Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘English Plantain’

I see this view of Halfmoon Pond in Hancock almost every morning on the way to work. Sometimes there are ducks, geese or great blue herons here so I always at least slow down and look. The view from here reminds me of total wilderness, where all you really have is you. At the very edge of a pond the growth is thick and hard to get through because that’s where all the sunlight is. Back away from where the water meets the land, back where the forest is dark and there is less undergrowth, there is usually a way around. I think, long before Europeans showed up, Native Americans most likely had trails around every pond and lake in this area.

Ponds are great places to see waterfowl of all kinds and I’ve seen plenty of Canada geese this year. This family swam quite close and I think it’s because they’ve been fed by humans sometime in the past.

These goslings on the other hand swam away as fast as they could, with mom and dad just out of view, bobbing their heads up and down frantically. Personally I don’t feed wild animals because I’d rather have them rely on nature. Nature will provide all they need, just as it has since the time began.

But nature doesn’t discriminate and it also provides all that snapping turtles need, and some of what they need are small birds like goslings that swim on the surface of their ponds. If you watch a family of geese over time they might start out with 6 or 7 goslings, but then often end up with only one or two that reach adulthood. Foxes, bobcats, snapping turtles and other animals all thin the flock.

The big turtles have been on the move until recently and I’ve seen quite a few females out looking for suitable places to dig their nests and lay their eggs. Once they do many of the nests are almost immediately dug up and the eggs eaten, but there are thousands of eggs around every pond. Nature allows for the losses, so there will always be turtles and there will always be goslings. I should say that you don’t want to get too close to a snapping turtle because though it doesn’t look it they have long necks that can stretch out quickly. They also have very strong jaws.

Rosy maple moths appear at about this time each year and are easy to identify because there apparently aren’t too many others that look like them. This is a cute little thing with its wooly yellow body and pink and creamy yellow wing stripes. These moths lay their tiny eggs on the undersides of maple leaves and that’s how they come by their common name. Adult moths do not eat but the caterpillars are able to eat a few leaves each. They are called green striped maple worms.

Virgin tiger moths are large, butterfly sized moths and I’ve read that its hindwing color can vary from yellow to scarlet. Unfortunately they can’t be seen in this photo. The larvae feed on various low growing plants. Though there are countless photos of this moth online there is very little information on it. It is certainly one of the prettiest moths I’ve seen.

I saw a wolf spider crawling on one of the buildings where I work. Wolf spiders carry their egg sacs by attaching them to their spinnerets. They have eight eyes and two of them are large, which helps them see their prey. They will sometimes chase prey but usually just wait for it to happen by.

Here is a closer view of the wolf spiders egg sac. According to Wikipedia “the egg sac, a round, silken globe, is attached to the spinnerets at the end of the abdomen, allowing the spider to carry her unborn young with her. The abdomen must be held in a raised position to keep the egg case from dragging on the ground. However, despite this handicap, they are still capable of hunting. Another aspect unique to wolf spiders is their method of care of young. Immediately after the spiderlings emerge from their protective silken case, they clamber up their mother’s legs and crowd onto the dorsal side of her abdomen. The mother carries the spiderlings for several weeks before they are large enough to disperse and fend for themselves. No other spiders are currently known to carry their young on their backs for any period of time.”

A cedar waxwing sat on a lawn and let me walk right up to it and takes as many photos as I wanted before finally hopping away into the undergrowth. This is odd behavior for a bird but it must have either been a juvenile that couldn’t fly yet or maybe an adult that was stunned. I saw a Baltimore oriole fly into a window once and knock itself out. I thought it had died but an hour later it woke up and flew away. I love the beautiful sleek look of cedar waxwings, and the little bandit masks they wear. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology the name waxwing comes from the brilliant red wax drops you can see at the tips of its wing feathers. Cornell also says because they eat so much fruit, cedar waxwings occasionally become intoxicated or even die when they run across overripe berries that have started to ferment and produce alcohol, so maybe this one was simply drunk.

Our white pines have been growing pollen cones, which are the tree’s male flowers. Pine trees are wind pollinated and great clouds of smoke like yellow-green pollen can be seen coming from them on windy days. The trees look like they’re on fire and virtually everything gets dusted with pollen; cars, houses, and even entire lakes and ponds. If you live near pine trees it’s impossible not to breathe some of it in, but pine pollen is a strong antioxidant that has been used medicinally around the world for thousands of years. Its numerous health benefits were first written of in China nearly 5000 years ago.

I like lake sedge (Carex lacustris) because I like the way it seems to flow like the waves of the pond and lake shores it grows on. It is really the wind and its own weak stems that make it bend so, but I think it makes a pretty display. Lake sedge is native to Canada and the northern U.S. and can at times be found growing in water. Waterfowl and songbirds eat its seeds. Even when it isn’t blowing in the wind it seems to have movement.

