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Posts Tagged ‘New Hampshire Forests’

1. Summer Flowers

This is the time of year that our roadside landscapes begin to look like a Monet painting. Right now purple loosestrife dominates with sprinkles of goldenrod here and there. Soon we’ll see the pink of Joe Pye weed and the white of asters and boneset.

2. Groundnut aka Apios americana

The chocolaty brown flowers of the groundnut (Apias Americana) are among the most unusual flowers seen at this time of year. They are borne on a vine that twines its way among other sunny meadow plants. This plant is also called potato bean because of the walnut sized, edible tubers that grow along its underground stem. They are said to taste like turnips and were a favorite of Native Americans.

3. Spotted Touch Me Not

I tried to get a bee’s eye view looking into a spotted touch me not blossom (Impatiens capensis.) When I saw the photo I could see that I had failed that but I was surprised when I saw so much red on the lip of the blossom. It looked like candle wax had dripped on it. This plant gets its common name from the way its seed pods snap and release the seeds when touched. Other names include orange Jewelweed, common jewelweed, spotted jewelweed, and orange balsam.  The name “jewelweed” comes from the way that raindrops sparkle on its wax coated leaves.

4. Showy Tick Trefoil

Showy tick trefoil (Desmodium canadense) 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. The “showy” part of its common name comes from the way that so many of its small pink flowers bloom at once. 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.

5. Gray Goldenrod

Gray goldenrod (Solidago nemoralis) always looks like it has been in a strong wind with all of its flowers blown over to one side of the stem, but this is the way it grows naturally. It is one of the earliest blooming goldenrods, coming along right after early goldenrod (Solidago juncea.) It can be seen leaning out of the growth at the edge of forests, reaching for the sun.

6. Joe Pye Weed

I think our native Joe Pye weed (Eutrochium purpureum) is at its most colorful when it is in bud, just before it blooms. There are many varieties of Joe Pye weed and some are sold in garden centers. They can get up to 7 feet tall and often tower over other plants. They are named after Joe Pye, who the latest research says was a Mohegan sachem (chief) that lived in western Massachusetts and saved early European settlers from typhus by brewing a tea made from this plant. Joseph Pye was educated by Samson Occam, himself a Mohegan herbalist and Christian convert who kept an extensive diary.

7. Yellow Toadflax

Yellow toadflax (Linaria vulgaris) was imported from Europe in the mid-1800s as an ornamental and, as the all too familiar story goes, escaped cultivation to become a noxious weed. It’s a pretty weed though, and in this area isn’t as prevalent as our native blue toadflax (Nuttallanthus canadensis.) Blue toadflax seems to be having a banner year. I’ve never seen so much of it, or seen it bloom for so long. Yellow toadflax is very similar to Dalmatian toadflax (Linaria dalmatica,) another import, but Dalmatian toadflax has broad, heart-shaped leaves and yellow toadflax has long, narrow leaves.

8. Tall Blue lettuce

Tall blue lettuce (Lactuca biennis) is an odd plant that can reach 10 feet tall in some cases, with a cluster of small, pencil eraser sized, light blue flowers at the tip of the long stem. I always wonder why the plant needs such a tall stem and such large leaves if it is only going to produce tiny flowers, but that’s nature-it always leaves me guessing. This plant is very similar to wild lettuce (Lactuca canadensis) which bears yellow flowers. Both plants were used medicinally by Native Americans.

9. Hedge Bindweed

When I was a young boy the only hedge bindweed flowers (Calystegia sepium) that I saw had simple white flowers, but over the last few years I’m seeing more with pink and white bi-colored flowers. Each flower usually only lasts for a day, so you’ve got to be quick with the camera if you see one that you like. Hedge bindweed is another plant that was introduced from Europe. As invasive as it is, it isn’t as bad as field bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis,) which is close to impossible to eradicate. Bind weeds are so hard to get rid of because they are perennials, while true morning glories (Ipomoea) are annuals.

 10. Steeple Bush

Steeplebush (Spiraea tomentosa) gets its common name from the shape of its flower clusters. The only other shrub that blooms at the same time and has similar shaped flower clusters is meadowsweet (Spiraea alba,) but it has white flowers. It’s easy to see that steeplebush is related to the Japanese spireas that are used in gardens; the flowers look much the same. Steeplebush likes to be near water and can be found at pond and stream edges. Native Americans used tea made from the plant’s leaves as a medicine.

11. Red Clover 2

There were red clover plants (Trifolium pretense) growing in the shade all along the edge of a field, but this single flower head had a ray of sun pointing right at it, so of course I had to see what made it so special. As I knelt before it to take its photo I could see that it was such a beautiful thing that it was no wonder the sun had chosen to illuminate it.

12. Field Milkwort

On field milkwort plants (Polygala sanguinea) what look like petals arranged on a central stem are actually individual flowers packed into a raceme no bigger than the end of an average index finger. Each tiny overlapping flower has two large sepals, three small sepals, and three small petals that form a narrow tube. Several different kinds of bees help pollinate this plant. Its flowers can be white, purple, pink, or green.

