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Posts Tagged ‘Christmas Fern’

1-the-stream

There is a small stream near my house that I like to visit at least once in winter and I did so recently. Right now it looks lazy and placid, but I’ve seen it rise overnight into a raging, road eating thing that easily covered everything in this photo except the trees. Its name is Bailey Brook, I just found out the night before posting this, but according to the Maine Geological Survey a brook is just a small stream. On the other hand a stream is a small river or brook, so I’m just going to keep calling it a stream.

2-tree-moss

One reason I like to come here is to see my old friends the tree mosses (Climacium dendroides.) They’re beautiful little mosses that I never see anywhere else. They must like very wet soil because they grow right at the edge of the stream and are covered by water when the stream floods. In fact all of the plants you’ll see in this post are under water for at least a day or two each year. It is their shape that gives tree mosses their common name but it is their inner light that draws me back here to see them.

3-christmas-fern

Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides) is probably the most common of our evergreen ferns. When seen at this time of year it is obvious that it has had its branches flattened by the weight of the snow because they splay out all over the ground. When the new fronds, or fiddleheads, appear in spring the previous season’s fronds turn yellow and then finally brown. The dead fronds then form a mat around the living fern that helps prevent soil erosion. This is a fern that doesn’t mind wet soil.

4-christmas-fern

Christmas fern is easy to identify by its leaflets that resemble little Christmas stockings. The narrow fine teeth that line the edges of the leaflets and the short leaf stalks can also be seen in this photo. It is said to be called Christmas fern because early settlers brought the green fronds inside at Christmas.

5-marginal-wood-fern-spore-cases

Marginal wood fern (Dryopteris marginalis) is another evergreen fern that also grows well here because it likes damp, shady places. Its spore bearing sori grow on the edges of the leaves and give this fern its common name. The sori are covered by a kidney shaped cap (indusium,) which is smooth. The cap comes off just when the spores are ready to be released, as it has done on at least two of these examples.

6-pine-sap-on-fern

The sticky sap from a white pine (Pinus strobus) had dripped on the upper part of the marginal wood fern’s frond. I decided to show it to you so you could see how white pine sap turns blue when it’s cold.

7-jelly-fungus

An orange jelly fungus (Dacrymyces palmatus) was drying out and had lost its transparency. Jelly fungi can absorb many times their own weight is water but when they begin to dry out they can shrink down to a hard dry chip the size of a toddler’s fingernail.

8-fungal-growth

I saw a fallen branch with some familiar looking growths on it, so I looked a little closer.

9-fungal-growth

The branch growths had me believing they were slime molds for a minute or two. They looked a lot like a slime mold called Ceratiomyxa fruticulosa v. porioides, which looks like tiny geodesic domes and loves to grow on rotting wood. But something wasn’t right; they were a little too big and they weren’t bright white like Ceratiomyxa fruticulosa. Them my right hand found something cold and jelly like on the branch.

10-fungal-growth

I think what my hand found was a milk white toothed polypore (Irpex lacteus.) This is a “winter” fungus that can appear quite late in the year. It is also a resupinate fungus, which means it looks like it grows upside down, and that’s what many crust fungi seem to do. Their spore bearing surface can be wrinkled, smooth, warty, toothed, or porous and though they appear on the undersides of logs the main body of the fungus is in the wood, slowly decomposing it. This is the first time I’ve seen the “birth” of this fungus.

11-winter-fungus

I saw an awful lot of fungi for a January day. I’m not sure what this one was but it was pleasing to the eye and reminded me of spring, and that was enough.

12-artists-conk

Artist’s conk (Ganoderma applanatum) grew on an old oak and wasn’t hard to identify. This bracket fungus gets its name from its smooth white underside, which is perfect for drawing on.  Any scratch made on the pure white surface becomes brown and will last for many years. I drew a farm scene on one more than 30 years ago and I still have it.

13-artists-conk

Artist’s conks are perennial fungi that get bigger each year. Older examples can be up to two feet across, but this one was closer to half that. I put my Olympus camera on it to give you an idea of how big it was. This fungus causes heart rot in a wide variety of tree species, so this living tree is doomed.

14-horsetails

Horsetails (Equisetum hyemale) rise like spikes from the forest floor. These ancient plants are embedded with silica and are called scouring rushes. They are a great find when you are camping along a stream because you can use them to scour your cooking utensils. Running your finger over a stalk feels much like fine sandpaper.

