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Posts Tagged ‘False Solomon’s Seal’

1. Blue Dragonfly

The beautiful blue of this dragonfly dazzled me for a few moments one recent day. I’m not sure but I think it might be a blue dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis.) Its color reminded me of the blue stemmed goldenrod, which appears at this time of year.

NOTE: A reader says that this looks like a slaty skimmer. Any thoughts on that?

2. Blue Jay Feather

The blue of the blue jay feather matched that of the dragonfly. This shade of blue seems to appear in unexpected places in nature, like on smoky eye boulder lichens, cobalt crust fungi and first year black raspberry canes.

3. Turtles

There were two painted turtles (Chrysemys picta) on a log one day and the big one looked to be scratching the little one’s back. Or maybe he was trying to push the little one off the log, I don’t know.  They looked like happy turtles, whatever they were doing.

4. White Caterpillar

The hickory tussock moth caterpillar (Lophocampa caryae) is black and white and can cause quite an itchy rash, from what I’ve read. The nettle like hairs can break off and stick in the skin and they are said to bother some people enough for them to be hospitalized, so it’s probably best to look and not touch this one.

5. Salamander

New Hampshire has eight native salamanders including the red-spotted newt (Notophthalmus viridescens.) I found this one under a log and I think it must be a juvenile red-spotted newt, which is called a red eft. It was bigger than many adults I’ve seen of that species but it was bright red as red efts are supposed to be.

NOTE: A reader has confirmed this salamander as an erythristic red-back salamander. Erythristic means that it has more red pigment, like a red headed person. Red back salamanders are the most common salamander in the northeast and usually found under logs, so everything fits this example.

6. Salamander

The salamander was cooperative and let me take several photos until finally quickly ducking under a leaf.

7. Hemlock Growing out of Stump

I saw that a Canadian hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) seed had fallen onto a rotten hemlock stump that was apparently dirt like enough to let the seed grow. And grow it did, until its roots encircled the rotten stump and reached the ground. When the young tree is grown and the stump has rotted away this hemlock will look as if it’s standing on stilts.

8. Fern

Before they go dormant for the winter some ferns turn white, and if you catch them at just the right time they can be very beautiful.

9. Fern Shadow

Other ferns command my attention for different reasons.

10. Smooth Sumac Berries

Smooth sumac (Rhus glabra) berries are ripe and red. These berries don’t get anywhere near as hairy as staghorn sumac berries do but the plants still look alike and are easy to confuse if you don’t look closely for the hairy stems of staghorn sumac. Smooth sumac leaves turn bright red in the fall and produce a rich brown dye. Birds love them.

11. Staghorn Sumac Berries

Staghorn sumac berries, like the rest of the plant, are very hairy. They are an important winter emergency food for many types of birds including Robins, Evening Grosbeaks, Bluebirds, Cardinals, and Scarlet Tanagers. After a thorough soaking and washing, the berries were made into a drink resembling pink lemonade by Native Americans. In the Middle East they are dried and ground into a lemon flavored spice.

12. Sumac Pouch Gall

Since I’m speaking of sumacs I might as well give you an update on the sumac pouch galls that the Smithsonian Institution is coming to harvest. They’re looking for winged adult sumac gall aphids (Melaphis rhois) so they asked me to cut a gall open. These galls turn tomato red as they age but as the photo shows this example looked more like a blushing potato.

13. Sumac Pouch Gall Inside

All I found inside were green aphid larva. They need to grow a bit but since I don’t know much about their life cycle I’ll let the Smithsonian people decide when to come. They’re researching the coevolution of Rhus gall aphids and their host plants. Science has found that this relationship between the aphids and the sumac has been going on for at least 48 million years, with no signs of stopping. The galls are surprisingly light; they are really just bags of air.

14. False Solomon's Seal

When false Solomon’s seal (Smilacina racemosa) berries are fully ripe they will be bright red, but I like them speckled like they are at this stage too. I’ve read that soil pH can affect fruit color. Native American’s used all parts of this plant including its roots, which contain lye and must be boiled and rinsed several times before they can be used. Birds, mice, grouse, and other forest critters eat the ripe berries that grow at the end of the stem. They are said to taste like molasses and another common name for the plant is treacle berry.

15. Solomon's Seal Berries

Dark blueish purple true Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum biflorum) berries dangle under the leaves and look like grapes-quite different than the false Solomon’s seal berries in the previous photo. The berries and leaves of this plant are poisonous and should not be eaten. Solomon’s seal and its variants are great plants for a shaded woodland garden.

16. Burning Bush

Most burning bushes (Euonymus alatus) are still green but every now and then just one branch will turn this orchid color, as if it can’t wait to announce summer’s passing. Though they are very invasive they can also be beautiful. They have taken over the understory of a strip of forest along the Ashuelot River and when the hundreds of shrubs all turn this color it becomes a breathtakingly beautiful sight.

