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Posts Tagged ‘Clubmoss’

As soon as I mentioned spring in a blog post winter returned and we’ve had a cold, snowy week. Last Saturday it was cloudy but not too cold at 37 degrees F. when I went to play on the banks of the Ashuelot River in Swanzey. I’ve been playing on these river banks my entire lifetime and I’ve seen a lot of trees in the river, but I’ve never seen one actually fall in. That leaning white pine over on the left is going to fall in any time now, I’d guess, but I doubt I’ll see it happen. Once it falls in it might be in this spot for a year or two or maybe more, but eventually the river will flood and off it will go on its journey to the Atlantic. White pines are our tallest trees and I’m guessing that this one is over 100 feet tall.

Ice baubles that would have been more at home on a chandelier hung from the slab of ice that had formed over a stone.

They hung from anything close enough for the river to touch.

Just like a candle dipped in hot wax the waves engulf an icicle again and again, depositing a new layer of ice each time. The excess water runs down its length and pools there, creating the fat bottom just above the water. In this shot the point from where the bauble dangles doesn’t look very strong.

Last Monday the temperatures fell into the single digits F. and the wind roared with 60 mile per hour gusts. After that it was snowy all week and cold enough to keep the snow from melting. Everything that fell stayed right where it landed.

And the snow on tree trunks marked the direction the wind had blown it in from.

I saw lots of beaver activity here. They had sampled this young beech at might have come back and cut it down that night.

Sometimes a beaver will sample a tree and find it not to its liking, and leave it alone.

But usually they know what they’re cutting and they cut down trees and haul them away. They like beech and I’ve seen them cut huge old trees down to get at the upper branches.

The chips the beaver left behind looked like the same things a pileated woodpecker would have left but I didn’t find any woodpecker damage on any of the nearby trees.

I’ve noticed many times that fallen oak limbs have a golden color on their bark. What I don’t know is if this happens when the branch dies or is it there when they’re alive. I’ve cut down and cut up oak trees but I’ve never noticed the color on a fresh limb.

Fallen oak limbs often have jelly fungi on them, especially amber jelly fungi (Exidia recisa) like that seen here. This one was about the size of a nickel and frozen solid. Once it thaws it will grow on as if nothing ever happened. It’s the only jelly fungus I know of that holds its size when it dries out. Most shrivel down into little chips on the bark.

I love the soft brown color of last year’s oak leaves and the way they curl together as if hugging to keep each other warm.

I think the fungus on this tree was conifer parchment fungus (Stereum sanguinolentum,) which I’m seeing a lot of this year. It is also called bleeding parchment because of the blood red liquid it exudes when damaged but this example was very dry. The fungus causes heart rot and means a death sentence for a conifer. I’ve seen this fungus in just about every bit of woodland I’ve been in recently and after not seeing it for years, that seems strange. It’s almost like an outbreak.

Milk white toothed polypore was dry enough to be almost unrecognizable but I’ve seen it enough to know what I was looking at. This crust fungus has ragged bits of spore producing tissue that hang down and look like teeth, and that’s where part of its common name comes from. This common fungus can usually be found on the undersides of hardwood branches.

Common ground pine (Lycopodium dendroideum) is a clubmoss and has nothing to do with pines. It also has nothing to do with moss; it’s a vascular plant that produces spores instead of flowers. The spores are produced in the yellowish “clubs” called strobili. In this photo the strobili are still tightly closed. When they open to release the spores they have a kind of ragged look to them. The dried spores they are highly flammable, and they were once used in place of flash bulbs in photography. That’s one reason that clubmosses were so hard to find at one time. People also made Christmas wreaths from them and that also helped to nearly wipe them out. They’ve made a comeback though and I see lots of them.

Snow always melts faster under the evergreens because the branches block so much of it from falling next to the trunk. This gives birds and small animals places to scratch around and find any morsels that might have been missed.

The return of the bluebirds made me think that other migrants might be coming back as well, but the sumac berries still aren’t being eaten. I’ve heard that the fruit is low in fat and not very nourishing but I would think it would at least fill an empty stomach and get them by until they could find something a little more nourishing. These berries are on a smooth sumac (Rhus glabra,) which I’ve never seen growing here.

The birds have eaten all the seeds from the asters, but what they leave behind is still pretty enough to make me think of flowers. It’s hard to imagine birds getting much nourishment from such tiny seeds but I suppose if you happen to be a tiny bird they’re just right.

They say a warm up is coming starting next week so I hope to be able to show you something besides ice and snow soon. I still haven’t seen a sap bucket but I dreamed I was in a sugar bush of huge old trees with hundreds of buckets hanging from them, so I hope to also be able to show you one of those soon. I have seen that plastic tubing they use instead of sap buckets these days, so I know the sap must be flowing.

If the sight of the blue skies fills you with joy, if a blade of grass springing up in the fields has power to move you, if the simple things in nature have a message you understand, rejoice, for your soul is alive. ~Eleanora Duse

Thanks for coming by.