15-horsetail

In Japan horsetails are boiled and dried and then used to smooth wood, and are said to produce a finish superior to any sandpaper. Horsetails produce spores in their cone shaped tips, but the examples in this spot rarely grow them. I think the stripes on them will always remind me of socks.

16-woodpecker-tree

This tree is full of insects, probably carpenter ants, and the pileated woodpecker that made these holes knew it. Pileated woodpecker holes are almost always rectangular and very big compared to other woodpecker holes. These were quite deep as well.

17-bark-beetle-damage

Pine bark beetles (Ips pini) had a field day here, according to the evidence left behind on several fallen limbs. The look of a jagged saw tooth pattern means unfinished egg chambers.  Pine bark beetles kill limbs and trees by girdling them. This stops the movement of water and nutrients up and down the tree and the infected limbs or the entire tree will die. These beetles are small and range in size from about 1/10 to 1/4 of an inch in length, but they can do a lot of damage when enough of them are in a forest.

18-grape-tendril

Native river grapes (Vitis riparia) grow along the stream banks. These are old vines that grow well into the tree tops and the fermenting fruit makes the forest smell like grape jelly on warm fall days. I like looking at their tendrils. Sometimes I see beautiful Hindu dancers in their twisted shapes; other times animals, sometimes birds. This one took the shape of a heart.

River grapes are also called frost grapes, and their extreme cold tolerance makes their rootstock a favorite choice for many well-known grape varieties. They’ve been known to survive temperatures of -57 degrees F. (-49 C)

19-tangle

Bailey Brook gets its start in the Horatio Colony nature preserve in Keene, which was too far away to hike to on this day, so I stopped at this tangle of trees, brush and vines. Finding ways under, over, through or around snags like these can take a lot out of you. This stream completely dried up in last summer’s drought and I could have walked up its bed all the way to its source, but I didn’t. I’m happy to see it full pf water again.

If it weren’t for the rocks in its bed, the stream would have no song. ~Carl Perkins

Thanks for stopping in.

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1. Old Road

Last Saturday, December 19th, we woke to snow covered ground. It was the first snow of the season but it didn’t come from a normal snowstorm. This was lake effect snow that came all the way from Buffalo, New York. Buffalo sits on the shores of Lake Erie and is famous for getting unbelievable amounts of lake effect snow. Luckily this storm gave them and parts of New Hampshire just a dusting this time.

2. Snowy Turkey Tails

Turkey tail fungi (Trametes versicolor) are tough and don’t mind a little snow or cold. These examples were nice and colorful.

3. Christmas Fern

It would take a lot more snow than this to flatten an evergreen Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides) but eventually they will flatten. This year’s fronds will turn brown and wither in the spring when the new ones begin growing.

4. Ashuelot

From my favorite river watching perch on the old Thompson covered bridge, the Ashuelot River looked moody and had just a little snow on its right hand bank.

5. Ashuelot Bank

This view is of the sharp snow melt line between where the sunshine was and the bridge’s shadow. By the time I got there the sun was quickly disappearing.

6. Monadnock

From Perkin’s Pond in Troy Mount Monadnock had a dusting of snow that only showed when the sun was full on the summit, which wasn’t often on this day. The strong wind made the pond surface choppy.

7. Monadnock Summit

Here you can see the snow on Mount Monadnock a little better. You can also see a solitary climber, standing in almost the same spot as the lone climber I saw the last time I was here. It must have been very, very cold up there.

8. Woods

Back in the forest the snow was staying put where the sun didn’t shine.

9.. Indian Pipe

A large clump of Indian pipe seed pods (Monotropa uniflora) stood beside the trail. Each one looked as if it had been carved from a wooden block.

10. Snowy Fern

Some evergreen ferns still had a good coating of snow, but the sun was just reaching them.

11. Black Jelly Fugus

Black jelly fungus (Exidia glandulosa) grew on an alder limb, but was frozen solid. I’ve never been able to find out how fruiting in winter benefits jelly fungi but it must, because that’s when most of them appear.

12. Ice

Ice had covered dead grass stems and made sharply pointed patterns.

13. Puddle Reflections

A large puddle in the woods reflected the promise of better weather to come. Meteorologists say we’ll see sixty plus degrees again on Christmas Eve day, and I can’t think of a better gift after our last two extreme winters.

My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others. Come to think of it, why do we have to wait for Christmas to do that?  ~Bob Hope

Thanks for coming by. I hope everyone has a safe, joyous and blessed Christmas.

 

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1. Spruce

I’d be willing to bet that when most of us here in New England (and maybe the whole country)  hear the word evergreen we think of a pyramidal tree with needles that stays green all winter, but as I hope this post shows there is much more to the evergreen story than that.

