Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Indian Pipes’

I haven’t been to the Beaver Brook natural area in Keene for a while so last weekend I decided take a walk up the old abandoned road. This road was gated when a new highway was built in the 1970s, but my father and I used to drive over it to visit relatives when I was a boy.  Back then the road went all the way to the state capital in Concord and beyond, but the new highway blocked it off and it has been a dead end ever since. At what is now the end of the road is a waterfall called Beaver Brook Falls and I thought I’d go see how much water was flowing over it. We’ve had a lot of a rain this year.

The old road follows along beside Beaver Brook and was originally built to access a sawmill which was built on the brook in 1736. In 1735 100 acres of “middling good land” and 25 pounds cash was offered to anyone who could build a sawmill capable of furnishing lumber to the settlement of Upper Ashuelot, which is now called Keene. Without a sawmill you lived in a log cabin, so they were often built before anything else in early New England settlements. The headwaters of Beaver Brook are in Gilsum, New Hampshire, north of Keene.

Tall blue lettuce (Lactuca biennis) grows prolifically here and is one of the first plants I notice at this time of year because it towers above everything else. The one growing up past the top of this photo must have been 8 feet tall. These plants usually end up with powdery mildew by the end of summer and this year they all seem to have it here. I was a bit surprised to see it though because this summer hasn’t been all that humid. It could be that the closeness of Beaver Brook makes the air slightly more humid. It is also usually very still here, with little wind.

As I’ve said many times on this blog, fall starts at the forest floor and lady fern (Athyrium filix-femina) tells me that fall is in the air. This is the only fern that I know of with fronds that turn white in the fall.

If you aren’t sure that you have a lady fern by its fall color you can always look at its sporangia, which are where its spores are produced. They are found on the undersides of the leaves and look like rows of tiny black eggs. The little clusters are usually tear drop shaped.

Hobblebush (Viburnum lantanoides,) one of our most beautiful native shrubs, was also whispering of fall.

Hobblebush berries start out green then turn to red before finally becoming deep purple black, so they’re at their middle stage right now.

A hickory tussock moth caterpillar (Lophocampa caryae) crawled on a goldenrod leaf. This black and white caterpillar can cause quite an itchy rash, from what I’ve read. The nettle like hairs can break off and stick in the skin and they are said to bother some people enough for them to be hospitalized, so it’s probably best to look and not touch this one.

When Indian pipes (Monotropa uniflora) turn their nodding flowers to the sky it means they’ve been pollinated and are ready to set seed. The plants will turn brown and become hard like wood, and finally the seed pods will split open and release the tiny seeds. They are dust like and are borne on the wind.

Orange crust fungus (Stereum complicatum) grew on the underside of a fallen branch. This small fungus has a smooth whitish underside with no pores. The complicatum part of the scientific name means “folded back on itself” and the above photo shows these examples just starting to fold. It also likes to grow on the logs of deciduous trees. It can be seen from quite a distance because of its bright color.

Ledges show how the road was blasted through the solid bedrock in the 1700s. The holes were all drilled by hand using star drills and there are still five sided holes to be seen in some of the boulders. Once the hole was drilled they filled it with black powder, lit the fuse and I would imagine ran as fast as they could run. There are interesting things to see here among these ledges, including blood red garnets, milky quartz crystals, many different lichens and mosses, and veins of feldspar.

It’s worth taking a close look at the ledges. In the right light the spore producing fruiting bodies (Apothecia) of smoky eye boulder lichens (Porpidia albocaerulescens) turn a beautiful blue. It happens because of a light reflecting, thin coating of wax that covers each one. In different light they can appear black, gray or whitish but in this light they glow different shades of blue and are as beautiful as jewels.

Another beautiful thing that grows on stone here is rose moss (Rhodobryum roseum.) Each little rosette of leaves looks like a tiny flower, and that’s how it comes by its common name. Rose moss is a good indicator of limestone in the soil so it’s wise to look for other lime loving plants in the area when it is found. This is a relatively rare moss in my experience; this is the only place I’ve ever found it.

