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Posts Tagged ‘Burning Bushes’

Last Saturday the plan was for a quick visit the Ashuelot River to see if the burning bushes had all turned pink. I thought it would take no more than a half hour but nature had other plans, and I was there all morning. We’ve had close to ten inches of rain recently so as this photo shows, the river was quite high.

High water means good waves and since I Iove trying to get a good curling wave photo they drew me like a magnet.

Taking wave photos takes a while because the first step for me is watching and letting myself find the rhythm. Rivers have a rhythm which, without trying too hard, you can tune into. Once you’ve found the rhythm you can often just click the shutter button again and again and catch a wave almost every time. But they won’t all be perfect or blog worthy. This one was my favorite for this day.

This is what they look like when they’re building themselves up, getting ready to curl and break. My trigger finger was a little early in this case but you can’t win them all, even when you’re in tune with the river.

I finally remembered why I came and pulled myself away from the waves to see the burning bushes (Euonymus alatus.) They were very pink but not the soft, almost white pastel pink that I expected. They still had some orange in them, I think.

Though some leaves had gone white and had fallen from the bushes most looked like these. You have to watch them very closely at this time of year because hundreds of bushes can lose their leaves overnight. With it dark now when I get home from work it could be that I won’t have another chance.

They are very beautiful and it’s too bad that they are so invasive. As these photos show you can see hundreds of burning bushes and not much else. That’s because they grow thickly enough to shade out other plants and form a monoculture. Rabbits hide in them and birds eat the berries but few native plants can grow in a thicket like this. Their sale is banned in New Hampshire for that very reason.

The burning bushes grow all along this backwater that parallels the river. I don’t know how true it is but I’ve heard that this is a manmade channel that was dug so boats could reach a mill that once stood at the head of it, which is where I was standing when I took this photo. There is a lot of old iron and concrete rubble here, so it could be what’s left of the old mill. I had quite a time getting through the rubble and the brush to get to this spot but it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while, so I was determined.

On the way out a beautiful young beech lit by a sunbeam caught my eye.

It was a cool morning and several large mullein plants (Verbascum thapsus) looked to be an even lighter gray than usual with a light coating of frost.

Despite the cold, the mullein bloomed.

Witch hazels (Hamamelis virginiana) grow along a path that follows the river and though I followed it I didn’t see a single witch hazel blossom, but I did see these beautiful witch hazel leaves. Witch hazels don’t seem to be having a good year in this area. I’ve only seen three or four blossoms.

This was surprising. The bit of land I had been walking on has always been a long, narrow peninsula; a sharp finger of land pointing into the river and surrounded on three sides by water, but now the river has made the peninsula’s tip an island. When I was a boy I knew of a secret island in the Ashuelot which I could get to by crossing a fallen oak tree. The last time I visited that spot I found that the river had washed the island away without a trace, and I’m sure that the same thing will happen to this one eventually. I was a little disappointed; there was a large colony of violets that grew right at the base of that big tree on the right, and I used to visit them in the spring when they bloomed.

I saw the startling but beautiful blue of a black raspberry cane (Rubus occidentalis) at the edge of the woods. It’s a color you don’t expect to see unless there are blue jays nearby. On this day there did just happen to be a blue jay there and he called loudly the entire time I was looking at the black raspberry. I wondered if he was jealous.

The river grapes (Vitis riparia) looked like they were becoming raisins, but this is normal. The birds don’t seem to eat them until they’ve been freeze dried for a while. River grapes are also called frost grapes because of the extreme cold they can withstand. Many cultivated grape varieties have been grafted onto the rootstock of this native grape and it’s doubtful that cold will ever kill them. River grapes have been known to survive -57 degrees F. On a warm fall day they can make the forest smell like grape jelly, and often my nose finds them before my eyes do. Native Americans used grape plants for food, juice, jellies, dyes and basketry. Even the young leaves were boiled and eaten, so the grape vine was very important to them.

I missed a blooming dandelion but I was able to enjoy its sparkling seeds.

Red clover (Trifolium pretense) bloomed everywhere near the river, even though slightly frost covered. The rabbits that live here come out in the evening to feed on these clover plants and their constant pruning makes for healthy, bushy clover plants.

The goldenrods (Solidago) were still blooming here and there but they’re looking a little tattered and tired.

A few Queen Anne’s lace plants (Daucus carota) were also still blossoming and looked good and healthy but the flower heads were small. I didn’t see any bigger than a golf ball, but they still provide for the few insects that are still flying.

Most Queen Anne’s lace flower heads looked like this. Nearly stripped of seeds already, even though I’ve read that the seeds are saturated with a volatile oil which smells faintly of turpentine and which discourages birds and mice from eating the seeds. The seeds are carried by the wind and snow.

