that deep.

3-cattails

Cattails tell you where the solid ground ends and the pond begins. This is a good thing because often unless you know the place well you can’t tell where the land meets water when it’s all covered in snow. That’s especially true along rivers; one year I realized that I was standing on an ice shelf quite a few feet out over a river. Once I stopped shaking I was able to get back on land without getting wet. I’ve made sure never to make that mistake again; people drown by doing such foolish things.

4-pondside

Because it was so cold when it fell the snow was light and fluffy and easy to shovel. Since all it takes is a light breeze to blow such powdery snow around I didn’t think my chances of seeing snowy trees was very good, but thankfully there was no breeze and the trees stayed frosted. In the woods every single thing was covered by a coating of snow.

5-otter

But wait a minute; what is that dark object out there on the ice?  I know this pond well enough to know that there shouldn’t be anything sticking up out of the water in that spot.

6-otter

It was the otter, and this makes the second terrible photo that I’ve taken of it. My camera simply isn’t made for such long shots but I keep trying anyway. Odd that this animal would live here all alone. At least, I’ve never seen more than a single one at a time. I thought they were very social animals and I’m surprised that it hasn’t gone off in search of a mate. It stayed just long enough for a single photo before slipping through a hole. I wondered how it was able to make a hole. Maybe the ice is thin there. The snow plow driver might want to take note.

7-shadows

This view of some blue shadows was taken the day before the latest storm, when the sun was shining.

8-rail-trail

There were snowmobile tracks on this rail trail but snowmobiles must be getting lighter because the snow wasn’t packed down and each step was more of a slide, because there was ice under the snow.

9-snowmobiles

But the snowmobiles weren’t having any trouble. I’m  grateful for snowmobile clubs because if it wasn’t for them many of these trails would have grown over with brush and trees years ago.

10-oak-leaves

I always see pink in certain winter oak leaves and orange in others. My color finding software sees salmon pink in some of these leaves and tan in others.

11-ashuelot-river

I can’t say that I often feel aghast but I felt just that when I saw the Ashuelot River frozen from bank to bank in this spot, because in all the years I’ve been doing this blog it has never frozen here this early. In fact it’s rare for it to freeze here at all, mostly because of the fast current, I think. Apparently below zero temperatures work quickly; we’ve only had one night where they dropped that low.

12-ashuelot-on-12-11-16

This photo was taken just five days before the previous one. Hard to believe I know, but true. As Mark Twain once said: “If you don’t like the weather in New England now, just wait a few minutes.”

13-snowy-branches

The snow on these oak branches told me that there hadn’t been a puff of wind along the river either.

14-asters

What was left of the asters bent under the weight.

15-river-stones

I like how water turns so dark in the winter. I don’t know if the white of the snow makes it seem darker or if it’s a play of the light.

16-swamp

Sharp eyed longtime readers might notice something missing in this shot. There used to be an old dead white pine in this swamp that I called the heron tree.

17-blue-heron-tree

This was what the heron tree looked like on Thanksgiving Day in 2014.  Later, one day I looked for it and it was gone without a trace, as if someone had plucked it like a flower.

18-gb-heron

And this view of the first snow in December of 2013 shows why I called it the heron tree. Herons sat in it regularly and I wonder if they miss it as much as I do.

19-sunlight

No matter how dark the sky is the sun always shines again and the clouds broke on this day to let it shine for all of about 5 seconds while I was out.

There is nothing in the world more beautiful than the forest clothed to its very hollows in snow. It is the still ecstasy of nature, wherein every spray, every blade of grass, every spire of reed, every intricacy of twig, is clad with radiance. ~William Sharp

Thanks for coming by. Happy winter solstice!

 

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1. Along the Ashuelot

I know that a few of you have been looking forward to seeing some photos of fall colors in New Hampshire so this post includes some that I took recently. The above scene is from the Ashuelot River in Keene. We’ve been in a drought for months but we received over 4 inches of rain one day last week and that filled the river’s banks.

2. Ashuelot North

The Ashuelot wasn’t quite as placid north of Keene. The brown color of the water shows that a lot of soil was washed into it.

3. Ferns

Ferns grow all along the river but in a few spots they’ve colonized the entire understory. I think these examples were cinnamon ferns (Osmundastrum cinnamomeum.)

4. In the Forest

This is what our forests look like from the inside right now…

5. Along the Ashuelot

…and this is what they look like from the outside.

6. Old Road

Though there were only yellows and greens showing along this old road when I took this photo by now there are probably many other colors to be seen. It doesn’t matter which road you choose to travel in New Hampshire at this time of year because all of them lead to amazing colors.

7. Lily Foliage

A Canada lily (Lilium canadense) caught my eye.