One of the reasons I came here on this day was to get photos of purple flowering raspberry fruit (Rubus odoratus,) but I was surprised to see several plants still blooming. This plant is in the rose family and the 2 inch wide flowers might look like a rose at first glance, but one look at its large, maple like leaves will show that it isn’t. Flowering raspberry has no thorns like roses or raspberries but Japanese beetles love it just as much as roses and it’s common to see the large leaves looking like they’ve been shot full of holes. The plants are a little fussy about where they grow but they will thrive under the right conditions, as they once did here.

The fruit of purple flowering raspberry looks like a large raspberry. The plant is closely related to thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus) and gets its common name from its fruit. I’ve never eaten one but some say that they’re close to tasteless and others say they taste like dried raspberries. The plant is unreliable as a source of berries though; I’ve seen many clusters with no fruit at all and others that had 5 or 6 flowers bearing only a single berry. Native Americans had over 100 uses for this plant, both as food and medicine.

Chances are you don’t see anything wrong with this view of the old road but I was appalled when I saw it. Thousands of wildflowers used to grow right over the road almost to the yellow lines on each side. There was a narrow, 2 person wide path through here last time I came, but now the city workers have come in and plowed all of the plants away. Without even having to think about it I could list over a hundred different species of plants that grew here and were plowed up.

Here is the view from where they finally stopped plowing up the plants. You can see how far they grew into the road in this spot but this doesn’t accurately show how it used to be because this is pretty much the end of the road just above Beaver brook falls, and few ever walked here. The plants didn’t grow quite so far out toward the yellow lines where people regularly walked.

And here is what is left of the plants; decades of growth just rolled off to the side like so much worn out carpet. Just think; many of the growing things at the beginning of this post and hundreds more like them just kicked off to the side. You would think before doing something like this that they would call in a botanist or a naturalist, or at the very least buy a wildflower guide so they knew what they were destroying but instead they just hack away, most likely thinking all the while what a wonderful thing they’re doing, cleaning up such a mess.

They’ve peeled the road right back to the white fog line at the edge of the pavement. This is what happens when those who don’t know are put in charge of those who don’t care; nature suffers every single time. What these people don’t seem to realize is that they’ve just plowed away the whole reason that most people came here. I’ve talked to many people while I’ve been here and most came to see what happens when nature is allowed to take back something that we had abandoned. You marveled at the history before you; the charm of the place was in the grasses and wildflowers growing out of the cracks in the pavement, not a road scoured down to just built condition. New Hampshire Public Radio even did a story about the place precisely because it was untouched. The very thing that drew so many people to the place has now been destroyed, and it will be decades before it ever gets back to the way it was. I certainly won’t be here to see it.

A lot of people also come here to see Beaver Brook Falls, but to get a clear view of them you have to climb/ slide / fall down a very steep embankment and then climb over large boulders. It’s becoming more dangerous all the time and now younger people are about the only ones who dare do it. If you broke an ankle or leg down here it would take some serious work and several strong men to get you out, but Instead of cutting the brush that blocks the view of the falls from the road so people don’t have to make such a dangerous climb down to the brook to see the falls, the city would rather spend their money plowing up all the wildflowers.

This is the view as you’re leaving. Where the road is narrower is where they left a few yards of growth at the start of the road, but I wouldn’t count on it being this way the next time I come here. You might say “Big deal, who cares about a few old weeds?” But what grows in those unplowed strips of vegetation includes blue stemmed goldenrod; I’ve never seen it anywhere else. White wood sorrel; I’ve seen it in one other place. Field horsetails; I’ve seen them in one other place. Plantain leaved sedge; I’ve never seen it anywhere else. Yellow feather moss; I’ve never seen it anywhere else. Thimbleweed; I’ve never seen it anywhere else. After wandering through the destruction for as long as I could stand it I had to go into the woods for a while because, as author David Mitchell said: Trees are always a relief, after people.

Lord, what fools these mortals be! ~William Shakespeare

Thanks for stopping in.

Read Full Post »

1. Ashuelot

We finally had some much needed rain last weekend. The Ashuelot River can use it; I’m guessing that it’s about a foot lower than it usually is at this time of year. The line of grasses above the far embankment shows how high it can get with the spring runoff, which is 10 feet or more above where it is now.

