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Posts Tagged ‘Bluestem Goldenrod’

It has been so hot and dry here lately some of the lawns have gone crisp and make a crunching sound when you walk on them, but there was a single dandelion blooming on one of them all the same. I was surprised to see it because dandelions rest through the hottest part of the summer and don’t usually bloom until it gets cooler in fall. I hope this isn’t the last one I see this year. It’s a cool rainy day as I type this, so maybe that will convince more of them to blossom.

Heal all (Prunella lanceolata) is still blooming in lawns everywhere I go. This plant is also called self-heal and has been used medicinally for centuries. It is said to cure everything from sore throats to heart disease, and that’s how it comes by its common name. Native Americans drank tea made from the plant before a hunt because they believed it improved their eyesight. The tiny orchid like flowers look like a bunch of little mouths, cheering on life.

Bluestem goldenrod (Solidago caesia) grows in the shade away from the hot sun but it has still been hot enough even there to melt all of the wax crystals from its stems. It is this natural wax coating, the same “bloom” found on plums and blueberries, that makes the stems blue and without it this looks like many other goldenrods, and that makes them a little harder to identify. Luckily these examples are old friends and I know them well, so there is no doubt.

I think this was an example of the bushy American aster (Symphyotrichum dorsum) which has small blue flowers and looks much like the small white American aster (Symphyotrichum racemosum) in size and growth habit.  Each flower is about a half inch across and plants might reach waist high on a good day, but they usually flop over and lean on the surrounding plants as this one has. It likes dry, sandy fields and that’s exactly where I found it growing.

I found a tiny, knee high bull thistle (Cirsium vulgare) with a single flower head on it, in a color that I’ve never seen it wear before. It had a lot of white in it and bull thistle flowers are usually solid pinkish purple. It is also called spear thistle, and with good reason; just look at those thorns.

Here’s another look at the bull thistle flower head. I’ve never seen another like it. I wonder if it’s some sort of natural hybrid. Or maybe, because it is so loose and open, I’m just seeing parts of it I haven’t seen before.

I was surprised to find creeping bellflowers (Campanula rapunculoides) still blooming. This pretty flowered plant was introduced as a garden ornamental from Europe and escaped to find nice dry places in full sun, which it loves. It’s usually finished blooming by the time the goldenrods start but this year it looks as if this plant will outlast them. It’s a plant that is very easy to identify, with its pretty blue / purple bell shaped flowers all on one side of its stem.

I don’t know if it’s the unusual hot temperatures we’ve had or if there is another reason but I’m seeing a lot of summer flowers that I shouldn’t be seeing now, like this St. Johnswort (Hypericum perforatum.) It usually blooms in June and July and should be long since done by now but I guess it can do whatever it wants. In any event it’s a pretty thing and I was happy to see it. Originally from Europe, St. Johnswort has been used medicinally for thousands of years. It likes to grow in open meadows in full sun.

Yet another plant that I was surprised to find still blooming was purple flowering raspberry (Rubus odoratus.) This plant is in the rose family and has flowers that are 2 inches across and large, light gathering leaves that it needs to grow in the shade. It usually blooms in July for about 3 weeks but I was happy to see it in September.

At about 2 or 3 times the size of a standard raspberry the berry of the purple flowering raspberry looks like an extra-large raspberry. It is said by some to be tart and dry but others say it tastes like a raspberry if you put it on the tip of your tongue. This was an important plant to the Native Americans. They had over 100 uses for it, as both food and medicine.

Joe Pye weed (Eupatorium) starts blooming in late July and is usually finished by now, but you can still see them here and there. Joe Pye is thought to have been a Native American healer who used this plant to treat early Massachusetts Bay Colony settlers suffering from typhoid fever, but the discussion over the origin of the name goes back and forth. For instance I’ve read that a Native word for the plant was “jopi,” which meant typhoid, and it is thought by some that jopi the plant name became Joe Pye the person’s name. I learned just this year that monarch butterflies love these flowers.

Most purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) plants stopped blooming weeks ago so I was surprised to find one still blooming. This is an invasive perennial that came over from Europe in the ballast of a cargo ship in the 1800s. The beach sand ballast, loaded with purple loosestrife seeds, was originally dumped on Long Island, New York. The seeds grew, the plant spread and now it covers most of Canada and all but 5 of the lower Untied States. It likes wet, sunny meadows but will grow just about anywhere. It’s hard to deny its beauty, especially when you see a meadow full of it growing alongside yellow goldenrods, but the plant chokes out natives including goldenrod and creates monocultures.

