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Posts Tagged ‘Black Locust’

I saw this view along one of our roads recently. Lupines and Ox eye daisies seemed to go on forever. There were a few white lupines but most were blue / purple. It’s a hint of what will come; soon our meadows will explode with color.

Dame’s rocket (Hesperis matronalis) is an introduced plant that came from Europe in the 1600s but it doesn’t seem very invasive; the few colonies that I know of hardly seem to spread at all, and that’s possibly because they are biennials. This plant is in the mustard family, Brassicaceae. The young leaves of dame’s rocket are rich in vitamin C and oil pressed from its seed is used in perfumes.

Dame’s rocket flowers are sometimes mistaken for phlox, but phlox has 5 petals rather than the 4 petals seen on dame’s rocket. Phlox also has opposite leaves and those on dame’s rocket are alternate. The flowers are very fragrant in the evening and are said to smell like a mixture of cloves and violets.

When I was growing up we had a hedge of rugosa roses and I’ll never forget their wonderful scent. This rose reminded me of them because it too had that same scent. I think it was in the rugosa rose family but it wasn’t the exact one we had. The Latin word “rugosa” means “wrinkled,” as in the wrinkled petals  this one had.  They are a shrub rose that come along just after lilacs so if you’re looking for an extended period of fragrance in the garden I can’t think of anything better to extend it with. Rosa rugosa has been cultivated in Japan and China for about a thousand years but it has only been in this country since 1845. After its introduction it immediately escaped cultivation and can now be found just about anywhere on the coast of New England.

Pliny the Elder said chewing the root of greater celandine (Chelidonium majus) would relieve a toothache, but modern science has found that every part of it contains a range of isoquinoline alkaloids that makes it toxic if used in large amounts. When used in the correct dosage the plant’s yellow sap can be used against warts and moles.  If used at all, all of the latex sap should be washed from the hands because it can cause irritation if rubbed into the eyes. Greater celandine is native to Europe and Asia but early settlers brought it with them to use medicinally, and it has found its way into all but 19 states in the U.S.

All the books will tell you that the flowers of greater celandine have four yellow petals but nature doesn’t know the words always and never, so you have to use a little common sense when identifying plants. Things like leaf shape, where it grows, flower size and color, and the yellow sap all have to be considered when identifying this one.

I love the beautiful colors and shapes found in the perennial bachelor’s button blossom(Centaurea). They make excellent low maintenance, almost indestructible additions to the perennial garden. I found this one growing in a friend’s garden.

Each strap shaped, yellow “petal” on a yellow hawkweed flower head (Hieracium caespitosum) is actually a single, complete flower and each forms its own seed. The buds, stem, and leaves of the plant are all very hairy and the rosette of oval, overlapping leaves at the base of the stem often turn deep purple in winter. The Ancient Greeks believed that hawks drank the sap of this plant to keep their eyesight sharp and so they named it hierax, which means hawk. It is an introduced invasive and names like “yellow devil” and “devil’s paintbrush” show what ranchers think of it.

This beautiful clematis was spotted in the garden of friends of mine. Its blossoms are large, probably 6 inches across. I think its name is “Nelly Moser.” Though we do have native clematis most clematis cultivars have a Chinese or Japanese lineage. According to Wikipedia the wild clematis species native to China made their way into Japanese gardens by the 17th century, and in the 18th century Japanese garden selections were the first exotic clematises to reach European gardens. From there came our first “exotic” clematis, an old favorite called Jackmanii, which is still grown today.

Fringe trees (Chionanthus virginicus) might look like another exotic import from China or Japan but they’re native to the east coast of the U.S. It’s a beautiful and fragrant tree that you rarely see anywhere, and I wonder why it’s so under used. It is said to be tougher than dogwood, more dependable than saucer magnolia, longer-lived than cherry, and smells better than Bradford pears. So why don’t more of us use it?

When seen alone the fringe tree’s blossoms don’t seem like much to get excited about but when they get together in lacy, drooping clusters at the ends of the branches they are quite beautiful. Fringe trees are one of the last to show new leaves in spring and they can look dead until the leaves and flowers appear.

I’m guessing that there’s a good chance that most people have never seen the pipe shaped flowers of a Dutchman’s pipe vine (Aristolochia durior) because you have to move the vine’s large leaves aside and peek into the center of the plant to see them. Dutchman’s pipe is native to some south eastern hardwood forests and has been cultivated in other parts of the country and Canada since the 1700s.

The old fashioned Dutchman’s pipe vine has very large, heart shaped leaves and has historically been used as a privacy screen or for shade on porches and arbors. You can still see it used that way today, but most don’t see these small flowers. They’re mottled yellowish-green and brownish purple with a long yellow tube, and are visited by the pipevine swallowtail butterfly and other insects. The plant contains a compound called aristolochic acid which can cause permanent kidney failure, so it should never be taken internally.

The round white flower heads of wild sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis) hide beneath its leaves and quite often you can’t see them from above.  Compared to the ping pong ball size flower heads the leaves are huge and act like an umbrella, which might keep rain from washing away their pollen. Each sarsaparilla flower is very small but as a group they’re easy to see. Dark purple berries will replace the flowers if pollination is successful, and it’s usually very successful. This is one of the most common wildflowers I know of and I see them virtually everywhere I go, including in my own yard. The roots of the plant were once used to make root beer but the drink that was called sarsaparilla contained no part of the plant. It was made from birch oil and sassafras root.