2. Striped Wintergreen

Striped wintergreen (Chimaphila maculata) loses its chlorophyll and turns deep purple in winter. This plant is relatively rare here and though I’m finding small numbers more and more most of them flower but don’t set seed.  I was happy to see this one had a seed pod on it. The Chimaphila part of the scientific name is from the Greek cheima (winter) and philein (to love,) so it loves winter and does not die from the cold.

3. Teaberry

American wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens,) is also called teaberry or checkerberry and it is the first wild plant that I learned to identify, with the help of my grandmother. We used to love to eat the bright red minty tasting berries. It’s probably the easiest of all wintergreens to identify because of the strong, minty scent that comes from its crushed leaves. If you have ever tasted teaberry gum then you know exactly what it smells and tastes like. The plant contains compounds that are very similar to those found in aspirin so it’s not good to eat a lot of it, but a taste of the berries shouldn’t hurt. Its leaves often turn purple as the nights get colder, as the plant in the rear shows.

4. Foam Flower

Foam flower (Tiarella cordifolia) has hairy leaves that look delicate, but they’re fairly tough and stay green under the leaves and snow all winter. The purple veins in each leaf become more pronounced as the nights cool and sometimes the leaves will have purplish bronze splotches. This plant makes an excellent flowering groundcover for a damp, shady spot in the garden. Plant breeders have developed many interesting hybrids but I like the native best, I think.

5. Partridge Berry

Partridgeberry (Mitchella repens) is another native 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.

6. Trailing Arbutus

Trailing arbutus (Epigaea repens) is also called mayflower because that’s often when its small white to pink, very fragrant flowers appear.  Its oval evergreen leaves are tough and leathery and hug the ground but though it looks like a groundcover botanically speaking it has a persistent woody stem, so it is classified as a shrub. This was one of my grandmother’s favorite plants and she would walk in the woods to find and smell it rather than dig it up to plant in her yard.  It’s too bad everybody didn’t do the same because this plant was once collected into near oblivion. These days it can be found at many nurseries so there is no longer any reason to dig it up. Since it’s very fussy unless it’s given the right amount of light, water, nutrients and soil type it won’t grow except where it chooses to anyway. That’s true of most of these plants, in fact.

7. Gold Thread

New goldthread (Coptis groenlandicum) leaves are a bright, glossy lime green but darken as they age and by winter will often be very dark green. They’ll hold their color under the snow all winter and look similar to wild strawberries until late April or early May when new leaves and small white flowers will appear. Goldthread gets its common name from its thread like, bright yellow roots. Native Americans used goldthread medicinally and told the early settlers of its value in treating canker sores, which led to its also being nearly collected into oblivion like trailing arbutus and others. At one time more goldthread was sold in Boston than any other native plant, probably by its other common name: canker root. Luckily it has made a good comeback and I see lots of it.

8. Dewberry

Swamp dewberry (Rubus hispidus) is a trailing plant with fruit like a black raspberry and its stems are every bit as prickly. It also looks a lot like a strawberry when it’s in bloom and because of its strawberry like leaves, which stay green under the snow all winter. This is a plant that can trip you up when hidden by snow.

9. Intermediate Wood Fern

Intermediate wood fern (Dryopteris intermedia) is also called evergreen wood fern. It is said to be the only fully evergreen fern with a lacy appearance but it cross breeds with so many other ferns in the Dryopteris  genus that I’m not sure how an amateur botanist like myself would ever know for certain what he was looking at.  But it isn’t always the name that’s so important. Just the fact that you can walk through the forest in January and see some green is often enough.

10. Intermediate Wood Fern

Unlike the spore producing sori on the marginal wood fern (Dryopteris marginalis) which appear on the leaf margins the sori on evergreen woods ferns appear between the midrib and the margins. In this photo this frond looks very much like the spinulose wood fern (Dryopteris carthusiana,) which it cross breeds with. It also crosses with marginal wood fern.

11. Christmas Fern

Evergreen Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides) has deep green, tough leathery leaves that usually lie flat on the ground after a hard frost. They stay that way under the snow until spring when they will finally turn yellow and then brown to make way for new fronds. Christmas fern is so common that it’s hard to walk in these woods without seeing it. It’s also very easy to identify.

