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Posts Tagged ‘Fringed Sedge’

We were having some “triple H” weather here last weekend, which means hazy, hot and humid, so I wanted to get to a shady forest. I chose High Blue trail in Walpole because I was fairly sure that there would be a good breeze on the summit, which faces west. The trail starts out following an old logging road.

I started seeing things of interest almost as soon as I reached the old road. False Solomon’s seal plants (Maianthemum racemosum  or Smilacina racemosa) bloomed all along it. Some grow close to three feet tall but most are less than that; about knee high. False Solomon’s seal has small white, star shaped flowers in a branching cluster (raceme) at the end of its stem. Soon the blossoms will give way to small reddish berries that provide food for many birds and other wildlife. It is said that a Native American tribe in California used crushed false Solomon’s seal roots to stun fish. Others used the plant medicinally.

Brittle cinder fungus (Kretzschmaria deusta) in this stage are stunning, in my opinion. I like the powder gray against the bright white margin. As they age they blacken and look like burnt wood and become very brittle and are easily crushed. They grow on dead hardwoods and cause soft rot, which breaks down both cellulose and lignin. In short, this is one of the fungi that help turn wood into compost.

This photo taken previously shows what the brittle cinder fungus will become; a black lump. Younger examples have a hard lumpy crust or skin, a piece of which can be seen in the upper left of the example in the photo. It’s hard to believe that it’s the same fungus that’s in the previous photo.

Grasses are flowering nearly everywhere I go now and I like looking at them closely. I don’t know this one’s name but I’ve learned enough about grasses to know that the yellow bits at the top are the male pollen bearing flowers and the wispy white bits on the lower half are the female flowers.

Fringed sedge (Carex crinite) grew in wet spots along the road. 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. Other names for this plant are drooping sedge and long-haired sedge.

The trail does a loop but I always take the left at the High Blue sign and walk in and out.

From here the logging road narrows down into little more than a foot path. The sunlight was dappled and my camera doesn’t do dappled well, so this isn’t the best photo I’ve ever taken.

Hay-scented fern (Dennstaedtia punctilobula) does well up here and grows in large colonies all along the trail. I like the repeating patterns that they make. This fern likes shade but will tolerate extreme dryness well. Its common name comes from the way it smells like hay when it is bruised. This fern does well in gardens but gardeners want to make absolutely sure they want it because once they have it they’ll most likely have it for a long time. It’s very difficult to eradicate.

Last year the meadow suddenly became a cornfield and the corn attracted animals of all kinds, including bears. I’ve seen a lot of bear droppings all over this area ever since, so I carried a can of bear spray. Thankfully I didn’t have to use it.

Our brambles are coming into bloom and it looks like we might have a good blackberry harvest. Easy to pick blackberries can be found along virtually any rail trail and many woodland trails. Blackberries have been eaten by man for thousands of years. The discovery of the remains of an Iron Age woman called the Haraldskær Woman showed that she ate blackberries about 2500 years ago. The Haraldskær Woman is the body of a woman found naturally preserved in a peat bog in Jutland, Denmark in 1835. Native Americans made a strong twine from fibers found in blackberry canes, and they used piles of dead canes as barricades around villages. I’m guessing that anyone who had ever been caught on blackberry thorns wouldn’t have tried to make it through such a barricade.

Orange hawkweed (Pilosella aurantiaca) was dotted here and there in the meadow. I see thousands of examples of yellow hawkweed for every one orange hawkweed plant and I’m not sure why that is. The plant might be from Europe but it’s far from invasive in this area. Maybe their scarcity is due to the color orange being virtually invisible to bees. Orange Flowers do reflect ultraviolet light though, so that means that some insects must find them.

As I usually do when I come here, I had to stop at what’s left of the old foundation. I’m not sure who lived up here but they had plenty of courage and were strong people. All of this land would have been cleared then and sheep would probably have lived in the pastures. It was a tough life in what the Walpole Town History describes as a “vast wilderness.” But it was populated; many Native Americans lived here and they weren’t afraid to show their displeasure at losing their land.