Our locust trees are blooming. The one shown here is a black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) loaded with white, very fragrant blooms. One way to identify the tree is by the pair of short spines at the base of each leaf. Like many other legumes its leaflets fold together at night and when it rains. Its hanging flower heads remind me of wisteria.

Locusts are in the same family as peas and beans and the flowers show the connection. Black locusts were prized by colonial Americans for their tough, rot resistant wood. In 1610 colonists found black locust trees planted beside Native American dwellings and thought the Natives were using the tree as an ornamental, so they decided to use it that way as well. They also used the wood for ship building, forts and fence posts while the Natives used it to make bows and blow darts. It was once said to be the toughest wood in all the world and was one of the first North American trees exported to Europe.

Bristly locust (Robinia hispida) is more shrub than tree, but it can reach 8 feet. The beautiful pinkish purple flowers are very fragrant and bees really love them. Every time I find one in bloom it is absolutely covered with bees, which makes getting photos a challenge. What sets this locust apart from others are the bristly purple-brown hairs that cover its stems. Even its seedpods are covered by hairs. Bristly locust is native to the southeastern United States but has spread to all but 7 of the lower 48 states, with a lot of help from nurseries selling it for ornamental use.

The beautiful little flowers of red sandspurry (Spergularia rubra) are hard for me to see because they’re so small, so I take photos of them so I can see them better. This plant was originally introduced from Europe in the 1800s and it has reached many states on the east and west coasts but doesn’t appear in any state along the Mississippi river except Minnesota. It must have been introduced on both coasts rather than first appearing in New England and then crossing the country like so many other invasive plants have.  I find them growing in dry, sandy waste areas. I’m not sure what the web or plant fibers surrounding this flower were all about.

I was bending down the stem of a sandspurry with one hand and taking its photo with the other so the penny is out of focus, but at least you can see how tiny this beautiful little flower really is, and that’s what’s important. I think you could fit about 8-10 of them on a penny.

Maybe, beauty, true beauty, is so overwhelming it goes straight to our hearts. Maybe it makes us feel emotions that are locked away inside. ~James Patterson

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Logging operations at the Keene Dillant Hopkins airport in Swanzey began on February 2nd. The trees being cut are very near Edgewood, one of Keene’s oldest neighborhoods, and residents there filed a court injunction to stop the cutting of trees on a 12.4 acre parcel that’s a small part of a 34 acre parcel called Edgewood Forest. In 1969 the Edgewood Civic Association transferred the 12.4 acres to the city with some restrictions, including that the land basically stay as it was. For residents who don’t want the trees cut it’s more about property values and quality of life than anything else. Though the city hasn’t logged that particular parcel they’re logging around it. I wasn’t surprised the day I saw the skidder in the above photo.

A log skidder gets its name from the way it drags logs out of a forest, or in this case several white pine trees. It can do this by winch and cable but this one had a large claw.

White pines can reach over 180 feet tall and are our tallest native tree. I’ve read that the tallest among them will be cut. They’re being cut because the Federal Aviation Administration ordered Keene to improve visibility and safety for pilots landing their planes on the airport’s main runway. Apparently pilots coming in from certain directions can’t see the runway until they’re very close to it because of the tall trees. That probably doesn’t give them much time for making critical decisions.

I paced off this log pile and it was about 210 feet long and looked to be about 12 feet high at its tallest points.  There were other piles like it.

Very near where the logs are piled in the previous photo native black locusts (Robinia pseudoacacia) grow. They bloom beautifully in June with long pendulous heads of white pea like blossoms. They are extremely fragrant and I love walking through here when they’re in bloom.

Locusts are in the same family as peas and beans and the flowers show the connection. Black locusts were prized by colonial Americans for their tough, rot resistant wood. In 1610 colonists found black locust trees planted beside Native American dwellings and thought the Natives were using the tree as an ornamental, so they decided to use it that way as well .They also used the wood for ship building, forts and fence posts while the Natives used it to make bows and blow darts. It was once said to be the toughest wood in all the world and was one of the first North American trees exported to Europe.

I worry about the locust trees being damaged because the only beauty bush I’ve ever found in the wild grew right about where that piece of logging equipment is parked. It’s gone now; I couldn’t even find a stump.

Beauty bush (Kolkwitzia amabilis) originally came from China and is popular as an ornamental, but it has escaped cultivation in this area. I’ve only seen this one outside of a garden so I wouldn’t call it invasive. It gets quite tall-sometimes-8 feet or more-and can get as wide. The one that was cut was young and only about 4 feet tall.

I didn’t take the time to count growth rings on the logs but some were quite big.

They aren’t just cutting trees. They’re cutting everything, including the understory  shrubs. In places it looks like they’re even plowing up grasses and other plants, but since I haven’t seen it happen I can’t claim that this is what is being done. All I know is; the ground here is now bare dirt with a stump here and there.

Or if it isn’t bare it’s covered with wood chips. The plants, shrubs, and trees will all grow back but people my age won’t be here to see it.

