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Posts Tagged ‘Beech Tree’

So many more of the smaller things become visible when the leaves fall, like the tongue gall on these  alder cones (strobiles.) These long, tongue like galls are caused by a fungus called Taphrina alni. The fungus chemically deforms part of the ovarian tissue of the developing strobile and causes long, strap shaped galls called languets to grow from them. These galls, like most galls, don’t seem to bring any harm to their host.  I wish I knew how they benefit from growing in such unusual forms.

I didn’t know if this ladybug was dead or alive or maybe frozen, but it wasn’t moving. And where were its spots? The answer is, it doesn’t have spots because it isn’t our native ladybug; it’s a female multicolored Asian ladybug. From what I’ve read it is highly variable in color and was purposely introduced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as a biological control agent. It is a tree bark dwelling beetle that consumes large amounts of aphids and scale, both of which do large amounts of damage to crops. They’re slightly larger than our native beetles and can drive homeowners crazy by collecting on windowsills, in attics, and even indoors in the spring. They can release a foul smelling defensive chemical which some are said to be allergic to.

We’ve had more snow in parts of the state. It’s very odd to leave my yard at my house that has no snow in it and drive to work where I see snow like this. It’s only a distance of about 25 miles, but it’s enough of an elevation change to cause cooler temperatures. It really drives home what a difference just a few degrees can make.

I thought this beech tree was beautiful, with its Christmas ornament like leaves.

And what was that poking up out of the snow?

It was a fallen limb which was covered by what I think was orange crust fungus (Stereum complicatum,) which is very common here. I see large fallen limbs almost completely covered by it. Though this isn’t a very good shot of it the color is so bright sometimes it’s like a beacon in the snowy landscape. The complicatum part of its scientific name means “folded back on itself”  and that is often just what it does.

Amber jelly fungus (Exidia recisa) grew on the same branch the orange crust fungus grew on. I like holding these up so the light can shine through them because sometimes they look like stained glass. Being in the snow meant these examples had absorbed plenty of water so they were pliable and rubbery, like your ear lobe. I see this fungus everywhere, especially on fallen oak limbs but also on alder and poplar as well.

I decided to visit a grove of witch hazels (Hamamelis virginiana) that I know of to see if they were still blooming. Blooming or not, they were beautiful with all of the newly fallen snow decorating them.

And they were still blooming, even in the snow. This tells me that it must be the air temperature that coaxes them into bloom because it was about 40 degrees this day.

I know it’s far too early to be looking at buds for signs of spring but red elderberry (Sambucus racemosa) buds are so pretty I couldn’t help myself. I’ve known people who thought that buds grew in spring when it warmed up, but most buds actually form in the fall and wait  for warm weather to swell up and break and form leaves and / or flowers. These buds should break in mid-May, if it’s warm enough.

I’ve seen some unusual lichens lately, like this grayish white example which had the same color apothecia (fruiting bodies) as the body (Thallus.)  This made them hard to see and I only saw them by accident when I got close to look at something else.

I wish I knew what caused the colors in a lichen. As far as we know they don’t use color to attract insects but many of them are brightly colored nevertheless. I have seen teeth marks in lichens so I’m fairly sure squirrels eat them and I know for sure that reindeer eat them, but I don’t know if this helps them spread or not. I also don’t know the identity of this lichen. I haven’t been able to find it in any of my lichen books or online.

Here’s another unusual lichen; actually two lichens separated by the nearly horizontal crack between them. The lichen on top might be a bumpy rim lichen (Lecanora hybocarpa,) which gets its name from its bumpy body (Thallus) and the rims around its apothecia.  The lichen below the crack has me baffled. It has a fringe around its perimeter that makes it look like a maple dust lichen but I can’t find any reference to apothecia on a maple dust lichen. It’s another mystery to add to the thousands of others I’ve collected.

Here is a true maple dust lichen (Lecanora thysanophora.) Note the white fringe around its outer edge, much like the lichen in the previous photo.  But unlike the previous lichen it has no visible fruiting bodies.

If you have ever tasted gin then you’ve tasted juniper berries, because that’s where gin’s flavor comes from. The unripe green berries are used for gin and the ripe, deep purple black berries seen here are ground to be used as a spice for game like deer and bear. The berries are actually fleshy seed cones and they appear blue because of a waxy coating that reflects the light in such a way as to make them appear blue. The first recorded usage of juniper berries appears on an Egyptian papyrus from 1500 BC. Egyptians used the fruit of junipers medicinally and Native Americans used them both as food and medicine. Stomach disorders, infections and arthritis were among the ailments treated.

