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Posts Tagged ‘Beech Bark Disease’

1. Daylily Seed Pod

I found what was left of a daylily seed pod at work one day. An insect had eaten all of the soft tissue and left the tougher veins, creating a work of art in the process. Sometimes I have to wonder if creating works of art aren’t their primary purpose; I’ve seen some amazing things done by insects. The engraver beetle for instance, creates some beautiful and intricate calligraphy on tree branches.

2. Barberry

I had to tangle with a Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii) at work recently. The plant was quite old and some stems were bigger around than my thumb, which is unusual. Usually they are no bigger than a pencil but in this case the large size made the chrome yellow inner bark much easier to see. Barberry is the only shrub I know of with such vibrant color under its bark.

3. Barberry Stem

When Japanese barberry bark is injured the bright yellow color of the inner bark is easily seen. I decided to whittle the bark off a piece of stem to see what it would look like. When I put it against my black coat to take a photo it seemed to glow, so bright was the color, and in the photo it almost doesn’t look real. Not surprisingly, a bright yellow dye can be made from chipped barberry stems and roots and apparently this is true of any barberry, not just the Japanese variety.

4. Barberry Berries

If the inner bark doesn’t convince you that you have a barberry the fruit and thorns (actually spines) will. These small red berries are what make the Japanese variety so invasive. I’ve seen impenetrable thickets of it in the woods that not only crowd out native plants but also prevent all but the smallest animals getting through. Its sharp spines will tell you which variety of barberry you have. European barberry (Berberis vulgaris) and American barberry (Berberis canadensis) both have clusters of 3 or more spines but since American barberry doesn’t grow in New England it comes down to European or Japanese here, and only Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii) has single spines.

5. Birch Polypore

Something I’ve never noticed before is animals eating birch polypores (Piptoporus betulinus,) but this year I’m seeing half eaten ones everywhere. Scientists have found that this mushroom is effective in treating intestinal parasites and I wonder if animals eat them for that reason or simply as food. Since chipmunks aren’t active during the winter it would probably be squirrels, deer or porcupines. I read that these fungi smelled like green apples and, though I’m not sure what green apples smell like the mushroom does have a strong but pleasant scent.

6. Maple Scae

I found this starburst scar on a maple trunk and can’t imagine what made it. The way the bark has turned platy reminds me of target canker on maples, but that isn’t shaped the same. It could have simply been caused by a boy with a pocket knife, but I don’t suppose that I’ll ever know.

7. Beech Blister

This bark deformity I know well, unfortunately. Beech bark disease is caused by beech scale insects (Cryptococcus fagisuga) that pierce the bark and leave a wound. If the spores from either of two fungi, called Neonectria faginata and Neonectria ditissima, find the wound and grow, cankers form. These cankers are what look like blisters on the bark of beech trees, as can be seen in the above photo. The disease originally came from Europe and the first case in the United States was reported in 1929 in Massachusetts. By 2004, the disease had spread as far west as Michigan and as far south as western North Carolina. There is no cure and infected trees will ultimately die.

8. Hobblebush Bud

I start watching buds closely at this time of year and one of those I watch are the naked buds of hobblebush (Viburnum alnifolium.) They are naked because they have no bud scales to protect them but they make up for the lack by being covered with a multitude of fine hairs. In this photo the flower bud is in between two leaf buds that stand up like wings. In about mid-May the flower bud will become one of our most beautiful native viburnum flowers.  This understory shrub gets its name from the way its sprawling stems can trip up or “hobble” a horse, but it isn’t just horses that get hobbled; I’ve gotten my feet tangled in it a few times. I’m guessing that the white hairs seen in the photo are from a deer, so apparently the stems don’t hobble them.

9. Striped Maple Buds

Hobblebush and striped maple (Acer pensylvanicum) often grow side by side. Deer had eaten the buds off many of the striped maples that were growing near the hobblebush in the previous photo, but they missed this one. Striped maple buds are on my list of things to watch at this time of year because when the red or pink bud scales open and the leaves emerge they are easily one of the most beautiful things in the forest.

10. Striped Maple Buds

Just to give you a little preview of why my pulse quickens in spring, here is a photo from last April of striped maple buds after they had just opened. The chance of seeing beauty like this again is what gives me spring fever.

11. Ice Fall

But not so fast; there are a few things that nature has to take care of first, like this ice fall that I saw in the woods the other day. It was big.