This trail winds through the 12.4 acre parcel that the Edgewood resident are trying to protect. This isn’t an old growth forest but it is home to many plants that I don’t see often. There are many threatened species of plants, birds, mammals and amphibians living in the wetlands, which are unseen off to the left in this photo.

One of the plants I’d hate to see disturbed is fan clubmoss (Lycopodium digitatum.) It was once over collected to make Christmas wreaths and for a long time you couldn’t find it anywhere.  It’s finally making a comeback and there is a small colony that lives in these woods.  I’m hoping that it’s too close to the wetland for logging.

Striped wintergreen (Chimaphila maculata) is another plant that grows here that I don’t see too often. Though I’ve heard from readers who say there are large colonies of it in places like Connecticut it doesn’t seem very robust here. I know of three or four small colonies that haven’t grown much in the time I’ve been watching them. I’ve read that they don’t like disturbed ground so logging probably wouldn’t help them any.

In some areas if it wasn’t for the trails winding through the forest most people would have thought that man had hardly touched it, because there was never any trash to be seen. On this day however I saw three or four of these coffee cups near the trail I was on. I’m not saying that the loggers are doing this; I’m just noting the change.

I’m not sure what this was about but it was new too. Just over that rise in the background is a wetland, probably full of ducks right about now.

The loggers seem to have been more selective in this area and have left many trees standing, but notice the lack of understory growth. Why they would spend so much time and effort cutting all the undergrowth is a mystery.

What is bothersome about the previous photo for me is how close the tree cutting is to the place where skunk cabbages (Symplocarpus foetidus) grow. I can see the now open forest from where I took this photo. Skunk cabbage is a tough plant and I doubt that even a logging skidder running over them would kill them, but if the ground they grow in was all torn up that might finish them. Skidders typically make very deep ruts in soft muddy ground.

Something else that bothered me was seeing that one of two native azaleas (that I know of) that grow here had been cut. The reason it bothers me is because there was no need to cut it. It grew in a spot where there were no trees; nothing but a few understory shrubs grew there. I’m sure that simple ignorance motivated the cutting of it but knowing that isn’t a very soothing balm. From what I see ignorance, apathy, and greed are behind most of the destruction of natural habitats.

The crux of the whole argument about tree cutting in the Edgewood Forest hinges on whether or not a 1983 amendment to the original deed, which said that trees on the property “may be cut or topped in order that they will not constitute an obstruction to air navigation,” is legal and binding. Residents say it isn’t because the parties involved lacked the authority to make such an agreement, and because the Edgewood Civic Association was dissolved in 1977. Though the association’s president signed the amendment in 1983 along with the Keene city manager, residents say that he didn’t have the authority to do so and they had no say in the decision. In the end it will be up to the courts to decide and if nothing else, at least when that happens this ongoing battle will end. No matter the outcome I think most of us will be glad it’s over. I know that I will, because it has been going on for about as long as I can remember.

Note: if you’d like a little historical background on how all of this came about you might take a look at the first post I did on the subject, which you can find by clicking HERE.

Progress is measured by the speed at which we destroy the conditions that sustain life. ~George Monbiot

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1. Half Moon Pond

I’ve been taking photos with my phone off and on since I got it but not seriously. Once in a while I’d snap a landscape because of the phone camera’s wider, almost panoramic format. Then recently I took a close photo of a mushroom and was surprised that it did so well, so I decided to put it through its paces and really see what it could do. This post is made up entirely of photos that I took with the phone, starting off with a foggy, rainy view of Half-Moon Pond in Hancock. The phone camera did about what I’d expect in such gloomy conditions; the scene looks like it was shot in black and white.

2. Crowded Parchment Fungi

This was taken with the phone camera on another rainy day but the colors of the crowded parchment fungi (Stereum complicatum) still came through. One of my mushroom books describes them as orange fading to cream, or cinnamon buff. These are definitely orange fading to cream. Sometimes crowded parchment fungi grow so close together that their edges fuse together, even though there seems to be more than enough room on the branch for all. This fungus grows on fallen deciduous tree branches; usually oak.

3. Lemon Drops

The phone camera seems to handle color and high contrast quite well, as the yellow lemon drop fungi (Bisporella citrina) on a dark log show.

4. Lemon Drops

Lemon drops are very small but even when cropped the phone photo still holds plenty of detail.  The smaller examples in this shot are about the size of a period made by a pencil on paper. These tiny disc shaped sac fungi actually have a stalk but it’s too small to be seen by me.

5. Milk White Toothed Polypore Crust Fungus

Milk white toothed polypore (Irpex lacteus) is a crust fungus with “teeth” that are actually tubes or pores in the spore bearing surface which break apart with age and become tooth-like as the above photo shows. As they age these “teeth” turn brown as they have here. I wasn’t sure if the phone camera could pick them out but it did a fairly good job of it. This crust fungus is common on the undersides of fallen branches and rotting logs.

6. Half Moon Pond 3

I’m not sure what happened to make the hill lit by the rising sun in this photo so red / brown. Since I didn’t look at the photo until a few days after I took it I can’t say if the colors were enhanced by the phone or not, but do know that I’ve seen the early morning sun do some very strange things here at Half-Moon Pond in Hancock.

