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Posts Tagged ‘Fly Agaric’

Last Sunday dawned cool and free of the oppressive humidity that we’ve seen so much of this summer, so I thought I’d go for a climb up to the High Blue Trail lookout in Walpole. As I mentioned in last Saturday’s post, I’ve been having some breathing issues so I chose this trail because the climb is easy and gentle. I also chose it because there is usually much to see here and on this day I wasn’t disappointed.

The first things that caught my eye were the map like patterns in this coltsfoot leaf left by leaf miners. How remarkable that anything could be small enough to eat the tissue between the top and bottom surfaces of a leaf.

Hobblebush (Viburnum lantanoides) leaves whispered that fall was on the way but I didn’t want to listen.

But listen I had to, because everywhere I looked nature was whispering fall. Soon the whisper will become a shout.

I saw a young fly agaric (Amanita muscaria v. formosa) just up out of the soil and looking like it had been scrubbed clean even though it hadn’t rained in a week. This mushroom is common where pine trees grow. The name fly agaric comes from the practice of putting pieces of the mushroom in a dish of milk. The story says that when flies drank the milk they died, but it’s something I’ve never tried. Fly agaric is said to have the ability to “turn off” fear in humans and is considered toxic. Vikings are said to have used it for that very reason.

I’ve seen plenty of club coral fungi but I’ve never seen one that was hairy like this one. I think they might be examples of cotton base coral fungi (Lentaria byssieda,) which has “stalks that rise out of a creamy white, felt-like, hairy mycelial patch.” From what I’ve seen online and in guide books this fungi’s appearance can vary greatly as far as shape, with some having branch tips that are sharply pointed and others with blunt branch tips.

When I saw this I knew that it didn’t matter what else I saw on this day, because my day was complete. Violet coral fungus (Clavaria zollingeri) is a very rare thing in these parts and this is only the second time I’ve seen one. Both times I’ve seen it on a hillside, growing out of the soil on the side of the trail. Such a rare and beautiful thing can take you outside yourself for a time and I knelt there in the dirt taking photos and admiring it for I don’t know how long. I wish I’d see more of them but who knows what makes them only show themselves so rarely, and who knows why they wear that color?

The old road isn’t long but it is winding.

Before you know it you’re at the sign on the side road that leads to the lookout.

A birch tree had fallen across the old road. Many trees have fallen this summer and in a way it’s a good thing. Weak trees standing in a forest could fall without warning at any time so it’s good when the wind removes them. It’s dangerous to have them standing near trails, as this one illustrates.

I saw quite a few examples of the old man of the woods mushroom (Strobilomyces floccopus.) This grayish mushroom has black scales on its cap and stem and was very hard to get a good shot of. Both cameras that I carried had trouble focusing on it. Nobody seems to know how this mushroom came by its common name.

The old man’s pore surface starts off white, then turns gray before finally becoming black, so this one had some age. The flesh turns pinkish red when bruised and finally turns black. You can see the shaggy stem in this photo and that helps with identification.

Powdery mildew on an oak showed how very humid and still the air has been lately. Molds and mildews have a hard time developing when there is good air circulation.

Soon I was at the cornfield which was once a meadow. All my senses go on high alert here because I know that bears come here regularly to feed on the corn. I carried bear spray but if a bear suddenly burst out of the cornfield I doubt I would have had time to use it, so I stopped and listened for a minute or two. Hearing nothing but the rustling of the corn leaves I moved on.

The corn was just about ready to pick but since this is cattle corn the whole plant gets chewed up and becomes silage. It attracts almost every animal in the forest, including deer and raccoons but I was surprised to find very little animal damage among the stalks. Quite often you’ll find broken stalks lying on the ground with the husks torn from the ears, and all the kernels eaten. Maybe the animals are waiting for it to become dead ripe, I don’t know.

I saw two or three of these odd insects on ears of corn. Some kind of shield bug, I think.

Asters bloomed along the edge of the cornfield.

A black eyed Susan bloomed among hundreds of blooming lobelias. These were the pretty little lobelias called Indian tobacco (Lobelia inflata.) I was surprised to see them because they’re just about finished blooming down in the low country.

I was especially glad the lobelias were blooming because there were two monarch butterflies visiting the small flowers. I scared this one away but luckily it landed close enough to get a photo of. I’ve been seeing lots of monarchs this year I’m happy to say, but this is the only one I’ve been able to get a photo of.

Though it was cool, sunny and dry when I left Keene by the time I reached the overlook clouds had rolled in and the air was so thick with humidity you could have cut it with a knife. This didn’t make breathing any easier and I was just about puffed out, as my blogging friend Mr. Tootlepedal says, so all I could think of was getting back to the car and into some air conditioning.  After a couple of quick shots of the thick haze I headed back down the hill.

