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Posts Tagged ‘Keene New Hampshire’

Starflowers (Trientalis borealis) are having a great year and I’m seeing lots of them. They usually grow in the forest in places that gets an hour or two of sunlight, but this year they seem to be everywhere. They sparkle like the first snowflakes of winter on the forest floor. The Trientalis part of the scientific name means “one third of a foot” in Latin and four inches is just about how tall they grow.

 I always like to see how many flowers I can find on a single starflower plant and this year I’m seeing many with three flowers. I’ve seen four flowers twice but one of the flowers had passed each time. It used to be that seeing three flowers was rare and seeing four was almost unheard of, but they seem to have more flowers each year now. More flowers are always a good thing, in my opinion.

Wood anemones (Anemone quinquefolia) grow alongside trout lilies in many places and though the trout lilies didn’t do well this year the anemones did. Anemones are sun lovers and they bloomed well, so it can’t be a lack of sunlight that caused of the lack of trout lily blossoms.

Much like a bloodroot blossom the petals of an anemone have almost imperceptible veins that show only in the right light. I was lucky enough to be there and able to capture it when the lighting was right.

There’s nothing left to see of them where I go, but I met a friend on a trail one day and he said the trout lilies (Erythronium americanum) in his yard were blooming beautifully. What the differences were between his yard and the places I visited, I don’t know.

Crabapples are blooming beautifully this year and some trees are so full of blossoms you almost can’t see the branches. The crabapple is the only apple truly native to North America and there are four species of them. They are Malus fusca, Malus coronaria, Malus angustifolia and Malus ioensis. The tree in my own yard was full of blossoms last year and this year I couldn’t find a single one.

Apples are also doing well. We’re lucky to have wild apple and crabapple trees on forest edges almost everywhere you look. Many people don’t realize that apples aren’t native because they’ve been with us for so long. My grandmother had a few trees which, by the time I came along, were grown more for their flowers than for fruit. They were very fragrant and I have many happy memories of bringing branches full of flowers upstairs to her.

The fragrance of lilacs is all I smell when I go on my daily walks now. Almost every house on any street I walk on has at least one, but though it is the state flower of New Hampshire it is not native to North America. I’m glad we have them though. It just wouldn’t be spring without them.

I know of only two places where rare dwarf ginseng (Panax trifolius) grows and in one of them, I was happy to find many seedlings this year. This one’s flowers had deeply pleated petals, which is something I can’t remember ever seeing. You have to search for the very small plants because they don’t like disturbed ground and so will only grow in soil that has been untended for many years. I find them by a forested stream in ground that has never been cultivated that I know of.

Plants are very small and most will easily fit inside a teacup. Individual dwarf ginseng flowers are about 1/8″ across and have 5 white petals, a short white calyx, and 5 white stamens. The flowers might last three weeks, and if pollinated are followed by tiny yellow fruits. This is not the ginseng used in herbal medicine and it should never be picked.

There are close to 45 species of pussytoes (Antennaria), which makes identifying them difficult, but they are popping up in lawns everywhere right now. They’re a good sign that the lawn has poor soil, because this plant likes to grow in sandy, rocky, almost gravel like soil. Pussytoes are a favorite of many butterfly species so they’re an important plant. Another common name for the plant is everlasting. Its female flowers seen in this photo.

The flowers of the pussytoes plant are said to look like cat’s paws, and that’s where they get their common name. Someone also thought the stamens on a male pussytoes flower, seen here, looked like butterfly antennae. I don’t know about that but that’s where the Antennaria part of the scientific name came from. Native Americans used the plant medicinally to treat coughs, fevers, bruises, and inflammations.

I learned a long time ago that trying to identify small yellow flowers can make you crazy so I pass most of them by, but this one follows me wherever I go. It could be a dwarf cinquefoil (Potentilla canadensis), which is native.

Whatever its name is I think the bright yellow flowers are pretty. I see them blooming everywhere right now.

Japanese quince (Chaenomeles japonica) is an old-fashioned shrub that I’m not sure is even sold any more, but back when I was gardening it was fairly common. This one is very old and large, and it was just coming into bloom when I found it.

It’s hard to mistake a Japanese quince for any other shrub. Its pinkish orange blooms appear on thorny branches long before its leaves do. It’s in the apple family and has edible fruit that is said to make excellent jelly. I worked for a lady who called it Japonica, which is what it was called in the 1800s. I planted a quince hedge once for some people and it worked out well.

If you happen to be a violet lover this is your year. I’ve never seen so many.

I thought these were dog violets but if I go by the longish throat hairs they can’t be, because dog violets have short, stubby throat hairs. I learned that recently by reading the Saratoga Woods and Waterways blog. It’s one of my favorites and it can be found over there on the right.

And what about this violet that looks like someone splattered it with paint? I found it in a garden at a local park.

Its name is “Freckles” (Viola Sororia Freckles) and I kind of like it, but knowing how quickly violets multiply as I do, would I dare plant it in a garden? I think I’d have to talk to someone who had planted it in their garden first to see if it was bent on taking over the world. I spent far too many years weeding violets out of gardens to have a nonchalant attitude about planting them, even if it is a cultivar.

I think tulip time is over now but this is my favorite for this post.

I like looking inside tulips, and this is why. You never really know what you’ll see, so it’s part of the fun.

These tulips had gone far beyond their best, but they were going out with a bang. Their petals moved like ocean waves and I thought they were passing on beautifully.

Here’s to the moments when you realize the simple things are wonderful and enough. ~Jill Badonsky

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I saw hobblebushes blooming in the woods along the roadsides so I knew it was time to visit the Beaver Brook Natural Area in Keene. It’s a place where I know I can get close to the hobblebushes and many other plants. I start off by following the old abandoned road that used to be the route to Concord, which is the state capitol, from Keene. The road was abandoned in the 1970s when the new Route 9 north was built, and nature has been doing its best to reclaim it ever since.

The old road is full of cracks, which are filled in immediately by green, growing life. This of course makes the cracks even wider so more plants can move in. Its a slow but inexorable process that will go on until the forest takes back what was carved out of it.

Cinnamon ferns (Osmundastrum cinnamomeum) unfurled by one of the vernal pools found along the old road.

Foamflowers (Tiarella cordifolia) grew near another pool. These pretty white flowered plants like wet feet so when you kneel for a photo you usually get wet knees. They have hairy, maple-like leaves and foot high flower stalks, and small, bright white flowers. Their leaves are bright green at first and then turn a darker green, sometimes mottled with maroon or brown.

The “Foam” part of the name comes from the many stamens on the flowers, which give large colonies a kind of frothy look. Each flower has 5 white petals, 5 white sepals, and 10 stamens. Foam flowers are popular in garden centers and are grown in gardens as much for their foliage as the flowers. Native Americans used the leaves and roots medicinally as a mouthwash for mouth sores. The plant is also called “cool wort” because the leaves were once used on scalds and burns to relieve the pain.

New maple leaves are still wearing their bright colors.

I’ve seen this spot when all the green you see to the right was underwater, but the brook was tame on this day. Maybe a little higher than average but not too bad.

I’m surprised flooding hadn’t washed all of this away, or maybe it was flooding that carried it here. This is just upstream from where I was in the previous shot.

There were an amazing number of trees in the brook so it will take quite a flood to wash them downstream. I’d cut them up if I was in charge because “downstream” from here means right through the heart of Keene. There must be a thousand places further on where a mess like this could get hung up. Waiting until high summer when the water was at its lowest and then having two men wade in with a battery-operated chainsaw would be the way to go.

But I was glad I wasn’t in charge because clearing that log jam will be worse than pulling apart a beaver dam by a longshot. How lucky I was; all I had to do was keep walking and enjoying a beautiful day.

I stopped to see the beautiful smoky eye boulder lichens (Porpidia albocaerulescens) that live here. It always looks like someone has spilled jewels on the stone.

Not too far up the old road from the smoky eye boulder lichens are the hobblebushes, and that’s the amazing thing about this place; just walk a few steps and there is another beautiful thing to stop and see. This is why, though it is less than a mile’s walk to Beaver Brook Falls, it often takes me two hours or more. I don’t come here for exercise, I come for the beauty of the place.

