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Posts Tagged ‘Nature Study’

Tall garden phlox (Phlox paniculata,) another sign of summer’s passing, have come into bloom. Some of these flowers can be extremely fragrant and they’re a valuable addition to any garden. A walk along a garden border full of fragrant phlox on a summer evening is something you probably won’t ever forget. Many people think of English gardens when they think of phlox but this is actually a native plant with a range from New York to Mississippi.

Another sign of summer’s passing comes in the form of eastern forked blue curls (Trichostema dichotomum) but many people miss seeing these ankle tall plants full of tiny but very beautiful blue flowers. They bloom in the morning and each flower only blooms for one day before falling off the plant. Its common name comes from its four long, arching stamens that dust bees with pollen when they land on the flower’s lower lip. It’s one of our prettiest mid summer natives and is worth getting down on your hands and knees to see. It likes poor, sandy soil like that found along roadsides, and that’s where I found this one.

One of the oddest plants you’ll meet at the end of July is the broad leaved helleborine orchid (Epipactis helleborine.) Odd because it was introduced from Europe and of course almost immediately escaped gardens and is now considered an invasive orchid; the only one I’ve ever heard of. According to the USDA it was first found in the wild in North America near Syracuse, New York, in 1878 and has now spread to 31 states. I see only a few plants each year and they’re usually growing in shade but in some areas they come up in lawns. They stand about knee high, but they can get taller with more light. The leaves, though smaller, closely resemble those found on false hellebore and the name helleborine in Latin means “like hellebore.” That’s another oddity about this plant; neither false hellebore leaves nor the leaves of this orchid look at all like hellebore leaves.

A third oddity about broad leaved helleborine orchids is how two plants growing side by side (it is said from the same bulbous root) can have different color flowers. The flowers, maybe slightly bigger than a pencil eraser, can be green with a hint of purple, or purple with a hint of green, as these examples were. In fact, this year the flowers have more purple in them than I’ve seen.  

The fourth and oddest oddity about this plant in my opinion, is how scientists have discovered that its nectar contains the strongest narcotic compounds found in nature; comparable to oxycodone, and when insects (wasps) sip it they tend to stagger around for a while. This increases their chances of picking up the orchid’s pollinia, which are sticky little sacks of pollen that orchids produce instead of the dust-like pollen produced by many other flowers. Once the insect flies off it will most likely be oblivious to the pollen packets that it has stuck all over itself. By transporting one flower’s pollinia to another helleborine flower the insect will have repaid the intoxicating orchid for the buzz.

Ping pong ball size buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis) flower heads look like frilly pincushions with their long yellow tipped, white styles sticking out of the tubular flowers the way they do. This native shrub is almost always seen near water and I found this one on the banks of the Ashuelot River. Once the flowers go by (as this example was) a red seed head will form which will turn brown as the seeds ripen. Waterfowl of all kinds love the seeds which, since buttonbush grows near water, are easy for them to get to.

Here is a fresh buttonbush flower head. Each small white flower is relatively long and trumpet shaped, with 4 short stamens and a single, long white style that is longer than the flower’s corolla, and that’s what makes them look like pincushions. Buttonbush is said to be poisonous to animals but beavers have been seen taking the wood. Whether for food or for the construction of their dams and lodges isn’t known.

One of the things that surprises me most about burdock (Arctium minus) is how, even though it grew everywhere when I was a boy and we used to throw the burs at each other, I never saw the flowers until I became an adult. I suppose my priorities changed; back then there was nothing more fun than covering your friends in the sticky burs. Burdock’s tubular purple flowers are densely packed into round prickly flower heads, but though many are familiar with the flower heads few seem to ever notice the flowers. When fully open long white styles grow from the often darker purple anthers, which form a type of sheath around it. Burdock must have come to this country very early, probably tangled in a horse or cow’s tail, because it was noted as being widespread in 1663. In fact, it was so common then that some who came later wrote that it was native. Its spread across the country from New England to the Pacific took about 270 years, because the Native Americans of western Washington State said it had been recently introduced there in the 1930s.

Dewdrop (Dalibarda repens) is also called false violet because of its leaves, and I think the resemblance might be part of why a lot of people never see it. Its small white flowers dot the forest floor like so many other small white flowers, and that also makes it easy to pass by with just a glance. Though I know of two colonies of them they are rare here, and are endangered or threatened in many other states.

Dewdrops have a secret; they produce flowers other than the ones we see. The hidden flowers don’t open but still produce seeds. They are called cleistogamous flowers and grow down beneath the leaves. The showy flowers like the ones in the photo are mostly sterile. In plants like hobblebush these bigger, showier, sterile flowers are used to attract insects to the smaller, less showy fertile flowers but I doubt that it works that way on dewdrops, because cleistogamous flowers are self fertile and don’t need insects to pollinate them. So why are the bigger, showier flowers even there? Maybe they’re just another way that nature expresses itself. Maybe all of creation rejoices when they come into bloom. Maybe that’s true of all flowers. Maybe it’s true of all life.

Soapwort (Saponaria officinalis) gets its common name from the way the chopped and boiled leaves produce a soapy lather that is particularly good at removing grease. This plant is a native of Europe and is thought to have been brought over by colonists to be used as a soap substitute. Another common name for this plant is bouncing Bet. I’ve heard several stories about how this name came about but I like the one that claims that the curved petals catch the breeze and make the plant bounce back and forth in the wind. The flowers are very fragrant.

Bee balm (Monarda) is a native plant that is seen more in gardens than in the wild in this region. It is also called Oswego tea and bergamot. Many Native American tribes used this plant medicinally and a tea made from it can still be found in many stores. Bee balm will stand afternoon shade and is a no fuss plant that prefers to be left alone. When summers are humid it will occasionally get a case of powdery mildew. It isn’t doing well here this year. The plants I’ve seen this year don’t have mildew but still seem weak and the flowers are small.

There are more than 43 different species of liatris so I’m never sure which one I’m seeing but I do know that though it is a native plant I’ve only found it outside of a garden just once in this area.  It’s a very useful plant for attracting butterflies and bees to the garden. I think it would be more striking planted in drifts rather than the one or two plants spotted here and there that I see. Native Americans baked and ate the roots of the plant; they are said to taste like carrots. Other parts of the plant were used medicinally to treat heart ailments.

When you take a close look at the flowers the plant’s other common name, blazing star, comes to mind. It is grown commercially as a cut flower, so you might have seen it in an arrangement.

The beautiful blue of balloon flower (Platycodon grandiflorus) is hard to match in a garden. I and my color finding software see blue but some call it purple so if you see purple that’s fine. The plant is an Asian native with a common name that comes from its buds, which look like small, air filled balloons. In nature it grows on hillsides and in meadows. It is also called the Chinese bellflower and is in the campanula family. 5 white anthers surround a central stye that becomes 5 lobed as the flower ages. This example hadn’t been open long.

Bristly sarsaparilla (Aralia hispida) is in the ginseng family but its flowers are hard to mistake for those of ginseng. In fact, the entire plant isn’t easily confused with any other natives because of its bristly lower stems and foul odor. The plant can reach 3 feet tall but its weak stems give it a sprawling habit in the shade.  I almost always find it growing in dry gravel under pine trees at forest edges. Medicinally, the dried bark can be used in place of sarsaparilla. This plant is also called dwarf elder, wild elder, or angelica tree. Its leaves look nothing like those of wild sarsaparilla. Its fruit changes from green to dark blue and finally to black.

Bristly sarsaparilla is listed by the USDA as endangered in many states. The stems are covered in short, sharp, bristly hairs and that’s where its common name comes from. The lower part of its stem is woody and persists throughout winter, so technically it is considered a shrub. Each small, 1/8-inch flower sits at the end of a long stalk. They have 5 white petals that almost always curl back away from the center. 5 white stamens surround a central shorter style. I almost always see black ants swarming all over the flower heads of this plant but on this day there were only one or two.

Though when I was a boy hedge bindweed (Calystegia sepium) flowers were always pure white, I’m having a harder time finding white ones these days. Now most of them seem to be bicolor pink and white and I’m not sure why, other than natural selection. It could be that insects are more attracted to the bicolor flowers, which means that they have a higher probability of pollination and seed production. I took this photo because the flowers looked white to me but then when I saw them in a photo I thought I could see a blush of pale pink here and there.

I found a garden variety yarrow (Achillea) that I haven’t seen before. Its color was eye catching. Many tiny flowers packed together make up a yarrow flowerhead and this plant showed that off beautifully.

I knew this plant was a hydrangea but it didn’t look like any hydrangea I had ever seen. It was like a lacecap, but not entirely. The colors were unusual and seemed to be several different shades all at once. Then I realized that I had been out of the professional gardening game for quite a long time. This was the tea of heaven hydrangea (Hydrangea serrata,) also called sawtooth hydrangea or blood on snow. It is a hybrid and I haven’t kept up with newer developments; my subscriptions to garden catalogs and horticultural magazines ran out long ago. But none of that matters; its beauty is what caught my eye and I thought it might catch yours as well. By the way, the leaves contain a natural sweetener called Phyllodulcin and they are used to make tea in some Asian countries. That’s where the name tea of heaven comes from. As for the name blood on snow, we’ll leave that for another post.

Marsh mallow (Althaea officinalis) had me going around in circles for a while because the USDA said it didn’t grow here, but what I wasn’t picking up on for some reason on was that this plant grows in a garden here, and not in nature. It was obviously in the mallow family like hollyhocks but the small, quarter size flowers were unusual in my experience. Then the helpers came to the rescue, and that’s why I’m adding this plant to this post; I should never forget to thank the many people who write in to help with identifications. They do it quietly, often in the background unknown by readers, but they are an important part of this blog and I’m very fortunate to have them there, waiting for me to get tangled up. So thank you, one and all. I do appreciate your help.

I’ll end this post with this peachy daylily, for no other reason than the fact that it is extremely beautiful.

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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Finally, after I believe two years since my last full mushroom post, I’m able to do another. I thought I’d start with these pretty little butter wax caps (Hygrocybe ceracea.) I’m not a mycologist and I don’t even like eating mushrooms but I sure do like looking at them because they can be very beautiful.

I think theses small white mushrooms might have been flat oysterlings (Crepidotus applanatus.) They are a pure white wood rotting mushroom that feel like your earlobe and I’ve read that they’re sometimes called simply flat creps. They should not be confused with oyster mushrooms because they are inedible.

Here is the what the underside of the previous mushrooms looks like. I’ve heard that the gills brown with age so these examples must have been quite fresh.