Gray, furry willow pine cone galls appear on the very tips of willow branches, because that’s where a midge called Rabdophaga strobiloides lays its egg. Once the eggs hatch the larvae burrow into the branch tip and the willow reacts by forming a gall around them. These galls are about as big as the tip of your thumb and do not harm the plant.

A woodpecker, chickadee, or other bird started pecking at this goldenrod gall to get at the gall fly larva (Eurosta solidaginis) that is growing inside the gall. These galls have thick walls that discourage parasitic wasps like Eurytoma gigantean from laying its eggs inside the larval chamber. If successful the wasp larva quickly eat the gall fly larva. If the bird is successful then everything inside will be eaten.

We’re certainly having some beautiful sunrises lately, probably because of the low cloud deck we seem to have almost every morning.

And those low clouds can hide things, including mountains. Off to the left in this photo is the huge bulk of Mount Monadnock behind the clouds. It’s too bad it was hidden; the bright morning sunshine on its snowy flanks tells me it probably would have been a beautiful scene.

Seeing, in the finest and broadest sense, means using your senses, your intellect, and your emotions. It means encountering your subject matter with your whole being. It means looking beyond the labels of things and discovering the remarkable world around you. ~Freeman Patterson

Thanks for coming by.

 

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1. Meadow Wildflowers

Sometimes I get tired of being sprawled out on the ground taking photos of small things and I feel like standing for a while, so that’s what this post is all about. White asters, yellow goldenrod and purple loosestrife made a pretty scene in this roadside meadow, so I had to stop to get a few photos of it.

2. Thyme

I drove through a local cemetery one day and saw that the lawns were full of blossoming thyme. Bees love thyme so I’m sure they were just ecstatic.

3. Path Through the Pines

Back before 1938 this path would have wandered through a white birch forest but the hurricane of 1938 blew them all down, so the city planted red pines in their place. The pines have grown very tall but don’t seem to have added much girth in three quarters of a century. This place is called the Dinsmoor woods, named after Mary Dinsmoor, who donated 13 acres of forest to the city in 1928.

4. Stream

I’ve driven by this scene nearly every day for over 20 years now and have always admired it in a quick, out of the corner of my eye way, so I finally stopped and took a photo of it. I can’t really say what it is about it that appeals to me, but something does. It’s the kind of place that I can just sit and stare at.

5. Beaver Lodges

Rye pond in Hancock, New Hampshire is at the top of my list of places to kayak next summer because of the beautiful orchids that grow here. I went there recently to get a feel for the place and to find a good launching spot. While I walked the shoreline I saw two beaver lodges, but I think they were abandoned.

 6. Beech Branches

Beech leaves don’t usually fall until the following spring, so bare beech branches in the middle of summer are very noticeable. Many of our beech trees are dying of a bark blister disease but I don’t know if it caused the leaf drop seen in this young tree.

7. Bailey Brook Lower Falls

We’ve had enough rain this year to make me think that some of our waterfalls would be roaring, but as this photo of the lower falls at Bailey Brook in Nelson shows, they weren’t doing much more than trickling. There are upper falls here as well but since it’s berry season and this area is known bear country, I didn’t hike up to see them.

8. Sunbeams

One day after a rain the clouds parted and sunbeams shot straight down to earth. I wish I could have seen what they were highlighting.

9. Evening Sky

The colors of the sky and clouds were beautiful after thunderstorms rolled by one evening.

10. Ashuelot Falls

The late afternoon sun often turns the Ashuelot River falls in Keene into a golden ribbon. Silky dogwoods grow along the shoreline here and soon cedar waxwings will be eating the ripe berries.

11. Pond

The water in this pond was as smooth as water can be. It looks like it won’t be long before the cattails in the background fill this shallow pond completely.

12. Pond from Forest

This photo was taken just a few feet from where the previous photo was taken. It’s amazing how just a simple change in perspective can have such an impact on the mood of a photo.

13. Fern Glade

I’ve walked by this little glade of ferns a hundred times but for some reason on this afternoon the light was like I had never seen it before, and had transformed the scene into something quite beautiful. I had to sit for a while admiring it, and I remember thinking what a wonderful painting it would make.

Landscapes have the power to teach, if you query them carefully.  And remote landscapes teach the rarest, quietest lessons. ~David Quammen

Thanks for coming by.

 

 

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I thought, just in case the world didn’t end on the 21st, that I’d take a few pictures for today. As usual, these are photos of things that didn’t seem to fit anywhere else.

1. Mackrel Sky

When cirrocumulus or altocumulus clouds look like fish scales it is said to be a “mackerel sky.” An old saying says that “a mackerel in the sky means three days dry,” but whether or not it remains dry depends on the amount of moisture in the lower atmosphere. A mackerel sky in winter is said to mean eventual snowstorms and flurries, and that’s exactly what we saw here 3 days after this mackerel sky.