English plantain (Plantago lanceolata) blooms in rings around the flower stalk, starting at the bottom and working towards the top. Though an invasive from Europe and Asia English plantain prefers growing in soil that has been disturbed, so it isn’t often seen in natural areas where there is little activity. But it is taking hold and it has gone from a plant I rarely saw just a few years ago to one I see just about everywhere now. I see it in lawns more than anywhere else. It is wind pollinated so it hangs its stamens out where the wind can blow the pollen off the anthers. Each stamen is made up of a white bag like anther sitting at the end of a thin filament. If pollinated each flower will bear two tiny seeds in a small seed capsule.

Maidenhair fern (Adiantum pedatum,) is as rare as hen’s teeth but I know of one or two. Some confuse it with royal fern but maidenhair fern really bears little resemblance to royal ferns. The name maidenhair comes from the fine, shiny black stalks, which are called stipes. This fern is very rarely seen in a natural setting in this area.

Grasses like this orchard grass have started flowering and I hope everyone will take a little time to give them a look, because they can be very beautiful as well as interesting. They are also one of the easiest plants there are to find. According to the book Grasses: An Identification Guide by Lauren Brown, George Washington loved orchard grass so much so that he wrote “Orchard grass of all others is in my opinion the best mixture with clover; it blooms precisely at the same time, rises quick again after cutting, stands thick, yields well, and both cattle and horses are fond of it green or in hay.”

Orchard grass seed heads are composed of spikelets that bear two to eight flowers which dangle from thin filaments (pedicels) and shimmer in the breeze, which of course blows the pollen to other plants.

Someone carved a heart into a birch tree. I did the same once but mine was carved into a maple and wasn’t as elaborate. Still, I’d guess the reasons for doing the carving were the same.

It might look like the hills were on fire in this shot but this was mist that the warmth of the sun was wringing out of the forest one morning after a rainstorm the night before. Marty Rubin once said “Mist around a mountain: all reality is there.” And for me, on that morning, it was. I thought it made a beautiful scene, and losing myself in it almost made me late for work.

Mists like the one in the previous photo usually mean high humidity in the forest, and if there’s one bit of nature that loves high humidity it’s a slime mold, and I’ve been seeing a few. I think this one is the scrambled egg slime mold (Fuligo septica.) It gets quite big and will grow in full sun on wood mulch or chips, so it is easily seen and is often people’s first introduction to slime molds. It also produces the largest spore-producing structure of any known slime mold. Slime molds move using a process called cytoplasmic streaming, which is basically a contracting of “muscles” by all of the separate cells until they come together in a single mass,  and I was fortunate enough to find this one on the move. Though its movement is imperceptible you can tell it has moved if you watch it over time. In fact it can climb onto stumps, logs, and living plants.

Scrambled egg slime mold is the perfect name for this one. According to mycologist Tom Volk of the University of Wisconsin, a plasmodium is essentially a blob of protoplasm without cell walls and only a cell membrane to keep everything in. It is really nothing but a large amoeba and feeds much the same way, by engulfing its food, which are mostly bacteria, spores of fungi and plants, protozoa, and particles of nonliving organic matter. Slime molds are a very important part of the ecosystem; it isn’t hard to imagine what this world would be like without decomposers like fungi and slime molds doing their work.

Scrambled egg slime in the plasmodium stage will eventually come together into a sponge-like mass called an aethalium, which is pictured forming here. An aethalium  is a “large, plump, pillow-shaped fruiting body.” Over time this slime mold forms a smooth, brittle crust which breaks easily to reveal a black spore mass.

My fungal offering for this post is a tiny bird’s nest fungus, which few people ever get to see. I think they were fluted bird’s nest fungi (Cyathus striatus) and this is a view of them from the side. They grow in a funnel or vase shape and have flutes around the rim of the body, which is hollow like a cup. They are so small not even a pea would fit inside them.

The “bird’s nest” is actually a splash cup called a peridium and when a drop of rain falls into it with enough force the “eggs” are splashed out. These eggs, which really can’t be seen here, are really disc shaped spore cases called peridioles. Once ejected from the splash cup the peridioles degrade over time to release the spores.

Here is a shot of a fluted bird’s nest cup with two disc shaped “eggs” in the bottom that I took earlier in 2015. It’s another of those miracles of nature that tend to boggle the mind.

Go out, go out I beg of you
And taste the beauty of the wild.
Behold the miracle of the earth
With all the wonder of a child.
~Edna Jaques

Thanks for coming by. I hope everyone has a safe and happy 4th of July tomorrow.

 

Read Full Post »

There is a place that I go to now and then just to see what the plants that live there are doing, and to see if any new ones have moved in. When I was a boy the land was part of a huge cornfield, then it became an industrial park with roads and businesses sprouting up where the corn once grew. Slowly all the lots in the industrial park filled except for one, which has been vacant for years. As I visited the place I realized that every city and town in America must have a place like this; empty, forgotten places that nobody seems to care about. They are wastelands by definition, but this particular wasteland is where many flowers have chosen to grow, so I haven’t forgotten it.

I thought I’d do an inventory of sorts and list the plants that grow here with the thought that if you visited that vacant lot that you might know of, you might find many of the same plants there. In this view there are white ox eye daisies (Leucanthemum vulgare,) yellow silver leaved cinquefoil (Potentilla argentea,) and purple maiden pinks (Dianthus deltoids.)  The maiden pinks especially seem to love this place. There are so many of them it was hard to take a photo without them in it.