8. Fall Colors

Fall wouldn’t be the same without the purples, blues and whites of asters mingling with the yellows, reds and oranges of the trees and shrubs. This scene is repeated over and over, all along the edges of our forests.

9. Blue and Yellow

I’ve always liked yellow and blue together and I’m seeing plenty of both this season.

10. Along the Ashuelot

Another view from along the Ashuelot River, across from one of my favorite trails.

11. Poison Ivy-2

Quite often poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) will turn a beautiful scarlet color in the fall but this group of plants decided to wear yellow this year.

12. White Pine

As a gardener I used to get a lot of questions in the fall from people who thought their white pines (Pinus strobus) were sick, but it’s perfectly normal for pines and other conifers to shed a few needles when there is no longer enough light to support them all. Conifer needles photosynthesize just like the leaves on deciduous trees do, but they need plenty of sunlight to do so.

13. Witch Hazel Foliage

The leaves of witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) turn bright yellow in the fall, starting at their edges.

14. Staghorn Sumac

Sumacs are noted for their autumn red hues and this staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina) didn’t disappoint.

15. Half Moon Pond

When the sun rises over the hill that was behind me when I took this photo the first rays fall on the lightest point seen across half-moon pond in Hancock. Coincidentally, that’s where the first fall colors began to show on the trees. Spending a few moments alone with this view is how I start my work day each day, and at this point I don’t think I’d trade it for anything. Actually I’m not completely alone; I share the view with squirrels, chipmunks and bass, which are usually all around me as I stand there and gawp.

I am too rich already, for my eyes mint gold. ~Mervyn Peake

Thanks for stopping in.

 

 

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We have been wet here lately, but have seen more liquid than the white fluffy variety. Still, our local weatherman is hinting at big changes coming next week so we may see some snow before Christmas. Or maybe not-the Weather Channel is saying rain.

1. Misty Forest

It’s getting harder to find the sun lately and the forests look like the one in the picture on most days. Though it’s easy to think that not much is going on in the cold and damp December woods, nothing could be further from the truth-there is still a lot of nature happening.

2. Fallen Tree One of the nice things about this time of year is that you can see the bones of the forest. If all of the underbrush still had leaves I never would have seen this twisted, mossy log.

3. December 3rd Aster

Though it’s not the prettiest aster I’ve seen, this one was still blooming on December 3rd.

 4. December 3rd Mushroom

This pinkish brown mushroom was trying hard on the same day.

5. Fan Shaped Jelly Fungus aks Dacryopinax spathularia

I’ve read that jelly fungi like witch’s butter can absorb so much water when it rains that they turn white. I wondered if the same thing was happening to these- what I think are- fan shaped jelly fungi (Dacryopinax spathularia.)

6. Evergreen Christmas Fern

Some people say that the leaflets (Pinna) of the evergreen Christmas fern ( Polystichum acrostichoides) look like little Christmas stockings. You can see why if you look at the leaflet just to the right of the gap, and right up near the stem in the photo. Each leaflet has a little bump or “ear.” This is the only fern in the New Hampshire woods with this feature, so it makes a Christmas fern very easy to identify. The short leaf stems (petioles,) serrated leaflet margins, and hairy central stem are other things to watch for when looking for this fern.

7. Pixie Cup Lichen

Lichens are also very easy to see at this time of year but some, like these pixie cup lichens (Cladonia pyxidata,) are small enough to still make them challenging to find. A single drop of water would be far too big to fit into one of these little cups.

8. Foliose Lichen

Lichens dry out quickly when it is dry but plump right back up again when it rains, as this foliose lichen shows. It had been drizzling steadily for two days when I took this picture. I haven’t been able to find this lichen in any lichen books or online.

 9. Orange Brown Lichen

I’ve never seen this orange-brown crustose lichen before and can’t find anything like it in Lichens of the North Woods.

 10. Turkey Tails

I’m seeing turkey tail fungi (Trametes versicolor) that are more colorful than those I saw just a month ago. Blue is a hard color to find in nature so the different blues in these examples really caught my eye. I still have a feeling that cold weather has something to do with their color. They seem to be brown/tan in early fall and then as the temperature drops they get more colorful. Of course, it could be that I’m just seeing both brown/tan and colorful varieties. I’ve got to find one example that is easy to get to and watch it over several months.

11. Lemon Drops and Turkey Tails on a Log

The much more common brown turkey tails and lemon drop jelly fungi (Bisporella citrina) decorated the end of this log.

 12. White Cushion Moss

White cushion moss (Leucobryum glaucum) isn’t really white but it does form a cushion. It can also form large mats, but the ball shape shown in the photo is more common. This moss needs plenty of shade and water.