And there is little that is more beautiful than the flowers of our native hobblebush (Viburnum lantanoides). The large, sterile flowers around the perimeter are there just to attract insects to the smaller, fertile flowers. The outer flowers are delicate, and a strong wind or heavy rain can strip them from the flower head.

Golden Alexanders (Zizia aurea) were bright yellow among last year’s leaves. They like wet, sunny meadows and open woodlands and there are a lot of them here.

There were no flowers on them yet though, just buds. The plant is said to be important to a number of short-tongued insects that are able to easily reach the nectar in the small yellow flowers. Each flower will be only about an eighth of an inch long with five sepals, five petals, and five stamens.

There were lots of blue marsh violets (Viola cucullata) (I think) blooming along the roadsides on this day. The long flower stems held the flowers high above the leaves and I believe the blue marsh violet is the only one that does this.

Jack in the pulpits (Arisaema triphyllum) still hadn’t unfurled their leaves but they had nice color on their spathes.

The old road goes uphill the entire way but it’s an easy climb and there are many interesting things to see along with all the plants and trees, like the old guard posts still guarding against accidents that will never happen. The electric lines seen here run through the area on their way to elsewhere. There are no houses along the road.

The disappearing stream that runs down the hillside had done just that. It was too bad because it can be beautiful in spring.

Here it was in March while there was still ice melting. The stream ran then.

There aren’t many places where you can get right down to the brook but there are two or three and this is one of them. All the stone along the embankment was put there to prevent washouts and it’s hard to walk on, so you have to be careful.

The stone didn’t prevent all washouts. This old culvert washed into the brook years ago. The brook slowly eats away at the road and in the end it will most likely win.

All the walking and hiking I’ve been doing has improved my legs and lungs so much I thought I could just skip down the embankment to see Beaver Brook Falls. It didn’t work out quite that way but I made it without breaking my neck. The amount of water going over the falls was perfect. There’s a huge stone that juts out right in the middle and when there is too little water it splits the falls in two, so the scene isn’t quite as photogenic in my opinion.

The only trouble was, I took the wrong trail down to the brook so I was even further away from the falls than this. I was glad I had a zoom lens. There used to be just one trail down to the brook but now somehow there are three, all looking equally worn. Since I took this one, I would have had to wade in the brook to get any closer. I wasn’t interested in getting wet but it could have been done. People used to swim here all the time, rocks and all.

This shot shows the climb back to the road, or half of it anyway. About half way up I leaned my back against a tree and took a photo to show what you’re up against if you decide to do this. The small trees kept me from getting too much forward momentum on the way down, and then they helped me climb back up. That big rock will slide right down the hill if you put too much weight on it but the others were pretty firm.

Just to the right, out of camera range in that previous photo, there was a colony of what must have been twenty trilliums or more. I saw them along the road all the way up and saw those I had missed on the way down. In fact I saw more trilliums here than I’ve ever seen in one place before, so if you live in the area and it is wildflowers you want to see, this is a great place to start looking. Those I’ve shown in this post are really just a small part of what can be found here.

There is a serene and settled majesty to woodland scenery that enters into the soul and delights and elevates it, and fills it with noble inclinations. ~Washington Irving.

Thanks for stopping in.

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I thought I’d take a break from flower posts this week, not because I’m tired of flowers but because my California friend Dave asked when he would see photos of shagbark hickory buds breaking. They’re easily as beautiful as a flower, but to see them I had to go to the banks of the Ashuelot River. This was no hardship because I started playing on the banks of this river when I was a boy and have loved doing so ever since.

It was beautiful along the river with all the new spring green leaves, but the water level has dropped considerably since the last time it rained. I think it has been close to two weeks since the last substantial rain, and many smaller streams are starting to dry up.

I saw lots of what I think were muskrat tracks in the mud along the shore.

And there were the new shagbark hickory leaves. I couldn’t catch the color I wanted on the bud scales (actually inner scales) in the bright sunshine so I went back the following day when it was cloudy. On this day the beautiful pinks, reds and oranges were easier to capture. It’s not just the light though; some inner bud scales are a single color and others are multi colored like these were. They also lose color quickly as they age so you just have to walk along the river bank and look until you find the one that speaks to you. Fortunately a lot of shagbark hickory buds usually break at the same time so they aren’t hard to find. They’re worth looking for because in my opinion, they’re one of the most beautiful things you’ll find in a spring forest.

This is what they look like when they have spread out to unfurl their leaves. It’s unusual to be able to see this because it usually happens far up in the tree tops, but for some reason in this area the beavers keep cutting the trees. New shoots regrow from the stump and the beavers leave them alone for a while before coming back and cutting them again. Thanks to the beavers there is always a good supply of buds at eye level.

The oaks have also broken their buds, and more new leaves appear each day. Oaks are one of the last buds to break.

Like the maples, oaks can have very colorful new leaves. I’ve seen them in white, pink, red, and just about every shade of green imaginable.

Some new oak leaves even have stripes, as these did. I saw a lot of these leaves in all stages of growth and they appeared to be changing from white to red, which accounted for the stripe. New oak leaves are always velvety and soft.

Some oaks are even showing flower buds already.

Here was a young oak that had barely unfolded its leaves and it was already being eaten by something. It also had three or four oak apple galls on it. They’re caused by a wasp (Amphibolips confluenta) called the oak apple gall wasp. Galls that form on leaves don’t harm the tree so they can be left alone. They’re always interesting to see.

Striped maples (Acer pensylvanicum) are also flowering, with their green bell-shaped flowers all in a string. Sometimes they dangle under the big leaves and other times the wind blows them up and over the leaves as these were. There is only one maple in this region that flowers later, and that is the mountain maple (Acer spicatum).

If you want to see a beautiful, non-flowering plant called the woodland horsetail (Equisetum sylvaticum) you’ll have to leave the trail and go into the forest, but it will be worth the effort to see the delicate, lacy foliage of what is considered the most beautiful of all the horsetails. I was happy to see that they had grown from what was a single plant a few years ago to ten or more now, so they like it here. I originally found them by following a beaver pond outflow stream into the woods.

Woodland horsetails like to grow in bright sunshine in very wet ground. Here they grow right along the water’s edge by this stream. They blend in easily with the foliage of other plants, so you have to walk slowly and look carefully. The sylvaticum part of the scientific name is Latin for “of the forest”, and that’s where you have to search for them.

I found what was left of a wild turkey egg shell by the stream where the woodland horsetail grows. Turkeys nest directly on the ground but I didn’t see any signs of a nest so I wonder if a predator didn’t carry the egg here to eat it. According to the New Hampshire Department of Fish and Game turkeys lay an average of a dozen eggs in early to mid-May, only one per day, and they hatch after about 28 days, so either this hen laid her eggs early or this egg didn’t hatch. If a predator gets to her eggs she’ll lay another clutch in July or August, but normally they lay only once per year. This egg was tan colored, about the size of a hen’s egg I think, with brownish speckles all over it. New Hampshire has an estimated population of 45,000 turkeys. I see them everywhere but they’re almost always running into the woods as I drive by.

If I’m lucky I might see one beech seedling with its seed leaves still intact each year. Here is this year’s seedling. Seed leaves often look nothing like the true leaves. In the case of American beech they look more like flower petals than leaves but feel tough and leathery. On a beech seedling they will photosynthesize until the true leaves appear, and then once they are no longer needed, they will wither and fall off. In my experience they are a rare sight.

Each spring I look for the shoots of the white baneberry (Actaea pachypoda), and each spring they look absolutely identical to the ones I found the spring before. They always look to me like a small hand is holding the plant’s flower buds while an older “parent” gazes down lovingly at them. It always seems like a tender moment has been caught and frozen in time, and it’s always as if I’m seeing the exact same thing I saw the year before. I’ve seen lots of new spring shoots but these are the only ones I know of that never seem to change. They’re like an old friend who comes around once a year to remind me that some things never really change, even though it may seem as if they do.

Mr. robin wondered just what it was I was doing and hopped over to get a better look. Though most robins will hop or fly away if you get too close there are some that are very curious. If you let them come to you they’ll often get quite close, as this one did. I was on my knees taking photos so maybe he wondered why this human’s eyes were so close to the ground while others were not. I didn’t realize what eye movements could do to animals until I watched a show on PBS television that showed border collies herding sheep by using only their eyes. They never bark; it’s all done with eye movements. I’m hoping I remember never to stare into a bear’s eyes again.