One of the reasons I chose this place was because there is a small pond on the summit and I wanted to see if it was covered with duckweed yet. I wanted to take a close look at the tiny plants but about all I could see was pine pollen floating on the surface.

There was some duckweed but it was too far off shore to be easily reached. This pond must be spring fed because it never dries up completely, even in last year’s drought when streams were disappearing. I always wonder if it was the family’s water source.

There are an estimated 259,000 miles of stone walls in the northeastern U.S., most of which are in New England, and many are here in New Hampshire. The stones were found when the recently cleared pastures were plowed and they were either tossed into piles or used to build walls, wells, foundations and many other necessities of the day. Sometimes entire houses were built of stone but wood was plentiful and easier to work with, so we don’t have too many stone houses from that time. Most of what we see is used in stone walls like this one, which cross and crisscross the countryside in every direction.

I always take a photo of the sign when I come here, but I’m not sure why. What it means is that at 1588 feet above sea level the summit is higher than the surrounding terrain, and the view is always blue.

As I thought it would be the view was very hazy on this day, but there was a nice cool breeze blowing and that alone made the short hike worth it on such a hot humid day.

It was so hazy I couldn’t even see Stratton Mountain over in Vermont, which is just across the Connecticut River Valley seen here.

The stone pile builder has been busy. I’ve wondered why anyone would carry stones all the way up here just to build an eyesore like this, but on this day I realized that it was much more likely that these stones are being taken from the stone wall we saw 4 photos back. I wonder if this person knows that taking stones from stone walls is a crime, punishable by having to pay three times the cost of restoring the wall, plus legal costs. This is because many of these old walls mark boundary lines and are recorded as such in property deeds. I’m not sure why anyone would risk it just to put piles of stones in other people’s way, but to each their own.

We’ve had a lot of rain recently but I was still surprised to see a slime mold growing on the side of a log. The book Mushrooms of Northeast (no, not northeastern) North America-Midwest to New England by George Barron has quite a good section on slime molds and it starts off with one called Ceratiomyxa fruticulosa. I believe that the photo above shows the cylindrical white fruiting bodies of Ceratiomyxa fruticulosa, variety fruticulosa. There is a second variety of this slime mold called porioides, and the fruiting bodies look like tiny white geodesic domes. The fruiting bodies shown are so small and so fragile that one swipe of a finger can destroy hundreds of them.

If you reconnect with nature and the wilderness you will not only find the meaning of life, but you will experience what it means to be truly alive. ~Sylvia Dolson

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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

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Here are a few more of those things that never seem to fit in other posts.

1. American Hornbeam Fruiting

American hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana) trees are fruiting. Long, drooping, leafy bracts bear the seeds in pairs of small oval nuts, as seen in the photo. This tree is also called blue beech or water beech. It grows along rivers and streams and likes moist to wet soil. The wood of the tree ripples and looks muscular, so it is also called muscle wood. The wood of this tree is very hard and early settlers used it for spoons, bowls, and tool handles.

 2. Male Cones of Red Pine

I had a little trouble identifying the pine tree that these male, pollen bearing cones were on because I’ve never seen them before. Luckily when it comes to native pines, here in New Hampshire we don’t have a lot of choices-only 4 pines grow here naturally-eastern white pine, jack pine, pitch pine, and red pine. I’m sure that the cones in the photo aren’t eastern white pine, and jack pine and red pine each have 2 needles per bundle. Since this tree has 3 needles per bundle it has to be pitch pine, according to my tree book, so these are the male cones of the pitch pine tree (Pinus rigida.)

 3. White Pine Pollen Bearing Cones

These are the male pollen bearing cones of the eastern white pine (Pinus strobus.) When the female flowers are fertilized by this pollen they produce the seed bearing cones that we are all familiar with. Here in New Hampshire this pollen is responsible for turning any horizontal surface, including ponds and vehicles, a dusty green color each spring. It also makes some of us have sneezing fits.