 13. Dead Mushroom Gills

It’s not just growing things that are interesting. I liked the color and shape of this dead mushroom.

14. Woven Beech Trees

This is something I don’t see in the woods every day; when they were much younger than they are now somebody wove these three beech (Fagus) seedlings together. As they grew and finally touched, they rubbed against each other in the wind until the bark had rubbed away. Now they have grown together through inosculation, which is a natural process very similar to the grafting done in orchards. One day they may grow into a single, twisted trunk.

People don’t notice whether it’s winter or summer when they’re happy ~Anton Chekhov

Thanks for stopping by.

 

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As I write this the weatherman is telling me that we will see the 20s tonight, so that will be the end of flowering for all but the hardiest plants for this year. Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been watching to see which plants were going to hold on until the very end.                       

The last thing I expected to see were low-bush blueberries blossoming (Vaccinium angustifolium,) but here they are. 

This striped wintergreen (Chimaphila maculata) didn’t have any flowers but I think the leaves are as beautiful as the flowers. They turn a deep purple color as it gets colder. This plant is also called spotted wintergreen but I don’t know why because it isn’t spotted at all. Native Americans used this plant medicinally and as a flavoring. It is still used to flavor some candies today. From what I have seen it is very rare in this area, and might be endangered.

A few asters are still blooming where they were protected from frost. Goldenrod (Solidago) also still blooms were it has been protected by overhanging tree branches. Last year I saw a dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) blooming on December 21st. This one might make it to that date-it looked good and healthy.

Fern leaved bleeding heart (Dicentra) can take a lot of cold and often survives light frosts. This plant had a lot of trouble with the dryness this summer. I found this display of chrysanthemums and asters at the local college. They even had ornamental cabbage and kale tucked in here and there. Red clover (Trifolium pratense) is probably the flower most seen here right now. It can take a lot of cold and will survive heavy frost. Yarrow (Achillea millefolium ) is going into its second blooming period and I‘ve been seeing it regularly. Sweet everlasting (Pseudognaphalium obtusifolium) holds its flowers in tight buds that seem to never open, but I came across this plant with open flowers. What look like petals are actually bracts that open and fall off as the seed ripens. This plant is also called rabbit tobacco and resembles pearly everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea.Common Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) is another plant that holds its disc flowers with no petals in tight buds, but these had opened slightly. Tansy is a cultivated plant that has escaped into the wild. It is also a very old plant and has been used medicinally for centuries. Tansy is also an excellent natural insect repellent and in colonial times meat was often packed in its leaves.

Just living is not enough. One must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower ~Hans Christian Andersen

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Last Saturday morning I had errands to run but I also wanted to see if the weathermen had been correct with their frost predictions.

It was clear that we had had a good frost, but I wasn’t sure if it had been a freeze. A surface has to have a temperature colder than the surrounding air before water vapor will freeze on it to become frost. Frosts can happen when the air temperature is above freezing and are usually brief-happening just before sunrise and then melting quickly. A freeze happens over a longer period of time, and the temperature falls lower. The temperature might be 36 degrees for a frost and 28 degrees for a freeze. Below 28 degrees is considered a hard freeze.

Everything was coated in white. 

At the town landfill I spotted this colorful pile of crushed glass shining in the sun.

My second stop was the Ashuelot River, where nearly every plant had a coating of frost. This is a Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii.) this small, prickly shrub was introduced as an ornamental from Japan in 1875. Of course, it has escaped cultivation and now grows in forests all over New England. I like the way the frost formed a rim of needles around almost every leaf. 

These goldenrod blossoms looked like they had been snowed on. 

The asters looked the same-covered in ice needles. 

But when the sun touched a plant the frost disappeared quickly. 

What I didn’t expect to see was the native witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) blooming, because the flower’s ribbon like petals are temperature sensitive and only unfurl when it is warm enough. On this morning it was about 30 degrees but the sun was shining brightly and the witch hazels were getting plenty of it, so it must have warmed them up enough to bloom. Since it is an understory shrub the leaves of the trees above it also kept it from getting frost covered. 

I probably won’t be seeing any more Indian pipes (Monotropa uniflora) until next spring. 

The ripples under the bark of the muscle wood (Carpinus caroliniana) tree are what give it its common name. It is also called American hornbeam, blue beech, and ironwood. It’s in the hazelnut family and it will take a lot more than frost to hurt this tree. My last stop was at a local lake and the ripples in the sand echoed those of the muscle wood. This shot, taken through about 6 inches of water, shows how brightly the sun shone and how still and clear the water was. It was warming up quickly and that meant I could head into the cooler, shaded woods, but that’s another story for another day.