2. Beaver

As I took photos of its far bank a beaver swam down the middle of the river with a bundle of sensitive fern (Onoclea sensibilis) in its mouth. I didn’t know that beavers ate ferns but a little research shows that they do and they must be a delicacy, because this one swam quite a long way to get them. I watched him haul this bundle downriver until he was out of sight. Apparently there aren’t any sensitive ferns in his neighborhood.

3. Crab Spider

A tiny yellow crab spider waited on Queen Anne’s lace for a meal and was very obvious. Crab spiders can change their color to match the color of the flower they’re on and I know they can be white because I’ve seen them in that color. Maybe this one had just left a black eyed Susan and was in the process of becoming white. I’ve read that it can take days for them to change.

4. Great Blue Heron

I was looking at plants along the edge of a pond when I looked up and saw that I was just a few close feet from this great blue heron. I thought he’d fly off before I had a chance for a photo but he just walked slowly away through the pickerel weed. I was very surprised when I saw this photo to see that the pickerel weed (Pontederia cordata) was as tall as the heron; the plant is usually barely 2 feet tall.

5. Great Blue Heron

In this photo I see more of what I would expect, which is a three foot bird standing taller than the pickerel weed. Apparently I was very focused on the heron and paid no attention to the plants, because I don’t remember them being taller than the bird. I wasn’t very observant that day, I guess, but it isn’t often I find myself so close to a great blue heron.

6. Great Blue Heron

The heron kept shaking its head and the photo shows why; it was being plagued by flies. You can see one just where the bill meets the head. The photo also shows the bird’s forward pointing eyes. I’ve read that the eyesight of the great blue heron is about three times more detailed than a human. Their night vision is also better; they are able to see more at night than a human can see in daylight.

7. Mushroom

We had to dig down to about three feet at work recently and the soil was dry even at the bottom of the hole. The extreme dryness means that I’m seeing very few mushrooms and slime molds. The mushroom pictured had a half-eaten stem, most likely caused by a squirrel. I wasn’t able to identify it.

8. Slime Mold

Though most slime molds grow in low light and high moisture scrambled egg slime mold (fuligo septica) isn’t a good indicator of moisture or light. I’ve seen it growing in full sunlight in dry conditions. This slime mold is usually bright, egg yolk yellow and I’m not sure if its lighter color was caused by dryness or age.

9. Indian Pipes

I’ve seen a few Indian pipes (Monotropa uniflora) pushing up through the forest litter but they seem to be quickly going by. Their white stems turn black when damaged but nearly every plant I saw had black on it. Each stem holds a single flower that will turn upward when it sets seed. Fresh stems hold a gel-like sap that is said to have been used by Native Americans to treat eye problems. The common name comes from the plant’s shape, which is said to resemble the pipes that Natives smoked.

10. Red Wing Blackbird

A red winged blackbird flew to the top of a fir tree and told everyone I was coming.

11. Staghorn Sumac

Staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina) is flowering now. Its large greenish flower heads can be seen from a good distance but though they are quite big in a mass, each individual flower is tiny.

12. Staghorn Sumac Flower

I think a group of 2 or 3 sumac flowers could hide behind a pea without any jostling. If they’re pollinated each flower will become a bright red, fuzzy berry. Native Americans used these berries to make a lemonade substitute and in some countries they’re ground and used as a lemon flavored spice. Many birds eat them but you can still find them on the plants well into winter.

13. Curly Dock

Curly dock (Rumex crispus) seeds always remind me of tiny seed pearls. The plant is originally from Europe and is also called yellow dock. It’s a relative of rhubarb and its seeds look much like those found on rhubarb, though they’re somewhat smaller. Once the seeds mature they can be roasted and used as a coffee substitute, and the leaves are rich in beta-carotene and vitamins A and C, and can be eaten raw or cooked. The leaves were used by many as a vegetable during the depression when food was scarce. Curly dock’s common name comes from the wavy edges on the leaves.

14. Curly Dock

Until this year I never noticed the beautiful color variations in curly dock’s seed heads. The above examples were found side by side on the same plant.

15.Timothy Grass

Timothy grass was unintentionally brought to North America by early settlers and was first found in New Hampshire in 1711 by John Hurd. A farmer named Timothy Hanson began to promote cultivation of it as a hay crop about 1720, and the grass has been called Timothy ever since. Timothy-grass (Phleum pratense) flowers from June until September and is noted for its resistance to cold and drought.