I was able to see something I’ve never seen before; the “birth” of a Berkley’s polypore (Bondarzewia berkeleyi,) the largest mushroom I’ve ever seen. What you see here are at least three mushrooms erupting from that lumpy, whitish mass.

There were two groups here near a tree and this is one of the groups when it was young and just taking on that familiar shape. This mushroom grows at the base of hardwoods in the east and in the west a similar example, Bondarzewia montana, grows at the base of conifers.

These photos were taken over a period of about three weeks, so this is a slow growing mushroom. As I said, they can be huge, and this one was probably at least two feet across. I don’t know if it had finished growing but as this photo shows something had been eating it. I’d guess a squirrel. They get to a lot of mushrooms before I do.

From the gigantic to the almost microscopic. These eyelash fungi (Scutellinia scutellata) grow on the wet, seeping wound of a standing tree. Each of the bigger ones is less than the diameter of a pea. They are considered cup fungi and they get their name from the hairs around the perimeter. The hairs can move and sometimes curl in towards the center of the disc shaped body. I’ve read that some believe that the hairs might collect moisture, similar to the way spines on cacti work, but I’ve always found them growing in very wet places so I’m not sure about that. The shine you see in the photo is caused by the camera’s LED light. It’s quite dark where these grow.

Fan shaped jelly fungi (Dacryopinax spathularia) are spatulate fungi, meaning they’re shaped like a spatula. These grew out of the crack in a log and were quite pretty, I thought. Sometime you’ll see spatulate fungi that are more fan shaped or club shaped but these examples seemed to live up to the name fairly well. In China it is sometimes included in a vegetarian dish called Buddha’s delight.

According to Mushroom Expert.com Staghorn fungi (Calocera cornea) grow after heavy rains on the barkless, dead wood of oaks and other hardwoods. This log had its bark still on but these small fungi came out from under it.

The website goes on to say that this jelly fungus appears as clusters of slick, cylindric fruiting bodies with rounded-off or somewhat sharpened tips. In fact it looks more like a tiny club fungus than a jelly fungus. These examples covered a good part of this log. They’re fun to look at but getting a useable photo can often be a little less than fun. These fungi are quite small.

You can tell that it has been rainy, hot and humid when slime molds start to appear. Despite the name slime molds aren’t molds and they aren’t always slimy. Unfortunately, though everybody argues about what they aren’t, nobody seems to know exactly what they are. The easiest way for me to think of them is as a single celled organism like an amoeba, with thousands of nuclei. Many headed slime mold (Physarum polycephalum) likes decaying organic matter like leaves and logs because this is where it finds its food supply of bacteria, yeasts, mushroom spores and microbes. The slime mold in the photo is in a vegetative phase called plasmodium, which is when it can move by ”streaming ” at about 1 millimeter per hour. The plasmodium is made up of networks of protoplasmic veins and many nuclei which move to seek out food. Once it finds something it likes it surrounds it and secretes enzymes to digest it.

Here is a closer look at a “streaming” many headed slime mold on an oak leaf. It was moving, but so slowly the eye can’t detect it.

This example of a many headed slime mold looked like it was climbing this stone. There must have been something on the stone very appealing to it to have it do this. I think this was only the second time I’ve seen a slime mold on stone.

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

I was pleased with this photo because it shows something I’ve wondered about for years. I once saw a log with hundreds of clear, antler shaped beings on it and I’ve wondered what they were ever since. Now I know that they were young finger slime molds, because you can see two of them just right of center in this shot. They’re so small I couldn’t see them when I was taking this photo.

The honeycomb coral slime mold (Ceratiomyxa  fruticulosa  var. porioides) in the above photo that I took previously is a close relative of the finger slime mold we just saw. When conditions are right and food is running low this organism will produce the white honeycomb shapes seen in the photo. They do this prior to fruiting, which is when they create the spores needed to reproduce. Without magnification this slime mold looks like a white smudge on a log and is far too small for me to see in any great detail. I’m always surprised when I finally see what is in the photos.

Each one of the yellow dots you see in this photo is part of a slime mold called Physarum viride. As far as I can tell it has no common name. This slime mold likes decaying logs and can be found in conifer or hardwood forests. Each bright yellow “Lens-shaped structure” is on a stalk, and as they age they will blacken and harden, and start to crack open before releasing their spores to the wind. Each of these tiny “dots” would measure less than the diameter of a common pin.

The white cousin of the slime mold we just saw is called Physarum alba. These structures are also stalked and except for their color behave in the same way as their cousins. You have to look closely but you can see how some of these have cracked open to show their black spores inside.

As I’ve said here before Indian pipes (Monotropa uniflora) are not fungi but because they like the same conditions they often show up when the fungi do, and so they often end up in these mushroom posts. I’ve included this one because I don’t think most people ever see them doing what this one is doing. When an Indian pipe is ready to become pollinated and begin producing its dust like seeds it turns is flower straight up to the sky and slowly browns and hardens, finally looking a lot like it’s made of wood before splitting open to release its seeds. They usually crack open in very late fall or winter.

And here is a view looking down into an Indian pipe flower; a view I’m guessing many have never seen. It is thought that the flower turns up like this so its ten yellow pollen bearing stamens surrounding a large central style will be more visible to pollinators. It is fitting that the plant appears in a post on fungi because it has recently been discovered, according to the University of Texas, that Indian pipes are associated with a fungus which obtains nutrients directly from the roots of green plants. That makes Indian pipe a parasite, with the fungus acting as a “bridge” between it and its host.

Chanterelle mushrooms (Cantharellus cibarius) are often deformed when we’ve had a lot of rain and over 12 inches of rain in a little more than two weeks is a lot, but this chanterelle looked fine. Chanterelle mushrooms are considered a delicacy but I’ve had mushroom experts tell me that you can never be 100% sure of a mushroom’s identity without examining its spores under a microscope. Since I don’t own a microscope that means you can never be sure of my identifications either, so please don’t eat any mushroom you see here until you have an expert examine them. There are mushrooms so toxic that one or two bites have killed. We have mushroom walks led by an expert or experts here. If you want to become serious about mushroom foraging you might find out if you have anything like them in your area. They’re a good place to start.

From the side chanterelles look like trumpets, but so do many other mushrooms including the false chanterelle, which is inedible. False chanterelles have orange flesh, while true chanterelles have white flesh. This example had white flesh but I still wouldn’t eat it without showing it to an expert first.

Common stinkhorns (Phallus impudicus) have an odor like rotting meat when they pass on, and that’s where their common name comes from. Though this example was dry, the green conical cap is sometimes slimy and shiny. It uses its carrion like odor to attract insects, which are said to disperse its sticky spores. Its stalk is hollow and spongy. I find these mushrooms almost always growing on some type of wood, often wood chips or very rotten logs. Though this one looks like it was coming up in a lawn I’d bet my lawnmower that there was wood in some form under the grass.

Jackson’s amanita (Amanita jacksonii) is also called American Caesar’s mushroom. It has a bright orange or orange-red cap with a lined perimeter, yellow gills, and a white, sack like volva. The volva is what remains of the outer skin, called a universal veil, that enclosed the mushroom in its young “egg” stage. As the mushroom grows the universal veil tears open to finally reveal what we see here. I had to brush a few pine needles away so we could see it clearly.

The Jackson’s amanita in the previous photo turned into this in a single night. It must have been 3 inches across, and it was a very colorful, beautiful thing.

I hope you enjoyed seeing these beautiful wonders of nature and I also hope you will be able to find plenty of mushrooms in your area this summer. You don’t have to eat them or even know their names; just admire their beauty. They’re popping up everywhere here.

The sudden appearance of mushrooms after a summer rain is one of the more impressive spectacles of the plant world. ~John Tyler Bonner

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It’s goldenrod time here in this part of New Hampshire and though our first goldenrod to appear is usually gray goldenrod this year the first one I’ve seen is what I believe to be early goldenrod (Solidago juncea.) I love to see the fields full of beautiful yellow flowers but goldenrod to me means fall is knocking on the door, so my love of the color is tempered a bit with a wistful sense of summer’s passing.

Gray goldenrod (Solidago nemoralis) always looks like the wind has blown all the flowers to one side of the stem, and it usually leans in the direction of the flowers. It has just started blooming while I was working on this post.

Though goldenrod gets blamed for all of the sneezing and watery eyes at this time of year ragweed, like the plants shown here, are what really cause many allergic reactions. Pollen grains that cause hay fever symptoms are very small and dust like and carried by the wind, and those are found on plants like ragweed. The pollen grains of goldenrod are large, sticky, and comparatively heavy and can only be carried by insects. Even if you put your nose directly into a goldenrod blossom, it is doubtful that you would inhale any pollen. But because people see goldenrod blooming everywhere and they don’t see the ragweed, goldenrod gets the blame. People seem to focus their anger on what they believe rather than on fact, and some refuse to accept the truth even when it’s right in front of them. I’ve had people actually tell me that I didn’t know what I was talking about when I told them that goldenrod wasn’t making them sneeze.

July is the month pale spike lobelia (Lobelia spicata) appears. The plant gets its common name from its foot tall stems full of small, pale blue to almost white flowers. The examples shown here certainly looked white to me but they grew side by side with dark blue ones. Native Americans had many medicinal uses for lobelia and one of them was as a treatment for asthma. The plant must have worked well because early explorers took it back across the Atlantic where it is still used medicinally today. It has to be used with great care by those who know how to use it though, because too much of it can kill.

Pale spike lobelia flowers are small; hardly bigger than a standard aspirin. Each flower has an upper lip that is divided into 2 lobes and a larger lip that is divided into 3 lobes. A dark blueish stigma sits between the upper 2 lobes. The petals are fused and form a tube. It looks like the two lobes on the upper lip of this example were having trouble unfolding but that was alright; it’s obvious that an insect wouldn’t have any problem finding what it was looking for. I love all flowers but the tiny ones that make you crawl in the grass and do some work to see them are often quite exceptional, and always worth the effort.

Brittle stem hemp nettle (Galeopsis tetrahit) has just started blooming, with tiny flowers appearing on rather large, foot and a half tall plants. It is originally from Europe and Asia and is considered highly invasive in some areas. It is an annual, growing new from seed each year. Its flowers grow in whorls near the top of the plant, which is often branched.

Brittle stem hemp nettle flowers have a large yellow and purple, 3 part lower lip where insects can land. From there insects can follow purple stripes into the blossom. Once inside they’ll pick up some pollen from the 4 stamens that arc along the inside of the upper lip and hopefully pass it on to another flower. The 3/4 inch long flowers have long white hairs on their upper lip and the square stems are also covered in hairs. When you run your fingers over any part of the plant you can feel its stiff, bristly hairs but they don’t embed themselves in you, thankfully.

