Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Meadow Rue’

Last year at about this time I took a walk around Goose Pond in Keene and found some great slime molds. Two years ago I walked around the pond and found the only northern club spur orchid I’ve seen, so last Saturday, with exciting thoughts of what I might find this year, off I went. Surrounding the beautiful pond is a vast 500 acre tract of forest that has been left nearly untouched since the mid-1800s. It’s a wilderness area, and it’s just 2.6 miles from downtown Keene.

Goose Pond was called Crystal Lake by some in the 1860s, and was also known as Sylvan Lake in the 1900s. Keene had a major fire in 1865 and the town well and cisterns failed to provide enough water to put it out, so dams were built to enlarge the pond to 42 acres. Wooden pipe was laid to 48 hydrants by 1869. The city stopped using the pond as a water supply in the 1930s and in 1984 designated the forest as a wilderness area. Today it is mainly used by hikers, fishermen, swimmers, mountain bikers and snowshoers. I get to the pond by following the old access road.

This forest wasn’t completely untouched. Stone walls tell of its agricultural use sometime in the past but judging by some of the thick mosses on some of the stones it was far in the past.

This partially buried stone isn’t natural with a perfect 90 degree angle like that; it was carved. Stone carving wasn’t done by just anyone and it didn’t come cheap, so I’m guessing that at some time this was an important stone. Possibly a gate or fence post but it seems too smooth for what was normally left rather rough hewn.

Light filters through the pines and hemlocks to reach the forest floor in places but in many areas the canopy is woven together so thickly that It can be  very dark, and that can make photography a real challenge. Can you see the trail through here? If you visit Goose Pond you’ll want to be able to; I met a man and a couple who were confused about which way to go. The couple said they kept wandering off the trail and I told them that wasn’t a good idea in a 500 acre forest, so they’d better watch for the white blazes on the trees. The trail is clearly marked; you can see the single white rectangular blaze on a skinny tree at just to the left of center in this photo.

Yellow fly agaric (Amanita muscaria v. formosa) grew on a mossy log. I saw several examples all along the trail but most had been partially eaten by slugs or squirrels. Amanita muscaria also comes in white, pink, brown, orange, and bright red but we see mostly yellow ones here. No matter what color they are fly agaric fungi are  considered slightly toxic and hallucinogenic. The name fly agaric comes from its once being used to kill flies (and other insects) in parts of Europe. It was dried, powdered and sprinkled into a pan of milk, which was left out for flies. In medieval times people believed that flies could enter a person’s head and cause mental illness.

I saw two or three examples of coral mushrooms in the forest and all were of the pale yellow / tan variety. I see this mushroom every year but coral fungi can be very hard to identify and I’ve never felt confident in naming it. I think the yellow tipped coral (Ramaria formosa) fits best, because it first appears in July and grows under conifers throughout the northern U.S.

Mapleleaf viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium) grows all through this forest but this was the only one that had fruit on it. Soon they will become purple-black berries that will be about the size of raisins. I’ve heard that they don’t taste very good, but many birds and animals eat them. They disappear quickly.

How I’d love to be able to get onto the island to see what grows there but since you’d have to hand carry a kayak uphill for quite a distance it’s doubtful that I ever will. I saw a couple in kayaks on this day but I think they must be made of sturdier stock than I am. I just don’t have the breath for it.

This view shows the uphill climb that you’d have to make with a kayak to visit the island. Just carrying myself up it is enough for me.

A few years ago I found a tree with a strange zig zagging scar in its bark, and now here is another one. Many readers think that it must have been caused by lightning but nobody really seems to know for sure. This one ran up the tree for probably 12 feet or more. There is a pine tree here that was  definitely struck by lightning and that scar runs straight up and down and is probably two inches wide. The lightning strike blew the bark right off the trunk and roots all the way into the ground. I came upon it shortly after it was hit and saw strips of bark lying all over the ground around it.

Several small streams cross the trail and in 3 places they’re wide enough so that bridges had to be built. This one sags a bit on that far left corner but it works.