16. Timothy Grass

Timothy grass is an excellent hay crop for horses but what I like most about it is its flowers. Each flower head is filled with tiny florets, each with three purple stamens and 2 wispy white stigmas, but though I looked at several examples I couldn’t find a single one showing the purple stamens so I might have been too early. Quite often the heads look completely purple when they bloom. The example shown does show the tiny, feather like female stigmas.

17. Acorns

We have a fine crop of acorns this year, and that means well fed animals.

18. Blueberries

Blueberries are also having a good year in spite of the dryness. The bears will be happy.

19. Blue Bead Lily Berries

The blue of blue bead lily berries (Clintonia borealis) is quite different from the blue of blueberries. The seeds in these berries can take two years to germinate and adult plants can take twelve years to finally show their yellow, lily like blossoms. This plant is also called “cow tongue” because of the shape of its leaves. Deer, chipmunks and many other animals and birds love the berries and I often have trouble finding them because they get eaten so fast. Native Americans used the plant medicinally to treat burns and infections, and bears are said to be attracted to its root.

20. Oak Leaf

The patterns left by leaf miners on this oak leaf reminded me of the artwork found on ancient Greek vases. Oak leaf miners are the larvae of tiny silvery moths which have bronze colored patches on their wings.

Summer is the annual permission slip to be lazy. To do nothing and have it count for something. To lie in the grass and count the stars. To sit on a branch and study the clouds. ~Regina Brett

Thanks for stopping in.

 

 

Read Full Post »

1. Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

I haven’t seen a single monarch butterfly yet this year but I’ve seen a few of the other large butterflies like this eastern tiger swallowtail (Papilio glaucus).  I’ve noticed that some of them have a lot more blue / purple on their wings than this one did.

2. Dragonfly

There are still a lot of chalk fronted corporal dragonflies flying about at local ponds. I scrapped a lot of photos taken on this day because of the harsh sunlight but I kept this one because it shows the wing netting so well. It also shows the hairy body and spiny legs. I’ve read that in general dragonflies have a maximum speed of 22–34 miles per hour and an average cruising speed of about 10 mph. It’s no wonder they’re so hard to get a photo of.

3. Male Widow Skimmer

A male widow skimmer (Libellula luctuosa) landed on a cattail for a few seconds.  I can tell that this an adult because of its dusty bluish body and white wing markings, and I know it’s a male because the females have a yellow stripe on their body and look very different.  The luctuosa part of the scientific name means sorrowful or mournful and it is thought that it might be because the darker wing markings make them look like they are draped in mourning crepe. But shouldn’t the name be male widower skimmer? Maybe he skims widows, I don’t know, but I’ve decided that insect names are as strange as plant names.

4. Goose Family

I have friends who live on a local pond where the fireworks are always great on the 4th of July, so I decided to pay them a visit. Before it got dark a family of Canada geese came steaming right at us from across the pond, swimming at full speed ahead.

5. Goose Family

At the last minute the geese turned and swam away. They had come within just a foot or two of where we sat and I thought that it was odd behavior for a wild bird, especially with young. Maybe they thought we had a bag of cracked corn for them. They do look a little disappointed.

6. Fireworks

The fireworks were worth the wait, as always.

7. Fireworks

I don’t know if those bright trails were really that curvy or if it was caused by camera shake. I tried getting these photos without using a tripod, so camera shake is probably the answer.

8. Fireworks

This was one of the strangest looking fireworks that I’ve seen. It was a sort of Roman candle type that shot straight up into the air.

9. Ferns

It’s hard to beat seeing fireworks and old friends on the same day but I do enjoy the quiet and solitude of the forest and this is one of the best places I know of to find it. Something about this place speaks to me and I visit it quite often.

10. Curly Dock

Curly dock (Rumex crispus) has gone into seed production but at this stage they look more like seed pearls. Once these seeds mature they can be roasted and used as a coffee substitute. The leaves are rich in vitamins A and C and can be eaten raw or cooked. The plant’s common name comes from their curly edges.