One of the first plants, if not the first, that my grandmother taught me was teaberry, also called American wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens.) This low growing, 4 inch tall plant is actually considered a shrub, because its woody stems persist through winter. Its blueberry like flowers will turn into small red berries that taste minty, like Teaberry chewing gum. Wintergreen oil has been used medicinally for centuries and the leaves make an excellent, soothing tea. The plant’s fragrance is unmistakable and its oil is used in toothpaste, mouthwash, pain relievers, and many other products. Native Americans used the plant medicinally and chewed the leaves when they went on long hikes.

The nodding, waxy, cup shaped flowers of the shinleaf (Pyrola elliptica) have appeared, and the plants appear to be having a good year. This native plant is plentiful in pine woods and grows near trailing arbutus and pipsissewa. The greenish white petals look waxy and sometimes will have greenish veins running through them. These plants were always thought to be closely related to the wintergreens because their leaves stay green all winter, but DNA testing now puts them in the heath (Ericaceae) family. The plant’s crushed leaves were applied to bruises in the form of a paste or salve by Native Americans and the aspirin-like compounds in the leaves would ease pain. Such pastes were called “shin plasters,” and that’s how the plant got its strange common name.

The big J shaped flower styles of shinleaf are unmistakable, even on its winter seedpods.

Striped wintergreen (Chimaphila maculata) has my favorite wintergreen foliage because in winter it often turns deep purple where the darker green is on the leaf. This plant is also rare here, though I’ve seen this particular colony grow from one or two plants to about 15 in the ten years I’ve been visiting it. It’s hard to tell from a photo but these plants are so well camouflaged that I have looked right at them many times and not seen them. The flowers stand out and help me locate them though, so I begin looking for them in mid-July. They are also called spotted wintergreen though I’ve never understood why. I’ve never seen a spot on them.

The flower of striped wintergreen has 5 petals that are swept back, as if it had seen a strong wind. It has 10 anthers and its big style is very blunt. I’m hoping that tiny insect on the blossom is pollinating this plant. The Chimaphila part of the scientific name is from the Greek cheima (winter) and philein (to love).

My favorite wintergreen flowers are found on pipsissewa (Chimaphila umbellata) because they seem to be the showiest and often have a blush of pink, and because it’s just a fun word to say. This plant grows in large colonies and is easy to find because of its shiny green leaves that shine winter and summer and last up to 4 years. Like other wintergreens it likes dry, sandy, undisturbed soil in pine forests. Pipsissewa was once used as a flavoring in candy and soft drinks, including root beer. The word pipsissewa is said to mean “it breaks stones in the body into small pieces” in the Native Cree tribe language and refers to its ability to dissolve kidney stones. This photo shows the backs of the flowers which are just as pretty as the front. An ant was visiting at the same time I was.

Pipsissewa flowers have the 5 petals, 10 anthers and large style that are so common among many wintergreens. They also wear a little pink skirt at the base of the big style, which makes them even prettier. They stand about 4-6 inches tall.

Deptford pinks (Dianthus armeria) always look purple to me but this one looked very pink, and even had a splash of red. I’ve never seen another one like it.

Rabbit’s foot clover (Trifolium arvense) always catches a lot of dew but on this morning it had caught raindrops. These plants are annuals which, judging by how many plants grow and blossom each year, must produce a fair amount of seed. This plant was introduced from Europe and Asia but nobody seems to know when, how or why. I like the way it forms pink ribbons along our roadsides.

Pokeweed (Phytolacca americana) flowers seem to turn into fruit so fast that you can almost see it happen as you stand there watching. Those in the photo, now green, will eventually become black, shiny, poisonous berries. Pokeberries have long been used as a source of ink-the United States Constitution was written in ink made from them. Native Americans used to make a red dye from the berries that they used to decorate their horses. Many pokeweed plants have vivid purple stems but these were green and white.

Pokeweed flowers are about 1/4 inch wide and have 5 petal-like, rounded sepals. In the center of the flower are green carpels that come together and will form the purple black berry. It happens quickly and you can find both flowers and fruit in all stages of growth on a single flower head (Raceme.) Pokeweed was called pocon by Native Americans. The Delaware tribe used the plant as a heart stimulant and other tribes made a salve from it and used it as a cure for rheumatism. If it isn’t used correctly pokeweed can be toxic.

Here is a pokeweed plant I found growing in a forest recently. It was about 5 feet tall with many large, light gathering leaves. Those big leaves are why it can grow in such low light. This plant might have gotten only an hour of direct sunlight each day.

Native to Europe, perennial or everlasting peas (Lathyrus latifolius) have found a home by the outflow stream of a local pond. They are a garden escapee that have been grown in this country since the 1700s, and are now considered invasive in some areas. I find them in exactly one spot here so I wouldn’t call them wide spread. It is a vining plant that I’ve read can reach 9 feet, but these weren’t more than a foot tall. The small pink, pea like flowers are very pretty, though this year they seem to have been stunted or slightly deformed somehow.

Another native plant in the pea (legume) family has just started blossoming. Pointed leaved tick trefoil  (Hylodesmum glutinosum) is a plant that doesn’t mind shade and I find them blooming at the edge of a local forest; the only spot I’ve ever seen them. The flower spike can reach over three feet tall but often lays over onto surrounding ferns and other plants. It rises about two feet out of the leaves and carried about six or seven flowering branches on this particular plant.

Here is a shot of the very pointed leaves.

You have to look closely to see the slightly curved white pistil rising from the keel of the pointed leaved tick trefoil flower. I can’t think of another flower in the pea family exactly like it. They are bright purplish pink, stalked flowers clustered in long straight spikes (racemes.) It’s easy to see that they’re in the pea family but unlike some pea flowers, the reproductive parts are not completely hidden. The white pistil rises up and out of the keel. If pollinated each flower will grow into a green, flat seed pod with 2 or 3 jointed triangular segments that are very sticky. The seed pods will even stick to bare skin and they are where the “tick” in tick trefoil comes from.

I found a colony of long leaf speedwell (Veronica longifolia) a few years ago and each year there were more flower spikes until last year when they started declining. This year there were even fewer plants, so I’m not sure how much longer it will appear on this blog.  I’d never seen it growing in the wild until I found it here. It’s a pretty plant that is native to Europe and China and grows on steppes, grassy mountain slopes, meadows at forest edges and birch forests. Here in the U.S. it is commonly found in gardens but it has obviously escaped. It certainly doesn’t seem to be aggressive or invasive. I love its showy blue flower spikes. Another very similar plant is Culver’s root (Veronicastrum virginicum) but culver’s root doesn’t grow naturally in New Hampshire.

You cannot perceive beauty but with a serene mind ~ Henry David Thoreau

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One of our prettiest wildflowers, showy tick trefoil (Desmodium canadense,) has just started blossoming. This plant grew under some powerlines where everything had been cut the previous year, so it doesn’t mind disturbed areas. It grew in full sun and was about 5 feet tall. From a distance it could fool you into thinking it was purple loosestrife but as always we get a pleasant surprise when we look a little closer. Showy tick trefoil is a legume in the bean family. This plant gets part of its common name from the little barbed hairs that cover the seed pods and make them stick to clothing like ticks. As the plant sets seeds its erect stems bend lower to the ground so the barbed seed pods can catch in the fur of passing animals.

The half inch flowers have two folded pink petals with the upper one opening first. The central white tube carries the stigmas and pistil, right there for all the insects to easily find. There is no nectar but bumblebees collect the pollen. Unfortunately Japanese beetles also love the plant.

In the same field as showy tick trefoils I found the first bull thistle (Cirsium vulgare) I’ve seen bloom this year. There were many others that weren’t even showing color so I think it’s safe to say that this plant was a little early. This plant is also called spear thistle and is a native of Europe. It is considered an invasive weed but it’s far less invasive than creeping thistle (Cirsium arvense) because it spreads itself by seeds and not root fragments like that plant does.

Many different bees and butterflies love bull thistle’s nectar and several species of small seed eating birds like finches love its seeds. Last year gold finches were all over these plants after they went to seed.

Asiatic dayflower (Commelina communis) is an introduced plant from China and Japan but it could hardly be called invasive; it seems to be quite rare here and I’m lucky if I see a dozen plants each year. It’s a colorful little thing; I love that shade of blue on the upper petals. The lower white petal is hard to see in this shot but it’s there, along with only two stamens and a long white central style.

Black swallowwort (Cynanchum louiseae) is blooming. The plant is in the milkweed family and like other milkweeds its tiny, pencil eraser size black flowers (actually very dark purple) become small green pods that will eventually turn brown and split open to release their seeds to the wind. This plant also has a sharp, hard to describe odor that is noticed when any part of it is bruised. It originally came from Europe and in 1867 Gray’s Manual of Botany reported it as “a weed escaping from gardens in the Cambridge Massachusetts area.”

This is black swallowwort’s habit. Its strong wiry stems twine around themselves and anything else in their path. That’s why in Canada it is called dog strangler vine. It breaks off at the soil level if you try to pull it, and then it grows right back again, so it is almost impossible to get rid of. Colonies of this plant have been found that covered several acres of land.

Native purple coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea) have started blooming right on time while other plants like bee balm are late. This plant is well known for its medicinal qualities as well as its beauty. According to the USDA the plant was used by many Native American tribes throughout North America to treat a variety of ailments. It was used as a pain reliever, anti-inflammatory, as a treatment for toothaches, coughs, colds, and sore throats. It was also used as an antidote for various forms of poisonings, including snake bite. Portions of it were also used to dress wounds and treat infections. Modern medicine has found it useful to combat bacterial and viral infections and as an immune system booster.

False sunflower (Heliopsis helianthoides) is a native plant that can sometimes reach 5 feet, decorated with pretty yellow, daisy like flowers. Though I often find it growing along the river it is easy to grow and also does well in gardens. Plant breeders have created at least a few cultivars. It is also called early sunflower. Watch the leaf stems (petioles) if you find it in the wild. If they are an inch and a half or more long then you might have found another native called Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus.) That plant also has hairy stems and false sunflower does not.

This is the first chicory flower (Cichorium intybus) I’ve seen this season. The plant by itself might not be much to look at but the flowers are always very beautiful. This one was luminous; just look at the way it glows. All flowers have a light that shines out from them but every now and then one will outshine the rest, and on this day this was the one.

These big and beautiful lilies grew in a park. Red is a hard color for most cameras to see accurately but my cell phone came through this time.

