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Posts Tagged ‘European barberry’

1. Stream

Spring is coming slowly this year, mostly because of a temperature roller coaster that can have near zero wind chills one day and 50 degree warmth the next. Still, spring is happening, as the ice free stream in the above photo shows. It’s a stream I know well and it looked so inviting that I decided to follow it one sunny day. There was a lot of snow still in the woods but luckily it had formed a good crust and I could walk along on top of it.

2. Stream Ice

The stream wasn’t completely ice free though. In fact in shady places it still had a thin skim of ice bank to bank. Last fall I saw a brook trout here that was so big it made me gasp with surprise, but I didn’t see any this day.

3. Stream Bottom Growths

I did see some green something on the bed of the stream. I think it might be filamentous algae, but I don’t know for sure.

4. One-rowed water-cress aka Nasturtium microphyllum

Also growing on the stream bed was what I think is one-rowed watercress (Nasturtium microphyllum,) which is originally from Europe and Asia and which, as the all too familiar story goes, has escaped cultivation and found a home in the wild.  The plant is called one-rowed because the seed pods have their seeds in one row instead of the usual two rows found in common watercress (Nasturtium officinale.) I’ve read that it is an aquatic plant but I can’t seem to find out if it will actually grow under water as these do. I think the yellow color of its leaves comes from being under the ice of the stream all winter, which would have cut off light and effectively blanched them.

5. Indian Pipe Seed Pods

It looked like someone had carved tiny wooden flowers and stuck them in the snow for me to find, but of course they were just the seed pods of Indian pipes. Personally I find them much more beautiful in this state than when they’re flowering. They are one of those things that I could lose myself in, and sit and look at for hours.

6. Horsetails

I went to see what horsetails (Equisetum hyemale) looked like in the winter and found that they looked much the same as they do in summer, except that the snow had broken a few. They grow to about knee high here on the stream bank.

7. Horsetail

Horsetails produce spores in their cone shaped tips, but the examples in this spot rarely grow them. Another name for this plant is scouring rush because of all the silica they contain in their tissues. They make great pot scrubbers in a pinch when you’re camping and in Japan they are boiled and dried and then used to smooth wood. They are said to produce a finish superior to any sandpaper. The green, black and tan stripes always remind me of socks.

8. Horsetail

Horsetail stems are hollow and this example was dripping water like a faucet.

9. Droppings

You don’t realize how much stuff falls from evergreen trees until you walk through an evergreen forest in winter. There must be tons of it and I’m so glad that I don’t have to rake it all up.

 10. Alder Tongue Gall

Instead of being caused by an insect like many galls, alder (Alnus incana) tongue gall is caused by a fungus (Taphrina alni). The fungus chemically deforms parts of the ovarian tissue of the female cone-like catkins (strobiles) and causes long, tongue shaped galls known as languets to grow from them. These galls seem to like high humidity so are usually found on alders that grow near swamps, ponds and streams.  These galls have a bright red phase in spring so I’ve got to remember to look for them this year. They blacken over time and the ones pictured are last year’s galls.

11. Grape Tendril

There are many wild grapes growing along this stream and most have reached considerable age. Few people ever come here so they are left to grow on their own. They produce an abundant crop almost every year and on warm days in the fall the woods smell just like grape jelly.

12. European Barberry

European barberry (Berberis vulgaris) and American barberry (Berberis canadensis) both have clusters of 3 or more thorns but since American barberry doesn’t grow in New England this one has to be European barberry. Its red berries were once used medicinally and are rich in vitamin C. They were also used in cooking in much the same way that lemon peel is used today, and the bright yellow inner bark was used to make yellow dye. With so many uses it’s no wonder that early settlers brought it from home, but of course it immediately escaped cultivation and was found growing wild in New England as early as 1671. It’s still here but is nowhere near as invasive as Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii) and in fact can be hard to find. I know of only two plants.

13. Bootstrap Fungus

There are a few dead trees along the stream and this might have something to do with it. Bootstrap fungus is caused by honey mushrooms (Armillaria mellea), which are parasitic on live wood and send out long root like structures called rhizomorphs between the wood of a tree and its bark. When fresh the rhizomorphs are cream colored but darken to brown or black as they age. The fungus is also called armillaria root rot or shoestring root rot. It causes a white pulpy rot in the wood and kills many species of both soft and hardwood trees.

14. Woodpecker Hole

Woodpeckers seem to like it here along the stream, because there was plenty of evidence that they had been here. This hole was quite deep into the tree and I wondered if it was a nesting hole. I saw a pileated woodpecker land on a tree right outside my window one day but I don’t see a lot of their rectangular holes, so he might have been just passing through.

15. Engraver Beetle Damage

Bark beetles sometimes create such beautiful patterns in wood that it looks as if a calligrapher has taken up a chisel instead of a pen. When I think of things like this, created under the bark of a limb and never meant for me to see, that’s when I feel an almost overwhelming sense of gratitude, just for being alive and able to see beauty like this every day.