12. Christmas Fern

What makes an evergreen Christmas fern so easy to identify are its leaflets (Pinna) which some say look like little Christmas stockings. You can see why if you look at the part of leaflets near the stem in the photo. Each leaflet has a little bump or “ear.” This is the toe of the Christmas stocking and this is the only fern in the New Hampshire woods with this feature. One story says that the name “Christmas fern” is thought to come from the early settler’s habit of using its fronds as Christmas decorations.

13. Fan Club Moss

Fan shaped clubmoss (Diphasiastrum digitatum.) was also once used as a Christmas decoration (and still is in some places.)  These forest floor evergreens were collected by the many thousands to make Christmas wreaths and they are still rarely seen here because of it. Clubmosses aren’t mosses at all but do produce spores and are called “fern allies,” which are vascular plants that don’t produce seeds. I think fan shaped clubmoss is the most elegant of any of the clubmosses and I’m always happy to see it, especially in winter.

14. Downy Rattlesnake Plantain

Not all evergreens look alike and some, like the downy rattlesnake plantain orchid (Goodyera pubescens) pictured, don’t look evergreen at all. Orchids are often thought of as tender, fragile things but not our native orchids. It’s hard to tell from the photo but this plant is covered almost entirely by short, fine hairs. I watched it get covered by feet of snow last year and in the spring it looked just as good as it does in the photo. I think its leaves are every bit as beautiful as its small white flowers are.

It is thought that staying green through the winter lets evergreen plants begin photosynthesizing earlier in the spring and that gives them a head start over the competition. This post has just scratched the surface; there are many other evergreens out there and I hope now you’ll see more than conifers wearing green this winter.

The leaves fall, the wind blows, and the farm country slowly changes from the summer cottons into its winter wools. ~Henry Beston

Thanks for coming by.

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1. Path on Bedrock

Since I couldn’t remember the last time I had climbed Mount Caesar in Swanzey I thought it was probably time that I did. I had two objectives in mind: I wanted to see the toadskin lichens that grow on its summit, and I wanted to see the arrow that is carved into the granite on the summit, supposedly by Native Americans. It is said that it points the way to Mount Monadnock. In fact it is said that every hill in this area has an arrow on its summit which points to Monadnock. As you can see in the above photo, the trail starts out as granite bedrock covered by a thin layer of pine needles.

2. Blowdown

What soil there is here is a very thin layer on top of bedrock, as this blown down white pine shows. When it fell it took the soil in its root mass with it, revealing the granite underneath. It’s hard to believe that such a big tree would have a root system no more than 6 or 8 inches thick but this one did.

3. Fern Christmas Tree

A fellow hiker pointed out these small ferns growing on the underside of the blowdown’s rootball. “Christmas ferns in the shape of a Christmas tree,” he said. And so they were.

4. Fallen Tree

Yet another fallen tree had a tangle of oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus) vine in its topmost branches. This invasive vine climbs trees, strangling them on the way, to get to the most sunshine. Between their strangling habit and shading out a tree’s crown, the vines weaken the tree and it eventually falls, just like this cherry did.

5. Blue Gray Lichen

Blue is a tough color to find in nature especially in the world of fungi and lichens, so I was surprised when I saw several of these blue gray crustose examples on a stone beside the trail. Crustose lichens grow like a crust and usually can’t be removed without damage to the substrate. I haven’t been able to identify this one.

6. Running Club Moss

I don’t remember ever seeing running club moss (Lycopodium clavatum) on Mt. Caesar but here was a large colony of it. This plant gets its name from the part that isn’t seen in this photo; a long, running stem (rhizome) under the leaves from which the upright parts that are seen here grow. Though this example had no fruiting members (called strobili), the spores that they produce were one collected, dried and used in photography as flash powder before flash bulbs were invented.

7. Teaberry

Teaberries (Gaultheria procumbens) grew right alongside the running clubmoss. If I had to go back as far as my memory could take me and search for the first plant that I ever got to know well, this one would have to be it. My grandmother called them checkerberries and loved the minty taste of the berries. She used to take me into the woods to find the plants when I was just a very young boy. While searching for the plants I would see other plants and ask her what they were, and that’s how my woodland education began. I’ve wanted to know the name of every plant that I see ever since. Teaberry is one of our native wintergreens and is also called American wintergreen.

 8. Bark Patterns on Red Maple

I wondered for a long time what caused these circular patterns in the bark of red maples until I finally found out that they are natural markings that the tree eventually outgrows.  I don’t see them often but every now and then a single tree will be marked in this way. Now I wonder why a certain tree will have them when all of the others around it don’t. If you know anything about it I’d love to hear from you.