13. Club Spur Orchid

Long time readers of this blog know that part of the reason I spend so much time walking through the woods is because I’m hoping to find orchids. They don’t just grow along the sides of the road here like they do in England and Scotland; here you have to search long and hard to find them, and if I’m lucky I find one new one each year. This year’s find is the northern club spur orchid (Platanthera clavellata v. Ophioglossoides) pictured above.

14. Club Spur Orchid

The northern club spur orchid will most likely never win a blue ribbon at any flower shows but it is a native orchid and I was very happy to find it. This plant has a single leaf and a single flower stalk that grows to about 4 inches tall. The flowers are tiny-no bigger than a pencil eraser-and have long, curved nectar spurs. If the nectar doesn’t work and insects don’t pollinate the flowers the plant can self-pollinate. Its seeds are like dust and are carried by the wind. One unusual thing about the flowers is the slight twist they have in relation to the stem. It is one of the smallest Platanthera species in the northeastern U.S. and likes to grow in wet woods and bogs.

15. Where The Orchids Grow

I’ve tried off and on for years to show you an accurate depiction of what the deep woods of New Hampshire look like but have rejected every attempt. Finally, this photo that I took to lead me back to the northern club spur orchids is the one that shows them best. An old tree fell and opened a gap in the canopy that let in a little sunlight, and that’s probably why the orchids chose to grow here. The forest is a quiet, peaceful place where you can hear the true music of life played as it has been for millions of years.

I did find Calypso [orchids] — but only once, far in the depths of the very wildest of Canadian dark woods, near those high, cold, moss-covered swamps. I felt as if I were in the presence of superior beings who loved me and beckoned me to come. I sat down beside them and wept for joy. ~John Muir

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Last Saturday a good breeze out of the northwest blew away the heat and humidity and, since there was a fall feel to the air, I decided to climb Gap Mountain in Troy, New Hampshire.  Gap Mountain has 3 peaks; north, middle and south, and gets its name from the gap between the middle and southern summits. My GPS said that it was 1.9 miles from the south parking lot to the 1,840 foot high middle summit, but there seems to be a lot of conflicting information online about this distance. The elevation gain is about 640 feet over 1.9 miles for an average 6% grade, again according to my GPS.

1. GM Trail

In the late 1800s there was pasture and farm land all the way to the summit, but now it is heavily forested with second growth forest. This forest is dense enough and has few enough trails to make getting lost a real possibility, but the trail that I used was clearly blazed. It started out easy enough and even went downhill in places, but before too long it became a steady and steep uphill climb.

 2. Indian Tobacco

Indian tobacco (Lobelia inflata) grows all along the trail in sunny spots. This plant’s common name refers to the inflated calyx that is supposed to resemble tobacco pouches carried by Native Americans. Despite its common name it should never be smoked because it is very toxic.

 3. GM Plank Bridge

The trail crosses a stream but this plank bridge keeps your feet dry. This mountain and the 1,160 acre preserve that it sits on are owned and maintained by the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests and open to the public year round, even though there is no winter maintenance.

 4. GM Stream

As you look out at this landscape it’s hard to imagine what it looked like a century ago when it was cleared for farming. Cows or sheep probably regularly drank from this stream.

 5. Hemlock Varnish Bracket Fungus aka Ganoderma tsugae

I saw a large hemlock varnished bracket fungus (Ganoderma tsugae) growing on a huge old hemlock stump. It was about as big as a dinner plate and really did look like someone had varnished it.

 6. GM Boulder

Rocks and tree roots mark the upper part of the trail so you’ve got to watch where you step. The boulders that the farmers left in place were left for a good reason-some are as big as cars.

 7. GM Stairs

Some hiking books and websites (and people) will tell you how easy this trail is. If I was still 30 I’d agree with them but, as an ex-smoker on the downhill slide into 60 years, I looked at these stairs after climbing for close to an hour and thought you have got to be kidding me. I didn’t know it at the time, but they were easy compared to what was to follow.

8. GM Trail 2

It gets a little rocky after the stairs. Easy compared to what, I wondered, Mount Everest?

 9. GM Trail 3

Before long the rocks become boulders and bedrock ledges.  In places you have to use both your hands and feet to crawl up and over them, so if you make this climb you’ll want to make sure your hands are free. I wish I’d known this before I climbed-I was carrying a monopod.

 10. Fringed Loosestrife

Fringed loosestrife (Lysimachia ciliate) has tucked itself in among the boulders and grows profusely near the summit.  This plant gets its common name from the fringe of hairs on its leafstalks. Sometimes the flower petals are also fringed, but not on this example. I was glad to see it because photographing it gave me a good excuse to stop and rest until I was done huffing and puffing.

 11. Apple Tree

Very near the summit is an abandoned apple orchard with quite a few trees that are still producing.  Nearly the entire summit is covered with native high bush blueberries and people climb up here regularly to pick them. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many blueberry bushes growing naturally in one place before. A couple of people were filling plastic containers with them.

 12. Monadnock From GM Summit

When you reach the summit this is the view that greets you. Straight ahead to the north Mount Monadnock rises up out of the forest. At only 3 miles away it seems almost close enough to touch. Mount Monadnock is famous throughout New England and is the second most climbed mountain on earth after Mount Fuji in Japan.  At 3,166 feet it’s high enough to see from just about anywhere in the county.