11. Indian Pipes

We’ve had some rain and Indian pipes (Monotropa uniflora) are pushing up through the forest litter in large numbers. Each stem holds a single flower and what I find most curious about them is how they turn straight up to the sky when their seeds are ripe. I would think the position shown in the photo would be better for dropping seeds, but I’m sure they know what’s best.

12. Coral Fungus

The branch ends on this coral fungus are blunt and yellowish so I think this might be a golden coral (Ramaria aurea.) I haven’t seen many coral fungi yet this summer but the rain and high humidity should get them growing. This example was growing on a rotten log but I see many more growing on the ground. They seem to like earth that has been well packed down because many grow on the edges of trails. Their common name comes from their resemblance to undersea coral.

13. Chanterelle Wax Cap Mushrooms

I find chanterelle wax cap mushrooms (Hygrocybe cantharellus) growing in clusters on well-rotted logs.  This is a pretty little orange mushroom with a cap that might get as big as a nickel, but that’s probably stretching it. These mushrooms show themselves for quite a long time and I often still see them in September.

14. Fuzzy Foot Mushrooms

Fuzzy foot mushrooms (Xeromphalina campanella) get their common name from the dense tuft of orange brown hairs at the base of the stem. That and their bright orange color make them very easy to identify. The largest one in this photo might have had a cap diameter of about three quarters of an inch.  It’s easy to confuse these mushrooms with the chanterelle wax caps in the previous photo if you give them a glance without looking for the tufts of hairs at the base of the stems.

15. Wild Sarsaparilla

We like to think that fall begins at the turn of a calendar page or when tree leaves turn color, but it actually starts at the forest floor much earlier than many of us would like to believe, as these wild sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis) leaves show.

16. Great Spangled Fritillary

Another large butterfly that seems to be everywhere this year is the great spangled fritillary (Speyeria cybele); I’m seeing them daily. This one posed on some deer tongue grass just long enough for me to get a couple of photos. This butterfly likes moist meadows and forest edges. From what I’ve read they also like violet nectar but surely they must also like other types, because we aren’t seeing many violets at this time of year.

There is in all things an inexhaustible sweetness and purity, a silence that is a fountain of action and joy.  It rises up in wordless gentleness, and flows out to me from the unseen roots of all created beings.  ~Thomas Merton

Thanks for coming by.

Read Full Post »

1. Hooded Owlet Moth Caterpillar

The folks over at Bug gide.net tell me that this is a brown hooded owlet moth caterpillar (Cucullia convexipennis.) They feed on asters and goldenrod and this one was perched on a slender fragrant goldenrod leaf (Euthamia tenuifolia.) I thought he was a real snappy dresser.

2. Broad Winged Wasp Moth Caterpillar-

This is another one I needed help with. I’m told that this little caterpillar will become the largest and most broad winged wasp moth (Ctenucha virginica) in North America. That’s surprising, since the small caterpillar was less than an inch long. They feed on grass, which is just what this one was doing when I found it. The bluish hairs on each end are supposed to be white and I’m not really sure why they look blue unless it was the low light. Or maybe it’s a new kind of Ctenucha virginica.

3. Cabbage White

What I think was a cabbage white butterfly (Pieris rapae) was on the damp sand at the edge of a river. There aren’t many plants in the cabbage family there, so I’m not sure what it was looking for. Moisture maybe?

4. Golden Pholiota Mushrooms

Golden pholiota (Pholiota limonella) mushrooms grow in clusters on living or dead wood, in this case a dead but still standing birch. The caps are yellow to orange yellow and slimy and always look wet. The stems are often covered with yellow to reddish brown scales like those in the photo. These examples were small but they can get quite large. They are said to be inedible.

5. October Indian Pipes

I was really surprised to see these Indian pipes blooming in October. They were just turning their nodding flowers to the sky, which means they’ve been pollinated and are ready to set seed.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen them growing this late in the year.

6. Aspen Bolete aka Leccinum insigne

Aspen boletes (Leccinum insigne) are very similar to birch boletes (Leccinum scabrum) but the aspen bolete has an orange cap and the birch bolete’s cap is reddish brown. Both have rough looking stems which are caused by dark brown, wooly scales. Boletes have pores on the underside of their cap so if you look there it’s impossible to confuse them with any gilled mushroom. It is however easy to mistake one bolete for another and since some of them are toxic, it’s always wise to know your mushrooms well before taking even one bite. Even experts have been poisoned by them.