7. Black Raspberry

The phone camera has a macro function so of course I had to try it, but I ended up not liking it. Either I was doing something wrong or it has trouble focusing in macro mode. When I zoom in on the photo of the bud on this black raspberry cane (Rubus occidentalis) I can see that it isn’t in sharp focus at all. It seems like the camera actually does better with close up shots when it’s in normal shooting mode.

8. Black Locust

It did okay with these black locust thorns (Robinia pseudoacacia) as far as focus goes but there is kind of a garish look to this photo, as if it was done in high dynamic range imaging (HDRI) that wasn’t set quite right.

9. Bitersweet Berries

The phone camera picked up the pucker on these oriental bittersweet berries (Celastrus orbiculatus) with no problems and also did well on the color. Red can be a tough color for some cameras, especially in bright sunlight as these examples were.

10. Hazel Leaves

The strangest thing about witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) to me is how its leaves always seem more colorful after their fall color has left them. They turn yellow in the fall but it isn’t the blazing yellow of beech and maple. It isn’t that it’s a drab color; it’s just not very exciting. Then the leaves go from yellow to brown, but it isn’t just any old brown. It’s a beautiful, vibrant and rich orange-brown that always makes me stop for a closer look, and sometimes a photo or two. I think the phone camera did a good job with the color. Even though I’m colorblind I can still see certain colors, and I can see that this one is very different from the pink brown of an oak leaf, or the red brown of iron oxide on stone. This brown is warm and alive, and on a cold winter day it can warm your perspective.

11. Moss on Quartz

Now that I see these phone photos I wish I had also taken the same photo with a different camera so I could compare the two. I’m fairly certain that either one of my other cameras would have seen the brightness of the quartz in this scene and darkened the shot considerably to compensate. But the cell phone didn’t and I really didn’t have to fiddle around much with this shot. The broom moss (Dicranum scoparium) looks more alive than just about any other photo of moss that I’ve taken, and it’s very beautiful against the milky white of the quartz.

12. Smokey Eye Boulder Lichen

The spore bearing apothecial disks of the smoky eye boulder lichens (Porpidia albocaerulescens) look blue in the right light. They have a waxy coating that reflects light much like the whitish bloom on blueberries and that makes them appear blue. The black border on each disk makes them really stand out from the body of the lichen which can be brown or the grayish white color seen here. They’re very small and I was surprised that the phone camera picked them out so well.

13. Feather

I wanted to see how the phone camera did on stop action shots and what could be a better subject for that than a feather blowing in the wind? The camera failed miserably but I think that’s because I didn’t have the settings adjusted the way they should have been. I really don’t use it enough to know what’s best.

14. Half Moon Pond

This simple shot of water plants on a foggy morning is my favorite shot to come out of the phone because it speaks of serenity, solitude and bliss; all things that I find regularly in these New Hampshire woods.

What I hope this post shows is that you don’t need anything more than a phone camera to record what you see in nature, and I hope it will inspire more people to get out there and give it a go. As I’ve said here before, if you photograph what you love that love will burn brightly in your photos and it will be very apparent to others. I don’t think the brand of camera you use matters as much as how you feel when you use it. If the subject and the photo please you they will please others as well. If you’d like to see a daily blog done solely with a cellphone you should take a peek at Marie’s blog, called I Walk Alone. She’s been writing a blog for several years now and uses nothing more than a phone camera, and her photos are often stunning.

Nature is so powerful, so strong. Capturing its essence is not easy – your work becomes a dance with light and the weather. It takes you to a place within yourself. ~Annie Leibovitz

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1. Maiden Pink

How to tell a maiden pink (Dianthus deltoids) from a Deptford pink (Dianthus armeria)? Just look for the dark ring near the center of the flower. Deptford pinks don’t have the ring and are smaller flowers. Both plants were introduced from Europe and have naturalized here.  It is another flower that people mow around much like fleabane, because it is so beautiful.

2. Dame's Rocket

Dame’s rocket (Hesperis matronalis) is another introduced plant that came from Europe in the 1600s but it doesn’t seem very invasive; the colonies that I know of hardly seem to spread at all, and that’s possibly because they are biennials. This plant is in the mustard family, Brassicaceae but is sometimes mistaken for phlox, which has 5 petals rather than the 4 petals seen on dame’s rocket. Phlox also has opposite leaves and those on dame’s rocket are alternate. The young leaves of dame’s rocket are rich in vitamin C and oil pressed from its seed is used in perfumes.

3. Fringe Tree

At one time I thought fringe trees (Chionanthus virginicus) were an exotic import from China or another Asian country but as it turns out they’re native to the east coast right here in the U.S. It’s a beautiful and fragrant tree that you rarely see anywhere, and I wonder why it’s so under used. It is said to be tougher than dogwood, more dependable than saucer magnolia, longer-lived than cherry, and smells better than Bradford pears. So why don’t more of us use it?

4. Lupines

I found a few of these very beautiful lupines growing on the banks of the Ashuelot but not as many as in years past, so I wonder if our harsh winter finished some of them off. These lupines are thought to be a cross between our native western lupine (Lupinus polyphyllos) and various European varieties, so they are not native to New Hampshire. Our native lupine is the sundial lupine (Lupinus perennis,) which is host to the endangered Karner blue butterfly. Next week our annual lupine festival kicks off in the northern part of the state and fields full of them will attract thousands of people to the Sugar Hill area.