I Found a huge clump of creeping bellflower (Campanula rapunculoides) in a garden at a local park and I thought, someone is going to be sorry. That’s because once you have creeping bellflower you’ll most likely have it forever, because no amount of pulling or digging will get rid of it. It is an invasive that will choke out weaker native plants. I sometimes find it on forest edges but see it gardens more than anywhere else. The flowers are very pretty and have the unusual habit of growing all along one side of the stem. This seems to make the stems heavier on one side so they lean toward where the flowers are.

Cup plant (Silphium perfoliatum) also grows in a local park. They are tall native perennials that can reach 8 feet. It’s called cup plant because its leaf pairs-one on each side of the square stem-are fused together and form a cup around the stem. This cup usually has water in it.

I can only guess which insects come to drink from the cup plant’s tiny ponds. The plant produces resins that smell like turpentine and was used medicinally by Native Americans.

This is the first time Marshallia (Marshallia trinervia) has appeared on this blog because until this day I had never seen it. Google lens accurately identified it and when I looked it up I found that it is a native perennial plant in the daisy family called Barbara’s buttons, or broadleaf Barbara’s buttons. I don’t know who Barbara was but I thought the flowers were quite pretty and unusual. I’ve read that it grows on roadsides, bogs, or open pine woodlands but it is said to be rare, even in its native southeastern U.S. It can be found for sale at nurseries specializing in rare, unusual and / or exotic plants. I found this one in a  garden at a commercial business building, of all places.

Sea holly (Eryngium planum) is another plant that has never appeared here. Since it grew in the same garden as Barbara’s buttons I’d guess that the gardener is seeking out rare and unusual plants. This one is a native of Europe and from what I’ve read likes sandy, well-drained soils in full sun.

Silvery blue sea holly flowers are tiny but look bigger because of the many long, sharp bracts that surround them. They are supposed to be especially useful for dried flower arrangements. I think it would be a conversation starter in any garden, but in this country the conversation would most likely start with “What is that?”

While it may look like a honeysuckle at first, its white latex sap might make you think it is one of the  milkweeds. But those flowers aren’t milkweed flowers. In fact they’re more like dogbane flowers and that’s because this plant is indeed a dogbane called Indian hemp (Apocynum cannabinum,) which is also called dogbane hemp. It is a poisonous plant which can cause cardiac arrest if ingested but it’s also a great source of strong fibers and was used by Native Americans to make nets, bow strings, fishing lines, clothing, and twine. Some tribes also used it medicinally despite its toxicity to treat rheumatism, coughs, whooping cough, and asthma.

The pretty plum colored stems are the best clue that you’ve found Indian hemp.

Invasive shaggy soldiers (Galinsoga quadriradiata) are commonly found at the edges of vegetable gardens in this area. The plant is considered a weed, even in its native Mexico, but I think it’s worth a look. The plant is also called common quick weed or Peruvian daisy and is common in gardens, where it can reduce crop yields by as much as half if left to its own devices. The tiny flowers are about 3/8 of an inch across and have 5 white ray florets widely spaced around tiny yellow center disc florets.

Native vervain (Verbena hastata) is described as having reddish blue or violet flowers but I see a beautiful blue color. Somebody else must have seen the same thing, because they named the plant blue vervain. Vervain can get quite tall and has erect, terminal flower clusters. The plant likes wet places and I find it near ponds and ditches, as this one was. In ancient times the plant was considered a sacred plant, known for its healing powers. It has been used to treat a variety of ailments including depression, kidney stones, headaches, coughs and fevers. It is still used medicinally today by homeopaths.

Pretty vervain flowers appear on spikes sometimes 5 inches long. They are packed tightly together and bloom from the bottom of the spike to the top.

Each flower is a little less than 1/4 inch across, and has 5 evenly spaced lobes around a short, narrow tube. I’ve read that inside the tube are 4 stamens and a short style, but I’ve never seen them because it looks like they’re hidden behind a hairy trap door. An insect must have to force its way inside to get the prize. This is the first time I’ve noticed this feature on these flowers.

My favorite milkweed is swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) because of the color and because of the way the flowerheads remind me of small millefiori glass paperweights. They are beautiful flowers that I can easily lose myself in. This one grows on the shore of a pond and all I had with me for a camera was my phone so though it isn’t a great shot up close, at least you can see how beautiful the plants are.

IWe are beings who seek the infinity of beauty over the finitude of time. ~J.M. Campos

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An eastern cottontail hiding in the tall grass saw me as soon as I saw it and we both froze. I was able to turn my camera on and slowly raise it up to eye level, and finally get a couple of not so hot shots.

The rabbit was fine with me being there for a while because it munched on grass, but then it turned and hopped off, and I saw its fluffy cotton tail.

What I believe is a band winged meadowhawk dragonfly landed on an old garage door at work early one morning. The light was low and the photos weren’t that good so I was going to discard them, but then I saw something odd going on. This dragonfly had what appeared to be tiny eggs all over it.

Here is a closer look at the “eggs” on the dragonfly. I’ve searched for dragonfly diseases and dragonfly parasites but have had no luck finding anything out. If you happen to know what this is about I’d really love to hear from you. I know dragonflies lay eggs but I’ve never heard of them laying them on each other.

Note: A helpful reader has identified these as immature water mites. What is happening in these photos is called “Phoresy,” which a symbiotic relationship where one organism transports another organism of a different species. The red mites are parasites in the tick family and they do suck the dragonfly’s bodily fluids. When the dragonfly lands or hovers near water they will fall / jump off. Thanks go to Ginger Wells Kay, to the folks at BugGuide.net and to Kathy Keatley Garvey and the bug squad from the University of California for this information.  

This dragonfly looked fine but I haven’t been able to identify it. One of the club tails, maybe?

A grasshopper seemed very interested in what I was doing. In fact as I was taking its photo it turned to get a better look. Or maybe to give me a better look.

I expect to see leaves in colors other than green in the spring or fall but not in summer, so these ash leaves seemed confused to me. It is thought that plants might do this to prevent the leaves getting too much sunlight, but it doesn’t seem like anyone really knows for sure.

I can’t explain why some plants do this but it can often be beautiful, as this Joe Pye weed shows.

For years now I’ve meant to check our native alder bushes in the spring for new tongue gall growth and each year I’ve forgotten. But then I was taking photos of a Deptford pink that grew under an alder and I stood up and there they were. And they really do look like tongues, especially at this stage. Some were even bright red.

I went back on a rainy day and got this shot of another tongue like gall. Instead of being caused by an insect like many galls, alder (Alnus incana) tongue gall is caused by a fungus (Taphrina alni.) The fungus chemically deforms parts of the ovarian tissue of the female cone-like catkins (strobiles) and causes long, tongue shaped galls known as languets to grow from them. These galls seem to like high humidity so are usually found on alders that grow near swamps, ponds and streams. 

Once they’ve reached their limit of growth the tongue galls dry and blacken, and look like this. I think this is something most of us have seen.

Azalea Exobasidium gall is another leaf and flower gall that is caused by a fungus instead of an insect. It can cause swollen shoots, stem galls, witches’ brooms and red leaf spots, but more often than not it causes white galls like that seen in the above photo. The white color comes from the spores of the fungus, which are spread by wind and rain. I found this and many other examples growing on some wild roseshell azaleas.

While I’ve been working on this post we’ve had two days of rain, so I hoped to see some mushrooms. I didn’t have to look too hard; this yellow fly agaric (Amanita muscaria v. formosa) grew in the middle of a trail. I used to do 2 or 3 mushroom posts each year but last year I didn’t find enough to do any, so I was happy to see this one. The name fly agaric comes from the practice of putting pieces of the mushroom in a dish of milk. The story says that when flies drank the milk they died, but it’s something I’ve never tried. Fly agaric is said to have the ability to “turn off” fear in humans and is considered toxic. Some Vikings, called “berserkers”  are said to have used it for that very reason.

I also saw a white slime mold on an oak leaf. Some slime molds can be very small and others quite large. This one in its plasmodium stage was average, I’d say; about as big as the leaf itself. When slime molds are in this state they are usually moving, but very slowly. Slime molds are very sensitive to drying out so they usually move at night, but they can be found on cloudy, humid days as well. I haven’t been able to identify it so for now all I can say is that it is a white slime mold, possibly a Physarum, in the plasmodium stage. Slime molds, even though sometimes covering a large area, are actually made up of hundreds or thousands of single entities. These entities move through the forest looking for food or a suitable place to fruit and eventually come together in a mass. They move with the single mindedness of a school of fish or a flock of birds. So far science can tell us what they aren’t, but not what they are.

And there were Indian pipes (Monotropa uniflora,) which are not fungi but often appear at the same time. Each plant has a single flower and each flower nods toward the ground until it is pollinated. Once pollinated they turn and point straight at the sky, and in that position they will turn brown and become hard like wood, and finally the seed pods will split open and release the tiny seeds. They are dust like and are borne on the wind.

Blueberries seem to be having a great year. The bushes I’ve looked at have been loaded with berries, so the bears and birds will eat well.

Invasive Tatarian honeysuckle (Lonicera tatarica) berries ripen from green to orange to red and for the first time I caught all the stages in one photo. This shrub is native to Siberia and is very tough. Birds love its berries and that’s why it has been so successful. In this area there are very few places where it doesn’t grow. Tatarian honeysuckle was introduced as an ornamental shrub in the 1750s. It has deep pink, very fragrant flowers in spring. Though it is invasive it has been here so long that it’s hard to imagine life without it.

Black elderberry fruit has just started to form. In this stage the big flower heads always remind me of star charts.

Fern balls are created by an insect called either a fern leaf tier or a leaf roller, depending on who you listen to. They appear at the tip of a fern frond and look like a ball. Inside the ball are caterpillars of a moth, possibly in the herpetogramma family. The caterpillars pull the tip of the fern into a ball shape and tie it up with silk. Once inside the shelter they feed on the leaflets.

These are busy moths; I’m seeing a lot of these balled up leaves this year.

The fern that had the fern balls on it was either an interrupted fern (Osmunda claytoniana,) shown above, or a cinnamon fern (Osmundastrum cinnamomeum,) shown in the next photo. Since it had no spore cases on it, it was hard to tell. Interrupted fern gets its common name from the way the fertile fronds look as if they’ve been “interrupted” by spore cases, which are the dark areas on this fern.

Cinnamon fern spore bearing fronds are reddish and whoever named the fern thought they looked like cinnamon sticks. If you saw both ferns growing side by side and neither was producing spores most of us would think they were identical.

