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Posts Tagged ‘Hazelnuts’

When I see this photo I think “Oh, for a cloudy day” but no, last Saturday was another in a seemingly endless string of hot, humid, wall to wall sunshiny days. There is such a thing as too much of a good thing and that includes sunny days, but one of the first things someone who studies nature learns is that you take what comes, and so I set off down one of my favorite rail trails looking for nothing but a good time.

My good time started before I had walked 5 yards. Showy tick trefoil (Desmodium canadense) grew in sunny spots all along the trail. Often you find that the flowers are scattered here and there along the stems as they are here. 

One of the things I like about showy tick trefoil is how it blooms when goldenrod does. I like seeing the two colors together.

Tatarian honeysuckle (Lonicera tatarica) berries start out green and then turn orange before finally ripening to red. They are pretty things but they can be mildly toxic to adults and more so to children, though I’ve never heard of anyone eating them. Tatarian honeysuckle is considered an invasive shrub. Birds eat the berries and the plant spreads quickly, with an estimated seedling density of 459,000 per acre. Once grown their dense canopy shades the forest floor enough so native plants can’t grow, so the land around dense colonies is often barren.

It’s hard to believe that the tiny scarlet threads of the female hazelnut flowers (Corylus americana) can grow into such wonderous things as these, but they do. Each hazelnut is encased in a frilly husk, and you can just see them around the center of the tennis ball size growth. In 1995 a large shallow pit in Scotland was found to be full of the remains of thousands of burned hazelnut shells and was estimated to be 9,000 years old, so man has been eating this nut for a very long time. In this country Native Americans used them to flavor soups and also ground them into flour, most likely for thousands of years as well. And we still eat them today.

Daisy fleabane flowers (Erigeron annuus) are white, but those blossoms that happen to be in the shade often have a purple tint as this one did.

As I said in my last post, I’m seeing tall blue lettuce (Lactuca biennis) everywhere I go and it grew all along this trail. That is unusual, because it wasn’t too many years ago when I had to search high and low to find it.  

Wild tall blue lettuce goes to seed relatively quickly so maybe that’s why I’m seeing so much more of it.

Between the drainage ditch full of purple loosestrife and the tree line is supposed to be a cornfield but hardly a seed germinated because of the drought, so now it’s a field full of everything but corn. All of this corn is cattle corn so the cows might have a lean winter.

When we have hot humid weather the conditions are perfect for powdery mildew, which can be seen on this clover leaf. It doesn’t seem to care which plants it attacks; I saw it on a few different species along the trail.

Fuzzy staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina) berries were conspicuously absent. I saw plenty of shrubs but these were the only berries I saw. Many plants seem to be behaving strangely this year. I also saw raspberry bushes all along both sides of the trail but not a single sign of fruit.

Tall thimbleweed’s (Anemone virginiana) white flower sepals don’t seem to last very long. Every time I see them they have either turned green or are in the process of doing so, and you can just see a hint of green on two or three of these. That means if you see them in bloom that’s the time to get a photo. There are usually plenty of yellowish stamens surrounding a center head full of pistils, even after the flowers turn green. These flowers are close to the diameter of a quarter; about an inch. Thimble weed’s seed head continues growing after the sepals have fallen off and it becomes thimble shaped, which is where the common name comes from. Though the plant is poisonous Native Americans used the root to ease whooping cough and the smoke from the seeds was used to treat breathing difficulties.

Carrion flower vine (Smilax herbacea) has blue berries that are a favorite of birds, but these examples seemed to be drying out as soon as they ripened and turned blue. This plant is a vine that can reach 8 feet long. The fruit is said to be edible, but you won’t catch me eating it. It gets its name from the strong odor of its flowers.

Common elderberry bushes (Sambucus nigra canadensis) had just a few green berries on them because birds are eating them as soon as they ripen and turn black. The big flower head stems look like star charts.

I saw quite a few bicyclists whizzing by and there go a couple now, on the other side of the trestle. These old trestles have been reworked by snowmobile clubs and some, like this one, hardly show any signs of the original construction.

To get a better look at what the trestle looked like originally I had to go down under it.

Joe Pye weed (Eutrochium purpureum) grew in a sunny spot just at the edge of the trestle but I didn’t see any butterflies on it.

The trestle crosses Ash Swamp brook, which meanders lazily through Keene before finally meeting the Ashuelot River just around that corner. I spent many happy hours exploring this place as a boy and learned then that you have to be very careful where you step here because you could suddenly find yourself up to your knees in quicksand-like sucking mud. I’d guess that there must still be a few pairs of shoes under that mud, left behind when a stuck child was pulled out by friends. It wouldn’t have been parents pulling them out because you didn’t want parents knowing you were anywhere near this place. Very near here the banks of the river are high and sandy and bank swallows used to nest there. Watching them come and go was always good for an afternoon’s entertainment when I was a boy. Though the brook looked placid it can rise quickly in a heavy rain and flood quite a large area, so the surrounding land is considered flood plain. Seeing the water high enough to be almost touching the bottom of the trestle is something you never forget.

Can you stand another look at the Allegheny monkey flower (Mimulus ringens)? They grew here in quite large numbers but I still didn’t see a monkey. A helpful reader wrote in to say that if I turned the photo upside down then I’d see a monkey. I tried it and still didn’t see a monkey, but I’m glad she did.

If you’re wondering where the title of this post came from, here it is; traveler’s joy. This native clematis is also called Virgin’s bower (Clematis virginiana.) It drapes itself over shrubs so it can get all of the sunshine that it wants, just as it did in this spot, but I’ve also seen it climbing into trees. An extract made from the plant is hallucinogenic and was used by Native Americans to induce dreams. Mixed with other plants like milkweed, it was also used medicinally. It is a very pretty but toxic plant that can cause painful sores in the mouth if eaten. It is also called old man’s beard and devils’ darning needles, but since it always brings me joy when I see it I like the name traveler’s joy.