 5. Toadflax

This tiny blue toadflax blossom (Nuttallanthus canadensis) had an even tinier tear in its petal. Last year I found a field of these plants along a roadside and this year they are all gone, and that’s probably because are biennials which flower and dies in their second year. Toadflax flowers have an upper lip that is divided into 2 rounded lobes, and a lower lip which is divided into 3 lobes that are rounded and spreading. Toadflax likes sandy soil and waste areas to grow in. It doesn’t last long but the cheery blue flowers are always a welcome sight.

6. Raspberry

Raspberries are blooming and it looks like it’s going to be a good year for them, so the bears won’t be going hungry. Thanks to plant breeders raspberries come in purple and yellow as well as red and black, but I don’t think the bears really care what color they are.

7. Swamp Dewberry aka Rubus hispidus

I think of swamp dewberry (Rubus hispidus) as a trailing raspberry because its fruit looks like a black raspberry and its stems are every bit as prickly, but it also looks a lot like a strawberry when it’s in bloom because of its strawberry like leaves. Its fruit is said to be sour and is said to be the reason it isn’t cultivated. Native Americans had many medicinal uses for this plant, including treating coughs, fever and consumption. Swamp dewberry, as its name implies, is a good indicator of a wetland or moist soil that doesn’t dry out.

8. Clematis

I spotted this gorgeous clematis growing in a friend’s garden one recent evening.

9. Black Locust

Our locust trees are blooming. The one shown here is a black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) loaded with white, very fragrant blooms. One way to identify the tree is by the pair of short spines at the base of each leaf. Like many other legumes its leaflets fold together at night and when it rains.

10. Black Locust

Locusts are in the same family as peas and beans and the flowers show the connection. Black locusts were prized by colonial Americans for their tough, rot resistant wood. In 1610 colonists found black locust trees planted beside Native American dwellings and thought the Natives were using the tree as an ornamental, so they decided to use it that way as well .They also used the wood for ship building, forts and fence posts while the Natives used it to make bows and blow darts. It was once said to be the toughest wood in all the world and was one of the first North American trees exported to Europe.

11. Bristly Locust aka Robinia hispida

Bristly locust (Robinia hispida) is more shrub than tree, but it can reach 8 feet. The beautiful pinkish purple flowers are very fragrant and bees really love them. Every time I find one in bloom it is absolutely covered with bees, which makes getting photos a challenge. What sets this locust apart from others are the bristly purple-brown hairs that cover its stems. Even its seedpods are covered by hairs. Bristly locust is native to the southeastern United States but has spread to all but 7 of the lower 48 states, with a lot of help from nurseries selling it for ornamental use.

12. Yarrow

We humans have used common yarrow (Achillea millefolium) in various ways for thousands of years. It is mentioned in the Chinese I Ching, which is said to pre date recorded history, and yarrow has also been found in an excavation of a Neanderthal grave site. Yarrow was known as the soldier’s woundwort and herbe militaris for centuries, and was used to stop the flow of blood from a soldier’s wounds. Closer to home, Native Americans used it for everything from snake bites to deodorant. Yarrow was a valuable healing herb, one of the nine “holy herbs,” and was traded throughout the world since before recorded time, and that is believed to be the reason for the plant being found in nearly every country on earth today.

13. White Baneberry

The club shaped flower heads of white baneberry (Actaea pachypoda) have appeared but they have many fewer blossoms than they had last year. That of course means fewer of the white berries that have a single black dot and are called doll’s eyes. Fewer of those might not be a bad thing because I find these plants growing at a local park where many children play and the berries are very toxic. Luckily they are also very bitter so the chances that anyone would eat one are fairly slim.

 14. Bowman's Root

Bowman’s root (Gillenia trifoliata) is a native wildflower but only grows in two New England Sates as far as I can tell; Massachusetts and Rhode Island, which seems odd but that explains why I’ve never seen one in the wild. This photo shows a fine, 2 foot tall specimen that grows in a local park. Other names are Indian physic or American ipecac because Native Americans would dry the root and use it as an emetic and laxative. It would make a beautiful addition to a shaded perennial garden.

15. Bowman's Root Blossom

An unusual feature of bowman’s root is how the five petals on the white, star shaped flowers are never symmetrical. Another common name for this plant is fawn’s breath and it is appropriate, because these flowers dance and sway in the gentlest hint of a breeze. From a distance it looks like a swarm of beautiful white butterflies are paying it a visit.

16. Siberian Iris

When I think of June I think of irises and here’s a Siberian Iris (Iris sibirica.) I had to move fast this year to get a shot of one of these beauties. It was so hot when they bloomed they said “hey wait a minute; this isn’t Siberia,” and shriveled up into crinkly blue blobs after 2 days. Siberian iris has been known at least since before the 1500s. It was first collected by monks in Siberia in the Middle Ages and grown in monasteries, and later was distributed around Europe. It has been cultivated in England since 1596, so it’s an old, old favorite. This one was given to me by a friend many years ago and I’ve never done a thing to it except hack it to pieces with a hatchet when it gets too big. It’s just about the toughest plant I’ve ever met.