Note: Thanks very much to Kathy Schillemat, Josh Fecteau and Al Stoops for identifying this unusual bark pattern as target canker that affects only red maples. The bark pattern is actually caused by the tree defending itself against the canker. Al also sent me an excellent article about how and why Michael Wojtech wrote the book Bark: A Field Guide to Trees of the Northeast. It’s very much worth a read and can be found by clicking on the word HERE.

 9. Branch Collar

There is a huge old log lying parallel to the trail that always tells me three things:
1. I am very close to the summit.
2. I’m not as young as I used to be.
3. It’s time to stop and pretend that I’ve seen something fascinating while catching my breath.

Only this time I really did see something fascinating; a perfect example of a branch collar. If you do any tree pruning you would do well to read all you can find about branch collars, because if you prune off a branch while ignoring the branch collar you could be slowing down the healing process and inviting any number of diseases to come and visit your trees.

10. View

It wasn’t a great day for looking at the views but it didn’t bother me because that wasn’t what I came here for. It seemed very hazy on this day but it was warm and spring like, so I couldn’t complain. I chose this photo because it shows one of the cliff edges found here. Since I fell out of a tree and shattered my spine in my early teen years heights and I haven’t been the best of friends, but I got close enough to this edge to make the fluttering butterflies in my stomach become soaring eagles. Doing so isn’t something I make a habit of.

 11. Toadskin Lichen

This is what I came to see; my old friends the toadskin lichens (Lasallia papulosa.) I’ve only found them in two places and both are on mountain tops. I was surprised to see their grayish color because that meant they were drying out, even after all the rain we’ve had. When wet they are pea green and very pliable, but apparently it doesn’t take them long to dry out and become crisp like a potato chip. I took many photos of them but I chose this one to show you because the lighter gray area shows how they attach their undersides to the stone at a central point, much like a belly button. That is why they are classified as umbilicate lichens. I like their warty-ness.

 12. Carving on Summit

I paced back and forth over every inch of exposed bedrock on the summit but I couldn’t find the arrow pointing to Mount Monadnock. Instead I found this, which I I’m not fond of seeing. Defacing mountain tops has been going on for a very long time but that doesn’t make it right. Even Henry David Thoreau complained about it when he climbed Mount Monadnock back in 1858 and found a name that had been chiseled into the granite in 1801. The date of this example looks like either 1936 or 1986.

I think the very bright sunshine might have had something to do with my not being able to see the arrow, but I know it exists because I’ve seen photos of it online. It really looks more like a “V” than an arrow. It wasn’t a total loss though because I found toadskin lichens growing in 2 more locations that I didn’t know about.

 13. Split Granite

I also found this while I was looking for the arrow. One of the ways stone was split in colonial New England was by drilling a row of holes in it and filling them with water in the winter. When the water froze and expanded it would split the stone along the path made by the holes. Such is the power of ice, and though man had nothing to do with it I’d guess that ice is why this large piece of granite originally split in two. Over the eons-how many is anyone’s guess-the part on the left has been sliding down the mountainside and one day, most likely with an earth shaking roar, it will probably go over the edge.

14. Sign

Well, in the end I did find an arrow pointing to Mount Monadnock but it wasn’t exactly what I had in mind. I had to laugh though, because I’ll bet that I’ve walked by this 50 times without seeing it. So much for my great powers of observation. It’s good to be humbled once in a while when we get too big for our britches but that doesn’t stop me from hoping someone will write in and say that they just tacked it to that pine tree last week.

 15. Monadnock

In case you’re new to this blog and are wondering what the hubbub over Mount Monadnock is all about, here is a photo of it. At 3,165 feet it’s the highest point in southern New Hampshire and is said to be the second most climbed mountain in the world after Mount Fuji in Japan. The word Monadnock is thought to originate with the Native American Abenaki tribe and is said to mean “mountain that stands alone. “ It’s hard to get a good feel for its elevation from this photo but it is 2203 feet higher than where I stood when I clicked the shutter.

No matter how sophisticated you may be, a large granite mountain cannot be denied – it speaks in silence to the very core of your being. ~Ansel Adams

Thanks for coming by.

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1. Stream Ice

This year winter seems determined to overstay its welcome and has brought record low temperatures and record high snowfall amounts. Even though we’ve had mini thaws where the temperature rose to 40 degrees for a day or two, most of the time we have been well below freezing during the day and below zero at night. Because of that the snow that has fallen is melting very slowly.