I thought I saw a feather on a twig but it turned out to be a milkweed seed blowing in the wind. The wind was quite strong but the seed refused to release its hold.

So much for a quick trip to the river. Instead I got another lesson in letting life happen instead of making it happen. It’s always good to let nature lead because when you do you are often drawn from one interesting something to another, and time spent in this way is never wasted.

There is always another layer of awareness, understanding, and delight to be discovered through synchronistic and serendipitous events. ~Hannelie Venucia

Thanks for stopping in.

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1. Aster

In a nutshell, Indian summer is a warm spell that follows cold weather. Since we saw several below freezing nights in October and then temperatures in the 70s F for the first week of November, I’d say that we saw Indian summer. Some of the flowers thought so too, like the aster pictured above.

This explanation of where the term Indian Summer originated is from the Old Farmer’s Almanac: “Early settlers would welcome the arrival of cold wintry weather in late October when they could leave their stockades unarmed. But then came a time when it would suddenly turn warm again, and the Native Americans would decide to have one more go at the settlers. “Indian summer,” the settlers called it.”

2. Indian Summer

A very strange thing happened on Friday, November 6th; as if someone flipped a switch somewhere, almost all the leaves fell from the oak trees, all at once and in one day, as if it were a leaf avalanche or a leaf waterfall. People wrote me from Vermont saying the same thing happened there and I’ve heard several people, including old timers, say that they’ve never seen anything like it. If you know oak trees at all you’re probably as baffled by this behavior as the rest of us because here in New England many oak trees don’t lose their leaves until winter is well under way, and some hang on until spring. It’s one of the strangest things I’ve ever seen nature do and I don’t have any idea what might have caused it. Did the same thing happen in your area too, I wonder?

3. Goldenrod

Goldenrod (Solidago) still blooms be sparsely, here and there.

4. Red Clover

This could very well be the last red clover blossom (Trifolium pretense) that I see until spring.

5. Forsythia

This forsythia thought that spring had already arrived.  I wonder what it will do when spring really does come. It would be too bad if the cheery yellow blossoms didn’t shout that spring had arrived, but I’m grateful for the taste of spring that this plant gave me in November.

6. Ladybug

A lady bug landed on my pant leg and stayed for a while before flying off. She didn’t say what she was looking for but I was surprised to see here so late in the year.

7. Slug

A slug was either sleeping or browsing on a moss, fungi, and lichen covered log. I just realized that I have no idea what slugs do in the winter.

8. Blue Purple Gray Fungi

There are still plenty of fungi appearing. These examples were blushing a blueish lavender color. I don’t know if they were blueish lavender aging to gray or if it was the other way around, so I haven’t been able to identify them.

9. Turkey Feather

A wild turkey lost a feather in the woods recently. You can see an acorn or two poking out of the forest litter and it makes sense that the feather would be among them because turkeys love acorns. This is one bird that flies with a lot of historical baggage; Native Americans first domesticated wild turkeys around 800 B.C. and raised them for their feathers.  It wasn’t until 1100 A.D., almost 2000 years later, that they started eating them. It is thought that only the Aztec turkey breed survived into the present day. The turkeys we eat today could very well be descendants of those same turkeys that the Aztecs raised, and wouldn’t that be amazing? A history nut could almost overload on information like that.

10. Hawk

According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, with a 4 foot wingspan red tailed hawks are one of the largest and also one of the most common birds that we see here. This one had caught something but I couldn’t see what it was. All I had with me was my small Panasonic Lumix camera that I use for macro photos and this bird was really too far away for a good photo, but I tried anyway. It came out very soft but at least you can see the beautiful hawk, which is something you don’t see very often on this blog.

11. Squirrel Tail

I don’t know if it was a hawk, bobcat, or another predator, but something took the squirrel and left the tail.  New Hampshire’s gray squirrel population is thriving this year because an abundance of food in the forests and predators are very happy about that.

12. Burning Bushes

I know a place where hundreds of burning bushes (Euonymus alatus) grow and I visit there in the fall because seeing them all turn a soft shade of pastel pink at once is a beautiful sight. This year for some reason they decided on yellow-orange instead of pink but still, even with the unexpected color they were enough to make me stop and just admire them for a few moments. Even though they’re terribly invasive it’s hard to hate a shrub that delights the eye as much as this one does.

13. Queen Anne's Lace

I wonder sometimes if every leaf changes color at least a little in the fall. These yellow ones are young examples of Queen Anne’s lace (Daucus carota.)

14. Beech Leaf

Isn’t it interesting how the path to the coldest season is strewn with the warmest colors?

What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness?  ~John Steinbeck

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