12. Motherwort

The combination of a mild winter and growing near a stone chimney kept this motherwort plant (Leonurus cardiaca) green through the winter. Motherwort is originally from Europe where it has been used medicinally for centuries. It is said to calm the heart and nerves as the cardiaca part of its scientific name implies. The ancient Greeks gave it to pregnant women, and that’s how it comes by its common name. Colonists brought it to North America, which is a sign that it was very highly regarded.

13. Rose Moss

The lack of snow this winter has meant rough times for our mosses, but rose moss (Rhodobryum roseum) is still pretty even when it’s as dry as paper. Each rosette of leaves looks like a tiny flower, and that’s how it comes by its common name. It’s one of the most beautiful of all the mosses, in my opinion. Even when dry it sparkles as if with an inner light.

To look at a thing is very different from seeing a thing.  One does not see anything until one sees its beauty. ~ Oscar Wilde

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1. View from the Road

I had heard rumors of a waterfall that I’d never seen up in Surry, New Hampshire, which is a few miles north of Keene, so one afternoon after the rain stopped I decided to go and see. You can get a glimpse of the falls from the road, which is what the above photo shows. You don’t see much white in the woods until it snows.

 2. Lower Falls

You have to cross a small stream to get to this point and there are multiple opportunities to take a good fall, so I picked my way over the mossy stones and wet leaves carefully. Unusual is the way that this stream takes a perfect 90 degree turn at this spot and goes off to the left, so you can get a photo that looks like you were standing right in it. I blurred this shot for people who like that.

3. Lower Falls from Side

I decided to follow the course of the stream as far as I could over its length and stopped here for a photo that shows that the falls aren’t as impressive from the side. It was very dark here this day so I had to constantly fiddle with the camera’s controls to get useable photos. I went back one sunny morning though, and the photos came out even worse because of the deep shadows.

4. Middle Falls

This stream has what I call a lower, middle, and upper falls. These are the middle ones.  To give you an sense of scale, that rock just to left of center is as big as a Volkswagen Beetle. There was quite a roar here.

 5. Witch Hazel

I found a witch hazel shrub but it wasn’t blooming.

6. Orange Beech Tree

I saw a beech tree that had a strange orange colored trunk. I think it must have been some type of algae that covered it, but I’m really not sure. One thing I am sure about is that the tree had beech bark disease, which is caused by scale insects (Cryptococcus fagisuga) which pierce the bark. The tiny holes are then invaded by a fungus (Nectria coccinea var. faginata) which causes the blister like wounds seen in this photo, and which will eventually kill the tree.

7. Gorge

After a steep climb you reach a gorge of sorts which shows evidence of serious flooding not too long ago. The top of those walls must have been a good 40-50 feet high. I was wishing that I could get over there to get a closer look at those mosses. They’ve probably been growing there for hundreds of years.

8. Stream Bed

The flooding widened the stream to what appeared to be double its original width and scoured the stream bed down to gravel.

9. Damaged Trees

Flooding even stripped the bark right from the trees lining the banks. I was very glad that I wasn’t up here when it happened.

10. Board in Woods

I read somewhere that there was a wooden snowmobile bridge across this stream but I think the flooding must have taken it out, because I couldn’t find it. I wondered if this board was all that was left of it. Once I got home I read that flooding in 2003 washed the road away and caused a great amount of damage to the surrounding area.

11. Cable in Tree 2

I don’t know if this cable was part of the bridge but it was grown into this tree and I had to climb over it to get up the hill.

12. Upper falls

It’s hard to believe that all of that water down below comes from what looks like little more than a dribble, but there it is. I couldn’t find a way in there to see what was going on and I was too tuckered out to climb up and around it, so I decided to head back down the hill. Though this is called forty foot falls I don’t think what is seen in this photo is much more than 10 or 15 feet high, so I’m not sure where the name comes from.

13. Above the Falls

This is a shot taken from above the middle falls. It’s quite a climb to get up here; strenuous but not really dangerous. I only fell twice and that was from slipping on the wet leaves on the way back down.

 14. Hole Through Bolder

I found a large boulder with a hole drilled through it, most likely by hand with a star drill when they were blasting the ledges to put the road in. Since those were the days before dynamite they would have filled the hole with black powder, lit the fuse, and then run as fast as their legs would carry them. I found the remnants of an orchid growing next to this boulder but I couldn’t tell what it was from the tattered foliage, so I’ll have to get back there next summer and see what it is. There aren’t many boulders with holes in them lying around, so watching for it will be a good way to find the orchid.

15. Foliage

This forest is made up of mostly beech, and they were beautiful.

There is a hidden message in every waterfall. It says, if you are flexible, falling will not hurt you. ~Mehmet Murat ildan

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