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1. Trail

Last Sunday, the day after the big mid-Atlantic blizzard had blown out to sea we had a beautiful sunny day, so I decided to climb the High Blue Trail in Walpole. I chose it because I hadn’t climbed since we had ice fall on top of the snow and I wasn’t sure how icy the trails would be. High Blue Trail is a very gentle climb and though the snow was very loud and crunchy it wasn’t at all slippery. Many had gone before me.

2. Meadow

After four cloudy weekends in a row the sky seemed an incredibly beautiful shade of blue.

3. Clouds

The sky wasn’t entirely cloudless though. I saw these 3 trying to sneak past out of the corner of my eye.

4. Sunshine

The sun was very bright and I was glad that I had brought sunglasses. Snow blindness is a very real thing and isn’t pleasant. It happened to me once when I was shoveling snow in bright sunshine and it wasn’t until the next day that my blurry vision finally got back to normal. It is basically sunburn on your eye and some say it is quite painful. I didn’t have any real pain but it certainly is annoying when you keep blinking and your vision doesn’t clear.

5. Mossy Ledges

The blue shadows, green mosses and white blankets of snow softened the stone ledges. Some say winter is hard and sharp and it can be, but it isn’t always that way.

6. Grafted Maples

The wind made these two maples rub together and they rubbed enough to rub away their outer bark and become grafted together. Unless man interferes they will now stay that way for the rest of their lives. Unfortunately some fungus spores found the wound and grew, so there is a good chance that the lives of these trees will be cut short.

7. Small Spruce

I’ve seen this little two foot tall spruce that grows beside the trail completely covered with snow a few times. I was very glad that it wasn’t this time. It’s nice to measure snowfalls in inches rather than feet for a change.

8. Tracks

Some small creature scampered around this sapling and then went back from where it had started.  Either that or a chipmunk had gotten new skis for Christmas and was trying them out on a downhill run.

9. Hollow Tree

There was a lot of coming and going around this hollow tree.

10. Hollow Tree

But in spite of all the footprints nobody was home.  I suppose you couldn’t blame them for being out on such a beautiful day.

11. Club Moss

The clubmosses have released their spores. The orange yellow, club-like strobilus that bears the spores is smooth and closed before they are released, and open and bushy afterwards. These spores have been collected and dried for many years to make flash powder. They are high in fat content and when mixed with air become highly flammable. They’ve been used in fireworks and explosives for years, and also as camera flashes before flash bulbs were invented. These days they are still used in magic acts. If you ever see a big impressive flash of fire on a stage, thank a clubmoss.

12. Stone Foundation

As always I had to stop at the old stone foundation. Winters must have seemed very long and cold for those who once lived here and I always wonder how they managed.

13. Nail

I’ve been up here too many times to count but I’ve never seen the nail in this tree before. I wonder how long it’s been here.

14. Sign

The nail is on the backside of the tree that the sign is on, which makes it even more surprising that I’ve never seen it.

15. Spoilers

The stacked rocks are still here from last summer. I call them spoilers because for me they are needless distractions that spoil the experience.

16. View

As expected the view across the Connecticut River Valley to Vermont was very blue but strangely, the sky wasn’t. At least it wasn’t the deep sapphire blue that it had been in other spots along the trail.

17. View

I would imagine that they must be making snow every night on Stratton Mountain if the ski trails are any indication. The past week saw some cold nights and the temperature had only risen to 17 degrees when I left Keene to come here. A stiff and steady westerly breeze meant that it was fairly cool standing in this spot, so I didn’t stay long. Climbing really isn’t about the views for me anyway; it’s more about what I see along the way. Because there are so many interesting things to see along the way hazy or cloud blocked views never disappoint.

The old school of thought would have you believe that you’d be a fool to take on nature without arming yourself with every conceivable measure of safety and comfort under the sun. But that isn’t what being in nature is all about. Rather, it’s about feeling free, unbounded, shedding the distractions and barriers of our civilization—not bringing them with us. ~Ryel Kestenbaum

Thanks for coming by.

 

 

 

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I don’t know why, but for the last two or three months I’ve had the urge to go places I’ve never been and see things I’ve never seen. Recently I walked into a forest in Winchester, New Hampshire, which lies south of Keene on the way to Northfield, Massachusetts to see a waterfall called Pulpit Falls.

 1. Stream and Bedrock

The directions weren’t the best; follow an old logging road until you hear running water, and then bushwack your way upstream until you see a waterfall. In other words, once I left the logging road there was no trail-just me and the woods.

2. Stream

Being so late in the year there was little actual bushwacking to do. What few shrubs grew near the stream were easily skirted. Since there was no trail the meandering stream became the trail.

3. Mt. Laurel Thicket

Mountain Laurels (Kalmia latifolia) grew here and there. These native shrubs often grow in large impenetrable thickets that are always best to walk around rather than through. This place must be beautiful in the summer when the laurels are covered with pink and white blossoms. Native Americans used to make their spoons out of the wood, which is why it is also called spoon wood.  This plant was first recorded in this country by the Swedish / Finnish botanist Peter Kalm in 1624.

4. Pulpit Falls

We’ve had such a dry summer that the falls themselves weren’t much to write home about, if indeed this was them. But, easily seen was evidence that this small stream could become a raging torrent several yards across. I’ve seen pictures of the falls when the stream is running like that and it would be worth the hike to see it. I’ll come back during the spring rains, if we have them.

5. Boulders at Pulpit Falls

Upstream from the falls, the stream appears from under these huge pieces of stone. The biggest of them was as big as a delivery truck. I didn’t see anything that looked like a pulpit, so I’m not sure where the name Pulpit Falls came from. Uphill above these boulders was nothing but forest-no stream or any sign of a stream, so it must go underground somewhere uphill and then reappear here. What bothers me is that this area doesn’t look like the pictures I’ve seen. The rocks are much flatter than round in those pictures.

6. Fern on Stream Bank

A thin shaft of sunlight fell through the trees and lit up this fern as if it were on a Broadway stage. It was growing on a boulder at the side of the stream and I think it was a polypody fern, also known as rock cap fern. These ferns are evergreen.

7. Clubmoss Fruiting

The clubmosses here were covered with fruiting “clubs” where spores are produced. I think this is common ground pine (Lycopodium dendroideum) which is native and which the U.S.D.A. lists as rare. The people at the U.S.D.A. have obviously never hiked through the woods of New Hampshire, because this plant is everywhere now. It was once endangered after being over collected for use as Christmas greenery. The dried spores of this plant were also once used in photography as flash powder before flashbulbs were invented.

 8. Beard Lichen

I found a tree branch on the ground that was covered with lichens, so I put it on this mossy boulder and took a picture.  I think the larger hairy examples are bristly beard lichens (Usnea hirta.) The others are foliose lichens that I don’t recognize.

9. Ledges

On my way home from the falls I stopped to get a few pictures of a local hill that has had its heart torn out by a construction company, which crushes the rock and sells it. To give you an idea of how massive this really is-the “shrubs” on top of the hill in the upper left hand corner are actually white pine trees (Pinus strobus.) White pines can grow to around 160-190 feet tall are the tallest trees in eastern North America, but the youngsters in the photo were probably closer to 100 feet.

10. Icy Ledges

You know it’s cold when stone doesn’t absorb enough heat from the sun to melt the ice that clings to it. But at least we saw some sunshine!

If you can find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn’t lead anywhere ~Frank A. Clark

Thanks for stopping by.

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I wasn’t surprised the other day when I walked into my local grocery store and saw a table full of cyclamen, poinsettia, and Christmas cactus. But wait-what in the name of Asa Gray was that!? It looks harmless, doesn’t it?

 

The sign said it was a “Frosty Fern,” but I knew it wasn’t a fern, so what was it? It looked familiar but… And why had it been dipped in whatever it had been dipped in? I ran my hand over it-it felt like a cedar leaf. Then it finally hit me-clubmoss, of course-I had just done a blog entry on clubmoss! But that still left the nagging question of the “frosting.” Was it natural?

As it turns out, according to several websites, the coloring of the leaf tips is natural; similar to variegation on other leaves but concentrated in one area, apparently. This club moss (Selaginella kraussiana ) seems so unfamiliar because, though it has become naturalized in parts of Portugal, Spain and New Zealand,  it is originally from Africa.

Here in the northern United States it is grown as a houseplant and, by the sounds of it, a rather fussy one. Though several websites say it is easy to grow, they go on to say that it likes temperatures in the eighties, constantly moist soil, and very high humidity. It doesn’t like temperatures below fifty degrees and anything below ten degrees will kill it. “Easy to grow” is a relative term; I’ve grown so many houseplants in the past that it used to be wise to bring a machete if you came to visit, but I’ve always stayed away from those that need high humidity because it is almost impossible to provide it adequately. Many growers recommend putting the frosty fern in a terrarium which, in our dry winter houses, is probably a good idea.

In southern and western states frosty fern and its commercially available siblings “Aurea,” which is plain green, “Brownii”, which appears to be a dwarf variety and “Gold Tips,” which is frosted with gold instead of white are being planted outdoors in gardens and are escaping. They have become naturalized in Georgia, northern Virginia and central California and have escaped gardens in Alabama and North and South Carolina. They are being found on riverbanks, lake edges, lawns, and other moist, shady places, but the U.S.D.A. doesn’t list them as invasive. Yet.

In New Zealand Selaginella kraussiana, introduced as a groundcover, has been listed on the National Plant Pest Accord and is considered an invasive species. It spreads quickly by rhizomes (underground stems), forms dense mats in shaded areas and chokes out native orchids and ferns. Biological control has been unsuccessful and it takes several applications of herbicides to kill it, so repeated deep hand weeding is recommended.

It has also escaped and become naturalized in parts of Australia, Europe, and Northern, Central, and South America. Invasive plants “adversely affect the habitats they invade economically, environmentally, and/or ecologically.”  Many would never become invasive without a lot of help from us-the gardening public.

 

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