One very important aspect of motivation is the willingness to stop and to look at things that no one else has bothered to look at. This simple process of focusing on things that are normally taken for granted is a powerful source of creativity. ~ Edward de Bono

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1. The Group

Last Saturday afternoon the weather cooperated and after 2 or 3 false starts the Pathfinders finally made it to Keene for their tour of the old abandoned road that follows Beaver Brook. Their group was much smaller than what had been originally planned last winter, but I hope that the ones who couldn’t make it can come another day. When I took this photo of them walking up the old road I thought oops, I forgot to tell them to wear long pants. The road is covered with poison ivy along one side and it’ll be a miracle if none of them starts itching.

2. Poison Ivy

I was busy showing them the mosses, lichens and liverworts that they had come to see and didn’t take many photos so I went back the following day after it had rained to get more shots of the poison ivy and other things that we saw. That’s why it’s going to look dry in some of these photos and wet in others.

I pointed the poison ivy out to the Pathfinders right away but I didn’t need to because they all knew it well. I forgot that they are called “Pathfinders” for a reason and probably know the woods as well as I do.

3. Jewelweed

Many think that jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) gets its common name from its spotted orange or yellow flowers but the name actually comes from the way the waxy coating on its leaves makes rain water bead up and sparkle like jewels. The pathfinders noted that the plant always seems to grow near poison ivy, and how its sap has been used since before recorded time by Native Americans to alleviate the rash brought on by its toxins. It’s as if nature put the illness and the cure side by side.

4. Smokey Eye Boulder Lichen

Everyone was impressed by how the spore bearing apothecial disks of the smoky eye boulder lichens (Porpidia albocaerulescens) looked blue gray in certain light but more blue in a photo. They have a waxy coating that reflects light much like the whitish bloom on blueberries and that makes them appear blue in the right light. The black border on each disk makes them really stand out from the body of the lichen but they are still very small.

The Pathfinders needed to find 5 lichens, 5 mosses, and a liverwort (I think) to earn their badges in one of the nature categories, similar to what the Boy Scouts do, by the sounds of it. In the end they found all they needed and more.

5. Dryad's Saddle Fungus

I saw some dryad’s saddle (Polyporus squamosus) bracket fungi on a dead elm. I was surprised to see them since May had been such a dry month. These mushrooms get quite large and are fairly common on dead hardwood trees and stumps in the spring and fall. They are often funnel shaped rather than flat and saddle shaped like the example above.  The squamosus part of the scientific name means scaly and this mushroom almost always has brown scales on its cap. By the way, a dryad is a tree nymph or female tree spirit from Greek mythology. They were considered very shy creatures but I suppose even shy creatures need somewhere to sit down every now and then.

6. False Solomon's Seal

There were many false Solomon’s seal plants (Maianthemum racemosum) blooming along the roadsides. This common plant grows in every state except Hawaii and is also called treacle berry because its ripe red fruit tastes like molasses. Native Americans had many medicinal uses for the plant including as a cough suppressant and a treatment for sunburn. They say that the young spring shoots taste like asparagus but there are other poisonous plants with shoots the look much the same, so I think I’ll just let them grow.

7. False Solomon's Seal

Each tiny false Solomon’s seal flower is slightly more than an eighth inch across and made up of 6 tepals, 6 stamens, and a central pistil with a short pudgy style. The word tepal is used when a flower’s petals and sepals look enough alike to be nearly indistinguishable, as they do in this case.

8. Forest Tent Caterpillar

The forest tent caterpillar (Malacosoma disstria Hübner) is found in hardwood forests across America and is especially abundant here in the east. Though their preferred foods are sugar maple, aspen, cherry, apple, oaks, birch, ash, alder, elm, and basswood this one had been munching on a flowering raspberry leaf (Rubus odoratus.) They hatch near the time of bud break and eat both flower and leaf buds along with mature foliage. If they happen to defoliate the same tree more than 2 years in a row they can kill it. I’m not crazy about it defoliating trees but I love the beautiful sky blue color of its stripe.

9. Rose Moss

I was able to show the pathfinders a few rare mosses including rose moss (Rhodobryum roseum). I think it was their favorite, judging by the amount of photos being taken. It’s a beautiful thing that isn’t often seen in this area. It isn’t normally so shiny; the shininess of it in this photo is because it had rained.

10. Polypody Fern Sporangia

We spent a little time talking about polypody ferns (Polypodium virginanum) and I showed them what the sporangia, where the spores are produced, looked like. They grew on the boulders all around us and explained very nicely why “rock cap fern” is one of their common names.

11. Polypody Fern

Polypody ferns are one of our few evergreen ferns. They love to grow on boulders and could be seen topping many of the larger stones. They have a very tough, leathery feel, not delicate at all.