Daisy fleabane (Erigeron annuus) also does well here. This plant is in the aster family and looks like an aster but it blooms much earlier and the flowers are much smaller; about the size of a dime. Plants reach about 3 feet tall and sway in the breeze. They can also be pink but I see very few pink ones. They do best in fields, along roadsides, and around waste areas ; anywhere with dry soil. Its common name fleabane comes from the dried plants being used to rid a house of fleas. It is native to the U.S. and Canada and has escaped cultivation in Europe. Native Americans made a tea from the leaves that was used for digestive ailments.

Lesser stitchwort (Stellaria graminea) bloomed among the tall grasses. This plant is originally from Europe and is also called common or grass leaved stitchwort. It like disturbed soil and does well on roadsides, old fields, and meadows. The Stellaria, part of its scientific name means star like, and the common name Stitchwort refers to the plant being used in herbal remedies to cure the pain in the side that we call a stitch.

Keene sits in a kind of bowl surrounded by hills and all of the runoff from the hills can make this a very wet place, especially in a rainy year like this one. Farmers solved the problem many years ago by digging deep, wide drainage ditches around the perimeters of their fields and they are still here today. All manner of water loving plants grow in and along them. There was a lot of pickerel weed (Pontederia cordata) growing in this one but they weren’t blooming yet.

Smooth sumac (Rhus glabra) grew along the top of the drainage ditch and were heavily budded. This shrub reaches 10 feet but always seems to lean, which makes it seem shorter. It typically grows in fields, abandoned farmland, clearings and along roadsides. It is very similar to staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina) but the young stems of staghorn sumac are very hairy and those of smooth sumac are smooth, and that’s where its common name comes from. The glabra part of the scientific name means “without hairs.” Native Americans used the berries of smooth and staghorn sumac to make a tart lemonade like drink which they sweetened with maple syrup. The roots and shoots were also eaten peeled and raw in spring.

Native arrowwood viburnum (Viburnum dentatum) also grows along the drainage ditches. This native shrub has a rounded habit and grows to 10 feet high. It’s quite showy and dense, and many people who grow native plants use it for hedges. It attracts butterflies and birds love its showy blueish black berries. In the fall its foliage can be yellow, orange or red. Native Americans used the straight stems of the shrub for arrow shafts, and that’s how it comes by its common name.

When it comes to small yellow flowers in my opinion one lifetime isn’t enough time to identify them all.
I usually admire them and leave them alone but it was hard to not want to know more about this little beauty. I knew its silvery leaves would make it easy to identify so I started with them and found silver leaved cinquefoil (Potentilla anserina.) It comes from Europe and is considered invasive but, though there were quite a few plants here they weren’t choking out other plants and I was happy to see them.

Maybe another reason I stay away from small yellow flowers is because they’re so hard to photograph. Or at least this one was; I had to try 4 different times to get a useable photo. I didn’t say a good photo because this one isn’t, but it does give you a good look at what silver leaved cinquefoil flowers look like.

It’s obvious how silver leaved cinquefoil gets its common name. The undersides of the leaves and the stems are a bright silvery white but they can fool you if you only give them a glance, because they’re deep green on top.

Five heart shaped pale yellow petals on a two foot tall stem mean sulfur cinquefoil. Close to the center packed with 30 stamens and many pistils each petal looks like it was daubed with a bit of deeper yellow. This is a very rough looking, hairy plant that was originally introduced from Europe. It grows in unused pastures and along roadsides and in waste places and it is considered a noxious weed in some areas because it out competes grasses. I think it’s very pretty.

Pollen grains that cause hay fever symptoms are very small and dust like and carried by the wind, and common ragweed pollen (Ambrosia artemisiifolia) fits the bill perfectly. It wasn’t blooming here yet; it will bloom as soon as goldenrod does and will then release its dust like, wind borne, allergy inducing pollen grains. For that it will get a free pass because for centuries people have blamed what they see, goldenrod, for their allergies. But goldenrod couldn’t make us sneeze even if it wanted to; the pollen grains of goldenrod are very large, sticky, and comparatively heavy and can only be carried by insects. Even if you put your nose directly into a goldenrod blossom, it is doubtful that you would inhale any pollen.

Golden clover (Trifolium campestre) is another imported clover originally from Europe and Asia. It is also known as large trefoil and large hop clover. The plant was imported through Philadelphia in 1800 to be used as a pasture crop and now appears in most states on the east and west coasts and much of Canada, but it is not generally considered aggressively invasive. Each pretty yellow flower head is packed with golden yellow pea-like flowers. I see the plant growing along roadsides and in sandy waste areas like this one.

Milkweed does well in waste areas and I saw a few plants here. The buds were just starting to show color so I’d guess another week or two before we see many blossoms. I’m hoping we see a lot of monarch butterflies visiting them; for the last two or three years I’ve been able to count the numbers I’ve seen on one hand.