 2. Melting Snow

The snow in the woods is knee deep, which makes going rough. I recently bought some gaiters to keep my pant legs dry and make life a little easier, but another good storm will mean snowshoes for sure. One way to make it easier to get around is to look for south facing spots like that in the photo above where the snow has pulled back some. These are great places to look for mosses and other plants that stay green throughout winter.

 3. Fern on Ice

Ferns might look fragile but evergreen ferns like this intermediate wood fern (Dryopteris intermedia) aren’t. This one was growing in the midst of an ice sheet. There aren’t many ferns that are evergreen in New England so winter is a good time to hone one’s identification skills by getting to know them. This one is very similar to the marginal wood fern (Dryopteris marginalis). Both the words “intermediate” and “marginal” in the fern’s common names refer to the placement of the spore bearing structures (sori) found on the undersides of the leaves.

 4. Evergreen Christmas Fern

Another fern commonly seen in winter is the evergreen Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides). This one is easy to identify by its leaflets that resemble little Christmas stockings. The narrow fine teeth that line the edges of the leaflets and the short leaf stalks can also be seen in this photo. When seen at this time of year it is obvious that evergreen Christmas fern has had its branches flattened by the weight of the snow because they splay out all over the ground. Once new fronds emerge these will brown and die off.

 5. White Poplar Bark

Winter is also a good time to learn how to identify trees by their bark since there is no foliage in the way. A tree with light to dark, mottled gray bark with diamond shaped marks in it is a young white poplar (Populus alba). The diamond shapes are the tree’s lenticels, which are air pores. The bark on white poplars can be very white at times like a birch, but it is usually light gray when young. Older trees have darker gray, furrowed bark at their bases.  White poplar was introduced from central Europe and Asia in 1748. It can now be found in every state except Alaska, Arizona, and Hawaii.

 6. Hedwigia cillata Moss 

Mosses are easy to find in winter if you look at logs and stones where the snow has retreated. This Hedwigia ciliata moss with its white leaf tips is usually found growing on boulders and is very easy to identify. Common names include Hedwig’s fringeleaf Moss, Hedwig’s rock moss, and Fringed Hoar-moss. Johann Hedwig was a German botanist who studied mosses in the eighteenth century. He is called the father of bryology and lends his name to this and many other mosses.

 7. Slender Tail Moss aka anomodon attenuatus

This moss has never appeared on this blog in this dry state before. Long-leaved tail moss (Anomodon attenuates) is also called tree apron moss because it is quite common on the lower part of tree trunks. When wet its leaves stand out from the stem and it takes on a more feathery appearance and looks completely different than it does in the photo. This is a good example of why serious moss hunters do so after it rains.

 8. Moss aka Dicranoweissia cirrata

This is another first appearance on this blog. Curly thatch moss (Dicranoweissia cirrata) grows on rotting logs and stumps and is very small, with leaves that curl when dry. After a rain its leaves will straighten out and this moss will look very different than it does in this photo, which is why I’ve found it so hard to identify. Tiny growths on the leaves called gemmae are intended to break off to perpetuate the species.

 9. White Cushion Moss

White cushion moss (Leucobryum glaucum) can appear silvery, white, bluish green or grayish green but it always forms a thick cushion and stands out from the mosses that might surround it. It likes plenty of water and shade and grows on rotting logs or on stone when there is enough soil. It is probably the easiest of all the mosses to identify.

 10. Beard Lichen

March is a month known for its wind and anyone who studies nature can take advantage of that fact, because there are all kinds of things falling from the trees at this time of year. This beard lichen (Usnea) was lying on top of the snow and at 4 1/2 inches long is the longest I’ve ever seen. It is said that if you take a single strand of this lichen and gently pull it apart lengthwise you’ll find a white cord inside, but it must take extreme magnification to see it because I’ve never been able to.

 11. Gilled Bracket Fungus 

Another bracket fungus that mimics the common turkey tail (Trametes versicolor) is the multicolor gill polypore (Lenzites betulina).  Since turkey tails have pores and these have gills they are hard to confuse. Multicolor gill polypores start life very white but turn gray as they age. They have some zoning like turkey tails and are often covered with green algae.

 12. Gilled Bracket Fungus Closeup

This is an extreme close-up of the underside of the multicolor gill polypore in the previous photo. These are clearly not pores.

NOTE: Thanks to help from a knowledgeable reader and more experience identifying fungi I now know this to be the Thin-maze flat polypore (Daedaleopsis confragosa). The photo does actually show pores but they’re elongated and can resemble gills. I’m sorry if my incorrect identification caused any confusion.