12. Beaver Brook

Beaver brook was little more than a trickle in places; so low that I don’t think a beaver could have swam in it without first damming it up. In a normal spring with normal rainfall I would have been swept downstream if I had tried to stand where I was when I took this photo.

 13. Falls

All but one of us made the slide / climb down to the falls. The light was all wrong for a good photo but the bright sun brought out the pinks and tans in the microcline feldspar that is so prevalent here. The brook was low enough to walk across so some of the kids crossed over and had some fun splashing around in the small pool at the base of the falls (and almost losing shoes.)  I’ve never seen these falls with so little water flowing over them, even in July. It was really surprising and drove home the point that rainfall is down nearly 6 inches from March first. The Pathfinders wanted to know if you could swim here. I told them that people used to but nobody did.

14. The Road Dark

The Pathfinders are polite, well behaved, fun, happy, and all around good kids. I really enjoyed my time with them and I hope we can get together again sometime. Though this old road leads nowhere these days, I have a strong hope that the experiences they had on it will help lead them to a love of nature that will stay with them throughout their lives.

Teaching children about the natural world should be seen as one of the most important events in their lives. ~ Thomas Berry

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Here are a few more of those odd and unusual things that I see that won’t fit into other posts.

1. Big Bluestem Grass aka Andropogon gerardii

I like discovering grass flowers and this one is a beauty. The flowers of native big bluestem grass (Andropogon gerardii) grow in pairs of yellowish male anthers and feathery, light purple female stigmas. This grass gets its name from its blue green stems. It is the dominant grass of the tall grass prairie in the U.S.  Before Europeans arrived this grass had a quite a range; from Maine to the Rocky Mountains and from Quebec to Mexico. At one time it fed thousands of buffalo. Because of its large root system, early settlers found it was an excellent choice for the “bricks” of sod houses.

 2. Club Coral Fungi Clavariadelphus truncatus

Some coral fungi come to a blunt, rather than pointed end and are called club shaped corals. I thought these might be Clavariadelphus truncatus but that mushroom has wrinkles down its length and these are smooth, so I’m not sure what they are. More often than not I find these growing in the hard packed earth near trails and they have usually been stepped on. The broken one in the photo shows that these are hollow. They were no more than an inch tall.

 3. Curly Dock Seeds aka Rumex crispus

The seeds of curly dock (Rumex crispus,) when the sun is shining just right, look like tiny stained glass windows.

4. Silky Dogwood Berries aka Cornus amomum

The berries of silky dogwood (Cornus amomum) start out porcelain white and slowly change to dark blue. The birds love these berries so they don’t decorate the shrubs for long. This is a large shrub that grows in part shade near rivers and ponds. It gets its common name from the soft, silky hairs that cover the branches. Native Americans smoked the bark like tobacco. They also twisted the bark into rope and made fish traps from the branches.  I wonder if the idea for blue and white porcelain dishes first made in ancient China came from berries like these.

 5. Sumac Red Pouch Galls caused by Melaphis rhois

Red pouch galls on stag horn sumac (Rhus typhina) are caused by the sumac gall aphid (Melaphis rhois.) These galls look like some kind of fruit but they are actually hollow inside and teeming with thousands of aphids. They average about golf ball size and change from light yellow to pinkish red as they age. Scientists have paleobotanical evidence that this aphid has had a relationship with its sumac hosts for at least 48 million years. The galls can also be found on smooth sumac (Rhus glabra.) They remind me of potatoes.

 6. Wolf's Milk Slime Mold

At a glance wolf’s milk slime mold (Lycogala epidendrum) might fool you into thinking it was just another brownish puffball but, if you try to make it “puff,” you’ll be in for a surprise. The diameter of the one in the photo is about the same as a pea.

 7. Wolf's Milk Slime Mold

This is the surprise you get when you try to make wolf’s milk slime mold’s “puff ball” puff-you find that it is a fruiting body full of plasmodial orange slime. This is also called toothpaste slime mold but on this day the liquid inside the sphere was nowhere near that consistency. It was more like chocolate syrup. This slime mold is found on rotting hardwood logs and is one of the fastest moving slime molds, clocked at 1.35 millimeters per second.

John Tyler Bonner, a slime mold expert, says slime molds are a “bag of amoebae encased in a thin slime sheath, yet they manage to have various behaviors that are equal to those of animals who possess muscles and nerves with ganglia–that is, simple brains.”

 8. Puffball

Here is a real puffball-at the size of an egg many hundreds, if not thousands of times bigger than the wolf’s milk slime mold. I think this example might be a pigskin puffball (Scleroderma,) which is poisonous.