I don’t know if this was two trees or one tree that split and grew this way but either way, I’m not sure what would have made it do this. Trees do some strange things.

A big dead white pine fell into a pond and stretched two thirds of the way across it. White pine (Pinus strobus) is New Hampshire’s tallest tree but you often don’t realize how tall they really are until they fall.  

A painted turtle looked like it was practicing its yoga exercises on a log, but really it was just releasing heat. I read that when they raise their feet like that it cools them off. Sometimes they look as if they’re trying to fly.

I went to the skunk cabbage swamp and not surprisingly, found it full of skunk cabbages. But that’s not the only reason I come here. Nearby, higher up on drier ground, our beautiful native azaleas (Rhododendron prinophyllum) bloom so I wanted to check their progress. It’ll be another week or so before we see the flowers, depending on the weather.

I saw something bright yellow in a drainage ditch and when I looked a little closer, I saw that the color was coming from swamp beacons (Mitrula elegans). Swamp beacons are interesting “aquatic” fungi and I find them in seeps and ditches where ground water stays on the surface year-round. They will be my first fungal find of the season.

Swamp beacons 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. I almost always find them growing out of saturated oak leaves, as these were. They are small; about the size of a wooden match, and another name for them is matchstick fungus. These were some of the brightest colored examples that I’ve seen.

Treasures are hidden away in quiet places. They speak in soft tones and often become silenced as we approach. They don’t beg to be found, but embrace us if we do happen to find them. They are the product of completely ordinary circumstances unfolding in wonderfully extraordinary ways. They are found hidden in the nooks and crannies of our existence; all around us if we quit allowing our attention to be captivated by that which is noisy and listen for that which is quiet and still. ~Craig D. Lounsbrough

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Goldthread (Coptis groenlandicum), one of our prettiest spring flowers, has just come into bloom. The hook shaped parts are its tiny styles, curved like long necked birds. The male stamens are too numerous to count and white tipped, so I’d guess the pollen must be white. The white, petal like sepals last only a short time and will fall off, leaving the tiny, golden yellow true petals behind. The ends of these golden petals are spoon shaped and hold nectar. You can see how an insect would have a hard time sipping the flower’s nectar without bumping into the stamens and carrying off a load of pollen. All of this is going on in a flower just about the size of a standard aspirin.

If you’re looking for goldthread you can find it even in winter, because its shiny leaves are evergreen.

The first blueberry blossoms I’ve seen this year were on a lowbush blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium). Though the berries are usually close to the same size, lowbush blueberries rarely get more than 2 feet tall while 15-foot-tall highbush blueberries have been seen. I usually find them at about six feet or less. Native Americans called blueberries “star berries” and used the plant medicinally, spiritually, and of course as a food. One of their favorites was a pudding made with dried blueberries and cornmeal.

Coltsfoot leaves (Tussilago farfara) have appeared and, though they have the same color and sheen when young as a wild ginger leaf they’re much bigger and are shaped like a colt’s hoof rather than heart shaped like ginger.

With coltsfoot plants once the leaves appear the flowers pass on, but they had a good run this year. They liked the cool weather and bloomed for weeks. The seed heads are much furrier looking than a dandelion.

But at this time of year flowers come as quickly as they go, and it’s time for the shadbushes (Amelanchier canadensis) to bloom. This scene is a classic shadbush scene, because they almost always bloom along the edges of forests under the taller trees. They are a spring ephemeral shrub / small tree so the flowers will disappear as soon as the leaves come out on the taller trees.

Shadbushes originally got their name from the way they bloomed when the shad fish were running upriver to spawn. Another name, Juneberry, refers to when its fruit ripens. The fruit is said to resemble a blueberry in taste, with a hint of almond from the seeds. Many birds, such as cedar waxwings, love the fruit. Native American used the fruit in pemmican, which is made with fat, fruit, and preserved meat. Shadbush wood is brown, hard, close-grained, and heavy. Native trees can also be very straight, often reaching 25 feet, and Native Americans used it for arrow shafts. They also used its roots and bark medicinally.

Shadbush makes an excellent garden shrub or small tree and they are easily found in nurseries. This photo shows a cultivar I found at the local college. Cultivars have a much heavier bloom than natives.

Along with the shadbushes our native cherries start blossoming. New Hampshire has four native cherry trees: black cherry (Prunus serotina), choke cherry (Prunus virginiana), pin cherry (Prunus pensylvanica), and wild American plum (Prunus americana). The blossoms in the above photo are pin cherry blossoms. Choke cherries will bloom any time now. Just after, or sometimes along with the cherries will come apples and crabapples.

Sedges are still flowering. I think this one was Pennsylvania sedge (Carex pensylvanica) but I wouldn’t bet the farm on that. They usually bloom when trout lilies bloom and that’s just what has happened this year.

But while the sedges are having a good year, so far the trout lilies (Erythronium americanum) have made a poor showing. The spot I go to see them has many hundreds of plants in it but there were only three or four blossoms. I’m hoping I was just too early, so I’ll go back. Trout lilies are in the lily family and it’s easy to see why; they look just like a miniature Canada lily. The six stamens in the blossom start out bright yellow but quickly turn reddish brown and start shedding pollen. Nectar is produced at the base of the petals and sepals (tepals) as it is in all members of the lily family, and it attracts several kinds of bees.

You can tell by the dark anthers that this flower has been open longer than the one we saw in the previous photo. It’s hard to get a shot of them when they don’t have swept back petals because it happens almost immediately after they open.

One of my favorite things about a trout lily blossom is the coloring on the back. Another name for the plant is fawn lily, because the mottled leaves reminded someone of a whitetail deer fawn. Native Americans cooked the small bulbs or dried them for winter food.

The trees are quickly leafing out already and that means less sunshine each day for spring ephemeral flowers like spring beauties (Claytonia carolinana). I’m seeing fewer blossoms each time I go to see them and this time I had to search for them, so I think it’s getting time to say goodbye to them for another year. I hope I’m wrong though because I love seeing them.  

I’ve noticed some fading petals on some of the red / purple trilliums (Trillium erectum) as well but I hope that doesn’t mean they’re already done for the year. I don’t think they’ve been blooming more than two weeks. This one didn’t look too bad.

I see many hundreds of this very small white violets and I always wonder if they could be northern white violets (Viola pallens) but I always forget to look for a spur on the back of the lower petal. They are half the size of the violets that I usually see.

The insect guides are deep purple and the side petals may or may not have hairs on this generally non-hairy violet. They’re pretty little things and they’re everywhere right now.

Creeping phlox (Phlox subulata) is native to North America but it acts like an invasive somewhat, because it just pops up in lawns everywhere in this area. Here it was growing in the lawn of an abandoned house. It is sometimes called moss phlox or moss pinks and luckily it doesn’t seem to mind being mowed. Many people wait until it’s done blooming to do their first spring mowing.

Another plant called creeping phlox is Phlox stolonifera that has much the same habit, but it is native only as far north as Pennsylvania. One way to tell them apart is by the darker band of color around the center of the flower; if it is there your plant is Phlox subulata and if it isn’t it is Phlox stolonifera.

Bleeding hearts (Dicentra spectabilis) have just come out and they were beautiful. I was just reading that this is a member of the poppy family, which I hadn’t heard before. It is native to Siberia, China, Korea and Japan, and I didn’t know that either. My son just returned from Korea and he says it’s beautiful there. With flowers like these, I’d bet that it is.

I liked the color of this tulip. Tulips seem to be having a good year this year.

Lilacs are taking their time but it shouldn’t be too much longer before we can smell their wonderful fragrance again.

I don’t know what was going on with this dandelion but it takes first prize for the strangest dandelion blossom I’ve ever seen. All the parts are there but they’re all discombobulated. Maybe it is a sport, which is a genetic mutation. Sports are very important to the nursery trade and we unknowingly grow a lot of them in our gardens. This dandelion appears to be trying to become a double flower. I applaud its nonconformity but I’m sure many will see it as an ugly thing. As a gardener I met many people who thought they hated dandelions, but there was a time in years past when grasses were dug up so that dandelions would have more room to grow, so it’s all in how you look at it. Personally I like to see them for what they are, which is just a pretty yellow wildflower. It’s the only flower I’ve found blooming in all twelve months of the year.