The view wasn’t very good; you couldn’t even see Stratton Mountain over in Vermont. The blue was a little darker where it should have been but I think I see it in this shot only because I know where it is. As I’ve said many time before, if I climbed for the view I’d end up disappointed most of the time, so though I enjoy seeing across the Connecticut River Valley into Vermont I could hardly be disappointed after seeing all of the beautiful things I saw on the way up here. It isn’t about the end of the trail or how fast you can climb a hill; it really is about what you see along the way.

The events of the past day have proven to me that I am wholly alive, and that no matter what transpires from here on in, I have truly lived. ~Anonymous mountain climber

Thanks for stopping in.

 

 

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I knew that false hellebores were blooming so I set off to find some over the past weekend. I’ve been promising for almost two years that I would show you the flowers, but I’ve had quite a time finding plants that are mature enough to blossom.

1. Forest Path

One of the places I visited had a path I like to follow. Can you see it? Why, I wondered as I climbed, is everything worth seeing uphill? Why, I have to ask, can’t beautiful things ever be found on flat, level ground? I suppose that one of the answers would be that it is hard to find a waterfall on level ground.

2. Woodland Boulder

I took a rest from climbing to get a shot of this boulder covered with polypody ferns. They are living up to their common name of rock cap fern. It wasn’t until I got home and looked at the photo that I saw all the bracket fungi on the tree in the background.

3. Forest Bench

I don’t know who carried this piece of plank here, but it makes a nice spot to sit and catch your breath, so I’m glad they did.

4. False Hellebore Flowering

This is what I came to find-the flowers of false hellebore (Veratrum viride.) These plants are hard to find in flower because they do so only when they are mature, which means ten years or more old. When they do blossom they do so erratically, so you never really know what you’ll find. When they finally bloom they carry hundreds of flowers in large, branched terminal clusters.

5. False Hellebore Flowers

The small flowers aren’t much to look at, but it’s easy to see that the plant is in the lily family by their shape. These flowers are the same color green as the rest of the plant but have bright yellow anthers. There are nectar producing glands that ants feed on and when they do, they pollinate the flowers. Animals leave this plant alone because it is one of the most toxic plants known, and people have died from eating it by mistaking it for something else.

6. Waterfalls

This is the other reason I came to this particular place. Though this stream was within its banks there was evidence everywhere that it had flooded recently-probably just the night before. We’ve had a lot of rain over the last week including some thunderstorms that triggered flash flood warnings, so I wasn’t surprised to see that it had flooded. Roads have washed away in some towns.

7. Evidence of Flooding

The flooding wasn’t strong enough to take down trees but it sure flattened almost everything else in its path. I learned a few things here-first and foremost was that, although false hellebore plants appear to have weak stems, they are actually very strong. They were one of very few plants left standing in the path that the water carved out of the forest.

8. Grass Under Water

This grass was underwater and it isn’t aquatic, so the water level of the stream was still several inches higher than it had been when the grasses grew.

9. Yellow Button Mushroom

All of the warmth and moisture was prompting some mushrooms to fruit. I think this one was possibly fly agaric (Amanita muscaria) in the button stage. It was about half the size of a grape.

10. Marlow Church

All but one of these photos were taken in a small town called Marlow, New Hampshire, which is about a half hour north of Keene. I thought I’d include the kind of photo that you see in tourist brochures-almost a cliché view of the small New England town, but those of us who live here enjoy it. The mill pond in the foreground is part of the Ashuelot River, which has appeared in this blog many times.

 11. White Water Lily 2

The mill pond is full of fragrant white water lilies (Nymphaea odorata) that I couldn’t get very close to, so my camera’s zoom was almost fully extended for this one.

 12. Ashuelot Rapids on 6-30-13

 Not long after it leaves the mill pond the Ashuelot River is squeezed between narrower banks and so begins to rage-especially because of all the rain we’ve had. This is a favorite spot for kayakers and I saw two of them unloading kayaks as I was leaving. You wouldn’t catch me riding a tiny plastic boat through these churning waters. I stood on an old wooden plank bridge to take this photo and that was enough for me, because the water level had almost reached the underside of the bridge. What does someone in a kayak do, I wondered, when faced with a bridge they can’t get under while speeding down a raging river? Maybe I’m better off not knowing-I’d still like to buy a kayak someday.

 13. Ashuelot Rapids on 6-29-13

If you have ever been swimming and heard the noise that somebody makes by doing what we used to call a cannonball, imagine that sound repeated over and over countless times in rapid succession. It creates a loud roar that is heard long before you can even see the river.

 

 14. Butterfly on Knapweed 2

 A cabbage white butterfly was interested in the knapweed (Centaurea) that grows along the river bank and let me stand there taking photos as it went from blossom to blossom. Mike Powell showed an excellent close up of this butterfly recently on his blog that revealed its green speckled eyes. They were quite beautiful-and unexpected.

It is life, I think, to watch the water. A man can learn so many things. Nicholas Sparks

Thanks for coming by. Have a great 4th of July.

 

 

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