The creation of the world did not take place once and for all time, but takes place every day. ~Samuel Beckett

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1. Black Locust Thorns

I tugged on what I thought was a black locust twig (Robinia pseudoacacia) stuck in the snow but I quickly found out it that was still attached to the stump by dragging the side of my hand over its thorns. Yes, those thorns are every bit as sharp as they look. To be botanically accurate, they are actually stipules. A stipule is a growth that appears on either side of a leaf stalk (petiole.) In the case of the black locust these stipules have been modified into sharp spines, so that makes them stipular spines.

2. Black Locust Seed Pod

If the stipular spines don’t convince you that you’re looking at a black locust, the flat seed pods will. These dark brown pods stay attached to the tree and their color lightens during the winter. Finally as spring nears they begin to fall and, though they are light and can be blown long distances, many can be found under the tree on top of the snow, as the photo shows. The tiny brown seeds look like miniature beans. Their coating is very tough and black locust seeds can remain viable for many years.

3. Honey Locust Thorn

Another locust that I see regularly is the honey locust (Gleditsia triacanthos), which in my opinion bears the king of all thorns. These thorns are big and as hard as iron. They can reach 6 inches in length and poke right out of the bark of the tree along its branches and sometimes even the main trunk. They are tough enough to puncture shoe soles and I always watch my step when I walk under one of these trees because thorns like these can cause a nasty wound. Confederate soldiers once used them to pin their uniforms together and survivalists still use them as fish hooks, spear heads, nails, sewing needles and even small game traps.

4. Round Holes in White Pine

I wondered what could have created these perfectly round holes on this dead white pine log (Pinus strobus). They weren’t in the usual neat rows that a sap sucker makes and anyway they were much larger than sapsucker holes. Each hole was about 3/8 inch in diameter and after some Googling I found that an invasive horntail called the Sirex woodwasp (Sirex noctilio) likes pine trees and makes exactly these kinds of holes. But it hasn’t been found in New Hampshire yet, so it was back to more Googling. The Asian long horned beetle (Anoplophora glabripennis) is another invasive species that makes holes just like this but it only attacks hardwoods, so again it was back to Google.  Finally I found that a native beetle called the white spotted pine sawyer (Monochamus scutellatus) makes holes in weak and damaged white pines but I couldn’t find a good example of its hole, so I really don’t have an answer.

5. Hole in White Pine

Being an engineer by trade these days I’m fascinated by any creature that could make such a perfectly round hole. Maybe I should have poked around in there. The photo makes it look like something might have been at home. If you know what makes holes like this I’d love to hear from you.

 6. Milk White Toothed Polypore

It might be spring but the “winter” mushrooms are still going strong. One of my favorites is the milk white toothed polypore (Irpex lacteus,) which in my experience is hardly ever really milk white. Its teeth lean more towards tan or yellowish brown. The teeth start life as tubes or pores in the spore bearing surface, which breaks apart with age to become tooth like as the above photo shows. This crust fungus is common on fallen branches and rotting logs.

7. Maleberry Seed Pods

I found this native northern maleberrry (Lyonia ligustrina) shrub growing between two highbush blueberry shrubs on the river bank. Maleberry is sometimes called male blueberry because the flowers look much like blueberry flowers, but the fruit of the two bushes is very different. The fruit on this bush is a hard, woody, 5 part seed pod. Maleberry fruit is said to make a good insect repellant, but you have to get them before they become hard and woody. Native Americans used its straight young stems to make bows, so its wood must be quite strong, flexible, and elastic. It is said that the wood also makes good fence posts but I’ve never seen a maleberrry branch that was big enough in diameter to be used for one.

 8. Maleberry Seed Pod

Maleberrry is one of the easiest of all our native shrubs to identify in winter because its seed pods persist until spring. I just look for the star. There’s a very good chance when you find a maleberrry that there will be blueberries growing nearby.

 9. Winter Stonefly

The first insect I’ve seen since last fall was a winter stonefly. This one was living up to its name by resting on top of a granite post near the Ashuelot River. Its nymphs live beneath rocks and gravel on the bottom of streams and rivers. When the adults emerge they can be found along river and pond banks all winter long, so they are not a good indicator of spring. The adults feed on blue-green algae and the nymphs on aquatic plants. Hungry trout love to eat the nymphs and fishermen use them as live bait.

10. Willow

Willows have just started showing their furry gray catkins and if we hadn’t plunged back into another cold snap it wouldn’t have been too long before we saw their flowers. The cold we’re seeing now will hold them back for a while but it won’t hurt them any. Willows are a spring favorite that many of us enjoy seeing but they’re famous for clogging any type of piping with their moisture seeking roots, so they should never be planted close to a house. They’re great for planting along stream and pond banks because their extensive root systems help hold the soil in place.

11. Witch Hazel Bud

The spring blooming witch hazels in a local park that I visit have been slow to unfurl their strap shaped flower petals, but if you look closely you can see that the bud scales are opening enough to show the 4 bright yellow petals tucked up into the buds. Spring witch hazels often make the mistake of blooming too early and their flower petals turn brown because of damage from the cold, but not this year. Each bud in this photo is about as big as a small pea.

12. Alder Catkins

Speckled alder catkins are just showing signs of producing pollen, as the greenish smudges on the larger male catkins in this photo shows. Soon the bud scales will pull back and the flowers will open. Spring is happening but right now you have to look around a bit to see it.