2. Cirrus clouds

Mare’s tails are the uncinus (hook shaped) form of cirrus clouds and form high in the sky where it is cold and very windy. They are made up of tiny ice crystals and are often a sign of a cold front moving over a warm air mass. This can signal bad weather is coming and these appeared the same day that the mackerel sky did. Cirrus means “curls of hair” in Latin.

3. Cable in Tree

If you have ever been cutting up logs into firewood with a chainsaw and have run into a nail or piece of wire, then this scene will send shivers down your spine. This is a very dangerous set up for a future logger, not to mention the trauma caused to the tree. Loggers and arborists have found bullets, wedding rings, cannon balls, saws, garden shears, beer bottles, hubcaps, horse shoes, and just about anything else you can imagine inside live trees.

4. Bracket Fungi on December 19

We’ve had snow, ice and freezing temperatures but these fungi appeared recently on a tree that is a favorite perch of red winged blackbirds. Unfortunately the birds might have to find another spot to roost, because fungi on a living tree almost always mean its death. I think these are late fall oyster mushrooms (Panellus serotinus.) Late fall yes, but I never expected to see them in mid-December.

5. Hoar Frost

When water vapor turns into ice crystals instead of liquid water, it makes frost. When the frost grows beyond the typical fine white coating and forms “needles” it is called hoarfrost. Frost forms similar to the way that snowflakes do, except that it forms near the ground while snowflakes form around dust particles floating in the air. I learned these fascinating facts by reading Jennifer Shick’s blog, called A Passion for Nature. It’s a blog that is worth visiting if you have the time.

9. Oak Tree Growing on a Stump

I found this colorful oak seedling growing in an old lichen covered stump. I was surprised that it still had leaves at all, and stunned that they were still so colorful in December.

10. Rose and Bittersweet

Two of the most invasive plants in New Hampshire are the multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora) and oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus.) Here the bittersweet twines around the rose in what will eventually become a death grip, with the bittersweet strangling the rose. Oriental bittersweet is strong enough to strangle and take down trees and that is why the forest service wants it eradicated. After fighting it for years as a gardener I have to say-good luck with that.

11. Barberry Fruit

Another highly invasive plant that is found all over the state is Japanese Barberry (Berberis thunbergii,) and these little red berries that are prized by birds are the reason for its great success. This plant is actually a native of southern Europe and central China that was imported as a landscape specimen. It is now scorned and considered a noxious weed because its sharp thorns impede the movement of wildlife. I can say from experience that they also impede human movement.

12. Beech Bud

Leaf buds on beech trees (Fagus) are a favorite food of deer and one theory of why young beech trees hang on to their leaves says that the dry, papery leaves are unpalatable to the critters. According to the theory, this makes deer search for other food and leave beech trees alone.

13. Dead Bracket Fungi

Sometimes there is beauty even in death. I thought these dried bracket fungi looked like miniature white roses from a distance.

14. Empty Bee Balm Seedhead

The birds have eaten all the seeds out of the bee balm (Monarda) in my yard, so maybe they should get some bird seed for Christmas.
Maybe Christmas, the Grinch thought, doesn’t come from a store ~Dr. Seuss
Have a Merry Christmas, everyone. Thanks for stopping in.

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We haven’t seen much sunshine lately but it sure has been warm here in southwestern New Hampshire. I thought I’d get a few more pictures of the fall foliage in case the hurricane comes along on Tuesday and strips all the leaves off the trees.

Beech trees (Fagus) are starting to turn. These trees grow where the soil is deep, rich, moist, and well-drained. This is also a beech tree. It’s amazing how many colors-from yellow to bronze to orange and red-these trees can be. Beech trees were used as food or for medicine for centuries by virtually every Native American tribe.

Many oaks look like this now. But some oaks are more red than orange.

Many maples and birches already look like this. Deer tongue grass is a weed, but a colorful one.

Some ferns get paler before they fade completely. 

Most meadow grasses have dropped their seeds. 

This vernal (spring blooming) witch hazel lives in a local park. Its amazing color drew me to it from several yards away.

This was the view at one of the local lakes last weekend. 

The mosses seem greener than I’ve ever seen them.

And before long mosses and evergreens will be the only things left that are green.

A woodland in full color is awesome as a forest fire, in magnitude at least, but a single tree is like a dancing tongue of flame to warm the heart ~Hal Borland

Thanks for stopping in. Remember: This is the time of year that hunters appear in the woods, so be safe.

 

 

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