I knew that I’d run into a plant or two that I hadn’t paid attention to in the past and sure enough here was an unknown sedge. It was a pretty little thing (with the emphasis on little) and I think it might be little green sedge (Carex viridula.) Sedges can be difficult to identify though, so don’t bet the farm on my results. I didn’t find it in the book Grasses: An Identification Guide, by Lauren Brown, but I’ve seen many similar examples online. This sedge grows to about a foot and a half tall. Sedges are often found near water and this one grew near a drainage ditch. Many different birds eat the seeds of sedges, including ducks and Canada geese.

I always find native blue toadflax (Nuttallanthus canadensis) growing in hot sandy waste areas and along roadsides so I wasn’t surprised to see it here. Toadflax has a long blooming period and I often see it later on in fall. The wind was blowing ferociously on this day and each tiny blossom shows it; not a single one was still.

I thought I’d find yarrow in this sandy, sunny place and I wasn’t disappointed. As I said in my last post, yarrow (Achillea millefolium) was considered a valuable healing herb for thousands of years; one of the nine “holy herbs,” and was traded throughout the world since before recorded time. I always feel like I’m seeing far into the past when I look at its tiny flowers. Neanderthals were buried with it. I can’t think of another living thing that I can say that about, and it just boggles my mind to think that they saw what I’m seeing..

English plantain (Plantago lanceolata) blooms in rings around the flower stalk, starting at the bottom and working spirally towards the top. Though an invasive from Europe and Asia English plantain prefers growing in soil that has been disturbed, so it isn’t often seen in natural areas where there is little activity. I see it in lawns more than anywhere else. English plantain is wind pollinated so it hangs its stamens out where the wind can blow the pollen off the anthers. Each stamen is made up of a white bag like anther sitting at the end of a thin filament. If pollinated each flower will bear two tiny seeds in a small seed capsule.

Lady’s thumb (Persicaria maculosa) looks a lot like its cousin nodding smartweed, but instead of growing near water this one will be found growing at forest edges, roadsides and waste places. The plant gets its common name from the dark spot that appears on each leaf. Legend has it that a lady with a dirty thumb (apparently) left the smudge-like mark on a leaf and it has been there ever since. Lady’s thumb is originally from Europe and has spread to nearly every state since 1843.

You’ve seen many of the flowers shown here in recent posts and I hope you don’t feel cheated, but I wanted to show once again how easy it is to immerse yourself in nature. Something I’ve pointed out almost since I started this blog is how you don’t need to drive anywhere and you don’t need any fancy equipment. All you really need to do is walk outside and look, that’s all. Even in forgotten wastelands like this one nature is very busy. Something I couldn’t show is all the bees and other insects that were buzzing around what really is a huge amount of flowers, or all the birds that were singing in the trees and shrubs. Though we’ve forgotten these places nature most certainly has not, so I hope you’ll visit your local vacant lot or other wasteland soon. Don’t let beauty like this go to waste.

The place to observe nature is where you are. ~John Burroughs

Thanks for stopping in.

 

Read Full Post »

1. Pond

Some of the photos in this post were taken along a path that circles this small pond in Keene on a recent puffy white cloud kind of day. I’ve thought of doing a post on just this pond because a list of what I’ve found on its shores over the years would be astounding. Everything from otters, heron and cormorants to flowers, fungi, lichens, mosses, and slime molds can be found here and I’m sure there are many more things waiting to be discovered. I think the same is probably true of most ponds.

2. Fringed Sedge

Fringed sedge (Carex crinite) lives at the pond. It’s a large sedge that grows in big, 2 foot tall clumps. I like its drooping habit and I’m not the only one, because it has become a popular garden plant. Many animals and waterfowl eat different parts of sedge plants, especially the seeds.

3. Royal Fern

Royal fern (Osmunda spectablis v. regalis) also grows on the shores of the pond and is one of my favorites. When you see this fern you can bet that there’s water somewhere nearby; I’ve even seen it growing in water. Royal fern is the only fern that grows on every temperate continent except Australia, which makes it one of the most widespread of all living species. They are also thought to be one of the oldest living things, with fossil records of the Osmundaceae family dating back over 300 million years. Individual plants are thought to be able to live 100 years or more.

4. Maidenhair Fern

When some people see royal fern they confuse it with maidenhair fern (Adiantum pedatum,) so I thought this would be a good time to show them both. As the photo above shows, maidenhair fern really bears little resemblance to royal ferns. The name maidenhair comes from the fine, shiny black stalks, which are called stipes. This fern is very rarely seen in a natural setting in this area.

5. Bracken Ferns

Bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum,) which is sometimes called brake, is easily identified by its shiny triangular fronds. What makes identification easier still is the fact that it is the only fern that has side branches. No other fern in this country has these branches, so it’s almost impossible to confuse it with others. Though I usually find this fern about knee high, I’ve seen it reach chest height under optimum conditions. Bracken fern often grows in large, dense colonies with few other plants present and this is because it releases chemicals that inhibit the growth of many other plants. Plants compete for light, water, and nutrients but bracken fern has found a way to almost eliminate the completion.

