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Posts Tagged ‘Goldenrod Bunch Gall’

I hope everyone had a nice Christmas. Our presents from nature were temperatures in the mid-30s F. and plenty of sunshine but we’ve also had some cold, as this frozen view of Half Moon Pond in Hancock shows. We have no snow in my corner of the state though, because it seems to warm up ahead of every storm and we see rain instead of snow. That’s a good thing because just one storm last week would have dropped over two feet of snow.

Pressure cracks in ice are caused by stress, which is caused by fluctuating temperatures in the ice, wind, or waves. Some are contraction cracks, caused by the top surface of the ice sheet shrinking quickly. I think that’s what this crack on the pond ice in the previous photo might be. There are also wet and dry cracks. Dry cracks obviously have no water in them like this one. Ice can make some very strange, eerie sounds as it changes and sometimes this pond sounds like a Star Wars movie. This crack went all the way across the pond.

There seems to be plenty of seeds and other food for the smaller birds this year, especially since the asters seen here along with goldenrods and so many other late blooming plants grow many millions of seeds each year. All of these seeds are what help small birds and small animals through winter.

And they do get eaten, as this aster seed head shows.

Though the smaller birds seem to have plenty to eat things might be a bit difficult for larger birds like turkeys. Last year was a mast year and millions of acorns and white pine cones fell; easily more than I’ve ever seen, and turkeys, deer, squirrels and other animals had a bountiful year. But as is often the case when trees grow so much fruit, they need time to recover. In the following few years the harvest can be meager, and that’s what has happened this year. Last year I saw more acorns fall than I ever have and this year I’ve seen fewer fall than I ever have, and turkeys and larger animals are now paying the price.  Add to that a layer of snow like that seen here in Hancock, and there could be a serious thinning of the flocks and herds.

Technically a group of turkeys is called a “rafter” rather than a flock but I doubt they care. This one had to come over and see what I was up to. Here in New Hampshire we see turkeys chasing people on the news fairly regularly. They also have a habit of standing in roads. Why, I don’t know.

The way some of these photos show a snow pack and others show none you might think they were taken in different seasons but no, it’s just a matter of a few miles between snow and none at all. In fact looking at this colony of heartleaf foam flowers (Tiarella cordifolia) one might be fooled into thinking it was spring, but they’re an evergreen plant and look like this even under snow. Come mid-May they’ll be covered in small white flowers with long stamens, and it is these “foamy” flower stamens that give the plant its common name. It’s so nice to see green plants in December.

Mosses like this delicate fern moss (Thuidium delicatulum) are non-vascular plants and most if not all are evergreen. I love seeing them at all times of year but especially in winter when there is so little green showing. This moss changes color from deep green to bright lime green when it starts getting cold and it always looks orange to me in the fall, but I’m colorblind so I’m sure it’s just me.

Last year I found this odd, sprawling little plant that I had never seen before. I showed it on a blog post and helpful readers told me it was a spikemoss, which I hadn’t heard of. I went back to see it this year and it really hadn’t changed but I tried to look it over a little more carefully and I did some reading about it. I believe this example is meadow spikemoss (Selaginella apoda.) Spikemosses are considered “primitive” seedless (spore bearing) vascular plants and therefore aren’t mosses at all. This pretty little plant is more closely related to the clubmosses, which are also spore bearing vascular plants known as lycopods. It doesn’t appear to be evergreen like the clubmosses however.

I didn’t look closely at this fern but I think it might be an eastern wood fern (Dryopteris marginalis) which is also called marginal wood fern because of how its spore bearing clusters are placed in relation to its pinnule (leaf division) margins. We have a few evergreen ferns and like the mosses they add much to the winter landscape. They might look delicate but I’ve seen them grow on even after being encased in ice.

Polypody fern (Polypodium virginianum) is another of our evergreen ferns but it doesn’t look delicate at all. In fact if you run your hand over its fronds you’ll find that it feels tough and leathery. This fern is also called rock polypody or rock cap fern  because it is almost always found growing on stones. They are one of just a few vascular plants that can rehydrate after drying out, much like mosses do.

The sori of the polypody fern are considered naked because they don’t have the thin tissue covering, called an insidium, which many other ferns have. I think the little clusters of sporangium look like baskets of flowers. Though small they can be seen with the naked eye. The druids thought this fern had special powers because they found it growing near oak trees. Its roots and leaves have been used medicinally for many centuries and its name appears in some of the earliest herbals and botanical texts.