I was hoping to see some slime molds and I wasn’t disappointed. Fuligo septica is a species of plasmodial slime mold that is one of the most common. It is called scrambled egg slime because that’s exactly what it can look like in certain stages of its growth. It gets quite big and is the one slime mold that will grow in full sun on wood mulch or bark chips, so it is easily seen and is often people’s first introduction to slime molds. Fuligo septica produces the largest spore-producing structure of any known slime mold.

Scrambled egg slime mold is the perfect name for this one. According to mycologist Tom Volk of the University of Wisconsin, a plasmodium is essentially a blob of protoplasm without cell walls and only a cell membrane to keep everything in. It is really nothing but a large amoeba and feeds much the same way, by engulfing its food, which are mostly bacteria, spores of fungi and plants, protozoa, and particles of nonliving organic matter. Many people seem to get the heebie jeebies over slime molds but they’re a very important part of the ecosystem. It isn’t hard to imagine what this world would be like without decomposers like fungi and slime molds doing their work.

Scrambled egg slime mold can change color as well as form. I’ve seen it turn white or gray and get as hard as a log. I’ve also seen it weep blood red tears. I’ve seen photos of it where it was tan, pale yellow, yellowish gray, gray, brown, and cream colored. The example in the above photo is turning gray and hardening. Before long it will begin to fracture and break down into a powdery brown mass. The brown powder is the slime mold’s spores and it’s always best not to inhale them. Or fungal spores either; some of them can make you very sick.

Blueberries are doing well this year. These examples were lowbush blueberries (Vaccinium angustifolium,) which often seem to ripen slightly before highbush blueberries (Vaccinium corymbosum.) The bears will be happy.

Tall meadow rue (Thalictrum pubescens) grew in a sunny spot on the shore line. This plant almost always grows near water and in this case it couldn’t have been much closer to it.

I was very surprised to see a few examples of shining sumac (Rhus copallinum) here, especially when I realized that I must have been walking right by them for years. I’ve only seen this plant in one other place so it seems to be on the rare side in this area. It is also called flame leaf sumac, dwarf sumac, or winged sumac. These shrubs were about knee high but I’ve read that they can reach about 8-10 feet. The foliage is said to turn brilliant orange-red in fall, so I’m going to have to come back in the fall for a photo shoot.

The name “winged sumac” comes from the wings that form on the stems between each pair of leaves. I’ve never seen this on any other sumac.

Shining sumac flowers are greenish yellow and tiny, and are followed by clusters of red fruits that stay on the shrub through winter like other sumacs. This small tree is often used as an ornamental in cities and along highways, mostly for its fall color.

Well, it was a beautiful day for a walk and I found everything I hoped I would. I don’t have an orchid to show you but I did find one. The northern club spur orchid I found two years ago was here again but it wasn’t blooming yet, so I’ll have to show it to you later. It isn’t a showy plant but is interesting nonetheless, and I hope to find it blooming today.

If you reconnect with nature and the wilderness you will not only find the meaning of life, but you will experience what it means to be truly alive. ~Sylvia Dolson