Timothy grass has just started to flower. Each flower head is filled with tiny florets, each with three purple stamens and 2 wispy white stigmas. Timothy grass makes an excellent hay crop and gets its common name from Timothy Hanson, a farmer who began to cultivate and promote it in 1720, a few years after its introduction into colonial America in 1711. It should be cut for hay before it reaches this stage but it’s quite beautiful when it blossoms. When you see someone chewing a stalk of grass in a photo or painting it is usually Timothy. I chewed many myself as a boy, and I just thought of the opening line of Ventura Highway by the band America: Chewing on a piece of grass, walking down the road

The oddest thing I’ve seen lately is this piece of cantaloupe i found on a lawn. I once worked with someone who made pens as a hobby, and he told me that he knew some people who used the netting from cantaloupes to decorate the pens they made. I can’t imagine how it was done but I’d bet they were beautiful pens.

This view says summer to me. I grew up lazing on the banks of a river, seeing views just like this one every day. May every child be so lucky.

Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are.
When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.
~Lao Tzu

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Milkweeds are blooming now here in New Hampshire but so far I’ve only seen one monarch butterfly. If past years are any indication they’ll increase in numbers as summer passes. Though I grew up walking through fields of milkweed I never really saw how pretty the flowers were until I started photographing them. Cameras help you see, and anyone really interested in nature should have one whether they show the photos to anyone or not.

Fringed loosestrife (Lysimachia ciliata) gets its common name from the fringe of hairs on its leafstalks. You can just see them in this photo where the flower stalks meet the leafstalks. When the flowers appear they face the ground and look as if their faces are pasted to the leaves, as can be seen in this photo. It is this habit which makes it easy to tell this plant from whorled loosestrife (Lysimachia quadrifolia,) which has very similar flowers that face outwards.

Each fringed loosestrife flower is about an inch across. Though it appears to have 5 petals they are actually 5 petal like lobes with pointed tips. Each flower has 5 stamens and a slender style. The flower produces both pollen and floral oil (instead of nectar) and is pollinated by oil bees that only feed on Lysimachia species, like  nude yellow loosestrife bees (Macropis nuda.) They roll tiny pollen balls using the oil and pollen and feed them to their young. Native Americans used all of our yellow loosestrifes medicinally for various ailments, usually in the form of tea.

Hedge bindweeds (Calystegia sepium) have just started blooming. When I was a boy all I ever saw were pure white flowers but now I see far more bicolor pink and white flowers than the pure white ones, even though they are the same species. We kids used to call them morning glories but they aren’t that plant.

Bindweeds are perennial and morning glories are annuals and one good way to tell them apart is by their leaves; morning glory (Ipomoea) has heart shaped leaves and bindweed has narrower arrowhead shaped, triangular leaves. You can just see an out of focus leaf or two in this photo.

Meadowsweet (Spirea alba) grows in the form of a small shrub and is in the spirea family, which its flowers clearly show with their many fuzzy stamens. The flowers are fragrant and have a sort of almond-like scent. I almost always find it near water.

I usually find arrow leaf tearthumb (Polygonum sagittatum) by feeling it rip at my clothes when I walk through tall grass. It is in the smartweed family, which gets its common name from the way your tongue will smart if you eat its peppery parts. Though the flower buds in this family of plants seem like they never open they do, sort of. They look like they only open about halfway though and I find the buds as pretty as the blossoms. This plant is a kind of rambler / sprawler that winds its way over nearby plants so it can get as much sunshine as possible. It often grows in deep shade but it will also grow in full sun.

Tearthumb got that name because it will indeed tear your thumb or any other body part that comes into contact with it. Many a gardener has regretted trying to pull it up without gloves on, because when the small but sharp barbs (prickles, botanically) along its stems slip through your hand they act like a saw and may make you sorry that you ever touched it. They point down toward the soil so when you pull up on it you get a nasty surprise. The plant uses these prickles for support when it climbs over other plants, and they work well. Sometimes the stems and prickles are red but in this example they were green. Tearthumb is considered a wetland indicator because it likes to grow in very moist to wet soil. I almost always find it near water, often blooming quite late into summer.

Narrow-leaf cow wheat seems like a humble, shy little thing but it is actually a thief that steals nutrients from surrounding plants. A plant that can photosynthesize and create its own food but is still a parasite on surrounding plants is known as a hemiparasite.  Its long white, tubular flowers tipped with yellow-green are very small, and usually form in pairs where the leaves meet the stem (axils). I find this plant growing in old, undisturbed forests. It looked like something had been eating the leaves of this one.

The common orange daylily (Hemerocallis fulva) doesn’t have Lilium in its scientific name because daylilies aren’t a true lily. It’s a plant you’ll find growing near old stone cellar holes out in the middle of nowhere and along old New England roads. It is also found in cemeteries, often planted beside the oldest graves. It is one of those plants that were passed from neighbor to neighbor and spread quickly because of it. These days it is called the “ditch lily” and is one of those plants that new homeowners go out and dig up when they can’t afford to buy plants for their gardens. It is both loved for being so easy to grow and hated for being so common. It was introduced into the United States from Asia in the late 1800s as an ornamental.

By the way, daylilies are not “tiger lilies.” There is only one tiger lily and that is Lilium tigrinum, now called Lilium lancifolium.

I was reading one of my favorite blogs, Saratoga Woods and Waterways, when I saw something I had never seen; the flowers of deer tongue grass (Dichanthelium clandestinum.) For those not familiar with this native grass, its common name comes from the way its leaves resemble a deer’s tongue.

This is what the flower heads of deer tongue grass looks like; tiny beads (spikelets.) Each one is about a sixteenth of an inch around. The odd looking background in this shot is the granite rock the grass was leaning over.

And here are the brushy flowers (stigmata,) so tiny I didn’t think I’d ever get a photo of them. I finally had to put a piece of white paper behind them so my camera could find them. They’re one of the smallest things I’ve ever tried to show you. If you read the Saratoga Woods and Waterways blog you too will discover beautiful treasures like these.

If you like the look of deer tongue grass there is at least one variegated cultivar that I found in a local park. I’ve tried to look it up but couldn’t find it, so I’m afraid I know nothing about it.

Deptford pink (Dianthus armeria) is also called grass pink and will often reach two feet tall. They don’t always grow in the same large clumps as their cousins the maiden pinks (Dianthus deltoids) do, and they also don’t have the same bold, jagged, deep maroon ring near their center as maiden pinks do. The petals on Deptford pinks are narrower as well. Both plants are originally from Europe and have escaped cultivation. Maiden pinks seem to prefer open lawns and meadows while Deptford pinks hide their beautiful little faces in the sunny edges of the forest.

This flower shows that Deptford pinks don’t always have five petals. The name Deptford comes from the area in England where they used to be common.

Silky dogwoods (Cornus amomum) are the last of our native shrubby dogwoods to finish blooming in this area, following the gray and red osier dogwoods.

The flowerheads of silky dogwoods are quite flat, not mounded like those of gray dogwood.

Both gray and red osier dogwoods have white berries. The silky dogwood will have berries that start out green, then blue and white and then turn fully blue. They are beautiful things that always remind me of blue and white Chinese porcelain. Cedar waxwings love these berries and they come to the river bank where the dogwoods grow each year to eat their fill.

We have three native wild roses here in the U.S., the Virginia rose (Rosa virginiana,) the prairie rose (Rosa arkansana) and the wild rose (Rosa acicularis.) We also have roses that appear to be wild but which have escaped cultivation. None are truly invasive here and I think it’s safe to say that all are welcome. I found this beautifully scented example near a stream.

I’ll never forget the day I was walking down a trail through a swamp and saw this orchid growing in a shaft of sunlight. It was such a beautiful thing, but finding it in a swamp was a bit surreal. I remember having a hard time understanding what I was seeing.

I hurried through the wet swamp muck to reach it and realized that I had stumbled upon one of the most beautiful flowers I had ever seen. It was a two foot tall greater purple fringed bog orchid (Platanthera grandiflora) and it looked like a bush full of exotic butterflies. That first time there were two plants but now there is only one. It has reappeared at the end of June for several years now, and each year I feel very lucky to have seen it.

I can only stand and look when I see it. It makes me quiet and strikes me dumb, lost in its beauty. Once I get around to them photos are easy; how can you take a bad photo of something so beautiful? I’ve read that the flowers are pollinated by large butterflies and moths, but I’ve never seen an insect near them. I do hope they get pollinated and produce plenty of seeds. I’ve read that there was a time when the swamps were full of them. I can’t think of anything I’d rather see more.

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

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It’s peony time here in New Hampshire and this one caught my eye. It grows in a local park and I thought it was beautiful.

Tall thimbleweed’s (Anemone virginiana) white flower petals aren’t petals at all; they’re sepals and they don’t last very long. Almost every time I see them they have either turned green or are in the process of doing so, so seeing them in white is always a treat. There are usually plenty of yellowish stamens surrounding a center head full of pistils though. The seed head continues growing after the sepals have fallen off and it becomes thimble shaped, which is where the common name comes from. These flowers are close to the diameter of a quarter; about an inch. There is another plant called thimble berry but that is the purple flowering raspberry, like the one we’ll see a little later in this post.

Privet (Ligustrum vulgare) is in the same family (Oleaceae) as lilacs and that should come as no surprise when you look closely at the small flower heads. Privet is a quick growing shrub commonly planted in rows and used as hedging because they respond so well to shearing. Originally from Europe and Asia it is considered invasive in some areas. It has been used by mankind as a privacy screen for a very long time; Pliny the Elder knew it well. Its flexible twigs were once used for binding and the name Ligustrum comes from the Latin ligare, which means “to tie.”

Pretty little blue toadflax (Nuttallanthus canadensis) is one of our longest blooming wildflowers, starting in May and often going right up until a heavy frost. Since blue is my favorite color I’m always happy to see it. Its common name comes from its leaves, which look like flax leaves, and when a heavy enough insect lands on the protruding lip of the flower a (toad’s) “mouth” will open so the insect can get at the nectar which is found in the long, curved nectar spur at the rear of each blossom.

Motherwort’s (Leonurus cardiaca) tiny flowers grow in a whorl around the stem in the leaf axils. This plant, originally from Asia, is considered an invasive weed but I don’t see it that often and I don’t think I’ve ever seen more than 2 or 3 plants growing together. At a glance it might resemble one of the nettle family but the square stems show it to be in the mint family.It was brought to this country because of its long history of medicinal use in Europe and Asia. The ancient Greeks and Romans used motherwort medicinally and it is still used today to decrease nervous irritability and quiet the nervous system. There is supposed to be no better herb for strengthening and gladdening the heart, and it is sold in powdered and liquid form. Note the second part of its scientific name: cardiaca.