 4. Black Willow Seed Head

Black willows (Salix nigra) are just starting to release their seeds. Female catkins produce clusters of capsules that split to release the cottony seeds. This is another tree that is common along pond and river banks. The bark of the tree contains salicylic acid, which is very similar to aspirin, and Native Americans once used it to treat headache and fever.

 5. Fringed Sedge Flowers Carex crenita

Many grasses and sedges are also flowering. These droopy fringed sedge Flowers (Carex crinite) make this one easy to identify, even from quite far away. They also make it attractive and this plant is often seen in gardens. It’s another plant that like moist soil and is usually found on riverbanks and wetlands. Native American used sedge leaves to make rope, baskets, mats, and clothing.

 6. finger Gall on Black Cherry Leaf

Finger galls on the leaves of black cherry (Prunus serotina) are caused by a tiny eriophyid mite (Eriophyes cerasicrumena.) Visually these galls aren’t very appealing but they don’t hurt the tree. They are small-maybe as long as a half inch. A blue butterfly called the cherry gall azure (Celastrina  serotina) lays eggs on these finger galls in May, and when they hatch the resulting caterpillars eat the galls-mites and all. The caterpillars also leave behind sweet secretions that attract ants. The ants, in return for the sweets, protect the cherry gall azure caterpillars from wasps and other predators. Imagine-all of this happens on the surface of a single leaf.

7. Orchard Grass

Orchard grass (Dactylis glomerata ) is still flowering and seems to be going all to pieces. Who could guess that grass could be so interesting and so beautiful?

 8. Poison Ivy Flowers

 I found this poison ivy vine (Toxicodendron radicans) growing up a shagbark hickory near a popular canoe and kayak launching spot on the Ashuelot River. It is very healthy and each one of its flowers, if pollinated, will turn into a white, berry like fruit. (drupe) there are many old sayings designed to warn people of the dangers of this plant and one is “Berries white, run in fright.” You might not have to run in fright but eating any part of this plant would be a very bad idea.

9. Sweetfern Fruit

This is the fruit of the sweet fern (Comptonia peregrine,) which isn’t a fern but a shrub. Sweet ferns are usually found growing in gravel at the edge of roads or in waste areas. They are small-about 3 feet tall-and have a mounding growth habit. The leaves are very aromatic and can be smelled from quite a distance on a hot summer day. It is said that crushing the leaves and rubbing them on your skin will keep insects away. There is a tiny nut enclosed in the spiky husk shown in the photo. Native Americans made tea from the leaves.

 10. Turtle

It seemed strange to see what I think was a painted turtle in the woods, off to the side of the trail, but there it was. It took off as soon as I approached it, and I didn’t chase it. Chase doesn’t seem the correct word since it moved so slowly. Maybe “followed” works better.

11. Jumping Spider

I was getting up off the ground after getting shots of a flower and saw this guy peeking around a leaf at me. He ran off almost as soon as I pointed the camera at him, apparently upset because my “eye” was bigger than all of his. I’ve learned a lot about spiders and insects by reading Mike Powell’s blog, and I think this might be one of the jumping spiders which, if I remember correctly, don’t build webs. It had yellow slash-like marks on its body. If you’d like to visit Mike’s blog, just click here.

 12. Tiger Swallowtail on Rhodie

Butterflies aren’t landing at my feet any longer but I’m still seeing them everywhere. This eastern tiger swallowtail was on the rhododendron in the front yard-still letting me know that the butterfly drought has ended.

 13. Purple Grass

 There are grasses called “purple top” and “red top” and even one called “purple love grass” but I think this one might be called reed meadow grass (Glyceria grandis.) This grass is common in moist places throughout the country. Its color is nice to see in a sea of green, swaying grasses.

 14. Rattlesnake Weed

I recently re-visited the only rattlesnake weed plant that I’ve ever seen and found that all of the purple color that the leaves had earlier in the spring had drained away, and now they are green with purple veins. I like this plant and wish there were more of them. It is in the hawkweed family but, even though hawkweeds are blooming right now, this is not. If it does I might try to save some of its seed to grow a little closer to home.

Every aspect of Nature reveals a deep mystery and touches our sense of wonder and awe. ~ Carl Sagan

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