Thanks for stopping in.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

I thought I’d show a few more flowers that grow in my garden and also some interesting ones that I’ve found in local parks.Last year I spotted this meadow rue (Thalictrum aquilegiifolium) at a small greenhouse in Northfield, Massachusetts. The owner said they didn’t have any for sale right then. He must have sensed that I was disappointed, because he divided one of his own and gave me a piece of it. What you see above is why I wanted it-such an unusual flower and quite larger and more colorful than the meadow rue I find growing wild. This plant is very unusual in that it doesn’t have a flower petal on it. The flowers in the photo are made up completely of male stamens. I grow this in my back yard in front of an old piece of picket fence because it gets so tall that I was afraid I might have to tie it to something. Butterflies love this plant. I know-it has been done to death and has become a cliché but this pink rose grows next to the meadow rue and it had just stopped raining when I took the picture. Here is the same rose fully opened on a drier day. This goat’s beard (Aruncus dioicus ) grows in a shady corner of my yard.  This plant was just planted last year so it hasn’t reached full size yet. When it does it will be a large, 3-5 foot tall mound with feathery white blossoms reaching up above the leaves. This is another unusual native plant that should be used in gardens more than it is, because it does well in shade. Insects swarm over it. The rhododendrons have come and gone quickly. I saw this white one in a local park and went back a week later to find it without a blossom on it. I think the early heat made short work of flowers that usually appear when it’s cool.Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia) is an evergreen plant that many believe is in the rhododendron family, but it is actually more closely related to blueberries than rhododendrons. Though I saw this one in a park Mountain laurel is native to the east coast and soon the woods will be full of their white, pink or red blossoms. If you look at the back of a mountain laurel blossom you can see 10 depressions or pockets that the flower’s 10 anthers bend over and fit into. When a pollinator lands on the flower the anthers spring out of their pockets and bang against the insect, dusting it with pollen. This plant is extremely toxic and has killed livestock. The leaves are said to have been used by Native Americans wishing to destroy themselves. This plant is also called Lambkill, Spoonwood, and Calico bush. This plant goes by many common names but I’ve always called it peached leaved bluebells (Campanula persicifolia) which comes from its leaves resembling those of the peach tree. It is very easy to grow-literally a “plant it and forget it” perennial. I planted one in my garden years ago and not only is it still growing, but many seedlings from it are also growing all over the property. I usually give several away each summer to family and friends, but I’ve given it to so many people that now they say “no more.” It’s a good choice for someone just starting a garden.This is a very unusual plant that is seldom seen in the garden. So unusual in fact that I don’t think it has a common name. Its scientific name is Rogersia pinnata, variety “Elegans.” This plant likes it moist and shady but will grow in sunnier spots if it is given plenty of water. it is useful around ponds and other garden water features. I took this photo on May 27th just after it began to bud so as to show the unusual leaves.  The leaves turn a beautiful red / bronze in the fall.Here is the flower of Rogersia pinnata. It is quite tall-about chest height-and the plant is close to 2 feet across, so it needs plenty of room. The one shown here grows in the shade of trees in a local park.The feathery petals of the perennial bachelor’s button (Centaurea montana) add interest to a garden. This is another plant that is very easy to grow. It prefers full sun but can stand partial shade. These plants self-seed easily and before long will have spread to all beds in the garden.  Deadheading will prevent this, or any other plant, from self-seeding. Some call this perennial cornflower.  Another plant that isn’t often seen is the penstemon (Penstemon digitalis) or beardtongue. I grow the variety pictured, called “husker red,” more for its deep maroon leaves than the flowers. This is yet another plant that is very easy to grow. The one pictured here grows in a park, but I planted it at home years ago and have done virtually nothing to it since, other than keeping the bed it grows in weeded. It likes full sun and dry soil. Hybrid cultivars like husker red were developed from the native penstemon. This bearded iris is so old that it has no common name. It is one of the plants that live far back in my earliest memories because it always grew on a corner of our lawn when I was a boy. It is a tough plant-quite often in winter the snow plows would tear it out of the ground and in spring my father (after considerable grumbling) would stuff it back into its hole and stomp on it a couple of times. (My dad wasn’t known for his gardening abilities!) After a short recovery period it would grow and bloom as if it had never been touched.  The one in the photo grows at my house now and isn’t near enough to the road or driveway to be plowed up. Many years ago a lady I gardened for gave me a sucker from her mock orange (Philadelphus.) I plunked it down in the shade near the outside faucet when I got it home, thinking I could keep it watered easily until I found a place to plant it. Well, I never did find a place to plant it until last year, when I rolled the 12 foot tall, 6 foot wide plant onto a tarp and dragged it across the lawn to its new home. Whew-was that heavy! But it was worth it because now it can be seen from several locations both inside and out, and this year is blooming better than it ever has. Mock orange is one of our most fragrant shrubs, and its citrus-spice fragrance can’t be matched. It is a great choice for someone who doesn’t want to fuss with their shrubs. When I was a boy we had a hedge of pink / purple Rugosa roses which were so fragrant that you almost couldn’t stand it because they were all you could smell for weeks. Scents can be very powerful things and can evoke strong memories; even more so than sight or sound. This is called involuntary memory, or the Proust effect.  I now have white rugosa roses growing outside my office and when I open the windows memories come floating in with the scent and transport me back in time to a place where life went by at a much slower pace and summers seemed to go on forever.