Flowers don’t worry about how they’re going to bloom.  They just open up and turn toward the light and that makes them beautiful.  ~Jim Carrey

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One of the things I love most about spring is seeing all the various buds break open so new leaves can emerge. As this maple bud shows, it can be very beautiful. Each year, usually around mid to late April I start watching various buds, but it all depends on the weather. This year they began to swell and it looked as if they’d break early but then we had a cold snap so they just sat and thought about it. Now, they are all coming alive.

New maple leaves are often tomato red and it is thought that the color wards off sunburn. Since so many plants start out with red or purple leaves it makes sense, but I’ve noticed this year that many of the new leaves are starting out green rather than the other colors, so I think the color must be weather dependent. If we have a cloudy spring there is no reason for them to have to protect themselves from sunburn. But how they know what the sun is doing while still encased in the bud scales is a mystery.

The strict definition of bud break is when the tip of a leaf is seen emerging from the bud, but spring isn’t just about new leaves any more than it is just about new flowers, so I’ve taken some liberties and have strayed a bit from that strict definition. After all spring is really about the beauty of it all in my opinion, and what could be more beautiful than this Norway maple flower bud opening?

In fact I think the bud in that previous shot is far more beautiful than the flowers that came out of it.

Striped maple buds (Acer pensylvanicum), often in velvety shades of pink and orange as these were, grow up out of the bud scales, which are the darker parts seen here. Bud scales offer protection to the bud over winter but as the temperature warms they are no longer needed, so as the bud grows they open to allow it to expand and lengthen. In the case of a striped maple bud, if you watch closely a line will appear on the bud. You can see the whitish lines running up the center of these three buds in the photo.

When the lines appear this is the time to watch the buds closely. I usually visit them each day because the lines signal that the bud is ready to open. When it does it will split open on that line, as can be seen in this photo. It could be that the line is always there but I never notice it until the buds are ready to open so I use it as a signal.

This might surprise people who know striped maples. The big, light gathering, mature leaves on the tree have a flat, matte finish that reflects little light. The only time the leaves shine that I know of is when they have just come out of the bud as these had done. Whether or not that is another strategy to prevent sunburn, I don’t know.

Some native cherry trees will grow flower buds very soon after the leaves appear, and it seems that they put more energy into the flowers than they do their leaves. If you’re all about continuation of the species it makes perfect sense. They’re also among the earliest flowering trees, which also makes sense. Grab the attention of the insects before all the other flowers come out and you have a better chance of being pollinated.

Invasive Japanese honeysuckles are usually the first shrub in the forest to show new leaves. In that way they get a jump on natives and can begin photosynthesizing earlier, and growing faster. This one had a raindrop nestled in its leaves. We have 3 invasive honeysuckles here in New Hampshire and to identify them you can just break a stem. Stems of all three shrubs are hollow while native honeysuckle stems are solid. It is illegal to sell, propagate or plant any of these shrubs in New Hampshire.

I like the way the new spring shoots of Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum biflorum) flow and move. After a shoot comes straight up out of the ground the leaves appear and the shoot nods toward the ground. The height the plant has reached when the leaves begin to appear is the height it will stay at throughout the present year’s growth. Native Americans and early colonists ate these shoots the way we would eat asparagus and they used the plant’s starchy roots in soups and stews. They also dried them to make flour for bread.

I love to see the new spring shoots of blue cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides) but I dread trying to get a photo of them because in my experience they’re one of the most difficult of all the spring shoots to get an accurate photo of. I quickly forgot about that though, when I found two plants growing where there had been just one. Even better was how both had plenty of flower buds. I was happy to see that this relatively rare plant was multiplying. This is the only spot I know of to find it.

The wind is caught in blue cohosh, so maybe that’s what makes it so hard to photograph. You might think there was a gale blowing on this day but no, there wasn’t even a breeze. It just wants to fly. Cohosh means “rough” when translated from Native American Algonquin language, and refers to the knobby root. A tincture of the root was said to start childbirth but science has shown the entire plant to be toxic.

Regular readers of this blog will have seen hobblebush flower buds (Viburnum lantanoides) evolve over the past few months from a hard lump with two “rabbit ears” to what looked like a wormy mass, to what it is now; recognizable flower buds with leaves on either side. Soon the shrubs will blossom, with large sterile, pure white flowers surrounding a mass of smaller fertile, white flowers in the center. It’s one of our most beautiful native shrubs and I hope to be able to bring it to you in another post in the very near future.  

Another beautiful flower is that of the red horse chestnut (Aesculus × carnea). The buds have broken and the leaves have pulled back to reveal the big, thumb size flower buds. They will become beautiful red, yellow and pink flowers before long. I think the tips of the leaves were frost bitten this year, by the looks.

We had lots of field horsetails (Equisetum arvense) where I worked in Hancock but I had to hunt for this one here in Keene, and one was all I found. I hope to find more before they pass on.

The fertile spore bearing stem of a common horsetail ends in a light brown, cone shaped structure called a strobilus. Since it doesn’t photosynthesize at this point in its development the plant has no need for chlorophyll, so most of it is a pale whitish color. When it’s ready to release its spores, the cone opens to reveal tiny, mushroom shaped sporangiophores.

This horsetail was fully open, revealing its tiny spore producing sporangia. The whitish “ruffles” at the base of each brownish sporangiophore are the sporangia. They look like tiny white bags. Once it has released its spores it will die and be replaced by an infertile stem.

The rhubarb in a friend’s garden was also breaking bud. When I was a boy I could pull a stalk right off the plants in my grandmother’s garden and eat it right there, but I think I’ve lost my taste for it. They tell me when I was just a pup I’d have a dill pickle in one hand and a baby bottle in the other, so I must have been a bit of sourpuss when I was young. Now just writing about it is enough to make my mouth pucker.

Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica) can be beautiful when it first comes up in the spring, but of course it’s also terribly invasive. I’ve heard that the new spring shoots are tart and juicy and taste much like a cross between asparagus and rhubarb, but I watched a television show about foraging recently and when the two people there tasted the knotweed, they said it didn’t taste like much. Judging by the looks on their faces I’d guess they probably spit it out once the camera looked at something else. The shoots they tasted were quite large though, like the one shown here. I think if you picked the new shoots just as they broke ground, they’d be tender and might be fairly tasty. Developing a taste for them would be a good way to overcome the problem of their being so invasive.

I don’t know if fern fiddleheads fit the description of bud break but I always enjoy seeing them in spring. This is a sensitive fern fiddlehead (Onoclea sensibilis). This fern gets its name from the early settlers, who noticed its sensitivity to frost. Since our last safe frost date is Memorial Day, it was rolling the dice. It’s a beautiful thing with its fur coat and tiny new leaves showing.

Christmas fern fiddleheads (Polystichum acrostichoides) wear hairy, silvery fur coats to protect themselves in spring. This is an evergreen fern so you can often find last year’s green fronds splayed out on the ground with this year’s fiddleheads coming up in the center of the plant. As fiddleheads go these are some of the biggest. This fern gets its name from early settlers, who saw that it was still green on Christmas.

The only fern in this area with fiddleheads that are safe to eat is the ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris). They are considered an early spring delicacy but they need to be prepared and cooked correctly. I’ve read that eating too many can make you sick. The easiest way to identify ostrich fern fiddleheads is by the brown papery husk that covers the fiddlehead, and the deep groove in the stem. The groove has been compared to that you find on a stalk of celery and as far as I know, this fern is the only one in this region to have it. The plant itself has the shape of the shuttlecock used in badminton, so another name for it is the shuttlecock fern.

I watched beech buds closely over the last weeks and I saw them arch or curl, however you choose to see it, but then stop and do nothing. They simply waited along with all the other buds for the cold snap to end. The buds curl like this because the cells on the top become excited by the light and warmth generated by the stronger spring sunshine, and grow faster than the cells that grow in the shade on the bottom of the bud.

The difference in cell growth rate creates a tension in the bud, which increases until the bud simply can’t take any more and tears itself open. This releases the new leaves, which are beautifully covered in silver hairs. Sometimes they look more animal than plant.

Once the sunlight reaches the new leaves, they expand like an accordian and quickly lose their silver hairs. Bud break is one of the most beautiful things to happen in a New England Forest in the spring and I do hope that you are able to see it. Once you’ve seen something like this you never forget it.