6. Swamp Beacons

Last year was the first time I ever saw swamp beacons (Mitrula elegans,) but that was because I didn’t know where to look for them. They’re interesting fungi that grow only in water and I find them in seeps where water runs year round. They are classified as “amphibious fungi” and use a process called soft rot to decompose plant material in low-oxygen areas. Since they only decompose soft tissue they aren’t found on twigs or bark and this photo shows how they are growing out of saturated leaves.

7. Swamp Beacon

Another common name for swamp beacons is “matchstick fungus” and that’s exactly what they remind me of because they are just about the size of a wooden match. This one had a triangular head on it though and didn’t look very match like. If you want to get shots of this fungus be prepared to get your knees wet.

8. Tiny Mushrooms

Down current a little way in the seep were these unknown mushrooms, easily the smallest I’ve seen. Those are white pine needles in the background and the stem of the largest mushroom is barely the same diameter as the pine needles. These also grew on soggy leaves just like the swamp beacons, so they must be another aquatic fungus.

9. English Plantain

English plantain (Plantago lanceolata) blooms in rings around the flower stalk, starting at the bottom and working towards the top. Though an invasive from Europe and Asia English plantain prefers growing in soil that has been disturbed, so it isn’t often seen in natural areas where there is little activity. I see it in lawns more than anywhere else.

10. English Plantain

English plantain is wind pollinated so it hangs its stamens out where the wind can blow the pollen off the anthers. Each stamen is made up of a white bag like anther sitting at the end of a thin filament. If pollinated each flower will bear two tiny seeds in a small seed capsule.

11. Chipmunk

This little chipmunk looks startled because he was caught digging holes in a garden bed; he was being naughty and he knew it. Actually though, I’ve never known a chipmunk to harm any plant, and many people welcome them into their gardens. Some even have “chipmunk crossing” signs for them. They’re cute little things and people love to watch them. They’re also very curious and seem to like watching us as much as we like watching them. I always enjoy having them follow along forest trails with me when I’m out walking, even though their chattering and chipping warns all the other forest creatures that I’m coming.

12. Frog

Mr. Bullfrog on the other hand doesn’t like being watched, and he was hoping if he stayed very still I wouldn’t see him.

13. Dragonfly

This dragonfly was hanging on to a plant stem for dear life in what was a fairly good breeze that was blowing it around like a little flag, so that told me that I should look up pennant dragonflies. Sure enough there is one called the banded pennant which looks like a lot like this one. I’m sorry that the colors on its wings don’t show very well here. I think it was because of the poor lighting but its wings looked wet to me, and I wondered if it had just come out of the pond.

14. Dragonfly

This dragonfly landed on the hood of a white truck that we use at work one day, making getting the correct exposure almost impossible. I’ve seen dragonflies by the hundreds landing in some very strange places this spring, like all along the edges of dirt roads. I haven’t been able to identify this one and I’m not sure what it was getting out of being on the hood of a truck, but it stayed there for a while.

15. Dragonfly wings

There was amazing detail to be seen in its wings.

16. Moth

I found this moth clinging to a building’s wood shingle siding one day so I took its photo. I was surprised when I saw that the moth was so hairy. It looked like someone had knitted it a beautiful wool sweater. I tried to find out its name but there are so many brown, gray, white and black moths out there that I didn’t have any luck.

17. White Admiral Butterfly

Butterflies are easier to identify than moths, I think. This white admiral landed on the gravel in front of me one day and let me take as many photos as I wanted. I also saw a mourning cloak and an eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly that day but neither one wanted its photo taken.

18. Orchard Grass

Grasses like this orchard grass have just started flowering and I hope everyone will take a little time to give them a look, because they can be very beautiful as well as interesting. They are also one of the easiest plants there are to find. Orchard grass seed heads are composed of spikelets that bear two to eight flowers which dangle from thin filaments (pedicels) and shimmer in the breeze. According to the book Grasses: An Identification Guide by Lauren Brown, George Washington loved orchard grass so much so that he wrote “Orchard grass of all others is in my opinion the best mixture with clover; it blooms precisely at the same time, rises quick again after cutting, stands thick, yields well, and both cattle and horses are fond of it green or in hay.”

If you truly love nature, you will find beauty everywhere.  ~Vincent Van Gogh

Thanks for coming by.

Read Full Post »

1. Chalk Fronted Corporal Dragonfly

I don’t know much about dragonflies but I think this one might be a male chalk-fronted corporal (Ladona julia) dragonfly. From what I’ve read he is a skimmer and gets his name from the two chalky “Corporal’s bars” behind his head, which actually are a Captain’s insignia, not a Corporals. Anyhow, he was sunning himself on a dead cattail leaf near a pond when I met him. I noticed that he had a very hairy back, which I’ve never seen on a dragonfly before. He wouldn’t let me get very close so I had to use the bigger Canon SX-40 with its zoom lens.

2. Pale Beauty Moth aka Campaea perlata

I was looking for cones on a northern white cedar one evening and found this beautiful white moth on one of the branches. It was getting late and the light was poor but I was able to get enough detail to make an identification. I’m fairly certain that it’s a pale beauty moth (campaea perlata) but if I’m wrong I hope someone will let me know.  Whatever its name it was a beautiful thing.