The tiny flowers of motherwort are very hairy and look like a microscopic orchid. They’re also very hard to get a good shot of because of both their size and color. It usually takes me many tries to get a shot like this and it did this year.

I’ve shown partridgeberry (Mitchella repens) here many times over the years but this time I was quick enough to catch its pretty pink buds. Partridgeberry flowers always appear in pairs because they share a single ovary. If they’re pollinated they’ll produce a single red berry which will have two dimples on it, showing where each flower was. Partridgeberry is one of the lowest growing evergreen plants on the forest floor, hardly growing more than 3 or 4 inches high. Plants have a vining habit but do not climb. Instead they form dense mats by spreading their trailing stems out to about a foot from the crown.

The 4 petaled, pinkish, fringed, fragrant, half inch long partridgeberry flowers appear in June and July. The berries remain on the plant for long periods unless eaten, and can often still be found the following spring. Other names for this plant include twinberry and two-eyed berry. I like the leaves as well, which always look as if they were hammered out of a sheet of metal.

Purple flowering raspberry (Rubus odoratus) is in the rose family and the 2 inch wide flowers might look like a rose at a glance. It has no thorns like roses or raspberries, however. The fruit looks like a large raspberry but is on the tart, dry side and it gives the plant the name of thimble berry. It has large, light gathering, maple shaped leaves and is quite shade tolerant. Flowering raspberry landed me a job once when an elderly gentleman said “If you can tell me what the plants in this hedge are, I’ll hire you.” I said “Flowering raspberry,” and he said “You’re hired.” He was one of the nicest people I’ve ever known and I worked for him for many years after that hedge side meeting.

I was shocked when I stopped along a road to see lupines and found sweet William (Dianthus barbatus) growing with them, presumably seeded there by the highway department along with the lupines. Sweet William is an old fashioned garden favorite which I’ve always loved, especially for its spicy sweet fragrance. It is a biennial plant native to southern Europe and parts of Asia, and though it is said to be naturalized in this country I’ve never seen it outside of a garden until now. Nobody seems to know how it got its common name but with flowers that pretty I doubt anyone really cares.

Black elderberries (Sambucus nigra) have just started blooming along streams and on the edges of swamps. The bushes can get quite big with large white, flat flowerheads.

Each flower in a black elderberry will become a small purple berry (drupe) so dark it is almost black. A drupe is a fleshy fruit with a single seed like a peach or cherry. Native Americans dried the fruit for winter use and soaked the berry stems in water to make a black dye for basketry.

If you take the time to stop and really look at an elderberry you find that the large, flat flower heads are made up of hundreds of tiny, beautiful flowers. Each flower is only 1/4 inch across, and has 5 white petals or lobes, 5 yellow tipped stamens and 3 very small styles that fall off early after blooming.

The best thing about humble little pineapple weed (Matricaria discoidea) is how it will immediately put a huge grin on a child’s face when it is crushed and put under their nose. They just can’t believe what they’re smelling. Some think this flower looks and smells like chamomile with all the petals missing, and I’ve heard it makes a good tea. It is a native plant that was used extensively by Native Americans. Next time you see one why not give it a sniff? It’s like taking the fast train right back to childhood.

Knapweeds can be tricky to identify but I think this is brown knapweed (Centaurea jacea,) which is considered highly invasive in parts of the country. Even so it is used by the highway department to stabilize embankments as this plant was doing. I’ve always liked its unusual flowers.

The irises have been truly remarkable this year. On and on they went, blooming like I’ve never seen, but I’m afraid it’s time to say goodbye for this year. It was a pleasure.

We have at least two types of dewberry growing here, northern or common dewberry (Rubus flagellaris) and swamp or bristly dewberry (Rubus hispidus) Each grow a black berry which is similar to a small black raspberry. I see bristly dewberry like that in the photo almost everywhere I go, along trails and in forest clearings. Both plants are woody vines that can grow to 15 feet under optimum conditions, and both are prickly. Swamp dewberry as its name implies, likes slightly wetter places.

White avens (Geum canadense) has started blooming a little early this year. Each flowers is about a half inch across with 5 white petals and many anthers. The anthers start out white and then turn brown and you usually find both on each flower. Each flower becomes a seed head with hooked seeds that will stick to hair or clothing. It’s a pretty little thing that is easy to miss, mostly because it resembles other flowers.

Moneywort (Lysimachia nummularia ) is a low growing, vining plant. It is also called wandering Jenny, creeping Jenny, running Jenny, wandering sailor, wandering tailor, creeping Charlie, creeping Joan, herb two pence, and two penny grass. This plant was imported from Europe for use as a groundcover in gardens but has escaped and is now often found in wet areas. The common name moneywort comes from the round leaves resembling coins. (?) Moneywort is quite noticeable because its yellow flowers are quite large for such a ground hugging plant. One story about moneywort says that when snakes get bruised or wounded they turn to moneywort for healing. This gave the plant yet another common name: Serpentaria.

Snowberry flowers (Symphoricarpos albus) ended up in my too hard basket a couple of years ago after I had tried hundreds of times to get a decent photo of them. I admitted defeat and told myself I’d probably never try again, but then the other day I saw a fine shot of one on Mr. Tootlepedal’s blog and I knew it could be done, so I had to try again. Finally, after several years and many blown photos, here it is.

Here’s a closer look. This flower is so very small I’m really not sure how to describe it but it could easily hide behind a new spring pea. I was very surprised to see how hairy they were. Native snowberry is a rather old fashioned shrub in the honeysuckle family which has been grown in gardens for a very long time, probably for its shade tolerance. Each flower, if pollinated, will become a half inch diameter white berry which usually appear in clusters. The toxic berries persist through winter, as the common name implies. By the way, if you aren’t reading Mr. Tootlepedal’s blog you’re missing a real treat. He can be found over in the “Favorite Links” section on the right.

This is the first time treacle mustard (Erysimum cheiranthoides) has appeared on this blog because I’ve never seen it before now. It is a winter annual plant that was about a foot tall in this example but I’ve read that it can reach 2 feet. The pretty, bright yellow flowers are small at only 1/4 inch across, and their 4 petals point directly toward the mustard family. The long, slender seedpods also speak of the mustards.

Treacle mustard’s leaves are long and narrow, with widely spaced teeth along their margins. According to Wikipedia the plant is also called “wormseed mustard” from the way the seeds of the plant were once added to treacle to treat intestinal worms in children. Treacle is a syrup made from the liquid that remains after sugar is refined, or from molasses. It sounds like a spoonful of sugar helped the medicine go down.

Since it’s so close to the fourth of July I thought I’d end with some floral fireworks called tall meadow rue (Thalictrum pubescens.) The plant always blooms for the 4th and the orange tipped flowers always remind me of “bombs bursting in air.” Flowers on both male and female plants lack petals and have only anthers (male) or pistils (female). These are male flowers in this photo. Every year when independence day comes around I know it’s time to watch for these beautiful little things.

The garden of the world has no limits, except in your mind. ~Rumi

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Common foxglove (Digitalis purpurea) blooms here and there along the edges of woodlands, and about mid-June is when I first start seeing it. I don’t see it in the wild that often but it seems to escape gardens and find places that suit its temperament and there it stays, sometimes forming small colonies. There were 5 or 6 plants in this group and they were beautiful. The plant is originally from Europe but it could hardly be called invasive.

I always like to try to get a bee’s eye view of foxglove blossoms. The lower lip protrudes a bit to give bees a landing pad, and from there they follow the spots, which are nectar guides, up to the top of the blossom where they find the nectar. While the bee is busy with the nectar the anthers above it rub on its back and deposit the flower’s pollen, which will then be taken to another blossom. If successfully pollinated a foxglove plant can produce from one to two million seeds.

These foxglove blossoms looked quite different with their somewhat pinched openings. I don’t know if I saw them before they had fully opened or if this is some type of natural cross with this habit. In old England picking foxglove was unlucky, and its blooms were forbidden inside because it was believed that they gave witches access to the house. I tried to think back to all the times I might have picked it and find that there are maybe two. It isn’t a plant that makes me want to pick it like a daisy or a rose might.

I’m always of two minds when it comes to black eyed Susans (Rudbeckia.) Though I like to see them I think of them as a fall flower, so in my mind June always seems far too early for them to appear. Are they really blooming earlier these days or have they always bloomed in June? Maybe I just wasn’t paying attention. I did notice that this one had a lot of red in its petals, but only on half the flower.

Native spreading dogbane (Apocynum androsaemifolium) is a perennial wildflower that looks like a two foot tall shrub. It spreads by both seeds and underground stems and is considered a weed in some places. I find large colonies of it growing in sandy soil along sunny forest edges. The plant in related to milkweed and many species of butterflies rely on it.

Spreading dogbane has small, light pink, bell shaped flowers that have deeper pink stripes on their insides. They are fragrant but their scent is hard to describe. Spicy maybe. This plant is pollinated by butterflies and the flowers have barbs inside that trap short tongued insects. That’s how it gets another of its common names: flytrap dogbane. Each flower is just big enough to hold a pea.

The name peached leaved bluebells (Campanula persicifolia) comes from this plant’s leaves resembling those of the peach tree. I’ve read that it grows in the Alps and other mountain ranges in Europe, but its natural habitat is woodland margins, rocky outcrops in broad-leaved woods, meadows and stream banks. It is very easy to grow-literally a “plant it and forget it” perennial and it is said to be an English cottage garden classic.

Catalpa (Catalpa speciosa) trees can be messy but they’re one of our most beautiful trees. Imagine a tree covered in large white, orchid like blossoms and you’ll have a good idea of the catalpa. This tree is used ornamentally, but it needs plenty of room because it gets very large. When I was in grade school I had to walk under a big catalpa tree to get to school and I loved seeing it bloom because that meant school was almost over for the summer. In the fall when school started again the trees were filled with what looked like string beans. Each catalpa flower becomes a long, bean like seed pod and we called them string bean trees. Luckily we were never foolish enough to eat any of the “beans” because they’re toxic. Then the leaves, as big as our heads, began to turn yellow and fall before too long. They were the biggest leaves any of us had ever seen, but we were only in second grade.

At 1-2 inches across catalpa tree flowers are large and beautiful. The word catalpa comes from the Native American Cherokee tribe. Other tribes called it catawba. Some tribes used its inner bark to make a tea which had a sedative effect and is said to be mildly narcotic. The bark tea was also used to treat malaria.

White daisy fleabane flowers (Erigeron strigosus) can appear pink in the right light, as these did. This plant will bloom right up until fall, when it will sometimes be confused with asters. I regularly find fleabane growing in sunny spots quite deep in the woods where you wouldn’t expect it to be.