Miracles, in the sense of phenomena we cannot explain, surround us on every hand: life itself is the miracle of miracles. ~George Bernard Shaw

Thanks for stopping in. I hope all the moms out there will have a grand and happy Mother’s Day tomorrow!

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Last week a storm spun just off the coast and brought us wave after wave of clouds, rain, wind and cold almost every day. In spite of below freezing nighttime lows there were a few plants brave enough to bloom. Trailing arbutus (Epigaea repens) bloomed just in time for May and that’s perfect. It is called Mayflower because that’s often when its small white to pink, very fragrant flowers appear.

To smell its flowers you have to literally get your chin on the ground because these flowers are ground huggers. It’s worth it though, because they have a scent all their own that it is impossible for me to describe. Kind of spicy, but there’s more to it than that. It’s a very unusual scent and that’s why they were so over collected for use in nosegays in years past. My grandmother always told of this being her favorite flower but we never did find any of them, so I found myself wishing she were there on this day. Until I thought about it, that is. She had awful trouble standing from a kneeling position, so she would have told me to pick some and give them to her and I would have had to refuse. That wouldn’t have gone over well. In her day the thought of a flower becoming extinct from over picking would have seemed ridiculous, and she would have told me so. They just didn’t know any better in her day.

A flower I’ve never heard of being picked is that of wild ginger (Asarum canadense), but the plants are still hard to find. I’ve found them in only in this one spot.

The plant’s fuzzy, heart shaped leaves were just unfolding but the brownish flowers were already blooming. I can’t think of another wildflower with leaves quite like these so the plant is very easy to identify. The long rhizomes of wild ginger were used by Native Americans as a seasoning. It has similar aromatic properties as true ginger but the plant has been found to contain aristolochic acid, which is a carcinogenic compound that can cause kidney damage, so it should not be used.

You could fit a pea inside a wild ginger flower but nothing much bigger. Though flies often crawl into the meat colored flowers it is now thought that they do so simply to get warm. Several scientific studies have shown that these flowers are self-pollinated. That doesn’t make a lot of sense to me because I saw many insects including bees already out before these flowers bloomed. Maybe insects just aren’t interested for some reason.

I’m not happy with the way the river water in the background came out in this shot of leatherleaf blossoms (Chamaedaphne calyculata) but I got a difficult shot so maybe I should just keep quiet and be happy with it. The plant normally grows out of the water a few feet but it can stand being flooded and this year because the river was high, I couldn’t get near it. I stood on a slope just at the water’s edge getting as close as I could by leaning, which wasn’t a good idea. It grew a foot or two off shore and I almost leaned myself right into the river.

But I stayed dry and it was worth a slightly raised heart rate to get photos of such pretty little blossoms. I was able to get a hold of a branch on another shrub and pull it toward me for this shot. The plant gets its common name from its tough, leathery leaves, which are lighter and scaly on their undersides. At a glance it might be mistaken for a blueberry, but these flowers are smaller and not quite so round as a blueberry blossom.

If you see these shiny pointed bud scales littering the ground that means the poplars are blooming. When they bloom their catkins are often blown off or taken off by rain, and you can see one of them on the upper right.

If you pick up one of the fallen poplar catkins this is what you’ll see. These are the reddish-brown male anthers, which are extremely small. But they do the job and when the female flowers have been pollinated, they’ll release their cottony seeds into the air and they will settle on everything. It’s not a good time to leave your car windows open.

The feathery white female flowers of the European white elm (Ulmus laevis Pall), which we call Russian elm, were just forming seeds when I saw them. The tree is large and spreading and quite beautiful, but it lacks the height and vase shape of the American elm.

The female flowers of the American elm (Ulmus americana) were a step ahead of those of the Russian elm, and had already become seeds (samaras), each with a white fringe. They will quickly lose this fringe as they ripen.

One of my favorite native tree flowers are the female flowers of the box elder. The male flowers come out early before the leaves, but the female flowers don’t show themselves until the leaves unfurl. I love their color and shape. They have a sticky velvety coating so they can catch as much pollen as possible. They must be very good at it because you find these “weed trees” coming up in waste areas and vacant lots all over town. Box elder was the first tree I ever planted. My grandmother used to pay me to pull up all the trees growing around her foundation and one of those I pulled up was a box elder. I carried it home bare root, dug a hole and stuck it in, gave it some water and pretty much forgot about it, and that tree grew for years and years. For all I know it could still be there, some 55 years later.  

For the first time I saw the flower stems (petioles) of female box elder flowers. I never knew this was such a hairy tree but I’ve always known how pretty it was, weed tree or not.

A rare thing has happened. Rare in this area anyhow; a downy yellow violet (Viola pubescens) has bloomed. This single plant is the only one I’ve ever seen. I thought it might be a round leaved yellow violet but the leaves are definitely heart shaped and not round.

It’s a very pretty thing and I was happy to see it. I can count on the fingers of one hand how many times I’ve seen a yellow violet.

Wild strawberries (Fragaria virginiana) have just come into bloom. These berries are small but you haven’t really tasted a strawberry until you’ve tasted them.  The full moon in the month of June was known to many Native American tribes as the “Strawberry Moon” because that was when most strawberries began to ripen. The berries were picked, dried and stored for winter use, or added to pemmican, soups, and breads. In the garden strawberries easily reproduce vegetatively by runners (stolons) but the fruit was so plentiful in the wild that colonials in North America didn’t bother cultivating them until the early 1800s. The first documented botanical illustration of a strawberry plant appeared in 1454.

Sessile leaved bellwort (Uvularia sessilifolia) has just come into bloom and only three or four out of thousands had opened when I went to see them. It was a windy day and you can tell that by the way this flower isn’t hanging vertically. I doubted I’d be able to get a shot but the camera stopped the motion and this is the result. The black flies are out in force now but the wind keeps them away, so I should have been grateful for it instead of grousing about it while there on my knees waiting for it to stop so I could get a photo. You never have to search too hard to find something to be thankful for, but sometimes I miss the opportunity.

I went to see what American hazelnut buds looked like when they broke but instead found this one still flowering. I was surprised because the male catkins have turned brown and dried up. These were the longest female filaments I’ve ever seen and I wondered if maybe they grew longer by stretching for pollen that will never come. I see a lot of hazelnut shrubs with no nuts on them in the fall and now I wonder if it is because many female flowers don’t appear until after all the pollen has been shed. In the end it doesn’t matter. Nature will straighten it out.

After a very slow start henbit (Lamium amplexicaule) is having a great year. This plant was loaded with cartoon faced blossoms that resemble those of some of our small flowered orchids.

You might see a resemblance to henbit in the much larger flowers of dead nettle (Lamium maculatum) and well you should, because they are both in the same family.

Bradford pear blossoms (Pyrus calleryana) are pretty enough but they’re about all this tree has going for it. They have weak wood and lose branches regularly and birds love the tiny pears it produces, which means that it is quite invasive. In the wild it forms nearly impenetrable thickets and out competes native trees. And though the flowers are pretty enough their scent has been compared to everything from rotting fish to an open trash bin. I smelled fish when I was walking among them taking photos and I can say that I was very happy that I didn’t have one in my yard.

Pulmonaria (Pulmonaria officinalis) has just started blossoming, but I’ve never seen one like this. It had two colored flowers on the same plant, pink and blue / purple. I’m guessing that they come out pink and then change but I’ve never noticed this before so I wonder if it’s a newer hybrid. Another name for the plant is lungwort. During the Middle Ages in Europe, lungwort was considered dangerous because the grey spots on its leaves were associated with an infected lung. Later, it was used to treat lung disorders. The scientific name Pulmonaria comes from the Latin pulmo, meaning lung.

Tulips of all colors and shapes have appeared.

I was looking for the very early red and yellow tulips I saw last year but I never did find them, so these will have to do. There was less yellow on the ones I saw last year. It just peeked out between the red petals.

It’s time to say goodbye to red maple flowers because they have grown wings, and now they will fly. The trees have blossomed longer this year than I’ve ever seen, most likely due to a cool spring.

I tried to draw my soul but all I could think of was flowers. ~Natalya Lobanova

Thanks for coming by. I hope everyone is seeing lots of flowers!