 13. Hobblebush buds 

In my last post I talked about bud how scales enclose and protect buds throughout winter. Not all plants use bud scales for protection though; some like the hobblebush in this photo have naked buds.  Instead of using bud scales plants with naked buds often use fine hairs like those that can be seen on the fuzzy leaves and stems of the hobblebush. If there isn’t a flower bud between them the tiny naked leaves almost look like hands clasped in prayer. I like to imagine that they’re praying for spring like the rest of us, but I don’t know for sure.

Winter lies too long in country towns; hangs on until it is stale and shabby, old and sullen. ~Willa Cather

Thanks for stopping in. Don’t forget to set your clocks ahead 1 hour tonight!

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About two weeks ago the sun came out and has stayed out, and each day has been warmer than the last. The eighty degree temperatures make it feel like summer and I have to keep reminding myself that it’s still early May. Of course, the sunny days mean no rain and we are starting to see the effects of that.

1. Water Line on Rocks

The boulders at a local reservoir show that the water level is about three feet lower than it should be. The water level is drawn down in the fall to make room for snow melt and spring rains. Unfortunately the spring rains haven’t happened this year and now we are about 4 inches below normal.

2. Cloudless Sky

This has been our weather-not a cloud in the sky-for about 15 days.

 3. Weeping Willow Flowers

 Some plants have been affected by the lack of rain but not this weeping willow (Salix babylonica,) which was in full flower the day I visited it. Weeping willows like a lot of water so it was surprising to see the tree in such fine shape.

 4. Christmas Fern Fiddleheads

Ferns are still coming up in the wetter areas. These are the silvery fiddleheads of evergreen Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides.)

 5. Cinnamon Fern Unfurling

The fronds of cinnamon ferns (Osmunda cinnamomea) are just starting to unfurl. These ferns seem to prefer wet areas. That’s where I see most of them growing.

 6. Coltsfoot Seedhead 4

In spite of the dryness coltsfoot held up well and had quite a long blooming season. Now the wind is doing its job of distributing the seeds. Once the seed heads have disappeared the leaves will begin to grow. One of coltsfoot’s common names is “son before the father” because of the way the flowers appear before the leaves.

 7. False Morel Mushrooms

I was surprised to see several false morel mushrooms in such dry soil. I think these are Gyromitra esculenta. This is a mushroom that you don’t want to eat by mistake. According to Tom Volk’s fungus identification website these fungi contain a chemical called gyromitrin (N-methyl-N-formylhydrazine), which is metabolized to monomethylhydrazine when eaten. This is rocket fuel. Really-rocket fuel-and it destroys red blood cells in human beings who are unlucky enough to ingest it. People have even gotten sick from inhaling the steam produced by boiling these fungi.

 8. Rattlesnake weed aka Hieracium venosum

Rattlesnake weed (Hieracium venosum) got its common name from the way people thought it grew where there were rattlesnakes. We have timber rattlers in New Hampshire but they are as rare as a blue moon. This plant has flowers that resemble those of yellow hawkweed, but I like its purple veined leaves. I can’t say for sure how rare this plant is in New Hampshire but I’ve seen only one in my lifetime, and this is it. It is listed as endangered in Maine. This plant grows in a dry, sandy spot in full sun.

9. Red Baneberry Buds

The new leaves of red baneberry (Actaea rubra) always look tortured to me- as if they were in a gale force wind. I like looking at them and have pictures from last year that I keep telling myself I’m going to draw. Someday.  This plant is already showing flower buds and will later have poisonous red berries.  The leaves closely resemble those of black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa.) This one grows on an embankment that never dries out completely. They seem to like a lot of water.

10. Skunk Cabbage Fruiting

I thought I’d show what the fruit of skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) looks like when it is forming for those of you who have been following along and watching the plant’s development. The fruit is contained within the splotchy purple/yellow/brown spathe and will ripen between July and September. These plants like low, swampy places that are wet in spring but don’t seem to mind a little dryness later in the year.

11. New Oak Leaves

These tiny new oak leaves were red and fuzzy. I ‘ve been reading about why new spring leaves aren’t green in many species of trees and have found, according to the Vermont Monitoring Cooperative, that trees require plenty of light and warmth to begin producing the chlorophyll that makes them green.  When there is a cloudy, cool spring trees will not be able to produce chlorophyll and their leaves will stay red (or orange, yellow or another color) until the weather turns sunny and warmer. Oak leaves are among the last to appear in spring, so it hasn’t enjoyed the last two weeks of warm, sunny weather.

