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Posts Tagged ‘Frosted Grain Spored Lichen’

Last Sunday I went to Westmoreland, New Hampshire, which is North West of Keene on the banks of the Connecticut River. Westmoreland is an island of alkaline soil in county of mainly acidic soil. In fact, much of this part of the state has acid soil. If you are trying to find plants that like alkaline soil like hepatica, anemone, and many types of orchids, acid soil can be a problem.

 1. Railroad Cut

Knowing where the plants you are searching for are likely to grow isn’t enough though-you still need access to the land. Fortunately the Cheshire Railroad provided that many years ago. The railroad was named after Cheshire County, New Hampshire.

 2. Ice on Ledges

This stretch of railroad once ran from Bellows Falls, Vermont to various towns in northern Massachusetts after being built in the mid-1800s. The route runs through, rather than over or around this hill. This is known as a deep cut.

3. Cheshire Railroad in 1870

This is what it looked like circa 1870 when it was relatively new. If I had to guess I’d say the man on the right was picking berries. Raspberries, blackberries and black raspberries grow all along the railroad beds in this area. The Cheshire Railroad was swallowed up by the Fitchburg (Massachusetts) Railroad, which in turn was bought out by the Boston and Maine Railroad. This picture is from the Cheshire County Historical Society.

 4. Ice on Ledges

Many railroad spurs in this area had their tracks torn up and were abandoned from the mid-60s to the mid-70s. This section is well known to ice climbers and snowmobilers.  Ice climbers have to beware at this time of year though, because much of this ice is rotten. In fact, in places you can hear water running down the stone behind the ice. The height of this ledge was probably 25-30 feet.

 5. Railroad Ties

Piles of railroad ties line the cut and remind visitors of its history.

6. Trail through Ledges

In places the walls of this man made canyon soar up to 70 feet or more. It’s easy to see why it was called a deep cut. Out of view-several hundred yards to the left-the north/south Route 12 highway goes up and over this hill.

7. Blasting Hole

The railroad workers made their way through the hillsides by drilling holes into the stone and then blasting. Deep holes like these were probably drilled by steam power and are evidence that black powder, rather than dynamite, was used. Packing these holes with black powder and lighting a fuse was a very dangerous business and many were killed doing it, but dynamite wasn’t invented until 1866, so it was either black powder or brute force. After the wall face was blasted away someone had to clean up tons of stone. There are several dump sites that can be seen from the highway, but they are quite far from this cut.

 8. Stone Wall and Drainage Ditch

Not all of the blasted stone was dumped-miles of stone retaining walls line the cut and hold back the hillside. The railroad company must have had stone cutters working right at the site, cutting and fitting the blasted stone into stone walls that have stood since the mid-1800s. The railroad also dug deep drainage ditches between the roadbed and walls to keep everything dry. They still work fine today.

 9. Algae

 Some of the ditches had strange things going on in them. In places algae (?) grew in long strands.

10. Mineral Stain on Rock face

Years of mineral seepage had stained the stones here and there.

11. Frosted Grain-Spored Lichen

With all the stone in the area lichens were easily found. This is frosted grain-spored lichen (Sarcogyne regularis.) Reflective crystals of wax-like material make the red-brown fruiting bodies appear blue.

 12. Intermediate Wood Fern Crown

The crown of an intermediate wood fern (Dryopteris spinulosa var. intermedia) showed great promise, with several fiddle heads all ready to start growing.

 13. Hedwigia ciliata Moss

Medusa moss (Hedwigia ciliata) grew on boulders. This moss is easy to identify because of thepale, whitish tips on its leaves and bright red-orange stems. Dry plants look like clusters of stiff, frosty worms.

14. Green Grass

The deepest parts of the cut don’t see much, if any, sunshine so there was more snow there than I expected. Still, things like this small clump of grass were green and growing. I’m going to try to get back here at least once each week to see what else grows here.

There is nothing like walking to get the feel of a country.  A fine landscape is like a piece of music; it must be taken at the right tempo. ~ Paul Scott Mowrer

Thanks for coming by.

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Here in the southwest corner of New Hampshire we’re getting into three straight weeks of cloudy weather. When the sun peeks out from behind the clouds everyone seems to stop-as if they need a moment to remember what it is.

1. Red Winged Blackbird Tree

One day while I was out walking the clouds parted long enough to get a teasing glimpse of blue sky and sunshine. This tree is a favorite perch for red winged blackbirds. I didn’t see any in the tree but I could hear several, so that’s a good sign.

 2. Black Witch's Butter

I saw some black jelly fungi nearby (Exidia glandulosa.) With its matte finish and pillow like shapes it doesn’t look like other jelly fungi, but that’s what it is. I find it on alders and oaks in this area. It’s called black witch’s butter or black jelly roll.

 3. Orange Jelly Fungus

Orange jelly fungus (Dacrymyces palmatus) seems to seep out from beneath tree bark, which makes sense since jelly fungi are actually parasites that grow on the mycelium of other fungi. Jelly fungi can be found throughout the winter. This one grew on a fallen hemlock limb.

4. Scilla Shoot

The scilla I planted 2 years ago has come up already, but I was even more surprised to see roots already coming from acorns that the squirrels buried last fall. Scilla is also called Siberian squill (Scilla siberica.) The small blue flowers will be a welcome sight.

 5. Beard Lichen on Birch

Bristly beard lichen (Usnea hirta) is common and can be seen on birch limbs or growing directly on the trunk of pine trees in this area. It likes the high humidity found near ponds and streams.

6. Hazel Nut Husks

The husks of hazel nuts (Corylus) make good, dry homes for spiders, apparently. A large, shallow pit full of the remains of hundreds of thousands of burned hazelnut shells, estimated to be 9,000 years old, was found in Scotland in 1995. Man has been enjoying eating these nuts for a very long time.

7. Cushion Moss aka Leucobryum

 In cushion mosses (Leucobryum) each cushion shaped group is made up of thousands of individual plants. The leaves of these plants have outer layers of cells that are dead and which fill with water. This water filled outer coating helps protect the living cells by slowing dehydration. When the cushion does dry out it turns a much lighter green and can even look white.

8. Turkey Tails

Turkey tail fungi (Trametes versicolor) have been peeking out from under the snow for weeks now-the snow is melting very slowly.

9. Frosted Grain-Spored Lichen

This frosted grain-spored lichen (Sarcogyne regularis) has reddish brown discs that have waxy, reflective crystals dusted (or frosted) over their surfaces. The crystals are called pruina and make the discs appear bluish gray. At a glance they appear to be Smokey Eye Boulder Lichen (Porpidia albocaerulescens) but there are differences.

10. Thistle in Winter

Its sharp thorns couldn’t protect this thistle from winter’s wrath, but it wasn’t eaten.

11. Sunset Through Pines

Glimpses, that’s all we’ve see of the sun-just long enough to feel a little of its warmth and then it’s gone again. The weather people have been promising all week that we will see sunshine all weekend. It’s too early right now to tell what today will bring, but I hope their prediction is accurate.

It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold:  when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade. ~Charles Dickens.

Thanks for coming by.

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