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Posts Tagged ‘Cattail’

We’ve had some hot weather lately and that always makes me want to be near water, and of course when I’m near water I can’t help noticing the plants that grow there. Cattails (Typha latifolia) are the easiest to see, sometimes towering to 6 or 8 feet tall. They can grow faster than fertilized corn and can create monocultures by shading out other plants with their dense foliage and debris from old growth. They are very beneficial to many animals and birds and even the ponds and lakes they grow in by filtering runoff water and helping reduce the amount of silt and nutrients that flow into them. Scientists have recorded cattail marshes travel up to 17 feet in a year with prime conditions just by sending out new shoots. Of course, that doesn’t account for all the new plants that grow from seed.

Cattail flowers start life with the female green flowers appearing near the top of a tall stalk and the fluffy yellowish green male pollen bearing  flowers above them. Once fertilized the female parts turn from green to dark brown and the male flowers will fall off, leaving a stiff pointed spike above the familiar cigar shaped seed head. Cattail flowers are very prolific; one stalk can produce an estimated 220,000 seeds. Cattails were an important food for Native Americans. Their roots contain more starch than potatoes and more protein than rice, and native peoples made flour from them.  They also ate the new shoots in spring, which must have been especially welcome after a long winter of eating dried foods. They had uses for every part of this plant; even the pollen was harvested and used in bread.

Though Native Americans used blue flag irises medicinally its roots are considered dangerously toxic and people who dig cattail roots to eat have to be very careful that there are no irises growing among them, because the two plants often grow side by side. Natives showed early settlers how to use small amounts of the dried root safely as a cathartic and diuretic, but unless one is absolutely sure of what they’re doing it’s best to just admire this one. This photo is of the last one I saw blooming this year.

Bur reed grows just off shore but I’ve also found it growing in wet, swampy places at the edge of forests. Bur reeds can be a challenge to identify even for botanists, but I think the one pictured is American bur reed (Sparganium americanum.) There are two types of flowers on this plant. The smaller and fuzzier staminate male flowers grow at the top of the stem and the larger pistillate female flowers lower down.

The male staminate flowers of bur reed look fuzzy from a distance and kind of haphazard up close.

The female bur reed flowers are always lower down on the stem and look spiky rather than fuzzy. They’re less than a half inch across. After pollination the male flowers fall off and the female flowers become a bur-like cluster of beaked fruits that ducks and other waterfowl eat. The flowers of bur reed always remind me of those of buttonbush. This plant can colonize a pond very quickly. I know of one small pond that started with 2 or 3 plants a few years ago and now nearly half the pond is being choked out by them.

The seeds of the yellow pond lily plant (Nuphar lutea) were a very valuable food source to Native Americans, who ground them into flour. They also popped them much like popcorn, but unless the seeds are processed correctly they can be very bitter and foul tasting. The plant was also medicinally valuable to many native tribes. There were tiny flies crawling over most of the blossoms I saw on this day.

Mad dog skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora) plants grow in great bunches along the shorelines of lakes and ponds. These small blue-violet flowers get their common name from the way that the calyx at the base of the flowers look a bit like a medieval helmet, called a skull cap, and how the plant was once thought to cure rabies because of its anti-spasmodic properties. Though it doesn’t cure rabies there is powerful medicine in this little plant so it should never be eaten. When Native Americans wanted to go on a spirit walk or vision quest this was one of the plants they chose.

Mad-Dog Skullcap has the smallest flowers among the various skullcaps and they always grow in pairs in the leaf axils. Another skullcap, marsh skullcap (Scutellaria galericulata,) looks very similar and the two are difficult to tell apart. Both grow in full sun on grassy hummocks at the water’s edge, but the blossoms of mad dog skullcap are slightly smaller than those of marsh skullcap.

Some of the aquatic plants that I like to see up close grow far enough out in the water to have to be photographed from a boat or by swimming out to them with a waterproof camera. If you really want to challenge your photographic skills, try photographing aspirin sized flowers from a kayak that you can’t keep still.

Swamp roses (Rosa palustris) are about as big as an Oreo cookie and grew where I kayaked in great numbers. This rose, like many other plants, grows on hummocks  and small islands but it can grow in drier locations as well. I saw a lot of swamp milkweed too, but I couldn’t get close enough for a photo.

One day I saw a couple of Canada goose families eating cherries from cherry trees that had bent low over the water. I didn’t know that they did this.

The adults seemed to be trying to teach the goslings how to get at the cherries but the little birds didn’t have the neck stretch it took to reach the fruit.

What I believe is creeping spike rush (Eleocharis macrostachya) isn’t a rush at all; it’s a sedge, so I’m not sure why it’s called a rush. As sedges go this one is very small; just a spiked stem with a brushy little flower head on top and a couple of basal leaves. It likes to grow in standing water at pond and lake edges, just off shore but I’ve read that it will also grow in ditches, vernal pools, and wet meadows.

The flower head of this sedge is called a spikelet and it is about a half inch long. The cream colored oval parts are the male flowers and the wispy white feathery bits are the female flowers. There are several sedges in this family that look nearly identical so I could be wrong about its name. According to the book Grasses: An Identification Guide by Lauren Brown, the only way to tell them apart is by their tiny fruits, and I doubt that I could even see them.

Dwarf St. John’s wort (Hypericum mutilum) is a small, bushy plant that gets about ankle high and has flowers that resemble those found on its larger cousin, St. John’s wort. A noticeable difference, apart from their small size, is how the flowers lack the brown spots often found on the petals of the larger version. Since the plants often grow right at the water’s edge, you usually have to get wet knees to get a good photo of them.

One of the bonuses of looking for aquatics is that you see a lot of dragonflies, like this male common whitetail dragonfly. This dragonfly rests on twigs and grasses near the water, and sometimes on the ground. I haven’t seen one on the ground but I have seen them on stones. This isn’t a very good shot but he only perched long enough for one click of the shutter.

If only narrow leaved speedwell (Veronica scutellata) would grow at the water’s edge. Instead it grows in standing water in a very wet but sunny meadow and by the time I was finished taking its photo my feet were soaked. How odd it seems that a meadow could be in full sun all day every day and still be so wet, but we have had a lot of rain. The plant is also called marsh speedwell and that makes perfect sense.

Here’s a closer look at the flower of the narrow leaved speedwell. Small blue flowers with darker blue stripes are typical of speedwells, but these can also be white or purple. They are very small and only have room for two stamens and a needle-like pistil. The plants obviously love water because there were many plants growing in this very wet area. If you were looking for a native plant for the shallow edges of a water garden it might be a good choice. Though most speedwells we see here are non-native, this one belongs here. Like lobelias, Native Americans used plants in the veronica family to treat asthma.

Native swamp candles (Lysimachia terrestris) are one of our yellow loosestrifes that bloom at about the same time as the yellow whorled loosestrife that I spoke of in my last post. But whorled loosestrife likes dry ground and swamp candles like to have their feet wet most of the time. They are common along the edges of ponds and wetlands at this time of year. I’ve even seen them growing in standing water.

Swamp candles stand about 1-2 feet tall and have a club shaped flower head (raceme) made up of 5 petaled yellow flowers. With darker vegetation behind them swamp candles really live up to their name.

Though they are very hard to see in this example because of the bright light each yellow petal of a swamp candle flower has two red dots at its base that help form a ring of ten red dots around the five long stamens in the center of the flower. The petals are often streaked with red and the flowers are about half the size as those of whorled loosestrife.

Queen of all the aquatics in my opinion is the very beautiful fragrant white water lily (Nymphaea odorata.) A bright yellow fire burns in the center of its snow white petals, and its fragrance is much like that of honeydew melon. There are some flowers that are so beautiful I want to just sit and gaze at them all day, and this is one of them. To see a pond full of them is breathtaking.

It is life, I think, to watch the water. A man can learn so many things. ~Nicholas Sparks

Thanks for stopping in.

 

 

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1-bridge

The last time I talked to anyone at the Keene Middle School about it, it looked like the boardwalk through Tenant Swamp behind the school might be closed in winter, so I was happy and surprised to find it open last weekend. You enter the swamp by crossing this bridge.

2-stream

The bridge crosses over a small stream which on this day had a skim of ice. For a swamp there is remarkably little standing water seen here.

3-boardwalk

I was happy to see that the boardwalk had been shoveled. At least I thought so…

4-boardwalk

Until I walked a little further and saw this. The snow had turned to a solid block about 3 inches thick, but thankfully it wasn’t slippery. On the left in this photo you can see the tall stems of the common reed, which is invasive.

5-phragmites

The invasive reed is called Phragmities australis and has invaded the swamp in several places. Even in winter its reedy stems block the view. Tenant swamp is bisected by a highway (Rte. 12 N.) and you can see large colonies of it from the road. This reed came from Europe and forms large monocultures that even burning can’t control unless it is done 2 or 3 times. Not only does a thick matted root system choke out other plants, but decaying reeds also release gallic acid, which ultraviolet light turns into mesoxalic acid and which means that seedlings of other plants that try to grow near the reed have very little hope of survival. It appears to be here to stay.

6-swamp

I think that even if I was blindfolded and brought here I’d know that I was in a swamp. There just isn’t anything else quite like them and being able to walk through one is a rare opportunity. In 2010 Keene built a new middle school at the edge of Tenant Swamp and the building sits on a high terrace that overlooks it. Before the school could be built however an archaeological sensitivity assessment had to be done, and by the time the dig was completed it was found that Native Americans lived here at the end of the last ice age, approximately 11,000-12,000 years ago. The dig also found that the Ashuelot River once ran through here; about a half mile east of where it now flows. Since the site evolved into a swamp it was never farmed or built on so it was valuable enough archeologically to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Since then, after much hard work and fund raising, a path and boardwalk leading into the swamp itself was built. It’s the kind of place that people rarely get to experience so it is meant to be a kind of outdoor classroom for anyone who wants to learn more about nature.

7-spruce

One of the most notable things seen here are the many spruce trees, because they aren’t normally plentiful in this area. It must stay relatively cool here because spruce trees prefer the boreal forests further north. There are at least two species here and I think they were probably red spruce (Picea rubens) and black spruce (Picea mariana.) Neither one minds boggy ground.

8-spuce-trees

Many of the older spruce trees are dying but they are pole size and I wouldn’t think that they’d be too old. I can’t even guess what would be killing them.

9-spruce-bark

Something had peeled the outer bark off this spruce to expose its beautiful, colorful inner bark.

10-beard-lichen

The spruce trees are hung thickly with beard lichens (Usnea) in places. These lichens seem to especially like growing on the bare branches of evergreens. I’ve met people who think the lichens kill the tree’s branches but they don’t, they just like plenty of sunlight and bare branches get more of it.

11-winterberries

Winterberries (Ilex verticillata) are a native holly that love wet feet so I wasn’t surprised to see many examples of them here. The berries were a little puckered but birds are probably still eating them because I rarely see any in the spring.  Robins, catbirds, mockingbirds, Eastern bluebirds, and cedar waxwings all eat them.

12-winterberries

The bright red color of winterberries makes them easy to see. There are also many blueberry bushes growing here, but I didn’t see a single berry on them. When I thought about it I realized that this swamp is full of food for birds and animals, and for humans as well.

13-cattail

Cattails (Typha latifolia) were an important food for Native Americans. Their roots contain more starch than potatoes and more protein than rice, and native peoples made flour from them.  They also ate the new shoots in spring, which must have been especially welcome after a long winter of eating dried foods. Some of the cattails were releasing their seeds, just in time for the return of red winged blackbirds. The females use their fluffy fibers to line their nests. Cattails can grow faster than fertilized corn and can create monocultures by shading out other plants with their dense foliage and debris from old growth. They are very beneficial to many animals and birds and even the ponds and lakes they grow in by filtering runoff water and helping reduce the amount of silt and nutrients that flow into them.

14-bobcat-tracks

I saw what I think were bobcat tracks meandering around and under the boardwalk. There are many squirrels in this swamp and it might have been hunting.

15-hole-in-tree

This might have been a squirrel’s home, but it was too high up to look into. It might also have been an owl’s home, so it was probably best that I didn’t stick my nose into it.

16-alder-cones

Alders (Alnus) love to grow near water and they are one of the easiest shrubs to identify in winter. This is because the alders, of which there are about 15 species native to the U.S., bear seed pods that resemble miniature pine cones.  These cone shaped seed pods are the fruit of the female flowers and are called strobiles. Many birds eat alder seeds including ducks, grouse, widgeons, kinglets, vireos, warblers, goldfinches and chickadees. Moose and rabbits feed on alder and beavers eat the bark and use the stems to build with. Native Americans used alder as an anti-inflammatory and to help heal wounds. They also made a tea from it that helped cure toothaches. Those allergic to aspirin should not use alder medicinally because the bark contains salicin, which is similar to a compound d found in aspirin.

17-fern

There are many ferns here. When I visited the swamp in the summer I saw some that were easily waist high; mostly cinnamon ferns (Osmundastrum cinnamomeum,) which love boggy ground. Of course you won’t see any in winter but you can see plenty of signs that they grow here.

18-blue-pine-sap

I’ve seen lots of pine (Pinus strobus) sap turn blue in winter cold but this is the deepest blue that I’ve ever seen it. That’s odd since it really hasn’t been that cold since December. Native Americans used pine sap (or pitch) to treat coughs and pneumonia. It was also used to treat boils, abscesses and wounds.

19-lichen-on-moss

Lichens like plenty of water and mosses soak it up like little sponges, so this friendship between a crispy tuft moss (Ulota crispa) and a hammered shield lichen (Parmelia sulcata) is no real surprise. Hammered shield lichen gets its common name from the netted surface of each of its many lobes. It is also called the wax paper lichen, and if you’ve ever crumpled a piece of wax paper and then flattened it again out you know just what this lichen looks like.

20-swamp

To a nature nut the swamp is like a siren’s call and I would have loved to step off that boardwalk and explore it further, but then I remembered the stories of people getting lost there. A five hundred acre swamp is huge and I’m guessing that I’d probably be lost in under an hour. In November of 1890 George McCurdy went in and never came out alive; he died of exposure. They found him, but I’ve heard stories about another man who went into the swamp and was never found.  As much as I’d love to explore more I think I’ll just stay on the boardwalk for now.

The most primitive places left with us are the swamps, where the spruce still grows shaggy with Usnea (lichen). ~Henry David Thoreau

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1. Striped Maple

Some of the most beautiful things that happen in a northeastern forest are happening right now, and I hope everyone living in the area will have a chance to witness them. Bud break, when a plant’s bud scales open to reveal the new leaves within, can be a very beautiful thing, as we see here in the velvety pink buds of striped maple (Acer pensylvanicum.) The larger center bud’s scales have just opened and leaves will appear shortly. Bud break can go on for quite some time among various species; striped and sugar maples follow cherry, and birch and beech will follow them, and shagbark hickory will follow birch and beech. Oaks are usually one of the last to show leaves. That’s just a small sampling that doesn’t include shrubs like lilac and forest floor plants that also have buds breaking.

2. Horsetail

Even the lowly horsetails are breaking bud beautifully. The fertile spore bearing stem of a common horsetail (Equisetum arvense) ends in a light brown, cone shaped structure called a strobilus. Since it doesn’t photosynthesize at this point in its development the plant has no need for chlorophyll, so most of it is a pale, whitish color. When it’s ready to release its spores the cone opens to reveal tiny, mushroom shaped sporangiophores.

3. Horsetail Closeup

The whitish “ruffles” at the base of each brown sporangiophore are the spore producing sporangia. When the horsetail looks like the one in the photo it has released its spores and will soon die and be replaced by an infertile stem. Nature can seem very complicated at times but it always comes down to one simple thing: continuation of the species.

4. Horsetail Infertle Stem

More people are probably familiar with the infertile stems of horsetail, shown here. They grow from the same roots as the fertile spore bearing shoots in the previous two photos and they do all the photosynthesizing.  Horsetails spread quickly and can be very aggressive. If they ever appear in your garden you should remove them as soon as possible, because large colonies are nearly impossible to eradicate.

5. Bittersweet on Elm

Invasive Oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus) is an expert at continuation of its species; not only does it produce berries that birds love; it also strangles the tree it uses to reach the most abundant sunshine. That can be seen here as this bittersweet vine slowly strangles an American elm. The vine is like a steel cable that wraps around the tree’s trunk and since the tree can’t break it, it often slowly strangles.

6. Cattail Shoot

Cattails (Typha latifolia) have just started coming up. Cattails at the edge of pond can grow faster than fertilized corn in a field and can create monocultures by shading out other plants with their dense foliage and debris from old growth. They are also very beneficial to many animals and birds and even the ponds and lakes they grow in by filtering runoff water and helping reduce the amount of silt and nutrients that flow into them.  Cattails were an important food for Native Americans. Their roots contain more starch than potatoes and more protein than rice, and native peoples made flour from them.  They also ate the new shoots in spring, which must have been especially welcome after a long winter of eating dried foods.

7. Male Mallard

A mallard swam serenely in the pond near the cattail shoots, so intent on something he saw on the far side that he didn’t even hear me walking on the trail.

8. Male Mallard

Or so I thought anyway. He knew I was there but my presence didn’t seem to bother him and he just swam along beside me as I walked the trail. I think he was as curious of me as I was of him.

9. Unknown Shoots

If you looked at the root of the aquatic arrowhead plant (Sagittaria latifolia) you’d see a whitish, chestnut size tuber with a shoot coming out of its top center. The shore of a local pond was littered with many shoots and since I know arrowheads grow here I’m guessing that’s what they were from. Though arrowhead plants are also called duck potatoes mallards eat only the seeds but muskrats, painted turtles and snapping turtles all eat the tubers. I’ve never seen a muskrat in this pond but I’ve seen many of both kinds of turtles here, so they may be the culprits.

10. Turtle

All of the sudden I’m seeing turtles everywhere, as if someone flipped a switch. This painted turtle let me get one photo and then it was gone. Fossils show that painted turtle have been here for about 15 million years. They can be found from Canada to Mexico and Maine to California and can live for over 50 years. Native Americans listened for the turtle’s splash into the water and used it as an alarm and one native legend says that Painted Turtle put his paint on to entice a chief’s daughter into the water. I don’t know about that but they have certainly enticed many a child into the water, and I was one of them.

11. Bullfrog

I doubt that painted turtles bother bullfrogs but I’d bet that snapping turtles do, and there are some big ones in this pond. I wondered if that was why this male bullfrog was sitting in the trail instead of in the water. He didn’t flinch when I walked to within a foot from him, and he let me take as many photos as I wanted. Bullfrogs are big; the biggest frog in North America, and the males do sound a bit like a bull. I’ve seen bullfrogs in the Ashuelot river that were so big they wouldn’t have fit in the palms of both hands held together.

12. Bullfrog

He let me walk around him to take photos of his other side without moving. Since it was just the two of us it’s doubtful that he though I couldn’t see him. Male bullfrogs have very large tympanic membranes that cover their ears. They sit slightly below and behind their eyes and are always bigger than the eye. Females have tympanic membranes that are the same size as their eyes, even though female bullfrogs can be much bigger than males. In some Native American tribes frogs were considered medicine animals that had healing powers and brought rain. Some, like the Chippewa tribes, had frogs as their clan animal. Clan members take their clan animal as their emblem, but they don’t believe that their clan is descended from that animal.

13. Robin

This robin looked like it had been eating very well. I’ve never seen as many as we have lately; large flocks of them. In the past I’ve felt lucky to have seen a single bird in spring.

14. White Baneberry

I love the movement in the young spring shoots of white baneberry (Actaea pachypoda) and I look for it every spring. This example had what looked like a prehistoric hand holding its flower buds while the newly opened leaves gazed down from above, enraptured. I fell under its spell for a while myself; it was such a beautiful and interesting little thing. This entire plant is poisonous and its berries especially so. They are white with a single black dot that gives them the common name doll’s eyes. In summer the berries follow a raceme of white flowers that is taller than it is wide, and which will grow from the tiny buds seen in this photo.

15. Japanese Knotweed

Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica) can be very beautiful as it spreads its new leaves to catch the sun. Unfortunately it’s also very invasive and almost impossible to control. I’ve seen Japanese knotweed shoots killed to the ground by cold in the past, and within 3 weeks they had come right back and grew on as if it had never happened. I’ve heard that the new shoots taste much like rhubarb but the plants grow into large, 4-5 foot tall shrub like masses that shade out natives.

16. Cinnamon Fern-2

Both cinnamon (Osmundastrum cinnamomeum) and interrupted ferns (Osmunda claytoniana) have fuzzy shoots, called fiddleheads because of their resemblance to the head of a violin. Ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris) must be up as well, and fiddleheads from that fern are considered a delicacy in many restaurants. Last year I went with a professional fiddlehead forager and saw thousands upon thousands of ostrich fern fiddleheads. Cinnamon and interrupted fern fiddleheads are very bitter and mildly toxic. In fact many are toxic and shouldn’t be eaten unless you know them well or are buying them at a store or restaurant. .

17. White Ash Buds

The male flower buds of American white ash (Fraxinus americana) appear before the leaves and can sometimes be colorful and sometimes black as blackberries. The Wabanaki Indian tribes made their baskets from ash. Some tribes believed ash was poisonous to rattlesnakes and used ash canes to chase them away.

18. Sugar Maple Bud

The buds of sugar maple (Acer saccharum) have just broken on some trees and on others small leaves are already showing. The veins are prominent even on leaves that haven’t unfurled. Deer love to snack on sweet sugar maple buds and quite often you find only branch stubs and this time of year.

19. New Maple Leaves

Red maple (Acer rubrum) leaves live up to their name when they’re this young. The red color in spring leaves is caused by the same pigments that bring the reds of autumn, the anthocyanins. That covers the how but little is really known about the why. One theory says that it’s because deer and moose can’t see red and therefore won’t eat the new, tender leaves. Another says that the red color protects the leaves from cold temperatures and damaging ultraviolet rays, but nobody seems to know for sure. I like to think the colors are there just to make the world a more beautiful place.

I meant to do my work today, but a brown bird sang in the apple tree, and a butterfly flitted across the field, and all the leaves were calling. ~Richard le Gallienn

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 1. Feather on Fern

I’m forever finding feathers in strange places out there in the woods. In the past I’ve stumbled through the undergrowth to see what I thought was a beautiful solitary flower, only to find that it was instead a colorful feather. This one landed on a fern frond.

2. Poplar Starburst Lichen

I stopped in to visit one of my favorite lichens recently. This poplar sunburst lichen (Xanthoria hasseana) always seems to be producing spores. The little round cups are its fruiting bodies (apothecia) and they have been there since the day I found this lichen-probably 3 years ago now. It’s a beautiful thing.

3. Dry Dragonfly Husk

Dragonflies start life as an egg in the water. Once they hatch they live for a time as a water nymph until climbing out to shed their exoskeleton and begin life as a winged adult. The photo shows the shed dragon-hunter dragonfly nymph exoskeleton (exuvia) that clung to a rope while it was being shed. The rope it clung to was about half to three quarters of an inch in diameter, I’d guess. I can’t explain the blue “eyes” but they could just be a trick of the light. Dragon hunters are large dragonflies that live up to their name by hunting and eating other dragonflies. They also eat butterflies and other large insects.

4. Bee on Knapweed

I went to a place where hundreds of knapweeds grow to see if they were blooming. They were and they were covered with bees of all kinds. I think this must be a honeybee because of its bead like pollen baskets, but I could be wrong because I’m not a bee expert. In any event we can see the color of knapweed pollen.

 5. Grasshopper

I think this metallic green grasshopper thought that he was invisible because he let me take as many photos as I wanted. He was right out in the open so it’s a good thing for him that I wasn’t a hungry bird. I never knew that they were so pretty until I saw them in a photograph, even though I caught many as a boy. Photography has taught me a good lesson in how seeing with different eyes can sometimes change our viewpoint about things we once thought that we knew well.

6. Baby Spiders Hatching

I saw a nest of hundreds of tiny spider hatchlings in a curled leaf one day. I don’t know what variety of spider they will grow up to be, but watching them was fascinating. They seemed very busy but I couldn’t see that they were actually accomplishing anything.

7. Japanese Beetles

One of these Japanese beetles wore a white dot. Such dots are the eggs of a tachinid fly, and once they hatch the larva will burrow into the beetle and eat it. The beetle will of course die and the fly larva will become adult flies and lay eggs on even more Japanese beetles. Nature finding a balance.

8. Black Raspberry

Our blueberries and black raspberries are starting to ripen. Many berry bushes grow in the sunshine along the edges of trails, and their ripening increases the chances of meeting up with a black bear.  Heightened senses are required in the woods at this time of year.

9. Super Moon on 7-12-2

Though it didn’t seem any bigger the “super moon” was certainly colorful on the night of July 12th.

A Native American myth says that the sun and moon are a chieftain and his wife and that the stars are their children. The sun loves to catch and eat his children, so they flee from the sky whenever he appears. The moon plays happily with the stars while the sun is sleeping but each month, she turns her face to one side and darkens it (as the moon wanes) to mourn the children that the sun succeeded in catching.

10. Unknown Fungi

These hook shaped mushrooms seem to be defying all of the mushroom guides that I have. I’ve never seen any others like them and haven’t been able to identify them.

11. Bent Cattail Leaf

In every stand of cattails there seems to be at least one leaf that dares to be different.

 12. Skeletonized Oak Leaf

This skelotinized oak leaf taught me that there is a caterpillar called the oak-ribbed skeletonizer (Bucculatrix albertiella). It lives on the undersides of leaves and eats the soft tissue, leaving just the veins behind. The tiny blue insect in the photo isn’t the culprit but it’s so small that, even by zooming in on the photo, I can’t tell what it is.

 13. Curly Dock Seeds

When the seeds of curly dock are forming they look like tiny tear drop shaped pearls that shine in the sun. They are beautiful little things that always deserve a second look.

14 Tendril

Was does a tendril do when it can’t find anything to curl around? It curls anyway. This might not seem earth shaking unless you know that a tendril curls in response to touch. Through a process called Thigmotropism, the side away from the point of contact grows faster than the side that makes contact, and that is why it coils around any object that it touches. So why and how does it curl when it hasn’t made contact with anything?

15. Timothy Grass Blooming

Timothy grass (Phleum pretense) gets its common name by way of Timothy Hanson, a farmer who began to cultivate it in 1720, a few years after its introduction into colonial America in 1711. It’s an important hay crop and is also quite beautiful when it blossoms.

The earth is rude, silent, incomprehensible at first; be not discouraged – keep on – there are divine things, well envelop’d; I swear to you there are divine things more beautiful than words can tell.  ~Walt Whitman

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1. Wrinkled Crust Lichen Phlebia radiata

A couple of posts ago I showed what I suspected was a lichen that I found growing on a pine log. Though it felt fleshy like a fungus I had the idea in my mind that it “should be” a lichen, and so when I got home I looked through hundreds (literally) of lichen photos with no luck identifying it. Luckily Rick from the Between Blinks Blog had seen examples before and knew it to be a crust fungus called Phlebia radiata, or wrinkled crust fungus. These curious fungi lay flat on whatever they grow on much like crustose lichens would, and radiate out from a central point.  They have no stem or gills or pores. Most interesting about them to me are the various bright shades of pink and orange they display. This is a fungus that doesn’t mind cool weather, so it is often seen at this time of year. Thanks again for the ID Rick!

 2. Green Algae Trentepohlia aurea

So let’s see, this one I showed in a post from about a month ago is orange like a fungus, grows on stone like a lichen, and is hairy like a moss. I guessed that it might be some kind of strange orange moss, but I’d never seen anything like it. If I hadn’t stumbled across it online while searching for something else I never would have guessed that it was actually a green algae called Trentepohlia aurea. I know, I said the same thing-“it isn’t green, it’s orange.” These algae get their bright orange color from a pigment known as hematochrome, which forms in nitrogen starved algae and protects and hides the algae’s green chlorophyll. It can be orange, yellow or red and it also colors some lichens, making their identification even more difficult.

 3. Beard Lichen

Bristly beard lichen (Usnea hirta) is often found on the ground but it doesn’t grow there; the wind blows them out of the trees. Many lichens like sunlight and grow in the tops of trees where there is less shade from the leaves. Native Americans used lichens medicinally for thousands of years and lichens in the Usnea group were described in the first Chinese herbal, written about 500 AD. Today scientists estimate that about 50% of all lichen species have antibiotic properties.

 4. Fringed Wrinkle Lichen

Last year I found fringed wrinkle lichens (Tuckermannopsis Americana) growing in a birch tree near a pond and they are still there this year. The color of this lichen varies greatly from when it is wet or dry, but its wrinkled surface and the way that its fruiting bodies (Apothecia) appear on the lobe margins help identify it. The purple dye used to color the togas of the rich and famous in ancient Rome came from lichens, and many other dye colors can also be extracted from them.  Some of the rich colors used in Scottish “Harris Tweed” also come from lichens.

5. Indian Pipe.

The seed capsule of this Indian pipe (Monotropa uniflora) split open to release its seeds. The seeds are so small as to be nearly microscopic, and are wind borne.  Each plant will release thousands of seeds, but if they don’t fall in exactly the right conditions, they won’t grow. Indian pipes need both the right fungi and the right tree roots to grow because they don’t photosynthesize and make their own food. Instead they parasitize both the fungi and the trees they grow on.

6. Cattails.

Cattail (Typha latifolia) seeds are also borne on the wind, but there will be plenty left when the female red wing blackbirds come back in the spring. They and many other birds use the seeds to line their nests. Native Americans had uses for every part of this plant and one of their names for cattail meant “fruit for papoose’s bed.” Even the pollen was harvested and used in bread.

Some of the information on Native American uses for cattails used here comes from the folks at The International Secret Society of People Who Sleep with Cattail Pillows. No, I’m not kidding. Their motto is “You’ll Do Good Deeds, If You Sleep on Seeds!”

7. Bolete Mushroom

This tiny mushroom was all dried out but its dime sized cap had plenty of pores on its underside that were worth taking a look at. These pores are tubes where the mushroom’s spores are produced. Mushrooms with pores instead of gills are called boletes. If a shelf or bracket fungus has pores it is called a polypore.

 8. Broom Moss aka Dicranum scoparium

Broom Moss (Dicranum scoparium) is a North American native that grows on soil, stones or logs, but I usually find it on the ground in semi shaded places that don’t get strong sunlight. The scoparium part of the scientific name comes from the Latin scopae, which means “broom” and the common name broom moss comes from the way that all of the curved leaf tips point in the same direction, looking as if someone swept them with a broom. Scopae also describes the brush like hairs used to collect pollen that are found on the abdomens and legs of some bees.

 9. Woodpecker Tree

When you come upon a tree that looks like this in the forest you might think that a bear had gone after it, but this damage was caused by a woodpecker-a Pileated woodpecker, to be exact. I see trees that look like this all of the time, and have even seen trees cut in half with their top on the ground. I wish I had gotten the large pile of woodchips at the base of the tree in this photo, but I wasn’t thinking.

10. Juniper Berrires

The fruit of an Eastern juniper (Juniperus virginiana) looks like a berry but it is actually a soft, fleshy cone. They are a deep, bluish purple color but are covered with a white wax coating that makes them appear lighter blue. The most common uses for the “berries” are as flavoring for cooked game or to flavor gin. Native Americans used them medicinally and in food.

11. Snow on Monadnock

Mount Monadnock has had its first snowfall, though the bright sunshine almost hides that fact in this photo. Once the snow really starts to fly bare granite won’t be seen up there again until late spring. I decided to climb to the summit one warm April day years ago and had to wade / crawl through waist deep snow. By the time I made it back down several hours later I looked like I had been swimming with my clothes on and even had to pour water out of my wallet and shoes. Climbing with no snowshoes was a foolish and dangerous thing to do, but at 18 I wasn’t always the sharpest knife in the drawer.

About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow
.
~A.E. Housman

Thanks for stopping in.

 

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I think it’s time for another post full of all of those things I see that don’t seem to fit in with the flowers. I never saw a pine tree with blue (purple?) cones until I saw this one at a local park.  I’ve searched books and online extensively and the only other tree that I can find that even remotely resembles this one is called a Bosnian Pine (Pinus heldreichii var. Leucodermis or Mint Truffle.) Several cultivars of that plant have cones very similar to these.Indian pipes (Monotropa uniflora) are just starting to come up in our area. Indian pipe has no chlorophyll so it can’t make its own food. Instead it feeds off the roots of a fungus. Russula and Lactarius mushrooms are two that are known hosts. This plant doesn’t benefit its host plant, so it is considered a parasite. Because it lacks chlorophyll it doesn’t need light to grow-these plants were found quite deep in a pine forest where only dappled sunlight could be seen. Native Americans used the sap for medicinal purposes, which most likely explains the common name of Indian pipe. Each stalk holds one nodding flower. Indian pipes are related to blueberries and rhododendrons. Puffballs have started appearing as well. This one was as big as a quarter and is the first I’ve seen this year.  It was growing in some dry pine woods. New milkweed pods are just beginning to form. Very small, new pods are edible and some say they taste like okra. Others say that the plant is mildly toxic and shouldn’t be eaten, so it’s all in who you choose to believe when it comes to eating wild plants. If milkweed is grown in the garden to attract butterflies these pods should be picked off before they go to seed. This will stop the plant from spreading to other parts of the garden. This pearly crescent spot butterfly (Phyciodes tharos ) stopped by and sat on a milkweed leaf long enough for me to get a few pictures.  The crescent shaped spot on the underside of its wing gives this butterfly its name. Though it is said to be very common this wasn’t the easiest insect to identify, so if I’m wrong I hope someone will let me know. Goldenrod stem galls are very easily identified. They are caused by the Goldenrod Gall Fly (Eurosta solidaginis,) which is a parasite. The female injects eggs into the goldenrod stem. Once they hatch the larvae begin to eat inside the stem of the plant. Their saliva contains a chemical which causes the plant to deform and create a gall around the larvae. The larvae live in the gall for a full year, leaving the gall the following spring.  Downy Woodpeckers and Carolina Chickadees sometimes break into the galls to eat the larvae. If the stem gall is elliptical rather than round it is caused by a gall moth (Gnorimoschema gallaesolidaginis.Another gall regularly seen on goldenrod is called bunch gall. Bunch galls are caused by a gall midge (Rhopalomyla solidaginis) which lays its egg in a leaf bud. When the larva hatches the plant stops growing taller but continues to produce leave and the new leaves bunch all together at the top of the plant, forming the type of gall seen in the picture. This midge does plant hunters a favor because it likes only Canada goldenrod (Solidago Canadensis.) It was so dark in the woods because of the leaf canopy that I had to use the flash to get a picture of this large shelf fungus growing on an American hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana) tree. If this were round it would be as big as a basketball. I’m not sure of the species, but it was pure white underneath. This white ash tree (Fraxinus Americana) had an alarming number of seed pods on it this year. Often when a tree produces more seeds than normal it is because it is under stress and is compensating for its coming death by making sure there will be plenty of seedlings to carry on the species. Unfortunately white ash trees are very susceptible to damage from insects and disease. The wood of the white ash is the first choice for baseball bats and tool handles because it is so tough. American Burr reed (Sparganium americanum) is an odd looking plant that can be found growing in or near slow moving water. This plant has both male and female flowers. The male flowers are the smaller round clusters at the top of the zig zag stem and the female are the larger clusters lower down. Burr reed is a wind pollinated plant and once the male flowers have released their pollen they wither away while the female flowers develop into fruit. This plant was growing near a stream at the water’s edge. Burr reed has leaves that resemble those on cattails and it often grows with them, making it hard to find unless it is flowering or fruiting. Burr reed fruit. Burr reed seeds are an important food for waterfowl. Muskrats will eat the whole plant. The flower that this spider is crawling on was smaller than a pencil eraser and the spider was tiny. I think it’s a crab spider, but I’m not 100% sure. The native red osier dogwood (Cornus sericea) berries are ripe. Birds don’t seem to be thrilled by these white berries and leave them alone until mid to late winter when other foods are scarce. Some Native Americans used to eat the berries to treat sore throats and colds, and others smoked the inner bark of the shrub like tobacco.This year’s crop of broadleaf cattails (Typha latifolia) is flowering.  We also have narrow leaf cattails (Typha angustifolia.) On narrow leaved cattails the male and female flowers have a gap between them and on broadleaf cattails they touch, as the picture shows. The tiny male flowers always appear at the top of the stalk and the female flowers make up the brown “club.” Once the female flowers have been pollinated the male flowers will disappear. Both species intermingle and hybridize so it can be difficult to tell them apart at times. Cattail roots can be dried, ground and used as flour but they act as filters and filter contaminates out of the soil, so I’d want to know the conditions of both the water and soil before eating them. Many of the pictures in today’s post were taken near this stream. As far as I know it has no name, but a large number of unusual plants grow in and around it and many animals visit it regularly.

As you sit on the hillside, or lie prone under the trees of the forest, or sprawl wet-legged by a mountain stream, the great door that does not look like a door opens.~ Stephen Graham

Thanks for stopping by.

Update note: I realized that there was a picture missing so I just inserted it. It is the large bracket fungus. The text was there but the picture had disappeared!

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