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Purple (or red) trillium (Trillium erectum,) one of our biggest and most beautiful wildflowers, has just opened. Trilliums are all about threes and multiples of threes, which ia easily seen here. Though beautiful it has a a few secrets; flies are drawn to the plants because of the carrion scented flowers, and for that reason it is also called “stinking Benjamin.” Benjamin, according to the Adirondack Almanac, is actually a corruption of the word “benjoin,” which was an ingredient in perfume that came from a plant in Sumatra. According to the U.S. Forest service the root of this trillium was traditionally used as an aid in childbirth by Native Americans, and for that reason it is also called “bethroot,” which is a corruption of “birth root.”

I’m happy to say that the frosts we had didn’t wipe out the bloodroot plants (Sanguinaria canadensis,) though their numbers are down this year in this spot.

The flower petals, typically eight of them, drop off within a day or two of pollination, so their time with us is brief. It’s hard to believe that it’s already time to say goodbye to them for another year. I’ll look forward to seeing their simple beauty again next spring.

Henbit (Lamium amplexicaule,) which is usually one of the earliest flowers, has finally come around. I’m not sure what held it up but it seems very late. I usually see them by the end of March. Henbit is a “weed” in the mint family and gets its common name from the way chickens peck at it. I’ve read that the leaves, stem, and flowers are edible and have a slightly sweet and peppery flavor. It can be eaten raw or cooked, so maybe that’s one way of getting it out of your garden.

I haven’t seen a lot of common chickweed (Stellaria media) this year either. This is another edible “weed” that is grown for human consumption in some countries, and is said to be far more nutritious than cultivated lettuce. Chickens can also eat it. The five petals are cut so deeply they look like ten on flowers that are smaller than a pencil eraser.

Fly honeysuckle (Lonicera canadensis) is a native shrub that often blooms in late March to mid April, but it too seems to have been held back this year. The pale-yellow color of the flowers and the unusual way that they form in pairs that branch off from a single stem make this shrub very easy to identify. I can’t think of another like it. The unusual twinned flowers will become twinned, orange red, oval fruit. I’ve read that many songbirds love the berries. I can’t say fly honeysuckle is rare but I know of only four or five places to find it. It seems slow growing and isn’t a real robust grower. I know one shrub that hasn’t seemed to change at all in ten years. You can find it on the edge of woods, usually in shade or partial sun.

Myrtle (Vinca minor) is an invasive plant that forms large mats that choke out natives but it’s also a plant that’s been shared from neighbor to neighbor for almost as long as this country has been a country, so nobody really cares. Many of the people I once gardened for thought it was a native plant that they inherited when they bought their house. They were always surprised when I told them it was from Europe, but they always wanted to keep it. I’ve found it growing and blooming along with lilacs and peonies near old cellar holes out in the woods, all of it so old nobody could remember who had even lived there. The word vinca means “to bind” in Latin, and that’s exactly what the wiry stems do.

Blue violets (Viola sororia) are actually purple and they’re just coming into bloom. I’m sure many gardeners won’t be happy to hear that because if left unchecked these plants can take over a garden in no time at all. But really, you’re living in a dream world if you think you can beat them, because even when we don’t think they’re blooming their unseen petal-less flowers, called cleistogamous flowers, are flinging seeds out of their 3-part seed capsules. I used to dig and pull them from many gardens by the hundreds. Now I just enjoy them.

I was surprised to see common yellow wood sorrel (Oxalis stricta) blooming already. It’s a common plant that some think is a clover, but clovers have oval leaves and this plant’s leaves are heart shaped. Unlike clover leaves they fold up at night and in bright sunlight, as they have done here.

Spring beauties (Claytonia carolinana) are about at their peak of bloom now, and this shot shows how the tiny things can carpet a forest floor. It also shows the variations in color they have, from nearly all white to very pink. They’re beautiful little things and I hope everyone gets a chance to see them. They won’t be with us much longer.

I’ve read that it is the amount of sunlight that determines color in a spring beauty blossom. The deeper the shade, the more intense the color, so I look for them in more shaded areas. These grew in full sun.

Apparently, the petal shape can vary by quite a lot as well. I’ve never noticed it before but the petals on these flowers are far wider and rounder than the long, narrow petals on the flowers in the previous shot. Each flower lasts just three days.

Bluets (Houstonia caerulea) are the same way with color variations. Some are deep blue and others are white and then you see everything in between, but the amount of sunshine doesn’t make a difference because they always grow in full sun.

All the magnolia blossoms that had come out before the frosts were browned on the petal edges but those that came out after were fine, as this one shows. They seem extra fragrant this year.

Siberian bugloss (Brunnera macrophyllas) has just started blooming and each plant has just a few flowers on it so far. The small flowers have great color.

Ornamental cherries have started blooming and are beautiful, as always. I like the star in the center of these particular flowers.

I found this blossom on a Tibetan cherry (Prunus serrula Tibetica.)  It looked like it had slept in its clothes. I wonder if they de-wrinkle themselves as they grow. Tibetan cherry is also called the paper bark cherry because of the way its bark peels as it ages, much like a birch, and it is used as an ornamental tree as much for its bark as for its flowers. The mahogany bark has very long, closely spaced lenticels that give it an unusual appearance.

This was a challenge. This hellebore grows in the garden of a friend and the sun was very bright when I was there. I used three different cameras trying to get a shot where the color wasn’t bleached out and this was the only useable one. It was too bad because this flower has deep, rich color. I plan on planting a few more flowers around here in the near future and hellebore will be one of them.

Tulips have come out and many were wide open, but I saw few insects.

Grape hyacinths are having a good year.

The flowers of Japanese andromeda (Pieris japonica) look like they’re blown from milk glass and mounted on the stem with tiny, leaf shaped golden ormolu mounts. I don’t think that they really resemble lily of the valley blossoms but some do, so they call it the lily of the valley shrub. To me they look more like the blueberry family of flowers.

PJM rhododendrons have just started blooming. The PJM in the name is for Peter J. Mezitt who developed the plant and also founded Weston Nurseries in Weston, Massachusetts. They are also called little leaf rhododendron. They are very pretty, and well liked here and have become almost as common as Forsythia.

Forsythias are a good indicator of how cold and snowy it was last winter. Quite often you’ll see the shrubs with blossoms only on the lower branches, and that’s because the cold killed all the buds above the snow line and the only ones that survived were those protected by snow. These bushes are telling me that it was a mild winter. If the temperature had fallen below -20 F., they wouldn’t be blooming like this. There were many years I saw them with just a few blossoms down close to the ground, but not very often in the last decade or so.

Behold, my friends, the spring is come; the earth has gladly received the embraces of the sun, and we shall soon see the results of their love! ~Sitting Bull

Thanks for coming by.

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On one of my daily walks I passed a house that had a single white crocus coming up in what was once apparently a flower bed. The wide open flower reminded me of a bloodroot flower (Sanguinaria canadensis) so even though I was sure it was too early, I went to where the bloodroots I know of grow and found a single flower there; the earliest I’ve ever seen one bloom. It grows in a group of maybe 25 plants but there wasn’t a sign of any of the others, just this single blossom. Since that day we’ve had some cold nights with frost, so I’m hoping I’ll get to see the others. This plant gets its common name from the bright red sap in its roots, which Native Americans used to decorate their horses with.

Cheery little bluets (Houstonia caerulea) have suddenly popped up in all the lawns. Another name for this plant is Quaker ladies, but I’ve always thought it should have been quaking ladies because all the flowers move in the slightest breeze. I took this photo on a windy day so I was surprised that it came out. What appear to be four petals is actually a single tubular blossom with four lobes.

All the rain we had last summer must have done the willows some good because they’re blooming like I’ve never seen them bloom this year.

Male (shown here) and female willow flowers grow on separate plants. Though willow trees are wind pollinated these willows rely on insects for pollination so there is plenty for the bees to do this year.

Here are the less showy female willow blossoms. If pollinated each flower will become a small yellow, banana shaped seed pod which when ripe will split open and release fluffy seeds to the wind.

Here is a shot of some willow seed pods that I took in 2012. They’re very easily found in summer, but trying to figure out what species of willow you are looking at is far from easy because they cross pollinate so readily. As Henry David Thoreau said “The more I study willows, the more I am confused.”

The pretty flower buds of white ash (Fraxinus americana) are out of the bud and I hope they didn’t get frost bitten. Sometimes these buds are as black as blackberries and other times they’re colored like these were. The Native American Wabanaki tribe made baskets from ash splints and some tribes believed the wood was poisonous to rattlesnakes and used canes made of ash to chase them away.