7. Pear Shaped Puffballs

It’s the time of year when puffballs appear and I’m starting to see quite a few. These examples are pear shaped puffballs (Lycoperdon pyriforme). Inhaling certain puffball spores can lead to a respiratory disease known as Lycoperdonosis, where yeast like structures actually grow in lung tissue, so it shouldn’t ever be done. There are several recorded instances of children, usually teens, inhaling large amounts of spores under the false belief that they could get high, only to get very sick and end up in hospitals instead. It’s fine for children to “puff” a puffball as we all have, but they should never inhale the spores.

8. Solomon's Seal Berries

The small blue berries of Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum biflorum) look a lot like blueberries, with the same powdery bloom. Native Americans used the dried potato-like roots of this plant to grind into flour for breads and soups. Young shoots are also edible, but the berries are not. The plant also has many medicinal uses.

9. Green Stink Bug

The folks at bug guide.net might be getting tired of hearing from me, because I had to ask their help in identifying this insect too. They say that it’s a green stink bug nymph (Chinavia hilaris.) He looked very platy and had a dragon’s face, complete with fangs, on his back.

 10. Green Stink Bug

After I watched him for a while and took a couple of photos he turned and started doing what looked like push-ups. Of course, he could have been gearing up to release his stink from the stink glands on the underside of his thorax, I don’t know. I’ve read that it is a very foul odor so I’m glad that I didn’t have to smell it. These bugs can cause a lot of damage in gardens and orchards.

11. Grasshopper

This grasshopper appeared to have gotten himself stuck in a crack between two pieces of railing. I tried to get him out using a key but he wanted none of it and fought my help, so I let him be.  He didn’t seem to mind having his picture taken.

 12. Oak Apple Gall

I was surprised to find a fresh oak apple gall this late in the season because they usually develop in the spring. Theses galls are caused by a gall wasp known as Biorhiza pallida laying an egg inside a leaf bud. Tissue swells around the egg and a gall is formed. You can see the gall wasp larva in the center of the gall section on the right. Once they develop into an adult wasp they make a hole through the side of the gall and fly (or crawl) off to begin the cycle again. I’ve read that some gall wasps can hatch in winter but I’m not sure how that would work.

 13. Leaves on Water

The leaves are falling fast now but I might get in another foliage post or two before they’re all down.

 14. Vinca Blossom

I found a large patch of vinca (Vinca minor) in the woods and one plant seemed to think that spring was here already. I’m hoping that it knows something I don’t.  Quite often when you find this plant growing in the woods it’s a sure sign that there is an old cellar hole nearby because this was a plant that was often passed from neighbor to neighbor, even though it isn’t native. Lilacs and peonies are other plants that were shared in the same way and when found in the woods they also signal a cellar hole. I’ve found remarkable examples of all three blooming beautifully out in the middle of nowhere, as they must have been for 100 years or more.

A day spent without the sight or sound of beauty, the contemplation of mystery, or the search of truth or perfection is a poverty-stricken day; and a succession of such days is fatal to human life. ~Lewis Mumford

Thanks for coming by.

 

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

1. Fly Agaric

Certain mushrooms seem to appear at the same time each year, and yellow fly agarics (Amanita muscaria var, guessowii) are right on schedule. This one was about as big as my index finger, but was strong enough to push up through a mat of wet leaves.

2. Indian Pipes

I’ve never seen as many Indian pipes (Monotropa uniflora) as I have this year.  Not only have their numbers increased but they appeared earlier than usual. Since they don’t make their own food and live as parasites, stealing nutrients from the mycelia of certain fungi, they don’t need chlorophyll. The lack of chlorophyll leads to another common name: ghost plant.

3. Leaf Spot on Aster

If you’re a gardener a fungal disease like leaf spot is the last thing you want to see in the garden but if you can get past the feelings of disappointment and frustration and see it for what it is, it can be quite pretty. Many fungal infections of plants are caused by high humidity, poor air circulation, and / or lack of direct sunlight. Increasing air circulation and the amount of sunlight reaching the plant by cutting back surrounding growth or moving the plant will often solve the problem.