3. Northern White Cedar

I remembered that I wasn’t checking the white cedar (Thuja occidentalis) for moths; I came for the cones, each of which has dark, indigo blue tips when they’re young.

4. Northern White Cedar Cones

Here is a closer look at the pencil eraser size cedar cones with their blue tips. Whenever I see something like this I’m always curious why the plant would expend so much extra energy turning part of itself blue. Doing so must benefit the tree in some way. Or maybe it doesn’t take a lot of extra energy.

This tree has an interesting history; Native Americans showed 16th century French explorer Jacques Cartier how to cure scurvy with the leaves of it and he was so impressed that he named it Arborvitae, which is Latin for Tree of Life. He also had trees with him when he returned to Europe, so Thuja occidentalis became the first North American tree to be introduced there.

5. English Plantain

English plantain (Plantago lanceolata) is blooming. The shape of the flower head is called ovoid. Each tiny (4mm) flower has a yellowish, pointed bract that is a little hard to see and will produce 2 seeds if pollinated. It is also called ribwort and narrow leaf plantain because of its basal growth of narrow, ribbed leaves. It is found in England and Europe and was brought over by early settlers because of its many medicinal uses.  Native Americans called it “White man’s foot” because it grew along foot paths used by the settlers. It is considered an invasive weed these days but I like its unusual flower heads so I don’t mind seeing it blooming in my lawn. This one had a little blue on it, which I’ve never seen before.

6. Flowering Grass

Grasses are flowering too, and it’s a splendid show that many people miss. I think this one is orchard grass (Dactylis glomerata,) which is a cool season, high quality pasture grass with good drought tolerance. It comes from western and central Europe and has been grown in the US for over 200 years.

7. Flowering Grass Closeup

Orchard grass seed heads are composed of spikelets that bear two to eight flowers which dangle from thin filaments (pedicels) and shimmer in the breeze. According to the book Grasses: An Identification Guide by Lauren Brown, George Washington loved orchard grass so much so that he wrote “Orchard grass of all others is in my opinion the best mixture with clover; it blooms precisely at the same time, rises quick again after cutting, stands thick, yields well, and both cattle and horses are fond of it green or in hay.”

8. Porcupine Sedge

Porcupine sedge (Carex hystericina) is also flowering. The tiny wispy white bits at the ends of the pointy “prickles” are its flowers. It’s easy to see how this sedge got its common name. Another is bottlebrush sedge, which also fits. This plant loves to grow near water and that’s where I always find it. Waterfowl, game birds and songbirds feed on sedge seeds and the sedge wren builds its nest and hunts for insects in wetlands that are dominated by sedges.

9. Turtle Laying

I was kneeling to take a photo of a toadflax blossom and looked over my shoulder to see this turtle laying eggs in a mown grassy area. I’m not great with reptile identification but I think she’s an eastern painted turtle (Chrysemys picta.) She was quite far from water and it didn’t seem to me like she had made a very good choice in nest sites what with lawn mowers running over it weekly, but the soil was sandy and easy to dig in and I’m sure she knows more about egg placement than I do.

10. Turtle

She didn’t care for posing and was tucked up into her shell as far as it would allow, so I took a couple of quick shots and let her be. Nest preparation can be exhausting work for a turtle.

11. Turtle Shell Growth

She had a strange wart like growth on the rear of her shell. Many of the turtles I see seem to have something wrong with their shells.

12. Unknown Insect

What the good folks at bug guide.net think might be a Muscoidea fly in the genus Anthomyia stopped in to see what I was doing one day. He was very hairy and I told him so. I don’t think he cared much for my opinion though, because he flew away. These flies can cause significant damage to crops because of the way their larva invade the stems and roots of some plants like onions. They are not at all garden friendly.

13. Unknown Insect 2

The folks at Bug guide.net tell me that this is a soldier beetle called Rhaxonycha Carolina or Atalantycha neglecta. They can’t tell which because of the poor quality of the photo, I presume. Both beetles have what looks like a fur collar. He was on my windshield and the “sun” he is crawling toward is the reflection of the camera’s flash. Soldier beetle larvae feed on the eggs and larvae of beetles, grasshoppers, moths and other insects, and adult soldier beetles feed on aphids and other soft-bodied insects, so they’re a good insect to have in the garden. They are attracted to plants like marigold and goldenrod.

14. Spittlebug Foam

Seeing this foamy “snake spit” on plants immediately takes me back to my childhood, because that’s what we called it when I was a boy. Of course it’s really the protective foam used by spittle bug nymphs and has nothing to do with snakes. The nymphs use it to make themselves invisible to predators and to keep themselves from drying out. They make the foamy mass by dining on plant sap and secreting a watery liquid which they whip up with air to create the froth. This example was on a yarrow stem.