Male box elder flowers (Acer negundo) are now well out of the bud and their reddish-brown anthers at the ends of long filaments can now blow in the wind and release their pollen. Quick growing, weak box elders are considered “weed trees” that aren’t good for much, not even for fire wood, and many trees throughout the city have been cut down. I was having trouble this year finding a single female tree but I think I’ve finally found one. Male and female flowers bloom on separate trees and I think the lime green flowers on female trees are the prettiest so I always look for them. They begin to show just as the tree’s leaves unfurl. Native Americans must have thought highly of the box elder because the oldest wooden Native American flute ever found was made from its wood.

I haven’t seen any of the female red maple blossoms (Acer rubrum) becoming seeds yet but it’s bound to happen with all of the millions of flowers blossoming in just this small area.

Male red maples are certainly doing their part. Their anthers loaded with pollen, ready for the wind to do its job.

I wanted to see if the sedges were blooming yet so I went to see the plantain leaved sedge (Carex plantaginea,) which is one of the earliest to bloom. I was happy to see that it was full of flowers. I like its crepe paper like leaves, too. They are large for gathering light, so it does well in the shade under trees. The prominent midrib, two lateral veins, maroon bases, and puckered look of the leaves are all used as identifying features for plantain leaved sedge.

The buttery male sedge flowers are the easiest to see, situated as they are at the top of the four-inch stalk, which is called a culm. You can just see the wispy white flowers there behind it. They always appear lower down than the male flowers.

The female flowers are delicate looking, white sticky threads, just waiting the for wind to bring them pollen. They are sublime in their simplicity and they’re one of my favorite things to see in spring.

The deeply pleated, extremely toxic leaves of false hellebore (Veratrum viride) have appeared. They come along between the spring beauties and trout lilies, so are right on time. I was slightly dismayed the other night when a local television show did a piece about a local forager. As the announcer spoke about the forager collecting ramps, the camera showed false hellebore. That was a serious mistake I thought, because eating false hellebore can be deadly.

This photo that I took years ago shows that true ramps, which are a wild onion or leek, bear no resemblance to false hellebore. If you forage for wild plants you would be wise to know them both. The bulbs and leaves of ramps are very strongly flavored with a pungent odor, so a simple sniff would help tell the difference. In some places they are called “The king of stink.” Their usage has been recorded throughout history starting with the ancient Egyptians. They were an important food for Native Americans and later for white settlers as well.

Ohio buckeye (Aesculus glabra) isn’t native to this region as far as I know, but there is one at the local college and I just happened to see its buds breaking. Bud break is defined as “when the green tip of a leaf can be seen emerging from the bud,” but there is often far more to it than that. It’s usually a beautiful thing to witness, and is one of my favorite things about spring. Spring flowers are beautiful, but there is so much more to spring than just the flowers.

Purple trilliums (Trillium erectum) are up and each plant has a single bud that should open in the near future, though I’ve waited a week or more for it to happen in past years. They usually bloom in mid to late April and are one of our largest and most beautiful native wildflowers. This cluster of plants was growing on a boulder.

Even on a gloomy day Forsythia was bright and cheery. Although they’ve become kind of a ho-hum shrub spring would be very different without them in this area. They bloom on any street you care to travel. Some are in hedge form, some are neatly trimmed and others are left natural, as this one was. If you have an embankment that you’re sick of mowing or otherwise dealing with, just plant Forsythia on it. One of the most beautiful spring sights I’ve ever seen was a roadside embankment covered with Forsythias. They were allowed to grow as natural as they wanted, and it was like seeing a yellow waterfall.

Hellebores have come out, just after Easter rather than during Lent. This isn’t my favorite hellebore but since I don’t have any of my own beggars can’t be choosers. This one grows in a local park. I do hope to one day grow some here but there is work to be done first.

There are many varieties of daffodil and I don’t know their name, but these two were tiny; each flower couldn’t have been much over an inch across. I’ve seen the small yellow Tête-à-Tête daffodils and these were probably close to their size but bi-colored.

I know they’re called glory of the snow (Chionodoxa) but our snow is usually long gone before these flowers appear, so I’m not sure where their true glory lies. It doesn’t matter though, because they’re beautiful and I enjoy seeing them each year.

Chionodoxa come in many different colors and are in the asparagus family (Asparagaceae,) along with hyacinths, grape hyacinths, scilla and many other plants.

I stood on the shore of a sea of scilla and watched as the wind made waves, and it was beautiful.

Just after I took this shot of lilac buds a front moved in and the temperature dropped severely before the wind blew and hail fell. Normally I would say something like here is a taste of what’s to come, but now I’m not so sure. I hope they and all of the other flowers made it through the cold and I hope to be able to show them to you in the near future.

In every man’s heart there is a secret nerve that answers to the vibrations of beauty. ~Christopher Morley

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Since violets don’t usually bloom here until the end of April, I was surprised to find them so early. I was doubly surprised to see that they were white wood violets (Viola sororia albiflora) because I see maybe one white one for every hundred blue / purple ones. I’ve read that the American Violet Society says that the white ones are just white versions of the common blue violet (Viola sororia.) A kind of natural hybrid, I suppose. They’re prettier in my opinion, with their dark guide lines that help insects find the prize.

That ancient plant the Cornelian cherry (Cornus mas) has bloomed. They are members of the dogwood family but you would never know it by the tiny flowers, each one about an eighth of an inch across. The entire flower cluster seen here is barely an inch across. Though I’ve never seen it they say that each flower will become a small red fruit.

It is the fruit of the Cornelian cherry that is the reason it has been used since ancient times. Man has had a relationship with this now little-known shrub for about 7000 years, and we know that from finding remains of meals from the early Neolithic period that included cornelian cherry fruit. They usually bloom at about the same time Forsythias do, but they are seen in the form of small trees rather than the shrubby form of Forsythias. From a distance it might be easy to mistake one for a dwarf crab apple when it wasn’t in bloom.

So far, I’ve seen just two magnolia blossoms, this one and a white one that had been nipped by frost. So far it seems like spring is moving very slowly because of the still cool nights. Days are running in the high 50s F. lately and showery to partly sunny for the most part.

Hyacinths have come along now, and they always seem to me to mark the midway point of the flowering bulb season. They’re very beautiful and one of the most fragrant of all the spring flowering bulbs.

All of the sudden there are daffodils everywhere. In the last flower post I did I showed some that had been hurt by frost but these were untouched. According to the National Trust in the U.K. the daffodil’s drooping flowers are said to recall the story of Narcissus bending over to catch his image in a pool of water.

The local college has some very early tulips. They stay small but after a while will have yellow along with the red in the blossoms, if I remember correctly.

Striped squill (Puschkinia scilloides, var. libanotica.) is a scilla size flower that is one of my very favorite spring flowering bulbs. I tried to find them years ago and had a hard time of it but I just looked again and they now can be easily found through most spring bulb catalogs. Still, even though they’re easy to find now I never see them. I know of only this one place to find them and they are very old, coming up in the lawn of a local park. Though the catalogs will tell you that the blue stripes are found only on the inside of the blossom they actually go through each petal and show on the outside as well. I think they’re very beautiful.

Johnny jump ups (Viola) are blooming by the hundreds now. I chose this as my favorite on this day.

The cool weather is being good to the coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) plants. I see more and more blossoms but not a single seed head yet.

This dandelion blossom was just waking up, and I put it here so those of you who don’t know could see the difference between it and the coltsfoot blossom in the previous photo. In truth the only thing they have in common is the color. Size, shape and growth habit are different but the easiest way to tell the two apart is to look at the flower’s stem. Coltsfoot stems are scaly and dandelion stems are smooth.  

Bleeding hearts (Dicentra spectabilis) are growing about an inch per day when the sun shines, and if you look closely, you can see tiny flower buds all ready to get started. These are the tall, old fashioned bleeding hearts that die back in the heat of summer.

Raindrops were being cradled lovingly by the new growth.

Skunk cabbages (Symplocarpus foetidus) are looking more cabbage like each day, but you wouldn’t want to eat them.