I was also surprised to see an ox-eye daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare) blooming but that’s one of the great things about nature study; there is always another surprise right around the next bend. I’m always grateful to be able to see and smell flowers but even more so in at this time of year because it is then, when they really shouldn’t be blooming, that I remember what a great gift they are. The plant came over from Europe in the 1800s but is much loved and many believe it to be a native.

Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica) still blooms here and there but it’s pretty well finished for this year. Its final act will be to drop millions of seeds before it dies back completely until spring. This plant was brought to Europe from Japan sometime around 1829. It was taken to Holland and grown in nurseries that sold it as an ornamental. From there it found its way across the Atlantic where we still do battle with it today. It is one of the most invasive plants known and the only plant I have ever seen overtake it is purple loosestrife, which is also an invasive weed. Japanese knotweed is also a tough plant that is very hard to eradicate once it has become established.

Japanese knotweed does have pretty flowers but they aren’t enough to convince people that it’s a plant worth having on their property. It can take over entire yards when left alone.

Bugbane (Cimicifuga racemosa) bloomed in a local children’s butterfly garden. This plant gets its common name from its powerful fragrance that is said to chase away bugs when bouquets of its long racemes are brought inside. Other names for it include black snakeroot and black cohosh. Native Americans used it for centuries to treat pain, fever, cough, pneumonia, and other ailments. They also taught the early European settlers how to make a tonic from the plant to boost women’s reproductive health; a kind of spring tonic.

The pee gee hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata) is a “panicled” hydrangea, meanings its flower heads are cone shaped rather than round. These plants grow into large shrubs sometimes reaching 10-20 feet tall and nearly as wide. Though originally introduced from Japan in 1862 this plant is thought to be native by many and is a much loved, old fashioned favorite. What I like most about this hydrangea is how the flower heads turn a soft pastel pink in the fall. When they’re cut and dried they’ll hold their color for quite a long time.

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) starts blooming usually in June and then takes a rest in the heat of summer before re-blooming when it cools off again. Its flowers are sparse at this time of year but I find it blooming here and there. Humans have used this plant in various ways for thousands of years. It is mentioned in the Chinese I Ching, which is said to pre date recorded history, and it has 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. It 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. Native Americans used it for everything from snake bites to deodorant.

I never thought I’d see chicory (Cichorium intybus) blooming in September but here they were on the roadside and I was happy to see them. The flowers were small for chicory at about 3/4 of an inch across, but their beautiful shade of blue more than made up for their small size.

We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures. ~Thornton Wilder

Thanks for coming by.

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This is the second part of a two part post about an old abandoned road here in Keene, New Hampshire. To read part one just scroll down or click here.

 1. Bluestem Goldenrod

As I said in part one, there are many wildflowers that grow along this old road and this one, blue stemmed goldenrod (Solidago caesia), is rare in this area. This road is one of only two places that I know of to find this plant. With its little tufts of flowers spread out along its stem it is one of the easiest goldenrods to identify. The “blue stem” comes from the waxy coating on the stem that protects it from sunlight and helps hold in moisture. It is very similar to the whitish “bloom” seen on blueberries.

 2. Bluestem Goldenrod

A closer look at the flowers of blue stemmed goldenrod.

 3. Poison Ivy

Wildflowers aren’t the only plants found here. Poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) runs rampant on both sides of the road. This isn’t the place to be hiking with shorts on.

 4. Ledges

On the side of the road opposite Beaver Brook ledges soar quite high in places. These ledges were cut out of the bedrock by hand, long before there were power tools to do the job.They are great places to find mosses and lichens.

 5. Common Powderhorn Lichen

I found these common powderhorn lichens growing on one of the ledges. There are very similar to British soldier lichens, but without the red tips.

 6. Star Drilled Stone

You can still see evidence of the star drills that were used to drill into the stone, which happens to be feldspar in this example. Star drills were long pieces of steel with a star shaped tip that were held by one man while two others hit the end with sledge hammers. After each hammer blow the drill would be rotated 1/8 turn and eventually a hole would be cut into the stone. A good team could do about 12 holes per day. Once enough holes were drilled small tools called feathers and wedges were tapped into each one to split the stone away from the ledge face. Then all of the fallen stone would have had to have been put into ox carts and hauled away. This was very labor intensive and it took a long time to cut a road through solid rock. This is why old roads were so full of curves-they followed the path of least resistance.