 12. Poplar Leaves

These new poplar leaves are also fuzzy, and almost completely without color. It is the only tree I know of that has white leaves in spring. Trees keep a weather history in their rings and I wonder if someone in the future will read our history and see that we’ve had very strange weather over the past three years.

13. Shagbark Hicory Bud Unfurling

The new leaves of shagbark hickory (Carya ovate) are green from the start, but the insides of the bud scales that enclosed and protected the new growth are fantastic shades of orange, pink, and yellow. They are so colorful and unusual that they are sometimes mistaken for flowers.  It seems like in spring every plant wants to show how beautiful it can be.

 14. Ashuelot on 5-10-13-2

As soon as I started writing this post telling you how sunny and dry it was, clouds rolled in and we’ve had scattered showers for the last two days. Who says Mother Nature doesn’t have a sense of humor?

To look at any thing,
If you would know that thing,
You must look at it long.

~ John Moffitt

Thanks for coming by. Happy mother’s day to all of you moms!

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We have been wet here lately, but have seen more liquid than the white fluffy variety. Still, our local weatherman is hinting at big changes coming next week so we may see some snow before Christmas. Or maybe not-the Weather Channel is saying rain.

1. Misty Forest

It’s getting harder to find the sun lately and the forests look like the one in the picture on most days. Though it’s easy to think that not much is going on in the cold and damp December woods, nothing could be further from the truth-there is still a lot of nature happening.

2. Fallen Tree One of the nice things about this time of year is that you can see the bones of the forest. If all of the underbrush still had leaves I never would have seen this twisted, mossy log.

3. December 3rd Aster

Though it’s not the prettiest aster I’ve seen, this one was still blooming on December 3rd.

 4. December 3rd Mushroom

This pinkish brown mushroom was trying hard on the same day.

5. Fan Shaped Jelly Fungus aks Dacryopinax spathularia

I’ve read that jelly fungi like witch’s butter can absorb so much water when it rains that they turn white. I wondered if the same thing was happening to these- what I think are- fan shaped jelly fungi (Dacryopinax spathularia.)

6. Evergreen Christmas Fern

Some people say that the leaflets (Pinna) of the evergreen Christmas fern ( Polystichum acrostichoides) look like little Christmas stockings. You can see why if you look at the leaflet just to the right of the gap, and right up near the stem in the photo. Each leaflet has a little bump or “ear.” This is the only fern in the New Hampshire woods with this feature, so it makes a Christmas fern very easy to identify. The short leaf stems (petioles,) serrated leaflet margins, and hairy central stem are other things to watch for when looking for this fern.

7. Pixie Cup Lichen

Lichens are also very easy to see at this time of year but some, like these pixie cup lichens (Cladonia pyxidata,) are small enough to still make them challenging to find. A single drop of water would be far too big to fit into one of these little cups.

8. Foliose Lichen

Lichens dry out quickly when it is dry but plump right back up again when it rains, as this foliose lichen shows. It had been drizzling steadily for two days when I took this picture. I haven’t been able to find this lichen in any lichen books or online.

 9. Orange Brown Lichen

I’ve never seen this orange-brown crustose lichen before and can’t find anything like it in Lichens of the North Woods.

 10. Turkey Tails

I’m seeing turkey tail fungi (Trametes versicolor) that are more colorful than those I saw just a month ago. Blue is a hard color to find in nature so the different blues in these examples really caught my eye. I still have a feeling that cold weather has something to do with their color. They seem to be brown/tan in early fall and then as the temperature drops they get more colorful. Of course, it could be that I’m just seeing both brown/tan and colorful varieties. I’ve got to find one example that is easy to get to and watch it over several months.

11. Lemon Drops and Turkey Tails on a Log

The much more common brown turkey tails and lemon drop jelly fungi (Bisporella citrina) decorated the end of this log.

 12. White Cushion Moss

White cushion moss (Leucobryum glaucum) isn’t really white but it does form a cushion. It can also form large mats, but the ball shape shown in the photo is more common. This moss needs plenty of shade and water.

 13. Dead Mushroom Gills

It’s not just growing things that are interesting. I liked the color and shape of this dead mushroom.

14. Woven Beech Trees

This is something I don’t see in the woods every day; when they were much younger than they are now somebody wove these three beech (Fagus) seedlings together. As they grew and finally touched, they rubbed against each other in the wind until the bark had rubbed away. Now they have grown together through inosculation, which is a natural process very similar to the grafting done in orchards. One day they may grow into a single, twisted trunk.

People don’t notice whether it’s winter or summer when they’re happy ~Anton Chekhov

Thanks for stopping by.

 

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