I’ve been looking for some moss spore capsules to try out my new camera on and apple moss (Bartramia pomiformis) obliged with its tiny round capsules, fresh out for spring. Reproduction actually begins in the late fall for this moss and immature spore capsules (sporophytes) appear by late winter. When the warmer rains of spring arrive the straight, toothpick like sporophytes swell at their tips and form tiny green globes, so their appearance is a good sign of spring.

Each spore capsule is about 1/16 of an inch in diameter. Tiny, but after a few failed tries the new camera was able to do the job. The pointed part seen is the calyptra, which is a hood or cap which covers the lid-like operculum. The calyptra falls off first as time passes and the spores ripen, and finally when the spores are mature the operculum comes off and the spores are released to the wind.

Here is an apple moss spore capsule against a U.S. nickel. I tried to find the height of the date text on a nickel but had no luck. It is safe to say that it’s very small.

Though the male catkins are looking a bit tired the female flowers of American Hazelnuts (Corylus americana) are still going strong.

Hobblebush buds (Viburnum lantanoides) are opening but you’d never know it unless you had watched the hard mass that was there in winter slowly soften and begin to expand. Still, even at this stage it isn’t much to look at, and it might be hard to believe that in about a month it will be one of our most beautiful native wildflowers.

It is indeed hard to believe that the unshapen mass in the previous photo will become something as beautiful as this, but come mid May the woods will be full of wonderful blossoms like this one. Hobblebush flower heads are large-often 6 or more inches across, and are made up of small, fertile flowers in the center and larger, sterile flowers around the outer edge. All are pure white. I can’t think of a better reason to walk through the woods in spring.

I haven’t seen any of the feathery female flowers of the elms (Ulmus americana) yet but I’ve seen plenty of the male flowers like those shown here. Male flowers have 7 to 9 stamens with dark reddish anthers. Each male flower is about 1/8 of an inch across and dangles at the end of a long flower stalk (Pedicel.)

Male (staminate) box elder flowers (Acer negundo) are just showing in the recently opened buds. Once they begin to show like this things happen fast, so I’ll have to watch them.

Trailing arbutus (Epigaea repens) buds are showing color, so it won’t be too long before I can smell their wonderful fragrance again. It was my grandmother’s favorite wildflower because of that scent. Several Native American tribes considered the plant so valuable it was said to have divine origins, and I think she must have thought so too.

Trout lilies are up but so far leaves are all I’ve seen. The leaves always appear before the small yellow, lily like blooms. It won’t be long.

I was lying on my stomach at the edge of the woods trying to get this photo, just a few yards from one of the busiest highways in Keene, when I heard “Sir, is everything all right?” I looked up and found a young Keene Police officer looking down at me. I assured him everything was fine, thanked him for his concern, showed him the first spring beauty blossoms he had ever seen, and off he went. I thought afterwards that he had closed his car door, walked down an embankment full of crunchy oak leaves and stood right there beside me, and I hadn’t heard a thing. This, I thought, is a good example of becoming lost in a flower. I could imagine by his look of genuine concern what must have been going through that young officer’s mind. It can’t be every day that a policeman sees someone lying motionless in the weeds beside the road. At least, I hope not.

If you are lost inside the beauties of nature, do not try to be found. ~Mehmet Murat ildan

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Though it hasn’t warmed up much since the last flower post, spring is still happening. Each time I look around I’m seeing more crocuses. Last year there were a lot more white ones in this cool color group but they seem to be disappearing.

A new clump of reticulated iris has bloomed. I thought they were very pretty.

This bicolor is the first daffodil flower I’ve seen this year. Though it had just opened it looked tired and weather worn.

Many others won’t bloom at all because of the two cold nights we had. If you look to where the petals meet the stem on this bud you can see that they’re kind of discolored and watery looking. It and a few others were bitten badly.

I wasn’t going to bother with this shot of scilla but then I saw the oak leaves beside it

The small crocuses with blue stripes on the outside have opened to white. They’re pretty but it’s hard to see the blue when they’re open, and that’s my favorite part.

I like the soft shading on these examples. Google Lens calls them “vernal crocuses” and I think they might be Crocus tommasinianus. But whatever their name it doesn’t matter; they’re very pretty.

I like to see if I can get a bee’s eye view of flowers now and then. What bee wouldn’t want to go in there?

I saw hundreds of tulip leaves but not a single bud.

Magnolias are shedding their fur coats, but very slowly. After three days this one looked just the same as it does here. I love the color of that bud.

Imagine a bud that is the size of a large pea, and then imagine all of those yellow flower buds packed into that space. That’s exactly what is going on in this photo of a Cornelian cherry bud (Cornus mas). The bud scales open to reveal what seems an impossibility.

Grape hyacinths have come along. They aren’t related to grapes; they’re actually in the asparagus family (Asparagaceae) as are true hyacinths, but they do look like little clusters of grapes. These weedy flower beds you see in these some of these shots are at the local college. I went there and asked them if they couldn’t use a part time weeder but the funding isn’t there. I wasn’t surprised. Two years of Covid crippled the University System of New Hampshire but tuition rates are usually still among the highest in the entire country, so I’m sure that must limit spending as well. Maybe if they lowered tuition rates, they’d attract more students and make more money.

There are lots of squirrels around now. I’ve read that a squirrel can live its entire life without ever touching the ground. They bite the bark of trees like maples and lick up the sap, and then they eat buds, bark and fruit. This one found something to nibble on down below though. It also looked like it had been in a fight or two.

The vernal witch hazels, encouraged by the cool weather, just keep on blooming. These bushes are at the local college and a man I took to be a professor walked by when I was taking photos. “Are we all budded up?” he asked. I was a bit surprised. “There are flowers blooming all over the campus,” I told him. I also told him these were some of my favorites because of their scent. He started telling me that he couldn’t smell them because he had allergies, but then he said “Oh wait, I can smell them. They’re wonderful.” It’s easy to imagine him stopping to smell them every time he walks by from now on, just like I do. They are indeed wonderful and well worth stopping for.

I went to see the willows and finally spotted some color amidst the gray. You have to look closely, but it’s there.

The next day I saw this.

And this. Once you see a bit of color on a willow catkin it’s a good idea to go right back the next day because they bloom fast. These are male (Staminate) pollen bearing flowers. I haven’t found any female flowers yet. They aren’t quite as showy as the male blossoms on willows.

One day while visiting the spot where the willows grow, as I was checking to see if they were blooming, I heard a beautiful bird song coming from above. I looked up and there was a cardinal in the top of a tree, the first one I’ve ever seen. It’s hard for someone who isn’t colorblind to understand I know, but with the kind of colorblindness I have two of the most difficult colors to see when they’re together are red and green. I can see that this bird is obviously very red in the photo and I could see it that day when it was in the treetop but if it had been in a green tree, I wouldn’t have been able to see him at all. As if to prove it to me once again, this bird flew into some nearby spruce trees and completely disappeared. I could hear him singing so beautifully, but though I tried and tried I couldn’t see him. In my mind I could hear my son asking, as he did one day while pointing at a tree, “It’s right there. How can you not see it?” I can’t explain the how of it but I can say that this world is full of things we don’t see.

Dandelions are having a great time this spring and I’m seeing lots of them. They’ll disappear as soon as it gets hot so I enjoy them while I can.

One of them had curled stigmas full of pollen showing, which I’m sure the insects were very happy to see. On a dandelion blossom the stigma comes out of a tiny tube formed by the anthers, and though it’s a bit grainy if you look closely, you can see that in this photo.

I didn’t even have to go into the swamp to see that the leaves were unfurling on skunk cabbages. The sunlight highlighted this one perfectly. When they’re young like this they do resemble a cabbage leaf.

I thought I’d take a look at the place where spring beauties (Claytonia carolinana) grow to see if I could find any of their leaves showing but instead, I found a single flower blooming. I was very happy to see it and I thought this day, April second was the earliest I’d ever seen them bloom but no, in 2020 they bloomed a day earlier, on April first. I walked around the area to find more but this was the only one I could find in bloom. It won’t be long though, before the forest floor is alive with them. These beautiful but small, aspirin size wildflowers always help me retrain my eyes to see small in spring. That’s important, because many other tiny flowers like bluets and goldthread will be coming along in mid-month.

The hours when the mind is absorbed by beauty are the only hours when we really live, so that the longer we can stay among these things so much the more is snatched from inevitable Time. ~Loren Eiseley

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