15. Unknown Blue Damselfly

Since I started with a dragonfly I’ll end with what I thought was a common blue damselfly (Enallagma cyathigerum) until I found out that they live in Europe. Now I’m not sure what it is, other than a blue damselfly. I wish the background was less busy so you could see its wings better, but beggars can’t be choosers and I was lucky to have it pose at all. If you know its name I’d love to hear from you.

One should pay attention to even the smallest crawling creature for these too may have a valuable lesson to teach us.  Black Elk

Thanks for coming by

Read Full Post »

1. English Plantains

English plantain (Plantago lanceolata) pollen has been found in sites in Norway that date to the early Neolithic period, so it has been around for a very long time. It was introduced into North America from Europe and loves it here. It is a favorite of many butterflies, songbirds, and animals, and is pretty when it flowers like the one in the photo.

2. Turtle in the Grass

Last year I was walking through a forest clearing and almost stepped on a turtle. This year I did the same thing in almost the same spot and wondered if it was the same turtle. Last year it was spotless and looked as if it had come from the local Buff ‘N Shine and, as you can see in the photo, this one looked the same.

3. Snapping Turtle

This snapping turtle was also very clean and I almost stepped on it as well. Luckily I caught some movement out of the corner of my eye. It was as big as a soccer ball.

 4. Cows

I went to visit my favorite lone tree one day but the girls were heading to their favorite stream for a drink. For some reason my being there was spooking them away from the stream, so I left. The white around their noses is really striking.

5. Lone Tree

My favorite lone tree was still there the next time I paid a visit. Since it’s in a fenced in pasture and I can’t get near it I’ve been wondering what it was for years. Finally, after scanning the leaves with binoculars, I can see that it is some type of hickory tree. There are a lot of shagbark hickories in this area so it might be one of those. Unfortunately I can’t see the bark well enough to know for sure.

6. Pendulous Sedge

Pendulous sedge (Carex pendula) is living up to its name. It is also called weeping sedge and grows along stream and pond banks. The slightest breeze gets the dangling flower heads swaying, so getting a decent photo of it can be a challenge. It took several tries to get one that didn’t show movement.

7. Unknown Evergreen

There is an unusual evergreen tree with deep green, very long needles growing in a local park and this photo is of some new needles emerging. They look like a bundle of optical fibers. I’ve tried to identify this tree several times with no luck.

8. Tiny White Mushrooms

The largest of these mushrooms was barely the size of a pea. The crisscrossing “sticks” are pine needles. I think they are Mycena osmundicola. I can’t seem to find a common name for them.

9. Tiny Mushroom

This small funnel shaped mushroom grew at the very end of a twig no bigger than a pencil. I think it is one of the Clitocybe group ofmushrooms.

10. Lophocampa caryae aka Hickory Tussock Moth

I thought this was a spotted tussock moth but the helpful folks at Bugguide.net tell me that it’s a hickory tussock moth (Lophocampa caryae.) Its beautiful wings reminded me of stained glass.

11. Viceroy Butterfly

This viceroy butterfly seemed very hairy and I’ve never noticed that before. It wouldn’t let me get closer to see a little better and flew off after one step. I’m also seeing a lot of swallow tails this year but I don’t think I’ve seen a monarch in 2 years now.

12. Leafminer Phytomyza aralivora on Sarsaparilla Leaf

Just imagine something so small it can crawl between the upper and lower surfaces of a leaf and eat the tissues. That’s what made this path in this sarsaparilla leaf; a leaf mining insect called Phytomyza aralivora, according to Bugguide.net. By reading about these leaf trails I’ve learned that leaf miners are very specific about the leaf they chew, so a sarsaparilla leaf miner probably won’t mine an oak leaf. I’ve also learned that their trails start out thin but then become wider as the insect grows, and that can be seen in the above photo.

13. Coral Fungus

Our recent spate of heat and high humidity has brought on many coral fungi. I think this orangey pink one is crown coral (Clavicorona pyxidata.)This is the first one I’ve seen growing on a birch log.

 14. Azalea Leaf Gall

I found this white growth on a native azalea recently. It was about the size of a golf ball, and hard and heavy. Azalea Exobasidium gall is a leaf and flower gall that is caused by a fungus instead of an insect. It can cause swollen shoots, stem galls, witches’ brooms and red leaf spots, but more often than not it causes white galls like that seen in the above photo. The white color comes from the spores of the fungus, which are spread by wind and rain.

15. 12-Spotted Male Skimmer-2

This dragonfly decided to take a break from hunting and pose for a picture. I think it’s an immature male 12 spotted skimmer (Libellula pulchella,) but apparently immature males look much like females, so it could be a she. Since it doesn’t really matter to me I didn’t pursue the identification any further. Sometimes just enjoying something for what it is-for its beauty- can be more rewarding than finding out what makes it tick.

No; we have been as usual asking the wrong question. It does not matter a hoot what the mockingbird on the chimney is singing. The real and proper question is: Why is it beautiful? ~Annie Dillard

Thanks for coming by.

 

Read Full Post »

New readers of this blog might not know this, but I’m always finding things that never seem to fit into other posts. When I have found enough of these unusual, sometimes bizarre and often beautiful things, I put them all in a post of their own. That’s what this post is.

