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Posts Tagged ‘Oak Leaves’

1-trail

We’ve had two good snowstorms recently about six days apart. The first dropped about six inches and the second about seven inches, so unless we get some rain or warm weather I think it’s safe to say that we’ll have a white Christmas. This view shows a trail around a pond that I follow quite regularly. I wasn’t the first one here on this day.

2-pondside

The pond is frozen but isn’t safe for skating yet. This is a very popular skating place and once the ice is thick enough the City of Keene will plow it so it can be used. Hopefully the ice will be thick enough to plow; the plow truck has ended up on the pond bottom several times over the years. Luckily it isn’t that deep.

3-cattails

Cattails tell you where the solid ground ends and the pond begins. This is a good thing because often unless you know the place well you can’t tell where the land meets water when it’s all covered in snow. That’s especially true along rivers; one year I realized that I was standing on an ice shelf quite a few feet out over a river. Once I stopped shaking I was able to get back on land without getting wet. I’ve made sure never to make that mistake again; people drown by doing such foolish things.

4-pondside

Because it was so cold when it fell the snow was light and fluffy and easy to shovel. Since all it takes is a light breeze to blow such powdery snow around I didn’t think my chances of seeing snowy trees was very good, but thankfully there was no breeze and the trees stayed frosted. In the woods every single thing was covered by a coating of snow.

5-otter

But wait a minute; what is that dark object out there on the ice?  I know this pond well enough to know that there shouldn’t be anything sticking up out of the water in that spot.

6-otter

It was the otter, and this makes the second terrible photo that I’ve taken of it. My camera simply isn’t made for such long shots but I keep trying anyway. Odd that this animal would live here all alone. At least, I’ve never seen more than a single one at a time. I thought they were very social animals and I’m surprised that it hasn’t gone off in search of a mate. It stayed just long enough for a single photo before slipping through a hole. I wondered how it was able to make a hole. Maybe the ice is thin there. The snow plow driver might want to take note.

7-shadows

This view of some blue shadows was taken the day before the latest storm, when the sun was shining.

8-rail-trail

There were snowmobile tracks on this rail trail but snowmobiles must be getting lighter because the snow wasn’t packed down and each step was more of a slide, because there was ice under the snow.

9-snowmobiles

But the snowmobiles weren’t having any trouble. I’m  grateful for snowmobile clubs because if it wasn’t for them many of these trails would have grown over with brush and trees years ago.

10-oak-leaves

I always see pink in certain winter oak leaves and orange in others. My color finding software sees salmon pink in some of these leaves and tan in others.

11-ashuelot-river

I can’t say that I often feel aghast but I felt just that when I saw the Ashuelot River frozen from bank to bank in this spot, because in all the years I’ve been doing this blog it has never frozen here this early. In fact it’s rare for it to freeze here at all, mostly because of the fast current, I think. Apparently below zero temperatures work quickly; we’ve only had one night where they dropped that low.

12-ashuelot-on-12-11-16

This photo was taken just five days before the previous one. Hard to believe I know, but true. As Mark Twain once said: “If you don’t like the weather in New England now, just wait a few minutes.”

13-snowy-branches

The snow on these oak branches told me that there hadn’t been a puff of wind along the river either.

14-asters

What was left of the asters bent under the weight.

15-river-stones

I like how water turns so dark in the winter. I don’t know if the white of the snow makes it seem darker or if it’s a play of the light.

16-swamp

Sharp eyed longtime readers might notice something missing in this shot. There used to be an old dead white pine in this swamp that I called the heron tree.

17-blue-heron-tree

This was what the heron tree looked like on Thanksgiving Day in 2014.  Later, one day I looked for it and it was gone without a trace, as if someone had plucked it like a flower.

18-gb-heron

And this view of the first snow in December of 2013 shows why I called it the heron tree. Herons sat in it regularly and I wonder if they miss it as much as I do.

19-sunlight

No matter how dark the sky is the sun always shines again and the clouds broke on this day to let it shine for all of about 5 seconds while I was out.

There is nothing in the world more beautiful than the forest clothed to its very hollows in snow. It is the still ecstasy of nature, wherein every spray, every blade of grass, every spire of reed, every intricacy of twig, is clad with radiance. ~William Sharp

Thanks for coming by. Happy winter solstice!