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

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Goodbye February! It might be the shortest month, but it always seems like the longest to me. It’s still very cold here with below zero nights but the sun has greater warmth and the days are longer so the snow is slowly melting away from the places where fungi, mosses and lichens grow. What follows is some of what I’ve seen on recent walks.

 1. Gouty Oak Gall

Gouty oak gall is caused by a wasp called, not surprisingly, the gouty oak gall wasp (Callirhytis quercuspunctata). In spring the wasp lays its eggs in expanding plant tissue and secretes chemicals that will cause the abnormal growth seen in the photo. The gall grows quickly and once the eggs hatch the larvae feed on its tissue. It can take two years or more for the gall wasps to reach adulthood. One adult exits the gall through each hole.

 2. False Turkey Tail aka Stereum ostrea

I saw hundreds of these small bracket fungi covering a tree trunk and thought Great-false turkey tails-I won’t have to spend two weeks trying to identify them for the blog!  Nature had other ideas though- one look at the undersides told me that they were not false turkey tails (Stereum ostrea) at all. Unfortunately my peek at their hidden faces didn’t tell me what they were, and after looking through 4 mushroom books and countless web pages, I still don’t know. I thought I’d include them here to once again illustrate how important looking at the spore bearing surface of a mushroom is when you are trying to identify it.

 3. False Turkey Tail aka Stereum ostrea Underside

This is what the underside of the bracket fungus in the previous photo looked like. I’m sure I’ve seen them before but I can’t find a similar example in a book. False turkey tails have a smooth, whitish underside-much different than the maze like surface seen here.

 4. Barberry Inner Bark

The bark of the common or European barberry (Berberis vulgaris) contains berberine, a yellow crystalline, bitter alkaloid. It is said that chewing a piece of bark, even on the hottest days, will make your mouth water and slake your thirst. The inner bark is very yellow and it and the bark from the plant’s roots have been used for centuries to make yellow dye used to dye fabric and leather.

 5. Gypsy Moth Egg Case

I recently found several gypsy moth (Lymantria dispar) egg cases on a tree. Gypsy moths were first introduced from Europe in Massachusetts in 1869, to breed with the silkworm moth (Bombyx mori) to produce a hardier silkworm. Naturally, it escaped and has become one of the chief defoliators of deciduous trees and conifers in the eastern United States. Each egg mass can contain 100-1000 eggs and should be destroyed when found.

 6. Partridge Berries

There are still plenty of partridge berries under the evergreens and on south facing slopes where the snow has melted. Turkeys love these berries so I’m surprised to see that there are any left.

 7. Trametes hirsuta

I think this grayish white bracket fungus is the hairy bracket (Trametes hirsuta). This fungus is very hairy and turns brown as it ages. It is closely related to turkey tail fungi (trametes versicolor) and is zoned like they are, but its zones aren’t as pronounced or as colorful as those on turkey tails, and are easy to miss.

 8. Wavy Starburst Moss aka Atrichum altercristatum

I think this moss might be wavy starburst moss (Atrichum altercristatum).It doesn’t look like it has been affected by winter at all. When wet its bright green, rippled leaves spread out and give this moss a star like appearance and when dry they curl and turn brown. Finding green mosses in winter seems to make it easier to get through somehow.

 9. Northern Catalpa Leaf Scar aka Catalpa speciosa

Northern catalpa has some of the largest leaf scars of any tree I know. This one was a half inch long. The leaf scars are sunken and come in sets of three spaced around the diameter of the twig. The heart shaped leaves of catalpa are also some of the biggest that I know of. Its large clusters of orchid like flowers are beautiful and its wood is rot resistant and makes good fence posts.

 10. Oak Buds 3

Red oak (Quercus rubra) buds don’t seem to be swelling much. The terminal buds of this tree usually appear in a cluster and are conical and reddish brown. I like the chevron like pattern that the bud scales make. Red oak is one of our most common trees in New England but in the past many thousands were lost to gypsy moth infestations. It is an important source of lumber, flooring and fire wood. The USDA says that red oaks can live to be 500 years old.

11. Striped Maple Buds 2

Native Striped Maple buds (Acer pensylvanicum) buds always remind me of a trident. The large central terminal bud is unusual because it has only two bud scales. Red oak buds like those in the previous photo have 3 or more bud scales. Striped maple is very fussy about where it grows and will not stand pollution, heat, or drought. It likes cool, shady places with sandy soil that stays moist. They bloom in June and have very pretty green blossoms. I can’t say that they’re rare here, but I don’t see them very often. I’ve been searching for one in bloom for 3 years and haven’t found one yet.

12. Vernal Witch Hazel

This vernal (spring blooming) witch hazel (Hamamelis vernalis) grows in a local park. I think it miscalculated this year and bloomed too early. You can see how some of its strap shaped petals got too cold and browned before retracting back into the tiny cup like bracts. Proof that even nature can make an occasional mistake. Our native witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) blooms in late fall.