 9. Ceratiomyxa fruticulosa Slime Mold

The honeycombed domes of the Ceratiomyxa fruticulosa variety porioides slime mold make it one of the most beautiful, in my opinion. Unfortunately it’s also one of the smallest, which makes getting a good photo of it almost impossible. After many attempts, this was the best I could do. The little black bug on one of the fruiting bodies is so very small that I didn’t see it until I saw this photo.

 10. Purple Cort Mushroom

Here in New Hampshire white and brown mushrooms can be found at almost any time, but the really colorful mushrooms usually start in about mid-July with yellows and oranges. There can also be occasional red ones but orange dominates the forest until the purples appear. Once the purple ones appear there are fewer and fewer orange ones seen.  I’ve watched this for 2 years now and it shows that mushrooms have “bloom times” just like flowers do. In the case of mushrooms, it’s actually fruiting time. I think this one is a purple cort (Cortinarius iodeoides.)

 11. False Solomon's Seal Foliage

The berries have formed on false Solomon’s seal (Maianthemum racemosum ) so the leaves aren’t needed anymore. Fall begins at the forest floor.

 12. Pokeweed Berry

The rounded, five lobed, purple calyx on the back of a pokeweed berry (Phytolacca americana) reveals what the flower once looked like. The berries and all parts of this plant are toxic, but many birds and animals eat the berries. Native Americans used their red juice to decorate their horses and early colonial settlers dyed cloth with it.

 13. White Baneberry Plants

One rainy afternoon I drove by these plants that were loaded with white berries and had to turn around to see what they were. They turned out to be white baneberry (Actaea pachypoda) but I’ve never seen that plant have as many berries as these did. These black and white berries are highly toxic but fortunately they also reportedly taste terrible and are said to be very acrid.

 14. White Baneberry Berries

Another name for this plant is ‘doll’s eyes” and it’s easy to see why. The black dot is what is left of the flower’s stigma. The black and white berries with pink stems are very appealing to children and it is thought that only their terrible taste prevents more poisonings than there are.

Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.  ~Lao Tzu

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There is a little bit of everything in this post.

1. Pinwheel Mushrooms

Tiny pinwheel mushrooms (Marasmius capillaris) fruit only on oak leaves and that’s exactly what those pictured were doing. A sunbeam just happened to be lighting them up when I walked by.  Most mushrooms like places with dim light but if I had time to spend watching them I think I’d find that all of them got at least some sunshine each day.

 2. Chanterelle Waxcap Mushrooms aka Hygrocybe cantharellus

Clusters of what I think are tiny orange chanterelle wax cap mushrooms (Hygrocybe cantharallus ) grew all over a log. These little mushrooms have caps with scalloped rims and gills that are slightly paler than the cap. The flash I had to use made the gills appear just a little lighter than they really were but otherwise the colors are true.

 3. Coral Mushroom

Coral fungi grow in places where there isn’t much light and since a flash can sometimes change the color of the subject, at the suggestion of Laura over at the Touring New Hampshire blog I bought an LED light. I haven’t used it enough to say much about it, but this is the first photo I took with it. A couple of things I noticed were, it did not change the color of these mushrooms and lit the scene enough so the camera wasn’t calling for a flash. In fact, at 100 lumens it is so bright that I might need a diffuser.

4. Smallest Orange Mushrooms

These are the tiniest mushrooms I’ve ever tried to photograph. They were so small that this entire group could have been hidden behind a single pea. I never knew that fully formed mushrooms grew so small and I have no idea what they are. Natural light was plentiful (for a change) when I took this photo.

 5. Pinesap Flowers Under LED

The last time I showed pinesap plants (Monotropa hypopitys) you could see the flower buds. In this photo you can see the individual flowers and that is important to note when trying to tell it from its close relative Indian pipe (Monotropa uniflora), which has a single flower. These were also under LED lighting and the colors seem true to what they should be.

 6. Meadow

I decided to get out of the woods and visit a local meadow again before things started going to seed. It’s hard to stay away from such a beautiful place for very long.

7. Bumblebee on Goldenrod

There were many bumblebees in the meadow and most were visiting the goldenrod.

8. Honey Bee

I was happy to also see plenty of honey bees in the meadow. I didn’t notice that this one had shredded wings until I saw the photo. I’ve read this is common among honey bees and comes from them simply over using their wings.

9. Great Black Wasp

Luckily this great black wasp (Sphex pensylvanicus) was too busy with goldenrod flowers to pay much attention to me. This is a digger wasp and he (or she) is big and jet black all over. Solitary females live in holes that they dig in soft ground. They prey on katydids, which are several times larger than they are, so they need plenty of flower nectar to keep that kind of power up. Their sting is said to be very painful, but I didn’t know that when I was taking these photos.

 10. Great Black Wasp

Their legs are quite long and hang down when they fly. This is a good way to identify them because most wasps keep their legs close to their bodies when they fly. I like the purple highlights on the wings, which look embossed.

11. Trillium Berry

 The shiny red berries of painted trillium (Trillium undulatum) seem to be everywhere this year, so apparently the high temperatures and heavy rainfall were to their liking. There should be plenty of seedlings in the spring.

 12. False Solomon's Seal Berries

 On their way to becoming brilliant red, the berries of false Solomon’s seal (Maianthemum racemosum) are speckled for a short time. This plant is also called treacle berry because the berries are supposed to taste like treacle or molasses.

13. Fern Shadow

 More often than not when I get down on the ground to take a photo of something I look around carefully before I get back up to see if there is anything else worthy of a photo, and that’s how I ended up with a shot of a fern shadow.

There is a serene and settled majesty to woodland scenery that enters into the soul and delights and elevates it, and fills it with noble inclinations. ~Washington Irving.

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Here are a few more spring wildflowers that I’ve seen recently. It’s hard to believe that summer is just around the corner.

1. Autumn Olive aka Elaeagnus umbellataAutumn olive (Elaeagnus umbellate) is a terribly invasive shrub from eastern Asia that has a heavenly scent. It is blooming now along with Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) which is so invasive that it is banned in New Hampshire. But it also has a heavenly scent, and when you combine the two invasive shrubs with our native lilacs, also blooming now and also extremely fragrant, I think you might have an idea of what heaven must smell like. Autumn olive is often confused with Russian olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia.)

2. Bird's Foot Trefoil aka Lotus corniculatus 2

Bird’s foot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus) has just started blooming. This is another invasive plant that forms dense mats that choke out native plants. This plant was originally imported from Eurasia for use as a forage plant. The plant gets its common name from the way the clusters of seed pods are often shaped like a bird’s foot. Many butterflies, Canada geese and deer love this plant.

 3. Golden Ragwort aka Senecio smallii

Native golden ragwort (Packera aurea) likes wet places in full sunlight, but it will tolerate some shade. It’s not a common plant in this part of the state, but it can be found here and there. Golden ragwort is in the aster family and is considered our earliest blooming aster. The plant is toxic enough so most animals (including deer) will not eat it, but Native Americans used it medicinally to treat a wide variety of ailments.

4. Greater CelandineGreater celandine (Chelidonium majus) is another introduced invasive plant that is seen everywhere. It is a member of the poppy family that was originally introduced from Europe and Asia. Another celandine, lesser celandine (Ranunculus ficaria,) belongs to the buttercup family. Greater celandine has a yellow- orange latex sap that stains hands, as every schoolchild in the country quickly finds out. Another common plant used in gardens, celandine poppy (Stylophorum diphyllum,) isn’t related to greater celandine.

5. Pheasant Eye Daffodil aka Narcissus poeticus

Another invasive that has naturalized here is the pheasant eye narcissus (Narcissus poeticus,) also called the poet’s daffodil. This plant is very old-ancient in fact-and is said to be the flower that is the basis of the Greek legend of Narcissus. It can be found in botanical texts from as early as 371 BC. The flower is very fragrant and easily recognized by the white petals and red edge on its yellow cup. It is said that its fragrance is so powerful that a few cut flowers in a closed room can cause headaches. I often see it in un- mown fields and pastures.

 6. Solomon's Seal Flowers 3

Native Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum canaliculatum) is blossoming throughout our forests now.  There are several plants that look very similar, but I believe the plant in the photo is Great Solomon’s seal.  Hairy Solomon’s seal has small hairs on the underside of the leaves and the flowers are smaller. Rose twisted stalk has similar leaves but a twisted, zig zag stem like the name implies. The rose / purple/ pink flowers are bell shaped.

7. False Solomon's Seal 2

False Solomon’s seal (Maianthemum racemosum  or Smilacina racemosa) has small white, star shaped  flowers in a branching cluster (raceme) at the end of its stem. The way to tell this plant from true Solomon’s seal when there are no flowers is by the zig zagging stem. The stem on Solomon’s seal is straight.

8. Start Flowered False Solomon's Seal aka Smilacina stellata

Star flowered Solomon’s seal (Maianthemum stellatum  or Smilacina stellata) also blossoms in a cluster at the end of its stalk, but the flower cluster isn’t branched like that of false Solomon’s seal. The white flowers are larger and usually fewer than those of false Solomon’s seal. This plant likes to grow in the same habitat as true and false Solomon’s seals and can often be found growing right beside them.

 9. Fleabane

Native common fleabane (Erigeron philadelphicus) always surprises me by seeming to appear over night, but in reality I just don’t see them until they bloom. That’s because most that I see grow in lawns or fields where I don’t hike. This is a much loved flower, and you can tell that by the way people mow around it when they mow their lawns and fields. There is always a large patch of tall grass full of lavender flowers left standing. The flower pictured had just a hint of lavender on the ray petals, but some of them can be quite darkly colored.

 10. Comfrey Blossoms

Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) is in the same family as borage and is considered an herb, but I love the bell shaped blue flowers so I would rather use it as an ornamental. This is a strange plant that can be used as a fertilizer. Comfrey plants root very deeply and take up many nutrients from the soil, and that makes them as valuable to organic gardeners as manure. Quite often large plots of it will be grown to be cut and used as a fertilizer or in compost heaps. Comfrey is native to Europe.

 11. Gaywings

Fringed Polygala, also called gaywings (Polygala paucifolia,) are still blooming. I’m suddenly finding these plants everywhere. They seem to like to grow in the same places that lady’s slippers do. I love their color but it’s easy for me to mistake them for violets, so every time I see what I think are violets I stop to see if they are really gaywings. The blossom on the left seems to have lost its wings.

 12. Forget Me Nots

I see forget me nots (Myosotis) on riverbanks and along trails-almost everywhere I go.  There are many species of forget me nots and in some cases the differences are nearly microscopic, so I leave all the sorting to botanists and just enjoy the flowers.

 13. Painted Trillium

Painted trillium (Trillium undulatum ) have much smaller flowers than those of red trillium (Trillium erectum.) This plant likes very acid soil and doesn’t seem to be as easy to find here as the red trillium. The undulatum part of the scientific name comes from the wavy (undulating) petals. The painted part of its common name comes from the purple splotches on the petals. Painted trillium is native to the east coast.

14. Pink Lady's Slippers

I went for a short hike on a recent drizzly day and saw lots of pink lady’s slippers (Cypripedium acaule.) This native orchid is making a comeback after being collected nearly into oblivion by people who didn’t know any better. The plant interacts with a Rhizoctonia fungus in the soil and this fungus must be present for it to reproduce.  If plants are dug up and placed in private gardens they will eventually die out if the fungus isn’t present so please, look at them, take a couple of pictures, and let them be.

15. Pink Lady's Slipper

Pink lady’s slipper’s color can go from white, which are very rare, to deep pink. Those that are lighter pink often show interesting darker pink veins like the example in the above photo.

Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.  ~Albert Einstein

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There are so many plants blooming right now that I thought I’d do two wildflower posts in a row to try and keep up with them all. I thought I’d also show a few of the places I go to regularly as well as the plants I find in them. Most of the places have no real name so I just call them the pond, stream, path, bog, or meadow. 

I visited a local unnamed beaver pond hoping to find some native orchids. Other than pink lady’s slippers (Cypripedium acaule,) which are still blooming off in the drier parts of this tract, I didn’t see any. Most of the pink lady’s slippers look like this one now, with seed pods forming. Hedge bindweed (Calystegia sepium) was blooming in a sunny spot. This plant is often confused with wild morning glory, but the leaves are very different. A good pocket field guide is the simplest way to identify them. The Hairy Vetch (Vicia vilosa ) was running rampant all through the tall grasses and shrubs. This is another plant that is often mistaken for something else. I’ve even seen it called crown vetch (Coronilla variaon) on various websites, but the two flowers are very different.  Tracy at the Season’s Flow blog recently showed a good picture of crown vetch that can be seen by clicking here.  Hairy vetch is easily confused with cow vetch, which looks very similar but doesn’t have fine hairs on its stems and doesn’t grow in New Hampshire. Hairy vetch is a native of Europe and Asia and is used as a cover crop or for livestock forage. Bumblebees love it. The daisy fleabane (Erigeron strigosus) is still blooming strongly and should continue right up until fall, when it will be confused with asters.  The flower on the left had a visitor that I didn’t see when I was taking the picture. Daisy fleabane can be mistaken for common fleabane (Erigeron philadelphicus,) but the leaves clasp the stem on common fleabane and do not on daisy fleabane.  I regularly find fleabane growing in sunny spots quite deep in the woods where you wouldn’t expect it to be. I decided to leave the boggy areas and head for dry ground. Many wildflowers grow along this path and in the surrounding forest, so it is one of my favorite places.Blue bead lily (Clintonia borealis ) grows in these woods and is just setting fruit. Before long these will be bright blue berries that aren’t fit for eating, but are a pleasure to see.Our native Northern Bush Honeysuckle (Diervilla lonicera) isn’t rare but it is uncommon in my experience. It also isn’t a true honeysuckle. Unlike a true 6-8 foot tall honeysuckle this little plant might reach 3 feet under perfect growing conditions, but is usually much shorter. The flowers are small but grow in clusters at the ends of branches and are long lasting. They change colors, going from greenish yellow to orange and then to purplish red. Something to watch for in identifying these plants is the odd little mushroom shaped pistil. The fall foliage is very colorful, going from yellow to deep red. Another native shrub just coming into bloom is the arrow wood Viburnum (Viburnum dentatum.) These shrubs get large, often growing to 6-8 feet tall and 10 feet wide at the edge of the forest, but each individual flower is hardly bigger than a pencil eraser.  An easy way to identify viburnums is to look for the five petals that they all have. Native dogwoods, which should be blooming any day now, will always have 4 petals.  The glossy, toothed leaves are a good indication that this plant is an arrow wood viburnum. The white flowers are followed by small, dark blue fruit that birds love.Native False Solomon’s seal (Maianthemum racemosum) is still going strong but very soon the blossoms will give way to small reddish berries that provide food for many birds and other wildlife. These plants prefer dry woods and partial shade, but I’ve seen them grow in quite wet soil and nearly full shade as well. False Solomon’s seal can be found in garden centers and is an excellent choice if trying to attract birds to the garden.Another flowering shrub that isn’t well known is the Buckthorn (Rhamnus.) This shrub can be tree like, reaching 25 feet in height. This is another of those plants that is easily confused. There is one called Common Buckthorn, another called Alder Leaved Buckthorn, one called European buckthorn, and still another called Lance Leaved Buckthorn. All are similar but I believe the plant in the picture is the European buckthorn because the leaf margins aren’t serrated. The small white flowers that grow in the leaf axils are followed by fruit that changes from green to red to purple and finally to black. This shrub is said to attract Brimstone butterflies. There are buckthorn hybrids that are grown as garden specimens. Forest plants can be invasive. This plant is very rare in this area-at least in my experience, since I’ve only seen it twice in my life. It is called rattlesnake weed (Hieracium venosum.) The common name comes by way of an old tale of how the plant likes to grow in areas populated by rattlesnakes. We do have timber rattlers here in New Hampshire, but none were in the area when I was taking pictures. This native plant is listed as endangered in Maine and I think it should probably have the same designation in New Hampshire, but here it is listed as “present.” It is related to both dandelion and yellow hawkweed (Hieracium pratense) and the flowers look nearly identical to those of yellow hawkweed.  My favorite parts of the plant are the reddish purple veined leaves.The flowers of rattlesnake weed (Hieracium venosum) close at night and on cloudy days and since it was nearly evening when I took this picture, these blossoms were closing.  This picture does show the notched petals that are so similar to those of yellow hawkweed.I don’t think I could count all the times I’ve told kids “That little flower smells just like pineapple,” only to have them say “No it doesn’t.” “Smell it,” I tell them and then watch as the big smile comes to their face when they do. “That’s why,” I tell them “it’s called pineapple weed.” Is there anyone, I wonder, who hasn’t squeezed and then smelled pineapple weed (Matricaria discoidea)? Some think this flower looks and smells like chamomile with all the petals missing, and I’ve heard it makes a good tea. It is a native plant that was used extensively by Native Americans. For the last picture in this post I thought I’d leave you with a small sampling of what a New Hampshire meadow can look like. Every flower in it has already been in this blog though, so it’s time to find another meadow.

Little things seem nothing, but they give peace, like those meadow flowers which individually seem odorless but all together perfume the air ~George Bernanos

Thanks for stopping by.

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I think I could post something like this every day and still not be able to show all of the flowers that are blooming right now. Most of the flowers appearing in this post are old friends that I’ve known for years. White Clover (Trifolium repens) is blooming everywhere now and is very good for a lawn because it is a nitrogen fixing plant, meaning it converts atmospheric nitrogen into a soluble form that turf grasses and other plants can use. By doing this it acts as a free source of nitrogen. White clover also mows easily, stays quite short, and stays green throughout the season. It shouldn’t be used for high traffic areas though, because it can’t stand the abuse. I once gardened for some people whose lawn was about 90 percent white clover and it was beautiful. Red clover (Trifolium pretense) on the other hand, although it fixes nitrogen like white clover, grows too fast and too tall for a lawn. It also forms large, tough clumps that are hard to mow. It’s an excellent feed crop, so keep red clover in pastures and meadows. This is Vermont’s state flower. Nothing says June like the Oxeye daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare.) The trouble is, it’s still May, so these are about 2 weeks early. Though we have come to think of this plant as a native, it was actually introduced from Europe or Asia. The Shasta daisy that is so well known in gardens was developed by plant breeder Luther Burbank from introduced species like this one.

A close-up of an oxeye daisy. Dame’s rocket (Hesperis matronalis) is considered an invasive species and can be seen in fields and along roadsides in abundance.  It was so highly valued that it was brought over from England by the colonists in the 1600s. This plant forms clumps much like phlox and can get 5 feet tall under the right conditions. The flowers range from purple to white and are very fragrant, especially in the evening. The easiest ways to tell that this plant isn’t phlox is by the narrower, slightly toothed leaves and the fact that phlox has 5 petals and dame’s rocket has 4. This plant is in the mustard family. Bird’s foot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus) is a common plant seen on roadsides and parking lot edges, which is where I found this one. It is in the pea family and grows about a foot tall. It gets its common name from its clusters of brown, 1 inch long seed pods which someone thought looked like a bird’s foot. The plant has 3 leaflets much like clover. This plant was introduced from Europe as livestock feed but has escaped and is now considered invasive in many areas. It can form large mats that choke out natives. There are many different species of forget me nots (Myosotis.) Some are native and some were introduced and all have cross bred so there are many hybrids. There is a lot of confusion surrounding these plants, with some insisting they are native and some insisting they came from Europe. I try to stay out of all that and just enjoy their beautiful blue color. Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis) is blooming. I haven’t seen many of these this year, which is strange because they used to be very common. The Cornus part of the scientific name tells us that this plant is in the dogwood family, though just looking at it gives that away because it looks much like a dogwood blossom. Like a dogwood the flowers are the tiny greenish white clusters that make up the center disc. The large white “petals” are actually bracts. The common name “bunchberry” comes from its tight cluster of red berries. After trying to photograph speedwell flowers that were one step above microscopic I found the germander speedwell (Veronica chamaedrys,)  seemed gigantic in comparison because of its 3/16 to 1/4 inch flowers. It also called bird’s eye speedwell. This is another plant introduced from Europe and Asia. It has the strange habit of wilting almost as soon as it is picked, so it isn’t any good for floral arrangements. Like all the speedwells I’ve seen it has one lower petal smaller than the other three. Speedwell is very common in lawns. I was lucky enough to stumble onto a colony of 50 or 60 painted trilliums (Trillium undulatum) that were spread out along a roadside. These blossoms were fresh-not like the ones that had just about gone by that I posted before. This is, in my opinion, one of our most beautiful wildflowers. This native plant fools a lot of people because it looks so much like Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum commutatum.) It is actually false Solomon’s seal (Maianthemum racemosum,) and the best way to tell that is by the flower cluster at the end of the stem. True Solomon’s seal flowers dangle under the leaves all along the stem. If the plant isn’t flowering you can still tell the difference by the stem itself; on false Solomon’s seal it zig zags like what is seen in the photo and on true Solomon’s seal it grows very straight. Here is a photo of true Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum commutatum ) for comparison. Note the very different flowering habit between this plant and the false Solomon’s seal shown previously.  There are about 50 species of true Solomon’s seal so identification can be tricky at times. Yet another plant that mimics Solomon’s seal is Star Flowered Solomon’s Seal (Maianthemum stellatum,) so called because of the tiny star shaped blossoms that appear at the end of the stem. When compared to the true Solomon’s seal in the previous photo it is easy to see that the flowering habit is completely different. Again, the stem on this plant also zig zags, while the stem on true Solomon’s seal is straight. I haven’t been able to identify the insect that was working so hard on this blue bead lily (Clintonia borealis) flower, but I think it was a false blister beetle, which is a pollen eater.  This native plant is in the lily family. Its leaves resemble those of the lady’s slipper and it is sometimes mistaken for that plant or wild leeks. I found large colonies of it growing in a shady part of the forest where trillium and lady’s slippers grew. The yellowish green flowers will be followed by a shiny bright blue berry which is supposed to taste horrible. I’ve never seen a lupine (Lupinus) bloom in May but here they were, blooming happily on a river bank.  This plant is in the pea family and like white and red clover fixes atmospheric nitrogen into a soluble form that can be used by plants. It is said that the lupine has been cultivated for 2000 years or more, beginning in ancient Egypt, because the seed is so high in protein. These are beautiful plants to have in the garden but are very susceptible to aphid attack. Sweet Viburnum (Viburnum lentago) is also known as nannyberry. These native bushes are dotting the woods with their white, mounded flower clusters right now. Red twig dogwoods are also beginning to bloom, but they have four petals and the viburnum have five. Dogwood flower clusters also tend to be much flatter on top and seem to hover just above the branch. Sweet viburnum has a much more rounded flowering habit. These shrubs are also called wild raisin and nanny plum for their fruit, which is a small black drupe with one flat seed. Northern Blue Flag Iris (Iris versicolor) has suddenly popped up around the local pond. These native plants love water and near water is where I always find them. There is also a southern blue flag (Iris virginica.) The “flag” part of the name comes from the Middle English flagge, which means rush or reed. The roots of this plant are extremely toxic, so if you forage for cattail roots be sure the roots of blue flag aren’t mixed in with them.

Suddenly I realize

That if I stepped out of my body I would break

 Into blossom.~James Wright 

I hope you enjoyed this one. Thank you for stopping by.

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