 13. Skunk Cabbage Spathe

The one plant that tells me that spring is really here is skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus). It doesn’t waste time worrying that it might be too cold; it just raises its internal temperature and melts its way through the ice and snow and shouts that spring is finally here. I don’t know if the black bears are coming out of hibernation yet but if they are they’ll be happy to see skunk cabbages. It’s often the only food available to them in early spring.

14. Skunk Cabbage Flower

You can just see the rounded greenish yellow flower head through the opening in the red and yellow mottled spathe on this one. This plant is called skunk cabbage for a good reason, and it is thought that its odor attracts pollinators like flies, stoneflies and bees. Since skunk cabbage can raise its internal temperature by as much as 35º F above the surrounding air temperature, it is also thought that warmth might be another reason that insects visit them.

Spring is sooner recognized by plants than by men.  ~Chinese Proverb

Thanks for stopping in and happy spring!

Note: Today marks the start of the fifth year of this blog. I’ll take this opportunity to say that I appreciate your continued interest and I thank you very much for taking the time to read about what I think is important, and for leaving such thoughtful and often very helpful comments.

Allen

 

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1. Monadnock

When I’m out looking for plants I’ve never seen I often take photos of the places I visit, and most of those never appear here. I don’t consider myself a very good landscape photographer, but for a change of pace I thought I’d show some of the local scenery that I see in my travels. This photo is of Mount Monadnock from Perkins Pond in Troy, New Hampshire. I went there thinking I could get a good shot of a yellow water lily and found that there were so many of them that you couldn’t hardly see the water surface in places.

 2. Open Space

When you live in a 4.8 million acre forest big, open spaces are rare, so I always take a few shots of those that I find. I took this photo more for the clouds than anything else. They were so low that it felt as if I might touch them if I jumped high enough.

 3. Woodland Path

This is one of many woodland trails I visit. On most days I’m more likely to be found in a place like this than anywhere else. This particular piece of forest has soil that has been undisturbed for a very long time and plants like striped wintergreen (Chimaphila maculate) and downy rattlesnake plantain orchid (Goodyera pubescens) grow here.

4. Ashuelot Beach

Anyone who has been reading this blog for any length of time knows that I also spend time on the banks of the Ashuelot River, where I find a lot of different wildflowers. Last winter this entire area was completely covered by a thick sheet of ice and it amazes me how the plants that live here can survive it.

5. Pond View

This small pond is another spot that I visit often. It’s in a place called Robin Hood Park in Keene, which I keep telling myself I’m going to do a post about but never do. There is a path that goes around the entire pond and the huge old white pine and eastern hemlock trees keep it very shaded and moist, so many different mushrooms and slime molds grow here. When the warm muggies arrive in summer this is the first place I go to look for all of the things that grow in low light.

 6. Hunting Shack

I don’t usually take many photos of man-made objects but this old hunting shack had a for sale sign so I thought I’d stop and take a look. It needs a little work but it can probably be had for a song.

7. Old Wheel

This old wheel had been leaning against the wall of the shack for a while. It was a white rubber tire on a steel rim with wooden spokes. I’ve never seen one like it.

8. Stone Steps

One day I came upon these stone steps out in the middle of nowhere and walked up them, thinking I’d find an old cellar hole at the top, but there was nothing there. They were just stairs that led to nothing, not even a path.

9. Pond Relections

This photo is of reflections, because the water was as still as a sheet of glass.

 10. Roadside Meadow

One of the things I love about New Hampshire in the summertime is how quickly the road sides can become beautiful meadows. Sometimes you can drive along a road and not see any flowers and then just a day or two later they’re everywhere. It’s hard to have a pessimistic view of life while surrounded by beauty like this.

 11. Black Locust leaves

Looking up through the branches of a black locust tree. I’ve always liked the dappled sunlight that is found under locust trees.

12. Kayak

Here’s a shot of the kayak that I bought at a moving sale last fall. This shot was taken just before I took it out on our maiden voyage recently. It was and is a lot of fun, but I’ve got to get used to it. I bought it because there is a pond I know of where rose pogonia orchids, pitcher plants and sundews grow but the only way to see them is in a boat. That will happen next year, after I have my sea legs under me. Right now being alone in a kayak out on a pond that is miles from nowhere doesn’t seem like such a good idea.

13. Island

The kayak took me to this island in another local pond. Most of the bushes growing on its shores are high bush blueberries, but they weren’t ripe yet. This pond has people living all around it so if anyone has a boating accident help is within earshot.

 14. Swamp at Sunset

This is a local swamp I visit sometimes to watch the sun set. Sunsets can be really spectacular here but on this evening it was too cloudy.

15. Cloudscape

I thought I saw the head of a lion come roaring out of the leading edge of these clouds one evening.

Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under the trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the blue sky, is by no means waste of time. ~John Lubbock

Thanks for coming by.

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1. Blue Flag Iris

It’s hard to believe that it is iris time already, but here they are. This is a native blue flag (Iris versicolor) that I found growing near a pond. Such beauty, and all to convince the bees that this, more than any other, is the flower that they should visit.

2. Bunchberry Flowers

If, when you look at a bunchberry plant (Cornus canadensis) it reminds you of something else, that’s because it is in the dogwood family. Like a dogwood blossom its large white bracts surround smaller flowers. Even the 2 larger and 4 smaller leaves look like a dogwood. In fact, an old name for the plant is creeping dogwood. They like moist, shady woods.