 7. Beaver Brook Falls

Beaver Brook cascades over ledges into a small, shaded pool that was once a popular swimming hole. There seems to be a lot of conflicting information about how high the falls are. I’ve heard everything from 10 feet to 100 feet, but I’d guess that they are closer to 30 to 40 feet and maybe 50 if you include the part that isn’t visible in this photo. They are certainly high enough to allow me to say with certainty that you wouldn’t catch me jumping off those ledges.

If you’d like to see a very short video from above the falls taken by someone with absolutely no fear of heights, just click here. You’ll also be able to hear the great roar of the falls.

NOTE: What the person who shot this video did was extremely dangerous because of the crumbling cliff faces and I would strongly urge others to not try it. I hope he at least had a rope around his waist!

 8. Beaver Brook Falls

A lot of people come here to see the falls, but to get a clear view of them like that in the photo you have to climb/ slide / fall down a very steep embankment and then climb over large boulders. I did all of that 6 or 7 times trying to get photos for this post and I’m glad I don’t have to do it again right away. This photo shows a hint of the large stone in the center of the lower part of the falls that splits them in two in dry weather. Beaver Brook’s headwaters are in Gilsum, New Hampshire, north of Keene, and when the falls are split in half, you know that it has been very dry there.

 9. Historic Beaver Brook Photo

This old hand colored postcard shows the falls split in two due to dry weather. This photo was taken sometime around 1910 and if you look very closely above and to the right of the falls you can see a woman sitting on a ledge with her feet hanging over. There is a bare tree branch hanging down just behind her on her right. (Our left) She is wearing a long, rose colored dress and a big, wide brimmed hat. Most of these old photos and postcards have people in them somewhere, but I’m not sure why. It’s possible that it was done to give an idea of scale, which this lady does very well. Maybe she had been diving into the pool from the ledges and was resting.

 10. Path to Road from Falls

I know why the lady in the rose colored dress needed a rest! If you think getting down to the brook to get photos of the falls was difficult, just wait until you have to climb back up carrying cameras and a tripod! It’s close to vertical but with just enough slant to make it possible.

11. Old Postcard

Here is a view of the falls circa 1900 that you can’t see today because trees and brush block the view. It seems amazing to me that this land was once so clear, with hardly a bush or tree on the hillsides. If it wasn’t for their roar you could walk right past the falls today while hardly getting a glimpse of them.

If you’re wondering if there is a person in this postcard the answer is yes. He or she is standing on the road beside the white fence just about even with the falls. It’s either a woman wearing a long black dress with a white collar or a man with a long white beard wearing a long black coat. This postcard was made from a hand colored black and white photograph.

12. New Highway

If you were to follow the road in the postcard view today you would run smack into one of the biggest piles of dirt you had ever seen. All of the fill that the “new” Route 9 North sits on had to be trucked in from elsewhere when the highway was built in the late 70s. It’s amazing to think that what was once a footpath beside a brook, used by Native Americans to hunt and fish from, is now a multi-lane highway. This was and is an important route north out of Keene and now leads to Concord, the state capital.

13. Old Road Extension

If you stand on the highway and look down you can still see part of the original old road. This view is on the opposite side of the highway from the falls that we were just visiting and the old road isn’t as overgrown. The highway was built directly across the road, cutting it off from motorized travel forever.

The old road was originally built to access a sawmill which was built on Beaver Brook in 1736. In 1735 100 acres of “middling good land” and 25 pounds cash was offered to anyone who could build a sawmill capable of furnishing lumber to the settlement of Upper Ashuelot, which is now called Keene. Without a sawmill you lived in a log cabin, so they were often built before anything else in early New England settlements.

14. Beaver Brook Dam

If you follow Beaver Brook upstream from the falls and across the new highway you will eventually come to this dam, built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1986. The dam has saved Keene from devastating floods several times, but it does not completely eliminate all flooding in the city. At capacity Beaver Brook Dam can hold back 106 acres of floodwaters.

15. Beaver Dam

Beavers are still here doing their part in finding flood control solutions too.

 16. Above the Dam

When flooding doesn’t occur the area behind the dam is essentially the same wetland, called “three mile swamp,” that it has always been. This is a great place to spot wildlife. As I was gathering photos for this post I saw ducks, geese, and a great blue heron who sat on a dead tree branch just out of camera range.

Well, now you folks know as much about this old rad and the surrounding area as I do. I hope it was an enjoyable excursion and I thank you for coming along.

We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open. ~ Jawaharial Nehru

 

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