1. Marasimus Mushrooms

The twig that these mushrooms grew on was less than half the diameter of a pencil, so that should help illustrate just how small these mushrooms were. By the time I found them it hadn’t rained for a few days so they were kind of dry. I think these are one of the Marasimus mushrooms-possibly Marasimus epiphyllus.

2. Bee on Red Clover

I’ve been giving red clover blossoms a closer look this year and have found that they vary greatly in color, sometimes appearing as a washed out pale pink that can look almost white all the way to a deep rose / purple color. I’ve been taking photos of the flower heads and letting my color finding software tell me what it sees. The software tells me that this one with a bee or hoverfly on it is pale violet, thistle, and plum.

3. Red Clover

Compared to the flower head in the previous photo this is very dark. The color finding software sees dark orchid, violet and medium purple. Red clover flower heads are made up of many individual florets, each having 5 petals. One petal is called a banner, 2 petals on either side of the banner are called wings, and 2 more fused petals make up what is called the keel. The keel encloses the reproductive structures.

 4. Bracken Fern

 Bracken ferns (Pteridium aquilinum) climb all over each other, trying to be the one to reach the sun first. These ferns are now almost 4 feet tall. Bracken fern releases chemicals that inhibit the growth of other plants, and this gives it the ability to form large colonies with reduced competition from other species.

5. Deer Tracks

A deer (or more than one) went the same way I was going and not too long before, judging by the freshness of its footprints in the damp sand. I was wondering if I scared it off.

6. Goldsmith Beetle aka Cotalpa lanigera

I was walking along the side of a road one day and saw something in the road that didn’t look like it belonged there. It turned out to be this Goldsmith Beetle (Cotalpa lanigera.) This beetle was quite big-at least as long as the diameter of a quarter-and had a metallic shine, as if it had been painted with metallic paint. I wish that I had taken a photo or two of its underside, which is said to shine red-gold like polished copper. I can’t remember ever seeing this one before.

7. Eastern Cottontail Rabbit

I’m so colorblind that if this eastern cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus) had of just stayed still I probably never would have seen him. Instead he dashed across the path in front of me and froze. He convinced himself that he was invisible and that gave me time to fumble around with my camera, trying to get a photo. He let me take as many as I wanted but as soon as I took a step he was gone in a gray streak. I chose this shot because you can see his round cottony tail.

 8. Timothy

Timothy is blooming. No that’s not the title of a 60s song about Timothy Leary-it’s about the grass known as Timothy (Phleum pretense.) I’ve been waiting for it to flower because I think it’s the most beautiful of all the grasses. The story of how this grass got its name says that it was unintentionally introduced from Europe in 1711 and in 1720 a farmer named Timothy Hanson began to cultivate it. The grass took on his name and has been called Timothy ever since. It is an excellent hay grass.

 9. English Plantain

English plantain (Plantago lanceolata) is also blooming. This is another plant with a beautiful flower. This plant is considered a common weed found in lawns and waste places now, but it wasn’t always that way; Anglo-Saxons had nine sacred herbs that they believed protected them from sickness and other evils, and this was one of them. At that time, no other plants had such an elevated status. This plantain was cultivated in Europe and brought here in colonial times to be used medicinally. Native Americans called it “white man’s footprint,” because it grew wherever the colonists went.

10. White Cheese Polypore on Log

White Cheese Polypore (Tyromyces chioneus) grew on the end of a log. The Tyromyces part of the scientific name means “with a cheesy consistency” and chioneus means “snow white,” so both the common and scientific names for this fungus say the same thing. This fungus has a scent that some people say is like cheese cake.

11. Dark Green Bulrush aka Scirpus atrovirens

Many sedges and rushes grow near water and I like to include water in their photo if I can. That isn’t always as easy as it sounds, but this time it worked and I liked the color of the water behind these dark green bulrushes (Scirpus atrovirens.) Bulrushes aren’t true rushes, but are members of the sedge family. In Anglo Saxon times a sedge was any plant that grew near water, but now a sedge is one of nearly 1000 species in the genus Carex.

12. Sunset-2

While waiting for the moon to rise one night I saw this colorful sunset.

13. Full Moon on 6-21-13

The moon I was waiting for was a “super moon,” according to those in the know. This super moon was a moon that was both full and at its closest point to the earth for this year. It will not be as close to the earth again until August of next year. I wanted to get a view of it reflected in water and I drove around to rivers, lakes and ponds but I could never get to the side of the body of water that would have shown its reflection.

I have since found that there is a freeware program called “The Photographers Ephemeris,” which you can get by clicking here. In a nutshell, this program lets you position yourself anywhere on a Google map and see in which direction the sun and moon will rise and set from that position. I could have put myself on the accessible part of the local lake shore and seen beforehand, with a high degree of accuracy, that the moon wouldn’t be reflecting in the lake and saved myself the drive. The program can be used on computers or phones.

The scientist does not study nature because it is useful; he studies it because he delights in it, and he delights in it because it is beautiful. ~ Henri Poincaré

Thanks for stopping in.

Read Full Post »