The first perforate St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum) flowers have appeared and they’re beautiful as always. Originally from Europe, St. John’s wort has been used medicinally for thousands of years. It likes to grow in open meadows in full sun. The leaves are yellow-green in color with scattered translucent dots of glandular tissue, and that’s where the perforatum part of the scientific name comes from. These dots can be seen better when held up to the light but you can just see them in the small leaf in the lower center, partially hidden by the flower. They do make the leaf look perforated with pin holes.

Five pale yellow heart shaped petals surround a center packed with 30 stamens and many pistils in a sulfur cinquefoil blossom (Potentilla recta.) Close to the center each petal looks like it was daubed with a bit of deeper yellow. This is a very rough looking, hairy plant that was originally introduced from Europe. It grows in unused pastures and along roadsides but it is considered a noxious weed in some areas because it out competes grasses. I like its soft, butter yellow color.

White campion (Silene latifolia) can sometimes shade towards pink but this one was pure white. You can see the deep cleft or split in the petals, which is a good way to identify it. It has 5 petals that at first glance look like 10. This plant is dioecious, meaning that male and female flowers are borne on different plants. One way to tell if a flower is male or female is by counting the veins on the bladder (calyx) behind it. Male plants have 10 parallel veins on their calyx and females have 20. This well-known plant was introduced from Europe and prefers fields and waste places with soil on the dry side.

Catchfly (Silene armeria) is an unusual plant that I rarely see. I’ve seen four or five of them this year, but all in the same general area. It is originally from Europe and is also called sweet William catchfly. It is said to be an old fashioned garden plant in Europe and is supposed to be a “casual weed” in New Hampshire. The name catchfly comes from the sticky sap it produces along its stem. I’ve felt it and it is indeed quite sticky. Small insects are said to get caught in it and I can see how that would happen. Its leaves and stems are a smooth blue grayish color and along with the small pinkish purple flowers they made for a very pretty little plant that I’m hoping to see more of.

Crown vetch (Securigera varia) has just come into bloom and I’m happy to see it because I think it’s a beautiful flower, even if it is invasive. It’s another one of those that often seem to glow with their own inner light and I enjoy just looking at it for a time. Crown vetch has seed pods look that like axe heads and English botanist John Gerard called the plant axewort and axeseed in 1633. It is thought that its seeds somehow ended up in other imported plant material because the plant was found in New York in 1869. By 1872 it had become naturalized in New York and now it is in every state in the country except Alaska.

Tickseed coreopsis (Coreopsis lanceolata) gets its common name from the way that its seeds cling to clothing like ticks. The plant is also called lance leaved coreopsis and that is where the lanceolata part of the scientific name comes from. Coreopsis is found in flower beds as well as in the wild and can form large colonies if left alone. It is often used to stabilize embankments as can be seen in the above photo.

The pretty, bright yellow flowers of tickseed coreopsis are about an inch and a half across and stand at the top of thin, wiry stems. This is a native plant with a cousin known as greater tickseed that grows in the south. It can be a bit weedy in a garden but the seedlings are easily recognizable and usually pull easily.

Red clover is doing well this year and I’m very happy that I can say that, but it wasn’t always so; there was a time when I cursed this plant. It was an ugly, ungainly weed that was hard to pull, looked terrible when it was mowed or weedwhacked, and quickly made a garden look there was no gardener tending it.

But then one evening a single ray of sunlight fell on a red clover blossom at the edge of the woods and I went and knelt by it to take its photo. I think it was really more practice photo than anything; after all who would want to see a photo of an ugly old weed? But then I saw the beauty of each tiny orchid like flower, and how each one had an inner light shining out from it. I have never looked down on it or any other plant or flower since. Telling this story always reminds me of the words from the hymn Amazing Grace: “I once was blind but now I see,” because that’s truly the way it happens. Your eyes can be opened to whatever they fail to see in a millisecond, even when what they fail to see is you.

Heal all (Prunella lanceolata) is also called self-heal and has been used medicinally since ancient times. It is said to cure everything from sore throats to heart disease, and that’s how it got its common name. Some botanists believe that there are two varieties of the species; Prunella vulgaris from Europe, and Prunella lanceolata from North America. Native Americans drank a tea made from the plant before a hunt because they believed that it helped their eyesight. To me heal all flowers always look like they’re shouting “Yay!” Why would they be so happy? Because they’re alive. They exist. All of nature is in a state of ecstasy because it simply is. That’s another lesson nature tries to teach us, but we’re usually far too busy to pay attention.

Common speedwell (Veronica officinalis) is another common weed, maybe not hated but certainly stepped on by many a heel because of its ground hugging, sprawling habit. But as is often the case when you really look at some neglected thing, you find beauty. Common speedwell has been used medicinally for centuries in Europe and its leaves were used as a tea substitute there. Though it isn’t really invasive it is considered an agricultural weed. It sends up its vertical flower stalks in May and each flower stalk (Raceme) has many very small blue flowers streaked with dark purple lines. They’re beautiful little things, but they sure aren’t easy to photograph.

The aspirin size flowers of white wood sorrel (Oxalis montana) are smaller than the leaves and hide beneath them, so you have to look closely to find them. Looking for them always makes me feel like I’m sneaking up on a rabbit or a deer or some other shy creature.

It’s worth looking closely, because white wood sorrel flowers are pin striped and very beautiful. This plant is scarce here; I’ve seen it in only two places.

This shot of ox-eye daisies is for Ginny, who a couple of posts ago admired the way they stood so straight and tall compared to garden variety Shasta daisies, which flop all around. These examples were some of the tallest I’ve ever seen, and stood ramrod straight. They proved her point perfectly.

Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them.  ~A.A. Milne

Thanks for coming by. Happy Summer!

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Last Sunday I decided, for no particular reason, to visit Goose Pond in Keene. This was my favorite view from that outing.

Goose pond is part of a five hundred acre wilderness area that isn’t that far from downtown Keene. It  was called Crystal Lake and / or Sylvan Lake in the early 1900s. The pond was artificially enlarged to 42 acres in 1865 so the town of Keene would have a water supply to fight fires with. Wooden pipe fed 48 hydrants by 1869 but the town stopped using the pond as a water supply in the 1930s, and in 1984 it was designated a wilderness area. The vast forest tract surrounding the pond has been left virtually untouched since the mid-1800s, and it is indeed wilderness.

This is one of many approaches to the pond. It’s the one I usually take, which is steadily uphill but not too exhausting.

I was surprised to see shining sumac (Rhus copallinum) here. I’ve only seen this plant in two or three other places so it seems to be on the rare side in this area. It is also called flame leaf sumac, dwarf sumac, or winged sumac. This example had been cut and was only knee high but I’ve read that they can reach about 8-10 feet. The foliage turns a beautiful, brilliant orange-red in fall.

I thought this witch hazel was rushing the season just a bit.

I saw one of the biggest pink lady’s slippers (Cypripedium acaule) I’ve ever seen on this day. The plant was probably twice the size of my hand with its big leaves when usually they are barely as big as your hand. There was no flower of course but there was a seed pod.

And here is the seed pod, with what is left of what appears to be a very large flower dangling from its end. These seed pods contain between 10,000 and 20,00 tiny, dust like seeds. According to the U.S. Forest Service “The seeds require threads of a fungus  in the Rhizoctonia genus to break them open and attach them to it. The fungus will pass on food and nutrients to the pink lady’s slipper seed. When the lady’s slipper plant is older and producing most of its own nutrients, the fungus will extract nutrients from the orchid roots. This mutually beneficial relationship between the orchid and the fungus is known as “symbiosis” and is typical of almost all orchid species.” This is why it is waste of time to collect orchids or orchid seed from the wild and expect them to grow in your yard.

The various views of the water from along the trail were very pleasing on this day. This is a not very good shot of the island that I took with my phone. I wanted to keep it because I camped on islands in a few different area lakes when I was younger, but never this one. There was a chance of thunderstorms on this day and the island reminded me that there’s nothing quite like riding out a thunderstorm on an island in the middle of a lake. There’s nowhere to run and nowhere to hide but when it’s over you feel more alive than you’ve ever felt.

This old tree stump showed that the water level had dropped about an inch, despite recent rains. The photo made it look almost as if the scene were floating in the sky.

For the first time ever I saw new spring, purple colored seed cones on an eastern hemlock. I was stunned, since my house is virtually surrounded by the trees. I think I’m always more amazed by what I don’t see than what I do. I can’t explain how I’ve missed them all these years, but they are the smallest cones of any conifer in this region.

Goose pond is unusual because it has a wide trail that goes all the way around it. This part of the trail is really much darker than my cell phone made it look.

There are two or three bridges here to help one across inflowing streams but there are also other crossings that have wet stones instead of bridges, so sturdy waterproof hiking boots are a good idea here. Walking poles too if your balance isn’t what it once was.

Most of the streams aren’t that deep but if you step in the right spot you might find water pouring into your boot.  

Brittle cinder fungus (Kretzschmaria deusta) starts life as a beautiful gray and white crust-like fungus in the spring, but before long it grows into something quite different.

As this photo taken a few years ago shows, a brittle cinder fungus like that shown in the previous photo becomes what looks like a shiny lump of coal. Though I’ve only seen this fungus on standing dead trees and logs it will attack live trees and is said to be aggressive. Once it gets into a wound on the tree’s roots or trunk it begins to break down the cellulose and lignin and causes soft rot. The tree is then doomed, though it may live on for a few to even several more years.

Blue flags (Iris versicolor) bloomed here and there at the edge of the water.

They were just about at the end of their run and looked a bit ragged, but still beautifully colored.

This is a time of year when we see heavy pollen production, especially from white pine trees. A lot of that pollen falls onto the water of ponds and lakes and will collect in the shallows. This frog didn’t look too happy about it.

Northern bush honeysuckles (Diervilla lonicera) were showing their tubular, pale yellow flowers. This low growing shrub is interesting because of its orange inner bark. It isn’t a true honeysuckle, but gets its common name from its opposite leaves that resemble honeysuckles. It’s a pretty little thing that is native to eastern North America.

What I think was a red spotted purple butterfly ( Limenitis arthemis astyanax) landed on a log a few feet away but it didn’t turn to give me a chance for a good shot. It wanted to look rather than to be looked at, so I didn’t bother it and let it look. I hope one of its cousins will be more willing to have its photo shown here in the future.

There are quite a few stands of hobblebush (Viburnum lantanoides) here and, though most had been heavily browsed by deer or moose, this one had produced berries. They’ll go from green to red to finally a deep purple. In this photo you can see the dark wire-like stems of hobblebush, which gets its name from the way it can “hobble” or trip up a horse. (Or a man.) Viburnums have been used by man in many ways since before recorded history. The 5,000 year old “Iceman” found frozen in the Alps was carrying arrow shafts made from a European Viburnum wood.