13. Monadnock From GM Summit

In 1800, fires were intentionally set on Mount Monadnock’s lower slopes to clear them for use as pasture land. Unfortunately the fires burned all the way to the summit, destroying the natural spruce forest that was there. Then in 1820 farmers set fire to the upper slopes to burn out the wolves they thought were living there. That fire burned long enough and hot enough to destroy even the topsoil on the summit and the roots that kept it in place. Before too long rain had washed it all away, leaving the bare granite seen today.

14. View From Gap Mountain

There are great views of the distant hills for nearly 360 degrees from Gap Mountain’s summit.

 15. Gap Mountain Southern Peak

Off to the right (east) as you gaze at Mount Monadnock from the middle peak you see the southern peak looming up above the blueberries and interrupting the 360 degree view. The south peak is completely covered by dense forest and it is said that there are no good views from its summit. It’s a great example of what happens to land in New England that is left alone for a hundred years. This view also looks out over the gap that the mountain is named for.

 16. Gap Mountain from Monadnock

This view of Gap Mountain was taken from a trail on Mount Monadnock. The name of the photographer is unknown.

It wasn’t until I reached the parking lot after the climb down that I saw the notice warning that this was a very strenuous hike over steep terrain. I was glad to know that I hadn’t imagined it.

It’s always further than it looks, it’s always taller than it looks, and it’s always harder than it looks.
 ~The 3 rules of mountaineering

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We have been wet here lately, but have seen more liquid than the white fluffy variety. Still, our local weatherman is hinting at big changes coming next week so we may see some snow before Christmas. Or maybe not-the Weather Channel is saying rain.

1. Misty Forest

It’s getting harder to find the sun lately and the forests look like the one in the picture on most days. Though it’s easy to think that not much is going on in the cold and damp December woods, nothing could be further from the truth-there is still a lot of nature happening.

2. Fallen Tree One of the nice things about this time of year is that you can see the bones of the forest. If all of the underbrush still had leaves I never would have seen this twisted, mossy log.

3. December 3rd Aster

Though it’s not the prettiest aster I’ve seen, this one was still blooming on December 3rd.

 4. December 3rd Mushroom

This pinkish brown mushroom was trying hard on the same day.

5. Fan Shaped Jelly Fungus aks Dacryopinax spathularia

I’ve read that jelly fungi like witch’s butter can absorb so much water when it rains that they turn white. I wondered if the same thing was happening to these- what I think are- fan shaped jelly fungi (Dacryopinax spathularia.)

6. Evergreen Christmas Fern

Some people say that the leaflets (Pinna) of the evergreen Christmas fern ( Polystichum acrostichoides) look like little Christmas stockings. You can see why if you look at the leaflet just to the right of the gap, and right up near the stem in the photo. Each leaflet has a little bump or “ear.” This is the only fern in the New Hampshire woods with this feature, so it makes a Christmas fern very easy to identify. The short leaf stems (petioles,) serrated leaflet margins, and hairy central stem are other things to watch for when looking for this fern.

7. Pixie Cup Lichen

Lichens are also very easy to see at this time of year but some, like these pixie cup lichens (Cladonia pyxidata,) are small enough to still make them challenging to find. A single drop of water would be far too big to fit into one of these little cups.

8. Foliose Lichen

Lichens dry out quickly when it is dry but plump right back up again when it rains, as this foliose lichen shows. It had been drizzling steadily for two days when I took this picture. I haven’t been able to find this lichen in any lichen books or online.

 9. Orange Brown Lichen

I’ve never seen this orange-brown crustose lichen before and can’t find anything like it in Lichens of the North Woods.

 10. Turkey Tails

I’m seeing turkey tail fungi (Trametes versicolor) that are more colorful than those I saw just a month ago. Blue is a hard color to find in nature so the different blues in these examples really caught my eye. I still have a feeling that cold weather has something to do with their color. They seem to be brown/tan in early fall and then as the temperature drops they get more colorful. Of course, it could be that I’m just seeing both brown/tan and colorful varieties. I’ve got to find one example that is easy to get to and watch it over several months.

11. Lemon Drops and Turkey Tails on a Log

The much more common brown turkey tails and lemon drop jelly fungi (Bisporella citrina) decorated the end of this log.

 12. White Cushion Moss

White cushion moss (Leucobryum glaucum) isn’t really white but it does form a cushion. It can also form large mats, but the ball shape shown in the photo is more common. This moss needs plenty of shade and water.

 13. Dead Mushroom Gills

It’s not just growing things that are interesting. I liked the color and shape of this dead mushroom.

14. Woven Beech Trees

This is something I don’t see in the woods every day; when they were much younger than they are now somebody wove these three beech (Fagus) seedlings together. As they grew and finally touched, they rubbed against each other in the wind until the bark had rubbed away. Now they have grown together through inosculation, which is a natural process very similar to the grafting done in orchards. One day they may grow into a single, twisted trunk.

People don’t notice whether it’s winter or summer when they’re happy ~Anton Chekhov

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