3. Bunchberry Flowers

A closer look at tiny bunchberry flowers. If pollinated each flower will become a bright red, single seeded drupe, and the plant will then have the bunch of “berries” that give it its common name.

4. Rhodora Blossoms

Rhodora (Rhododendron canadense,) is a small, native rhododendron that loves swampy places. It is native to the northeastern U.S. and Canada and both its western and southern limits are reached in Pennsylvania. The flowers appear before the leaves, but only for a short time in spring. By mid-June they will have all vanished. On May 17, 1854 Henry David Thoreau wrote “The splendid Rhodora now sets the swamps on fire with its masses of rich color,” and that is exactly what this beautiful little plant does.

5. Cow Vetch

Cow vetch (Vicia cracca) is a native of Europe and Asia that loves it here and has spread far and wide. According to the Invasive Plant Atlas of the United States the vining plant is present in every U.S. state. Cow vetch can have a taproot nearly a foot long and drops large numbers of seeds, so it is hard to eradicate. It is very similar to hairy vetch, but that plant has hairy stems. I like its color and it’s nice to see it sprinkled here and there among the tall grasses.

6. Ox Eye Daisy

I got married in June and we couldn’t afford flowers from a florist so we picked ox-eye daisy blossoms (Leucanthemum vulgare.) That’s when I discovered that they look much better along a roadside than they do in a vase. This one had a visitor.

7. Yellow Hawkweed

Each strap shaped, yellow “petal” on a yellow hawkweed flower head (Hieracium caespitosum) is actually a single, complete flower. The buds, stem, and leaves of the plant are all very hairy and the rosette of oval leaves at the base of the stem often turn deep purple in winter. The Ancient Greeks believed that hawks drank the sap of this plant to keep their eyesight sharp and so they named it hierax, which means hawk.

8. White Foxglove

I’ve seen foxglove flowers (Digitalis) in the past which, even though they tried very hard to be white, were more off white or pale yellow, but those pictured were definitely white. Though eye catching, all parts of this plant are toxic and eating even a small amount can be fatal.

9. White Foxglove

Though it is said that the spots on a foxglove flower are elfin finger prints, they are actually a kind of guide or “landing strip” for bees. In many foxglove blossoms the spots are fluorescent at night under black light and, since bees see in ultraviolet light, viewing the flowers under black light gives us an idea of what bees must see.

10. Black Locust Blossoms

I love smelling the flowers of the black locust tree (Robinia pseudoacacia.) I think of them as a kind of poor man’s wisteria because their fragrance seems very similar to me. The flowers might also look familiar to vegetable gardeners because the black locust is in the pea family (Fabaceae.) One way to identify the tree is by the pair of short spines at the base of each leaf. Like many other legumes its leaflets fold together at night and when it rains.

11. Purple Robe Black Locust

These flowers also belong to the black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia, ) but I believe that this tree is a cultivar called “purple robe” that has escaped cultivation. I find it in the woods occasionally and have been a little confused about its origin. It lacks the short spines at the base of its leaves and instead has bristly hairs on its stems. It always seems to be growing in small colonies when I see it and I’m hoping that a reader might know more about it. The flowers are very fragrant and bees really love this tree. Every time I find one in bloom it is absolutely covered with bees, which makes getting photos a challenge.

Note: Josh from the Josh’s Journal blog has identified this plant as bristly locust (Robinia hispida,) which is a native, shrubby locust. Thanks to Josh for putting several years of wondering about this plant to rest. This is a great illustration of how long it can take to correctly identify plants in rare cases.

12. Blue Toadflax

I recently found the biggest colony of native blue toadflax plants (Nuttallanthus canadensis) that I’ve ever seen growing alongside a road. This plant seems to like sunny and dry, sandy waste areas because that’s where I always find it growing. It’s always worth getting down on my hands and knees to admire its tiny but beautiful blue / purple flowers.

13. Bowman's Root

Bowman’s root (Gillenia trifoliata) has many other common names, such as Indian physic or American ipecac, both of which tell me that I don’t want to be eating any of it. Native Americans dried the root and used it as an emetic and laxative so some of its common names make sense, but I’ve never been able to find out where the name bowman’s root originated. This two foot tall native plant makes an excellent addition to a partially shaded perennial border.

14. Bowman's Root

An unusual feature of bowman’s root is how the five petals on the beautiful white, star shaped flowers are never quite symmetrical.

Another common name for this plant is fawn’s breath and, though I don’t know its origin, these flowers sway in the gentlest hint of a breeze and I can imagine someone thinking that it didn’t take more than the breath of a fawn to get them dancing.

15. Pink Lady's Slipper

Pink lady’s slippers (Cypripedium acaule) are one of the most beautiful things you’ll see in the woods of New Hampshire in the spring. Their blooming period has nearly ended for this year, so I thought I’d show one more before next spring. This is the darkest colored one that I saw this year.

I often try to take a photo of the darkest flower in a group and then compare them at the end of the blooming period. I do this with many different kinds of flowers and the differences are sometimes quite surprising.

In every man’s heart there is a secret nerve that answers to the vibrations of beauty. – Christopher Morley

Thanks for stopping in.

 

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