I saw old Autumn in the misty morn

Stand, shadowless like Silence, listening

To Silence ~ Thomas Hood

Reminder: It is turkey and black bear hunting season here in New Hampshire. Be safe in the woods.

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Winged euonymus or burning bush (Euonymus alatus.)

 

False Solomon’s seal fruit (Maianthemum racemosum.) 

Maple-leaf Viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium)

 

Every path leads to colorful leaves, the smell of them drying in the sun, and the sound of them falling-almost like rain.

 Royal fern (Osmunda regalis

Double arch stone bridge over the Ashuelot River in Keene, New Hampshire. Built with no mortar in 1840.

 

Now autumn’s fire burns slowly along the woods

And day by day the dead leaves fall and melt ~ William Allingham

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My calendar says autumn begins today, but I’m not ready for it yet. We’ve had freeze warnings for the upper third of the state and two or three frost warnings for the central third but it hasn’t dropped much below 40 degrees here in the southwest corner. For now the late summer flowers are still blooming. Asters are still everywhere even though they started blooming early. The goldenrod blossoms are waning now though.This is a sweet autumn clematis (Clematis paniculata) that I grow on my shed in the back yard. It’s covered with very fragrant, quarter size flowers from now until frost. This is often confused with our native virgin’s bower (Clematis virginiana,) but it’s not the same plant. Sweet autumn clematis grows so fast that this one reached the roof of my shed the first year. Blue vervain (Verbena hastate) is such a perfect blue that I can’t pass it by without taking a picture. This plant loves wet places and is also called swamp verbena.Bouncing bet (Saponaria officinalis) is still hanging on but the dryness over the summer did some damage to these plants. You can see how the plant in the photo died back and then came back to life when the rains returned. This plant is also called soapwort because its leaves contain a natural soap and will produce a lather.The purple coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea ) have also had a hard time because of the dryness and stopped blooming for a while, but then became loaded with blossoms again once the rains returned. The native pink turtlehead  (Chelone obliqua )in my garden bloomed very early this year. It is usually the last plant to bloom but this year it has had to share the stage with phlox, coneflowers and sweet autumn clematis.The blue of Hairy Vetch (Vicia vilosa) is easily seen among the fall colors overtaking the fields.  Hairy vetch is a native of Europe and Asia that has escaped and is now found in just about every meadow in New Hampshire. It was originally imported to be used as a cover crop and for livestock forage.Purple stemmed aster (Symphyotrichum puniceum) flowers are smaller than those of the New England aster and the ray petals often look as if they were glued to the central disk by a kindergartener-sort of but not quite right. If a New England aster was quarter size, these would be nickel size, but identical in color. They have zig aged stems that may or may not always be purple. These plants are also called swamp asters because they like to grow in wet areas. I’m not sure why this sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis) is blooming in September, but I imagine it knows what it’s doing. The question of its being a sarsaparilla is an educated guess because this plant had only naked flower stalks and no leaves, just like it does in May, June, or July when it usually blooms.I had visions of a dry, desert like hillside-where only crabgrass will grow-transformed into an Eden by one of the toughest plants that I know-Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia.) Unfortunately, the Russian sage had other plans and refused to grow where I planted it. I saw a beautiful 4 foot high, gray leaved, shrub like perennial covered with arm loads of scented blue flowers in my mind, but I ended up with a spindly little twig that struggled all summer to produce a couple of sad looking flower spikes, one of which is seen here. It’s clearly time to move it to a more acceptable location and let the crabgrass have the hillside. I hope this puts to rest the rumor that professional gardeners don’t see failures in the garden. Beggar’s Ticks (Bidens) is a plant that teaches patience because it suddenly appears in late July and grows for several weeks before it flowers. There are nearly 200 species in the genus and many of them look nearly identical. In this part of the state this plant grows side by side with the nodding burr marigold (Bidens Cernua,) which is also called smooth beggar’s ticks and looks very similar. The plant gets its common name from the way its barbed seeds cling to clothing. Books say that it reaches 3 1/2 feet tall but I’ve seen some get close to six feet. The one in the photo is more typical of its often sprawling habit. I’ve also seen these plants growing in water at the edge of ponds.All summer long I’ve been trying to get a decent shot of a floating bladderwort flower (Utricularia inflata.) Most of the time they were floating too far off shore, but some of the problem was my over exposures when they were close enough to shoot. Finally everything came together and I was able to get this picture-probably the only decent picture of a floating bladderwort that you’ll see here this year. The inset shows how the plant floats on “pontoons” which are actually swollen, air filled leaf stems.

The love of flowers is really the best teacher of how to grow and understand them ~Max Schling

As always, I appreciate your taking time to stop and see what nature is up to in New Hampshire.

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