4. Starflower Fruit

I visited a web site that said the seed pod of a starflower (Trientalis borealis) was 6 to 8 millimeters in diameter, but I think they forgot a decimal point. .6 to .8 millimeters (.024-.031 in) would be more like it, and even that is stretching it. If the seed pods are that small, just think how small the seeds must be. Seeds of starflowers don’t germinate until the fall of their second year, which gives birds and insects plenty of time to move them around.

 5. Wood Frog

The dark eye mask makes this wood frog easy to identify. Wood frogs are the only frogs to live north of the Arctic Circle and they manage that by being able to freeze in winter. They produce a kind of antifreeze that prevents their cells from freezing. When it gets cold they just crawl under the leaf litter. Their heart stops beating and they stop breathing until the weather warms again in spring, when they mate and lay their eggs in vernal pools. This one was 2-3 inches long, which is big compared to a thumbnail sized spring peeper.

6. Hanging Caterpillar

This caterpillar was just hanging around one day on a silken thread so fine that I couldn’t even see it. Much to my surprise the camera couldn’t either, so it looks like he is defying gravity. I think he’s an inchworm. I wonder what they get out of doing this.

 7. Blue Black Wasp

I saw a flash of blue out of the corner of my eye and turned to find that this large, blue-black wasp (Ichneumon centrator) had landed next to me. He didn’t stay long though, and only gave me time for a couple of shots. This wasp is about 3/4 of an inch long and adult females hibernate under the loose bark of fallen trees in winter. This one pictured is an adult male. Thanks to the good folks at Bugguide.net for the help with identification.

8. Orange Mushrooms

Over the years I’ve noticed that the first mushrooms to appear are mostly white or brown, then come the red, yellow, and orange ones and after them the purples. Right now we’re in our red, yellow, orange phase. I think these might be one of the wax cap mushrooms, possibly the butter wax cap (Hygrocybe ceracea).

9. Pinwheel Mushrooms

These small pinwheel mushrooms, (Marasmius rotula) none bigger than a pea, grew on a piece of tree bark. These mushrooms are fairly easy to see after a rain but when they dry out the whitish cap shrivels down to a dot at the end of a hair-like stalk and they become almost invisible-at least to my eyes.

 10. Daddy Longlegs

I thought that this black and white spider on a hazelnut leaf had the longest legs of any spider that I’ve seen, and a tiny body that seemed out of proportion to its legs. Thanks to the folks at Buggide.net I learned that this is not a spider but a harvestman (Opiliones). The difference is that spiders have a two part body and harvestmen have a one part body. And this is indeed a daddy longlegs. What I thought were daddy longlegs all these years are actually spiders called cellar spiders (Pholcus phalangioides). Who knew?

11. False Solomon's Seal Foliage

As I’ve said before on this blog, fall starts on the forest floor and, even though none of us want to hear it, this false Solomon’s seal (Maianthemum racemosum) is a perfect example of how it begins.

12. Wild Sarsaparilla Fall Color 2

Other signs that fall is on the way include the turning leaves on wild sarsaparilla plants (Aralia nudicaulis). Almost as soon as its berries ripen the leaves start to change to yellow, the deep rosy brown seen here, or a mixture of both colors.

13. Fly Honeysuckle Fruit

Another sign of fall is of course, ripening berries. These are the unusual twin berries of American fly honeysuckle (Lonicera canadensis).

 14. Reindeer Lichen

With all this talk of fall you might think that this is a dusting of snow in the woods but no, it’s just a drift of reindeer lichens (Cladonia arbuscula). I’m hoping that they don’t get covered by a snow blanket for a good long time.

Wildness reminds us what it means to be human, what we are connected to rather than what we are separate from. ~Terry Tempest Williams

Thanks for coming by.

Read Full Post »

We’ve had a lot of rain here in southwestern New Hampshire over the last two weeks and all of the sudden the dark places in the forests are showing some color.

 1. Orange Mushroom

There is a mushroom called Caesar’s mushroom (Amanita caesarea,) so why shouldn’t there be one called false Caesar’s mushroom (Amanita parcivolvata)? I think that’s what this one is but even after reading through three mushroom guide books I’m still not 100% sure.