Milk white toothed polypore (Irpex lacteus) is a resupinate fungus, which means it looks like it grows upside down, and that’s what many crust fungi appear to do. This is a very common winter fungus that grows on the undersides of limbs. The “teeth” are actually ragged bits of spore producing tissue which start life as pores or tubes and then break apart and turn brown as they age. This example was very young and  shows what look more like pores than teeth at this stage. If you pick up a fallen limb and touch something that feels cold and rubbery, it might be one of these. They are very tough and can stand all the snow and cold that winter can throw at them.

Another tough fungus is the turkey tail (Trametes versicolor,) but this one feels leathery rather than rubbery. This is a common fungus that can be found just about anywhere but the beautiful blue, purple, and orange ones are rare in this area. It seems to depend on the year I’ve noticed; sometimes most of them are shades of brown but in some years many will lean towards blues, purples and oranges. I have no idea what determines their color and apparently science doesn’t either, because I’ve never been able to find a single word about what colors them in print.

I’ve seen several trees with these markings on them and I think it might be the start of a bright yellow crust fungus called conifer parchment fungus (Stereum sanguinolentum.) This fungus is also called bleeding parchment because of the blood red liquid it exudes when it is damaged. It causes heart rot in conifers and is a death sentence for the tree. It seems to be very widespread because I’ve seen it in almost every bit of woodland I’ve been in.

A single terminal bud and two lateral buds in red or sometimes pink help identify striped maple (Acer pennsylvanicum.) In late April or early May the bud scales on these buds will open to reveal the beautiful pink and orange buds, which are some of the most beautiful the things one can see in the spring forest.

Many things in nature will turn blue when it gets cold enough. Ice can be blue and so can the sap of the white pine tree. I’ve also seen the white striations that give striped maple its name turn blue. This is the only maple tree in New England that has bark that is striped like this. Other names for the tree are snake bark maple, moosewood maple, goosefoot maple, Pennsylvania maple, and whistle wood, because the soft pith makes the wood easy to hollow out and make whistles from. Native Americans used the bark of the tree to treat many ailments including coughs and colds.

A burl is an abnormal growth on a tree that grows faster than the surrounding tissue. Scientists don’t fully understand why it happens but burls are thought to grow on trees that have been weakened by stress or damage. Once the tree’s defenses have been weakened insects and/or fungi can attack and cause the abnormal growth. Woodworkers prize burls very highly and make some beautiful bowls and other things from them which can sometimes sell for thousands of dollars. This one grew on a maple and was quite large.

Bunch gall is another plant deformity that appears on Canada goldenrod (Solidago canadensis) at the very tip of the stem. A gall midge (Rhopalomyla solidaginis) lays its egg in a leaf bud and when the larva hatches the plant stops growing taller but continues to produce leaves in a “bunch” like that seen here. Since the midge only lays its eggs on Canada goldenrod it makes this plant easy to identify.

I was working one day and this spider crawled up to me and watched for a while. After letting me take a couple of photos it walked off to wherever it was going. It was about as big as a quarter (3/4”) from leg tip to leg tip. I don’t know its name but it could move very fast when it wanted to.

This is how the sky often looks as I drive to work at 7:00 am at this time of year. It’s a great gift that costs nothing but my being there to see it. I hope all of you received similar gifts this year.

A wonderful gift may not be wrapped as you expect. ~Johnathan Lockwood Huie

Thanks for coming by.

 

 

 

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1. American Lady Caterpillar

I don’t know if the spines on this American Lady Caterpillar (Vanessa virginiensis) were as sharp as they looked, but I’m glad that I didn’t grab it by mistake. He and a friend were on a pussytoes plant (Antennaria plantaginifolia). I’ve never thought of caterpillars as being particularly pretty but my opinion of them is changing. Thanks to the helpful folks at Bug guide.net for identifying this one.

2. American Lady Butterfly by  Derek Ramsey

This is what the American lady caterpillar will grow up to be. They are also called painted ladies and are beautiful things. This photo is by Derek Ramsey and is from Wikipedia.

 3. Male Widow Skimmer Dragonfly

Dragonflies have been teaching me both patience and stealth. It isn’t easy to sneak up on something with eyes that can see in all directions, and this male widow skimmer dragonfly (Libellula luctuosa) flew away each time I took a step closer. He returned to the same perch time and again though as most dragonflies do, and I finally got close enough to get this photo of him. As I watched, the dark patches on his rear wings flashed different colors when he flew through sunbeams.

 4. Asian Beetle ob Cattail Leaf

As I was stalking dragonflies I happened to see this Asian beetle on a cattail leaf. I had one eating my coleus plants last summer and when I asked the folks at bugguide.net what it was they could only say “Asian beetle.” Apparently it is a relative of the Japanese beetle, but not quite as hungry.

5. Cranberries

Native cranberries are just starting to show a blush of color and before long they’ll be bright red. These tart berries were a Native American favorite and helped them survive our harsh winters.

 6. Acorns Forming

Acorns were another important food for Native Americans and it looks like a good crop this year. According to an account by a member of the Ojibwa tribe, natives climbed oaks and beat the acorns from the branches in September and October. The acorns were then dried in their shells before being cracked so the nutmeat could be removed. After the dried nutmeat was ground into fine flour it was leached in water to remove the bitter tannic acid that is present in oaks. The flour was then used in soups, biscuits, breads and porridge. It is estimated that in the Yokut tribe a typical family would eat 1000 to 2000 pounds of acorns each year. Thanks go to Native American Netroots for this information.

7. Doll's Eyes

The berries of the white baneberry plant (Actaea pachypoda) are called doll’s eyes, for obvious reasons. The remains of the flower’s black stigma against the porcelain white fruit is striking, and I can’t think of another plant with fruit quite like these except maybe when red baneberry (Actaea rubra) decides to have white fruit instead of red. It doesn’t matter though, because both plants are extremely toxic and no part of them should ever be eaten. Finding baneberry in the woods tells the story of rich, well drained loamy soil and a reliable source of moisture, because those are the things that it needs to grow. I often find it at or near the base of embankments that see a lot of runoff.

 8. Indian Pipes

We’ve had weekly rain this year and I’m not sure how that has affected other plants, but I’ve never seen so many Indian pipes (Monotropa uniflora) as I have this year. Large clumps of them have dotted the floor of every forest I’ve been in for months now.  Though they usually grow in deep shade the plants pictured just happened to be lit by a ray of sunshine when I saw them. Each flower nods until it is pollinated. Once pollinated they turn and point straight at the sky, and in that position release their seeds.

9. Pinesap

Pinesap plants (Monotropa hypopitys) look vaguely similar to Indian pipes at a glance but a close look shows that they are more honey or amber colored and have multiple flowers on each stem instead of the single flower found on Indian pipes. Their common name comes from the way they like to grow under pine trees, but I find them under hardwoods too. Neither Indian pipes nor pinesap have chlorophyll and both get their nutrition in part from the mycelium of certain mushroom species.

10. Bunch Gall on Canada Goldenrod

Bunch galls form on goldenrod when a gall midge (Rhopalomyla solidaginis) lays its egg in a leaf bud. When the larva hatches the plant stops growing taller but continues to produce leaves and the new leaves bunch all together at the top of the plant, forming the type of gall in the photo. I’ve also seen plants still blooming even though the galls were present. From what I’ve read this midge likes only Canada goldenrod (Solidago Canadensis.)

11. Oak Leaf Gall Caused by Midge Polystepha pilulae

Oak leaf galls look like reddish blisters on the upper surface of the leaf. They are caused by a midge called Polystepha pilulae. Galls might seem unsightly but they rarely harm the host plant and some of them can be very beautiful, so they’re always worth a closer look.

12. Smokey Eye Boulder Lichen

Occasionally we come upon things in our path that make us stop and gaze in silence at the beauty we have found, and for me smoky eye boulder lichens (Porpidia albocaerulescens) are one of those things. They have a wax coating much like the “bloom” on a plum or blueberry and, depending on the slant of the light, can appear blue, gray, or black. I think that they’re at their most beautiful when they’re blue, especially when they’re growing on a gold colored stone.

13. Russula Releasing Spores

Finding a mushroom that has just released its spores is rare but that’s what the white powder on the haircap moss in this photo is. It rained the day after I took this photo so all of the spores would have been washed away and into the soil. I think the mushroom is in the russula family.

14. Red penny Moss aka Rhizomnium punctatum

Red penny moss (Rhizomnium punctatum) is very leafy with leaves that aren’t toothed, are wider above their middle, and sometimes have a reddish margin. The stems are smooth rather than hairy and it likes to grow in very wet, swampy soil. The example in the photo meets all of those requirements but I was taken more by the way its leaves sparkled than by its identity.

15. Great Spangled Fritillary on Meadowsweet

I saw another great spangled fritillary (Speyeria cybele) and this time was able to get a shot of the wing underside, so I think my identification might be a good one. I’m never really sure with insects though, so if anyone knows something about this one that I don’t I hope they’ll please feel free to let me know.

Must we always teach our children with books? Let them look at the stars and the mountains above. Let them look at the waters and the trees and flowers on Earth. Then they will begin to think, and to think is the beginning of a real education.  ~David Polis

Thanks for stopping in.

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