A great black wasp came by for a bite to eat while I was there and I admired its beautiful iridescent blue wings. The color reminds me of my grandmother’s favorite perfume Evening in Paris, because the bottle was almost the same color. These big wasps eat nectar and pollen from flowers and don’t bother people but they can be a bit intimidating because of their large size. It was a beautiful thing; a joy to see on the traveler’s joy. I do hope your travels will be joyous as well.

Freedom, joy or bliss doesn’t come from the situation that we think we should be in, but it derives from the one that we are already in. ~Aditya Ajmera

Thanks for stopping in.

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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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Good Morning. I thought I’d steer us away from flowers again for a short time. I wouldn’t want anyone getting bored and there are many things in nature that are as beautiful as flowers. Sometimes, even more so-or at least in a different way-but that’s just my opinion. This time of year brings along the meadow flowers and that is where I’ve been spending a lot of my time. Grasses seem to be doing well this year-this stand was so tall that it was over my head.Many grasses are flowering now. This one is orchard grass (Dactylis glomerata) which is described as a fast growing, cool season grass that is shade tolerant and drought resistant. Legend has it that it was reported growing in this country before 1760, so it has been here awhile. I love seeing grasses with their pollen ready to fly on the wind. It is a moment that passes very quickly and isn’t often witnessed. These odd looking things are the fruit of the black willow (Salix nigra.) This tree is also called swamp willow and is often planted on river and stream banks to help control erosion. The cone shaped seed pods will only appear on female plants and, as the photo below shows, will split open to release cottony seeds that are carried on the wind. I found this tree on a river bank. A female black willow (Salix nigra) tree releases its seeds to the wind. If you have ever wondered what the world will look like when human beings are no longer here, this photo might help. This is part of a street called Washington Street, which is a major thoroughfare running north-south through Keene, NH.  The northernmost part of it, which was closed so a highway could be built, appears in the photo. If you look closely in the lower right corner you can just see the double yellow line that still runs down the center. Most of the low growth encroaching along each side is poison ivy. This street was originally laid out in 1736 so the town could have better access to a saw mill that stood near here. This part of it was closed in the early 1960s. I thought it might be a good place to find flowers. I followed the abandoned street looking for wildflowers but all I found was fungi, mosses and ferns. This yellow mushroom lit up a dark spot. A damselfly found a spot of sunlight and patiently sat still while I fumbled with my camera. I tried to identify this one but became overwhelmed by all the choices and colors. Turkey tails (Trametes versicolor) grew on a birch log, but these had colors much more subdued than those I usually see. I wonder if the tree species they grow on makes a difference in their color. Most of the very colorful ones seem to grow on conifers, I’ve noticed. I was reading recently about scientists studying these fungi as a possible cancer treatment.  They have already been shown to inhibit the human immunodeficiency virus type 1. It boggles the mind to think of all of the benefits to mankind that nature might hold. I found a honeysuckle doing its best to strangle an oak tree with its roots, but the oak was winning hands down.This elm tree was getting awfully cozy with this pine, but I wasn’t going to be the one to say anything. Times are going to be tough later on when the elm outgrows what little space it has left. I’ve never heard of one tree completely growing around and engulfing another, but loggers and arborists have found cannon balls, intact rifles, arrows, unopened bottles of beer and liquor, toys, tools, clothes, bicycles, and even car parts inside living trees after they had been cut down. False Solomon’s (Maianthemum racemosum) seal fruit is ripening. It won’t last long-I’m sure there are many critters that will be happy to see it. Ruffed grouse and many other birds also eat this fruit, but most animals won’t eat the bitter tasting leaves. Deer will occasionally browse on them if they are hungry enough. Another important food for wildlife is the hazelnut (Corylus americana,) also called filberts. This bush was absolutely loaded with immature nuts ripening in their strange looking husks. American hazelnut is native to the eastern United States. Unlike many nuts, hazelnuts don’t need to be roasted before being eaten. They can be eaten raw or dried and ground into flour. Native Americans used them to flavor soups. Hazelnuts have a much higher nutritional value than acorns or beech nuts so they are the first choice of many animals and birds. When I was admiring the hazelnuts it started raining so I snatched one of the nut clusters off the bush and brought it home. This is what it looked like-a cluster with 5 unripe nuts in it.   When they are near a water source royal ferns (Osmunda regalis) can grow quite large and appear to be a shrub. These in the photo were about chest high. The royal fern is found on every continent except Australia, making 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 believed to be able to live for over 100 years. Cinnamon and interrupted ferns are also in the Osmundaceae family. It is thought that the genus might have been named after King Osmund, who ruled in the British Isles in the eighth century. Royal ferns are one of my favorites because they are so unlike any other fern. When I was a boy we called the frothy foam created by the spittlebug snake spit.  Of course, it has nothing to do with snakes because it is spittlebug nymphs and adults that create the foam while feeding on plant sap. Spittlebugs, both adults and immature nymphs, feed with their head pointed downward. As the sap flows through their body and then drips down their abdomen they mix it with air inside a chamber on their abdomen to make it frothy. This froth or foam is used to both hide the young spittlebug and to keep it cooler. I found this example on a goldenrod stem.

My heart is tuned to the quietness that the stillness of nature inspires ~Hazrat Inayat Khan

I hope you enjoyed seeing those things that often go unseen. Thanks for visiting.

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