I though this clubmoss was beautiful with its ring of lighter new spring growth.

This is just another of far too many photos of the pond that I took. It’s hard not to admire such a beautiful, pristine place.

I usually go clockwise around the pond and when I do that, this odd stone is one of the last things I see before arriving back where I started. The soil has finally washed away from the far end enough so I could see that it’s only about a foot and a half long. It has been cut, and is faced of all four sides with sharp, 90 degree corners. It’s far too short to be a fence post but in the 1800s people didn’t spend hours of their time working on something like this for no reason, so it was used for something. How it ended up out here partially buried in the middle of the trail will always be a mystery.

Goose pond is a great place to have a hike, especially in the morning. It can get quite warm even in a forest and this day was like that even though I was there by 9:30 am. It takes me about two hours to hike all the way around the pond but I can see a teenager doing it in maybe 30 minutes. It depends on how many things you stop to admire. There are people fishing and swimming and dog walking and even bike riding but all in all it’s a quiet, enjoyable place for a walk or for even simply sitting and enjoying nature. Beside the stream in this photo would be a great place for that.

Go slow, my life, go slow. Let me enjoy the beauty of silence, serenity, and solitude. ~Debasish Mridha

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Our beautiful fragrant white water lilies (Nymphaea odorata) have just started blooming but as this photo shows, the leaves are already being eaten. Each blossom lasts only 3 days before the stems coil and pull them underwater to set seeds, but there are so many of them constantly coming into bloom it seems like the flowers last all summer. This is the most beautiful of all our aquatics, in my opinion. Some say the scent reminds them of honeydew melon. 

I don’t know if I could think of a more beautiful name for a plant than “fawn’s breath.” This plant (Gillenia trifoliata) gets that name from the way that its very pretty flowers dance at the ends of long stems at even the hint of a breeze. Even presumably, the breath of a fawn can set them dancing. It is also called bowman’s root but I’ve never been able to discover why. This is a native plant which grows in 21 of the lower 48 states but here I have to find it in gardens. The roots of the plant were used as a laxative by Native Americans so it is also called Indian physic.

My color finding software calls this color “plum,” “rose,” or “orchid” but many websites call it pink. Since the plant is named maiden pink (Dianthus deltoids) that would make sense, but colorblindness means my opinion doesn’t really matter. Whatever color it is that these eyes see is beautiful.

And whatever color you choose to see them as will be beautiful as well. Maiden pinks are originally from Europe and have escaped cultivation but they aren’t terribly invasive. They seem to prefer the edges of open lawns and meadows but they will also grow in abandoned lots and other waste areas in almost pure sand. I’ve read that the name “pinks” comes from the way the outer edges look as if they were cut with pinking shears but I don’t know how true that is. I’m sure the flowers have been here longer than pinking shears.

You might have noticed some small yellow flowers in that photo of maiden pinks. They were the flowers of silver leaved cinquefoil (Potentilla argentea.) It is not silverweed (Potentilla anserina) and shouldn’t be confused with that plant. It comes from Europe and is considered invasive but it is quite pretty and it can often be found in the same areas that maiden pinks grow in. The leaves are silvery white on their undersides, and that’s where the common name comes from.

In this part of the state the only lupines that could be thought of as wild are the ones that grow along the sides of highways, but they are not truly wild because the seed was put down by the highway department when the roadsides were redone. I knew of two places where these highway lupines grew but this year there wasn’t a sign of them, so this one comes to you from a local park. Tame or wild doesn’t matter really. It’s their beauty that matters and these had lots of it.

It’s clematis time and I like this one very much. It comes from the bud dark as you see here and over the course of time it lightens to a paler blue with a darker stripe down the center of each petal.

I believe its name is Ramona.

And here is Loreley. (Lorelei) The name refers to the sirens that would perch on cliffs along the Rhine and entice sailors to their doom with their enchanting song, much like the sirens who lured Ulysses and his crew in the Odyssey. It was introduced in Germany in 1909 and its beauty has been pleasing people ever since. Indeed this iris has pleased me my entire life. My mother planted it before she died and if I were to search my memory for a flower as far back as I could reach, this is the one I would find there. I’ve carried both the memory and the actual plant with me throughout my entire life.

This iris lives in the water at the edge of ponds and rivers and though it might have enticed a sailor or two it has pleased few people in this country, because it is very aggressively invasive. I once saw a small pond that was so full of them nothing else could grow there so that’s why, even though it is exceedingly beautiful, it is hated by many. It is the yellow flag (Iris pseudacorus) and it is originally from Europe. It was introduced here in the mid-1800s as a garden plant. Of course it escaped and began to naturalize and was reported near Poughkeepsie, New York in 1868 and in Concord, Massachusetts in 1884. Today it considered highly invasive and its sale and distribution is banned in New Hampshire. As you can see though it distributes itself, and how do you ban that?

Orange hawkweed (Pilosella aurantiaca) is also from Europe and is also considered invasive but the difference between it and the yellow flag iris is that it isn’t aggressive. I see thousands of examples of yellow hawkweed for every one orange hawkweed and I’m not sure why that is. The color orange is virtually invisible to bees so that might account for its relative scarcity here. In fact orange wildflowers as a group are hard to find. The only other orange wildflower I can think of is jewelweed (Impatiens capensis.)

Sheep laurel (Kalmia angustifolia) is blooming and I love its dime size purple flowers with their ten anthers all tucked into their own pockets. It is thought that by having the pollen bearing anthers in  pockets like they do laurels keep the pollen from being washed away by rain, but I don’t think that is a scientific fact. What is a fact is the anthers reside in the pockets under tension, so when a heavy enough insect lands on the flower the spring loaded anthers release from their pockets and dust it with pollen.

For years I’ve gone back and forth on whether these were sheep laurel or bog laurel. Since I kept finding them growing in standing water I thought they were bog laurels, but sheep laurels are the only ones that have flower clusters with new growth coming out below to grow up around them, and the photo above matches more than a handful of examples I have seen online. It took a while to see this clearly but luckily I have helpers who often gently prod me in the correct direction. I’m very lucky to have them and grateful that I do.  

I once gardened for a lady who absolutely despised anemones and forbade me to plant any in her yard. She never told me why she didn’t like them but she had spent considerable time in Europe and the Middle East so I assumed she must have foreign anemones (maybe windflowers?) in mind. When I pointed out that the white flowers that grew in one corner of her recently purchased yard were anemones she was surprised but she also thought they were pretty, and said they could stay. Of course they were native meadow anemones (Anemone canadensis.)

Meadow anemone is an old fashioned garden favorite that has much larger flowers than our other native wood anemone. Though it seems to spread out in a garden it’s easy to control. It’s also called crowfoot because of the foliage and it is also known as Canada anemone. Native Americans used this plant medicinally and its root and leaves were one of the most highly regarded medicines of the Omaha and Ponca tribes. It was used as an eye wash, an antiseptic, and to treat headaches and dizziness. The root was chewed to clear the throat so a person could sing better, but I’d want to find out what toxins it might contain before I tried it.

Pretty little bird’s foot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus) has come into bloom. It is in the legume family and grows about a foot tall, and is a common sight along roadsides and waste areas. It gets its common name from its clusters of brown, 1 inch long seed pods, which someone thought looked like a bird’s foot. The plant has 3 leaflets much like clover and was introduced from Europe as livestock feed, but has escaped and is now considered invasive in many areas. It can form large mats that choke out natives.

The flowers on our native viburnums like the maple leaf viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium) shown will almost always have five petals, and the leaves though quite different in shape throughout the viburnum family, are usually dull and not at all glossy. In fact I can’t think of one with shiny leaves. Each flattish maple leaved viburnum flower head is made up of many small, quarter inch, not very showy white flowers. If pollinated each flower will become a small deep purple berry (drupe) that birds love to eat. This small shrub doesn’t mind dry shade and that makes it a valuable addition to a native wildflower garden. The Native American Chippewa tribe used the inner bark of this plant to relieve stomach pains. What I like most about this little shrub is how its leaves turn so many colors in fall. They can be pink, purple, red, yellow, and orange and combinations of two or three, and are really beautiful.

Multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora) has beautiful small white (rarely pink) flowers that are about an inch across but unfortunately it is very invasive and forms prickly thickets that nobody I know would dare to try and get through. It is from Japan and Korea and grows to huge proportions, arching up over shrubs and sometimes growing 20-30 feet up into trees. A large plant bearing hundreds of blossoms is a truly beautiful thing but its thorny thickets prevent all but the smallest animals from getting where they want to go. Its sale is banned in New Hampshire but since each plant can easily produce half a million seeds I think it’s here to stay.

I love to look deep into a multiflora rose blossom, and I love to smell their heavenly fragrance. It’s very easy to understand why it was originally brought here.

I am always reminded each spring that one of the great delights of wandering in the New Hampshire woods is the amazing fragrance of wild grape flowers that wafts on the breeze. Their perfume can be detected from quite a distance so I usually let my nose lead me to them.

I’m always surprised that such a big scent comes from such tiny flowers, each no bigger than the head of a match. Each will become a grape when pollinated. We have a few varieties of wild grape here in New Hampshire including fox grapes (Vitis  fruitlabrusca), and frost or river grapes (Vitis riparia.) The fruit is an important food source for everything from birds to bears.

Common yarrow (Achillea millefolium) has been used medicinally for nobody knows how long; it has even been found in Neanderthal graves. The scientific name Achillea comes from the legend of Achilles carrying the plant into battle so it could be used to staunch the flow of blood from his soldier’s wounds. Yarrow was a valuable healing herb, one of the nine “holy herbs,” and was traded throughout the world since before recorded time, and that is believed to be the reason for the plant being found in nearly every country on earth today.

Lesser stitchwort (Stellaria graminea) flowers are small but there are enough of them so the plant can’t be missed. They grow at the edges of fields and pastures, and along pathways. The stems of this plant live through the winter so it gets a jump on the season, often blooming in May. It is a native of Europe and is also called chickweed. The 5 petals of the lesser stitchwort flower are split deeply enough to look like 10 petals and this is one way to tell it from greater stitchwort (Stellaria holostea,) which has its 5 petals split only half way down their length. The common name Stitchwort refers to the plant being used in herbal remedies to cure the pain in the side that we call a stitch. It is also called starwort and I love seeing its pretty flowers twinkling in the tall grasses that they grow among.

Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray. ~Rumi

Thanks for coming by.

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