 2. Purple Edged Bracket Fungi

 Violet toothed polypore (Trichaptum biformis) looks a little like turkey tail fungus (Trametes versicolor,) and I’m fairly certain that I have misidentified it as such here on this blog. Once you get to know the two though, it’s obvious that the purple edges on these are not found on turkey tails. I wish I had taken a photo of the undersides of these as well because it is supposed to be a beautiful lilac purple color and that’s something I’ve never noticed before.

 3. Slug on a Mushroom

A slug was feeding on this mushroom.

 4. Snail Shell

I know that slugs and snails are two different critters but there was a perfectly good shell sitting empty on this leaf that the slug in the previous photo might have been happy to have known about.

5. Unknown Wasp

There is a wasp called the cicada killer (Sphecius speciosus,) but I’m not sure if this is one because their yellow stripes seem to be wider than those on this example. I’m also not sure if the other insect is a cicada. As I was putting this post together I heard about a wasp that is being considered to provide biological control of the emerald ash borer. Emerald ash borers kill ash trees and we have an infestation of them here in New Hampshire but again, I don’t know if the wasp in the photo has killed one or not. This photo asks more questions than it answers, so I’m hoping that someone reading this will be able to answer them.

 6. Indian Pipes

I’ve never seen as many Indian pipes (Monotropa uniflora) as I have this year, including some very large colonies of them. My guess is they love heat, humidity and rain-all of which we’ve had plenty of lately.

 7. Horsehair Mushrooms on Tree

 Horsehair mushrooms (Marasmius rotula) fruit on rotting wood, but I found these growing on the base of a living tree. These tiny mushrooms have caps no bigger than the diameter of a pea that sit on black stalks that are half the diameter of a pencil lead. They like dark, moist places and can be very tough to get a good photo of.

8. Tiny Brown Mushroom

The pine needles scattered around this mushroom show just how small it is. Xeromphalina cauticinalis mushrooms fruit on debris found under conifers, and that’s just where this one was growing. This mushroom is supposed to be a western species that is only occasionally found in the east.

 9. White Honeycomb Slime Mold

You can tell that it has been rainy, hot and humid when slime molds start to appear. Despite the name slime molds aren’t molds and they aren’t always slimy. Unfortunately, though everybody argues about what they aren’t, nobody seems to know exactly what they are. The easiest way for me to think of them is as a single celled organism like an amoeba, with thousands of nuclei.

No matter how you choose to classify them, slime molds can be very beautiful things, as the honeycomb coral slime mold (Ceratiomyxa  fruticulosa  var. porioides) in the above photo shows. When conditions are right and food is running low this organism will produce the white honeycomb shapes seen in the photo. They do this prior to fruiting, which is when they create the spores needed to reproduce. Without magnification this slime mold looks like a white smudge on a log and is far too small for me to see in any great detail. I’m always surprised when I finally see what is in the photos.

10. White Finger Slime Mold

White finger slime (Ceratiomyxa fruticulosa var. fruticulosa) is a good description of the way this slime mold appears. It’s hard to relate just how small these are, but in each ‘finger” would be less than the diameter of a toothpick, and in length possibly 1/16th of an inch. As if that didn’t make photographing them tough enough sunlight is an enemy of slime molds, so they are only found in very dark places like the undersides of logs.

 11. Yellow Slime Mold with Sow Bug

This sow bug, which also called a wood louse, helps show just how small slime molds are.

 12. Many Headed Slime Mold

 Many headed slime mold (Physarum polycephalum) likes decaying organic matter like leaves and logs because this is where it finds its food supply of bacteria, yeasts, mushroom spores and microbes. The slime mold in the photo is in a vegetative phase called plasmodium, which is when it can move by ”streaming ” at about 1 millimeter per hour. The plasmodium is made up of networks of protoplasmic veins and many nuclei which move to seek out food. Once it finds something it likes it surrounds it and secretes enzymes to digest it.

Only spread a fern-frond over a man’s head and worldly cares are cast out, and freedom and beauty and peace come in.  ~John Muir

Thanks for stopping in.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »