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Posts Tagged ‘Blackberry Seed Gall’

We had another couple of warm days last weekend with temps in the high 40s F, so I decided to go and check on the skunk cabbages (Symplocarpus foetidus) to see how they were doing. They are our earliest flowers, often flowering in March, and they grow around the swamp in the above photo, which is one of only two places I’ve seen them.

I doubted I’d see any since it’s only January but there was a single green shoot, probably still there from last fall. This is not a flower bud though, it is a leaf bud. Skunk cabbage is an arum and the actual flowers are hard to see because they blossom inside a spathe. A spathe is a modified leaf which in skunk cabbages usually is colored a splotchy, mottled yellow and maroon. True leaves appear around mid-April when the plant is done flowering.

Do cattails (Typha latifolia) produce new shoots in the fall or in spring? I wondered when I saw these. When I looked them up I read that new shoots appear in spring, but this is January. I have a feeling they appeared last fall and are just biding their time until it warms up. Native Americans wove cattail leaves into waterproof mats and used them on their lodges.

The approach to the swamp is through the woods shown here and then down the steep embankment in the distance, so I was glad there wasn’t much snow to slip and slide in.

I saw a bird’s nest and wondered, because of the way it hung from branches, if it was a Baltimore oriole’s nest. It was about as big around as a coffee mug and hung in a shrub at about waist high, which seems much too low for an oriole’s nest. The ones that I’ve seen have always been quite high up in the trees. Maybe there are other birds that weave nests that hang.

This photo shows how the bird hung the nest in the V shaped crotch of a branch. It is hung from 3 points for stability. Grasses, cattail leaves and birch bark is what the nest was mostly woven from. I wonder if Native Americans first learned to weave baskets by studying bird nests.

The shiny evergreen leaves of goldthread appeared by the place where skunk cabbages grow and surprised me, because I’ve never seen them here. Goldthread (Coptis trifolia) gets its name from its bright yellow, thread like root. Tiny but beautiful white flowers will appear in late April. Native Americans chewed the roots of goldthread to treat canker sores, which is why the plant is also called Canker root. The natives shared the plant with the English settlers and it became such a popular medicine that by 1785 shakers were paying 37 cents per pound for it dried, which meant people dug up all they could find. At one time there was more goldthread sold in Boston than any other native plant. Luckily after a couple of centuries the plant has recovered enough to be relatively common once again.

Partridgeberry (Mitchella repens) is a native plant that makes a good garden groundcover. Small, heart shaped leaves on creeping stems grow at ground level and you can mow right over it. In spring it has white trumpet shaped flowers that grow in pairs and in the fall it has bright red berries which are edible but close to tasteless. I leave them for the turkeys, which seem to love them. My favorite parts of this plant are the greenish yellow leaf veins on leaves that look as if they were cut from hammered metal. I have several large patches of it growing in my yard.

The small blackish bead-like sori that make up the fertile fronds of the sensitive fern (Onoclea sensibilis) will open to release the spores soon. Sensitive fern is another good indicator of moist places, so I wasn’t surprised to see it here. Its common name comes from its sensitivity to frost, which was first noticed by the early colonials. I just read that turkeys will peck at and eat the sori, and that is why sometimes you find the fern’s spores lying on the snow around the plant.

These oak leaves were pretty amazing for January, warm day or not. I’m not sure how they did this; most other oak leaves I’ve seen this winter have been brown, or sometimes pinkish brown. Maybe these were flash frozen in November, I don’t know, but it was a pleasure to see them.

We saw more pine cones fall from the white pines (Pinus strobus) this year than most of us have ever seen and the squirrels are reaping the harvest. They pull the cones apart scale by scale and eat the seeds, and big piles of scales are a common sight in the woods. Squirrels like to sit up higher than the surrounding landscape when they eat and often sit on stones or logs.

This is what’s left of a white pine cone when a squirrel is finished with it. Not much.

There are plenty of goldenrod and other seeds to keep the birds happy this year as well.

American hazelnut (Corylus americana) catkins are a common enough sight in the winter but I’m not sure what these examples were doing. They usually hang straight down but a couple of these decided to be different. These are the male flowers of the hazel shrub and before long, usually in mid-April, they will begin to show pollen and turn golden yellow.

Turkeys, squirrels and many other birds and animals usually eat hazelnuts up quickly so I was surprised to see quite a few nut clusters still hanging from the branches. It could be that the bumper crop of acorns is keeping the animals busy.

Blackberry seed gall is caused by the blackberry seed gall wasp (Diastrophus cuscutaeformis.) These very small, round hollow galls look like seeds and form in clusters around blackberry stems. Each tiny gall has a stiff, hair like spine and together they form a hairy mass like that in the photo. They start out bright yellow-green and mature to brownish red. This one was about as long as your index finger.

I hoped the vine I saw up in a tree was American bittersweet (Celastrus scandens), but it turned out to be just another invasive Oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus,) which is quickly outpacing the natives. That’s mainly because its berries are more enticing to birds and its seeds germinate much faster. The easiest way to tell American bittersweet from Oriental is by the location of the berries on the vine; American bittersweet berries grow on the ends of the vines and Oriental bittersweet berries grow all along them. While both vines climb trees and shrubs, American bittersweet is less likely to strangle its host like Oriental bittersweet will.

I keep seeing this red inner bark on some dead staghorn sumacs (Rhus typhina) and each time I see it I try to find out why it would be red, but so far I’ve never found an answer. It’s always surprising that such a beautiful color would be hidden from sight. Or maybe it turns red as it peels away.

There are often ducks here in this part of the swamp but they probably heard me long before I could have seen them and swam off. Soon this will be a very busy, growing place full of nesting red winged blackbirds, snapping turtles, herons, ducks, and frogs but for now it is simply open water and quiet and for me, that was enough.  I hope you have a nearby swamp or wetland that you can visit, because they’re fascinating places that are full of life.

Hope and the future for me are not in lawns and cultivated fields, not in towns and cities, but in the impervious and quaking swamps. ~Henry David Thoreau

Thanks for stopping in.

 

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1. Split Gill Underside

I loved the look of the underside of this split gill mushroom (Schizophyllum commune.) I’ve heard that the underside of this fungus could be reddish but until I saw this one I had only seen them in white. The gills split lengthwise as it dries out and that’s where its common name comes from. These are “winter mushrooms” and I often find them very late in the year, even when there is snow on the ground.

 2. Cobalt Crust Fungus

The cobalt crust fungus (Terana caerulea) is very beautiful and some say very rare, but I wondered if its rarity was because it grew on the underside of fallen oak limbs where they touch the soil surface. Unless the limb was disturbed it would never be seen, so since seeing this one I have peeked under several old rotting limbs to see if I could find another one. I haven’t seen one so maybe it really is rare. Another name for it is velvet blue spread. It can also come in lavender but since I’m colorblind it will always be blue to me.

3. Burning Bushes

Along the Ashuelot River in Swanzey there is quite a wide swath of invasive burning bushes (Euonymus alatus,) also called winged euonymus. They are protected by the trees overhead so they don’t begin to turn color until quite late. In this photo they are in their dark orangey-pink phase, but before too long they’ll all be pale pastel pink

4. Burning Bush Berries

This is why there are so many burning bushes along that section of river. The birds seem to love their berries. The bushes are beautiful at this time of year but they shade out native plants and create a monoculture, much like purple loosestrife and Japanese knotweed.

5. Virgin's Bower Foliage

Virgin’s bower leaves (Clematis virginiana) have taken on their fall plum purple shade.

 6. Royal Fern

In the fall royal ferns (Osmunda regalis) go from green to yellow, and then to orange brown. They grow in low swampy places along the sides of streams and ponds and are one of our most beautiful fern.

 7. Blackberry Gall

Blackberry seed gall is caused by the blackberry seed gall wasp (Diastrophus cuscutaeformis.) These very small round hollow galls look like seeds and form in clusters around blackberry stems. Each tiny gall has a stiff, hair like spine and together they form a hairy mass like that in the photo.  I showed this same mass here last spring and it was bright yellow-green and I wondered why it was described as brownish red. Now I know that it just needs time to age.

8. Grapes

The many smells of a New England autumn are as pleasing as the foliage colors. One of those smells is that of fermenting grapes, and I have a feeling that the woods will smell like grape jelly for a while this year.

9. Asparagus Berry

Asparagus plants come in male and female, meaning they are dioecious. If you see a small red berry on your asparagus then you have a female plant, but there has to be a male nearby. You also have asparagus seeds, which can be stored in a cool dry place and planted in the spring.  You’ll wait a while for an edible harvest though.

10. Juniper Berries

Some of the junipers are loaded with berries this year. Actually, though they’re called berries, botanically speaking they are fleshy seed cones. Unripe green berries are used to flavor gin and the ripe, deep purple-black berries are the only part of a conifer known to be used as a spice.

 11. Velvet Shank Mushrooms

Velvet shank mushrooms (Flammulina velutipes) are another “winter mushroom” that typically fruits in late fall. I’ve found them with snow on the ground during warm spells in winter, and they can and do survive freezing temperatures. Their stems feel like velvet and, though it can’t be seen well in this photo, are darker at the base and lighten as they get nearer the cap.

12. Fuzzy Foots

I thought these were chanterelle wax cap mushrooms (Hygrocybe cantharellus) but the dark stems didn’t quite match the descriptions. After searching my mushroom books again I realized that they are fuzzy foot mushrooms (Xeromphalina campanella,) so called because of the dense tuft of orange brown hairs at the base of each stem. I found them growing on the side of a mossy log. Each cap is about the same diameter as a nickel. They are one of the most photogenic of all the mushrooms, in my opinion.

13. Blue Crust Fungus

While I was looking for more cobalt crust fungi I found this light blue one instead. Like cobalt crust fungus it grew on a limb where it made contact with the soil. It’s a beautiful thing but I haven’t been able to identify it through books or online. If you’re reading this and happen to know what it is I’d love to hear from you.

 14. Forked Blue Curl Seed Pods

The seeds and seed pods of forked blue curls (Trichostema dichotomum) are so small that I can barely see them, but a macro lens reveals all of the hidden details, including the surprising colors and hairiness of the plant. Each pod carries two tiny seeds and since these plants are annuals those seeds will make sure that a new generation comes along next year.

15. Washed Up Leaves

The object of this post was to show that not all of the beauty is up in the trees at this time of year. We look to the sky and dream of paradise, forgetting that it is all around us, all of the time.

If you are lost inside the beauties of nature, do not try to be found. ~Mehmet Muratildan

Thanks for coming by.

 

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1. Bumblebee on Cone Flower

This bumblebee was so taken with this purple coneflower that I don’t think he even knew that I was there.

 2. Great Spangled Fritillary

If I understand what I’ve read correctly I think that this is a great spangled fritillary butterfly (Speyeria cybele.) It was about as big as a monarch butterfly but of course the best way to identify one is by the markings on the underside of the hind wing, which I didn’t get a photo of. In any case it was a beautiful sight perched as it was on a swamp milkweed flower head.

 3. Milkweed Aphids

I recently found this milkweed plant covered with aphids.  Not surprisingly, they are called milkweed aphids (Aphis nerii) and are tiny, bright yellow insects with black legs that pierce plant tissue and suck the juices out of plants. An aphid colony can produce large amounts of honeydew which attracts sooty mold and that is the black color. Aphids stunt plant growth and if not controlled will eventually kill the plant. These aphids are also called oleander aphids and in places like Florida can often be found on that shrub.

4. Sumac Gall

Growths like these on the undersides of staghorn sumac leaves (Rhus typhina) look like potatoes but they are red pouch galls caused by the sumac gall aphid (Melaphis rhois.) A female aphid lays eggs on the underside of a leaf and plant tissue swells around them to form a gall which turns red as it ages. The eggs overwinter and mature inside the hollow gall until spring, when they leave the gall and begin feeding on the plant. Scientists have paleobotanical evidence that this aphid has had a relationship with its sumac hosts for at least 48 million years.

5. Blackberry Seed Gall

Blackberry seed gall is caused by the blackberry seed gall wasp (Diastrophus cuscutaeformis.) These very small, round, hollow galls look like seeds and form in clusters around blackberry stems. Each tiny gall has a stiff, hair like spine and together they form a hairy mass like that in the photo. It feels very much like a baby bottle brush. These masses are usually described as being reddish brown in color so I’m not sure why this one was yellow green. Maybe they start out life that color and change to brown as they age.

6. Great Blue Heron

After a noticeable absence of herons and cormorants through spring and early summer I finally spotted this great blue heron far on the other side of a pond and was able to get a soft edged photo of him. He spent a lot of time preening his chest feathers so I wondered if he was drying off after a fishing session.

 7. False Solomon;s Seal Berries

The terminal blossom clusters of false Solomon’s seal (Maianthemum racemosum) become berries that start out beige-green and slowly become speckled with reddish brown before turning completely red. This plant is also called treacle berry because the berries are supposed to taste like treacle, which we call molasses here in the U.S. Some say that they taste sweet and syrupy like maple syrup and others say that they taste terrible. If you’re thinking that you’d like to try them be certain that the plant is false Solomon’s seal. Never eat any part of a plant that you’re not sure of.

8. Blue Bead Lily Fruit

Blue isn’t a color that you see very often in nature so I’m always happy to find the deep blue fruit of the blue bead lily (Clintonia borealis.) The seeds in these berries can take two years to germinate and adult plants can take twelve years to finally show their yellow, lily like blossoms. This plant is also called “cow tongue” because of the shape of its leaves. Native Americans used the leaves medicinally.

9. Balloon Flower Stigma

I didn’t think anything could match the blue of blue bead lily fruit but then I saw this balloon flower (Platycodon grandiflorus.) I like the little starfish like stigma, which was very hard to get a sharp photo of for some reason.

 10. Eastern Red Spotted Newt

Eastern red spotted newt s (Notophthalmus viridescens) are cute little things about four or five inches in length. This one watched me taking photos of a slime mold for a while before running off. They spend the first part of their life as aquatic larva before crawling onto land to begin their red eft stage as a terrestrial juvenile. After two or three years on land they develop gills as adults and return to aquatic life. The bright color tells potential predators to beware of their toxicity.

11. Bracken Ferns and Deer Tongue Grass

Bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum) and deer tongue grass (Dichanthelium clandestinum) are taking on their fall colors. The rosy brown of bracken fern and light, yellow green of deer tongue grass are a combination that is pleasing to the eye.

12. Honysuckle Leaves

For all who think that plants don’t have their own inner light; behold these honeysuckle leaves.

13. Rhododendron Maxima Flower

A single flower of our native Rhododendron maximum looks like it has 5 petals when it’s on the plant but it is actually one, 5 lobed petal. The yellowish green spots are at the top of the blossom so this one is pictured upside down. I tried rotating the photo 180 degrees but then it looked the blossom was about to slide off the page.

 14. Calico Pennant Dragonfly

I watched the wind blow this male calico pennant dragonfly (Celithemis elisa) back and forth like a flag as it hung onto the end of a twig, but the “pennant” part of the name didn’t click until later on when I was reading Mike Powell’s blog. A pennant was exactly what it behaved like so the name makes perfect sense. If you like dragonflies you should visit Mike’s blog. He gets far more photos of them than I do.

15. Cracked Earth

A stream had backed up into a low depression and formed a small pond. All of its silt then settled onto the forest floor in a thick layer, which then cracked as it dried. The silt deposit was thick enough so not a single twig, stone or stem came through it, and was so flat that I could have swept it. You don’t expect to find such a desert like landscape in the middle of a New Hampshire forest, so it was an amazing thing to see.

The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself. ~Henry Miller

Thanks for coming by.

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