I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order~ John Burroughs

I hope you enjoyed seeing a few flowers that grow in gardens for a change of pace. Thanks for stopping by.

 

Read Full Post »

This is a continuation of Wednesday’s post about those small miracles that are happening in the forest each day at this time of year; leaves unfurling from their buds. Much of what is seen here is fleeting and will last only a day or two at best, so it is easily missed.  Flower lovers don’t despair-the next post will be full of them. Too much of a good thing is a bad thing. A new shaggy shoot, or fiddlehead, of the evergreen Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides.) This is a common fern found all over America, but also one of the few that is truly evergreen. As the current season’s fiddleheads emerge the previous year’s fronds are still green.

 Trilliums are all about the number three. Even the name trillium comes from the Latin tres, meaning three. On this red trillium (Trillium erectum) the three green sepals have just opened enough to show the three red petals. Once open the flower will nod under the three leaves (actually bracts,) and be mostly hidden from view for a short time before finally standing erect above the leaves. Inside the flower are six stamens and three stigmas. If flies pollinate the flower a three chambered, red fruit will grow. I liked the accordian like patterns I saw in the new leaves of this rose (Rosa rugosa.) This was taken just after a rain and I was surprised to see the leaves holding water. Early Meadow Rue (Thalictrum dioicum) has its emerging leaves coiled into a tight bud.  When the bud expands it will uncoil from the base. The plants are dioecious, with male and female flowers blooming on separate plants in early spring just as the leaves on trees unfurl. Many people grow this plant for its grayish, maidenhair fern-like foliage, which also  resembles that of columbine (Aquilegia.Willow (Salix) leaves emerging after the flowers (pussies) have gone to seed. Jack in the pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum ) is another common spring wildflower, but it isn’t often seen at this stage of its life. The green foliage of the spathe is striped even when in the bud. The flower bearing spadix (Jack) inside the striped spathe (the pulpit) of the female plant has a mushroom like odor and attracts fungus flies, which pollinate the plant. Jack in the pulpit is in the same family (arum) as skunk cabbage and needs at least three years from seed to flower. This plant was eaten by Native Americans, but is highly toxic unless thoroughly cooked. The single dandelion seed resting on a leaf tells the tale of how small these emerging white oak (Quercus alba) leaves really are. The leaves are covered with soft gray down when small. The new leaves of hawthorn (Crataegus) come with a bit of a surprise: 2 inch long thorns that explain the common name thorn apple. This thorny shrub is in the rose family and small berries, called haws, follow the white or light pink flowers. The berries are usually red when ripe but they can also be black. They have been used medicinally at least since the 1st century AD. The black scales on lady fern (Athyrium felix-femina) fiddleheads make them one of the easiest to identify. They are one of the largest ferns, with fronds sometimes five feet tall. Because they are so lacy and showy, people in the Victorian era grew them indoors. Oil from the roots has been used medicinally since the 1st century AD, but too much can cause weakness, coma, and often blindness. In my last post I talked about how this plant, what I think might be the cut leaved toothwort, held me mesmerized in the forest for quite some time with its fluid, almost tortured appearance. It made me imagine high winds when there wasn’t even a gentle breeze. In this photo its flower buds can be seen.

“And each flower and herb on Earth’s dark breast
rose from the dreams of its wintry rest.”
~Percy Bysshe Shelley

For me it is important to see and try to comprehend life’s mysteries, because the mystery is what makes life so exciting.  I hope you enjoyed seeing these moments in time. Thanks for stopping by.

Read Full Post »