The most beautiful things in life go un-noticed. ~ Omar Hickman

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This is another post full of things I’ve seen in the woods which, for one reason or another, didn’t fit into other posts.

1. European  Barberry Thorns aka Berberis vulgaris

Early settlers planted European barberry (Berberis vulgaris) so they could make jam from its fruit and yellow dye from its bark. This plant, along with American barberry (Berberis canadensis) plays host to wheat rust disease and has been slowly but surely undergoing eradication by the U.S. government.  Both plants have clusters of 3 or more thorns, but American barberry doesn’t grow in New England. Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii), grows in New England but it has just a single thorn under each leaf or cluster of leaves.

2. Boston Ivy Berries

Boston ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata) looks a lot like English ivy (Hedera helix), but English ivy is evergreen and Boston ivy is deciduous, with leaves that turn bright red in the fall before falling. Both plants will climb trees, brick walls, and just about anything else in their path. This photo shows the plant’s dried (and probably frozen) berries. Interestingly, the plant is from Eastern Asia, not Boston.

3. Hydrangea

Some hydrangea blossoms stay on the plant throughout winter and will eventually come to look “skeletonized” and lace like. I keep checking mine, but it hasn’t happened yet.

 4. Indian Pipe Seed Pod

Indian pipe flowers (Monotropa uniflora) are nodding until they have been pollinated, and then they stand straight up. The seed pods dry that way and take on the look of old wood. This capsule will split down its sides into 5 parts to release its seeds. It is said that Native Americans had a story that this plant first appeared where an Indian had dumped some white ashes from his pipe.

5. Marble Gall on Oak

The hole in the side of this oak marble gall tells me that the gall wasp (Andricus kollari) that lived inside it has grown and flown.

6. Witch's Broom on Blueberry

Witch’s broom is a deformity described as a “dense mass of shoots growing from a single point, with the resulting structure resembling a broom or a bird’s nest.” The example in the photo is on a highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum ) and was caused by a fungus (Pucciniastrum goeppertianum). This fungus spends part of its life cycle on the needles of balsam fir (Abies balsamea). When it releases its spores and they land on the stems and leaves of the blueberry, it becomes infected. The fungus overwinters on blueberry bushes and in the spring again releases spores which will infect even more balsam fir trees and the cycle will begin again. In my experience witch’s broom doesn’t affect fruit production.

 7. Hawthorn Fruit

Hawthorns (Crataegusmight have evolved thorns to keep animals away but they don’t keep birds away. This bush had been stripped of every fruit except one tired old, mummified haw.

 8. Winterberry Fruit

There are still plenty of fruit on the winterberry bushes (Ilex verticillata), but they’re starting to whither a bit too. Winterberry is a deciduous native holly with berries that have a low fat content, so birds tend to leave them until last, when it gets a little warmer.  Even so, it is said that 48 different species of birds and many small mammals eat them. Native Americans used the bark of this shrub medicinally to treat inflammations and fevers, which explains how it came by another of its common names: fever bush. It was also used as a substitute for quinine in parts of the U.S. in the 18th century.

9. Disk Lichen aka Lecidella stigmatea

The body (Thallus) of a rock disk lichen (Lecidella stigmatea) can be gray or whitish, but can also be stained green, red-brown or black, so sometimes it’s hard to know what you’ve found. My color finding software sees gray with green in this example. This lichen’s fruiting bodies (Apothecia) are flat or convex dark brown or black disks. This lichen is similar to tile lichens, but the fruiting bodies on tile lichens are always sunken into the body of the lichen rather than even with or standing above it. The rock it was on was wet and that’s why it’s so shiny.

 12. Small White Cup Shaped Fungi

I think these tiny things might be bird’s nest fungi, but I can’t be sure because there are no “eggs” in them. The eggs are actually fruiting bodies that contain spores and are called peridioles. These peridioles have hard waxy coatings and get splashed out of the cup shaped “nest” by raindrops. Once the outer coating wears away the spores can germinate.

11. Small White Cup Shaped Fungi

If you have ever shot an air rifle (BB gun) and know what a “BB” is, picture a single BB filling one of these cups. For those of you unfamiliar with BB guns, most BBs are 0.171 to 0.173 inches (4.3 to 4.4 mm) in diameter. If you would like to see some great photos of bird’s nest fungi with their eggs,  Rick at the Between Blinks blog just did a post about them. You can get there by clicking here.

13. Oak Leaves

Oak leaves curl into each other in the winter as if to keep warm.  I can’t think of any other leaves that do this.

14. Burdock Seeds

When viewing a seed head from the burdock plant (Arctium species) in an extreme close up it’s easy to see why they stick to everything. When Swiss inventor George de Mestral pulled a bunch of burrs from his pants and looked at them under a microscope in 1940, he came up with the hook and loop system that is called Velcro today. The word Velcro comes from the words velour and crotchet. Not surprising really, since the burr seeds look like tiny crochet hooks.

The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself. ~Henry Miller

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