 

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1-bare-trees

The above photo makes me feel that I should say good morning, so please consider it done. I saw this scene on my way to work one morning but since I don’t bring the camera that I use for landscape photos to work with me, I had to use my cellphone. It was a cold morning but the pastel sky was plenty beautiful enough to stop and gaze at. My color finding software tells me it was colored  peach puff, papaya whip, and Alice blue. How bare the trees are becoming.

2-dewberry

The swamp dewberries (Rubus hispidus) are certainly colorful this year. In June this trailing vine blooms with white flowers that look a lot like strawberry flowers. The fruit looks more like a black raspberry than anything else and is said to be very sour. Native Americans had many medicinal uses for this plant, including treating coughs, fever and consumption. Swamp dewberry, as its name implies, is a good indicator of a wetland or moist soil that doesn’t dry out.

3-oak-leaves

Some of the smaller oaks are hanging on to their leaves but they’re dropping quickly from the larger trees now.

4-frost-crystals

Jack frost has come knocking. These crystals grew on my windshield overnight and though I wasn’t happy about the cold that made them I was happy to see them, because I love looking at the many  shapes that frost crystals form in.

5-frosted-mushrooms

Frost had found these mushrooms and turned them to purple jelly. I’m not sure what they started life as.

6-frosted-strawberry-leaves

Frost rimmed the edges of these wild strawberry (Fragaria virginiana) leaves too. There is a lot of beauty to be found in the colder months.

7-blue-crust-fungus

At this time of year I always start rolling logs over, hoping to find the beautiful but rare cobalt crust fungus (Terana caerulea,) but usually I find this lighter shade of blue instead. After several years of trying to identify this fungus I’ve finally found a name for it: Byssocorticium atrovirens. Apparently its common name is simply blue crust fungus, which is good because that’s what I’ve been calling it. Crust fungi are called resupinate fungi and have flat, crust like fruiting bodies which usually appear on the undersides of fallen branches and logs. Resupinate means upside down, and that’s what many crust fungi appear to be. Their spore bearing surface can be wrinkled, smooth, warty, toothed, or porous and though they appear on the undersides of logs the main body of the fungus is in the wood, slowly decomposing it. They seem to be the least understood of all the fungi.

8-blanched-moss

While rolling logs over to look for blue crust fungi I found these mosses that had been blanched almost white from having no sunlight reach them. They reminded me of something I’d see on a coral reef under the sea. I’m guessing that they originally grew on the tree in sunlight before it fell, and when it fell they ended up on the underside of the log. The odd part is how they continued to grow even with no sun light. That urge inside of plants that makes them reach for light must be very strong indeed.

9-mount-skatutakee

We seem to be having weekly rainy days now and the drought’s grip on the land is slowly easing. One showery day at about 1:00 pm a sun beam peeked through the clouds just long enough and in just the right spot to light up Mount Skatutakee in Hancock. I always trust that sunbeams falling in a concentrated area like this will show me something interesting because they always have, so now I’m going to have to climb Mount Skatutakee. From what I’ve heard it takes 4 hours but at my pace it will most likely take 6 or more; I’m sure there will be lots of wonders to see. The name Skatutakee is pronounced  Skuh – TOO -tuh – kee and is said to come from two Native American Abenaki words that mean “land” and “fire,” so there might have once been a forest fire there. It certainly looked like it was burning on this day.

10-wind-circles-in-the-sand

We can’t see the wind but we can often see what it has done. In this case it blew a dead plant stalk around in a complete circle and the stalk marked the river sand as it twirled around and around. It’s one of the more unusual things I’ve seen lately.

11-common-stinkhorn

I don’t see many stinkhorn fungi and I’ve wondered if that was because I wasn’t looking in the right place. This example was sticking out of a very old and very rotted yellow birch log. It is the common stinkhorn (Phallus impudicus) and I have to say that, even though stinkhorns are said to have an odor like rotting meat, I didn’t smell a thing when I was taking its photo. The green conical cap is also said to be slimy but it didn’t look it. This mushroom uses its carrion like odor to attracts insects, which are said to disperse its sticky spores.

12-common-stinkhorn

It’s friend took a turn. Whether it was for the better or worse I don’t know. The old birch log it was on must have had 8-10 different kinds of mushrooms growing on it.

13-false-turkey-tail-stereum-ostrea

False turkey tail fungus (Stereum ostrea) looks a lot like true turkey tail fungus (Trametes versicolor) but it doesn’t have pores on its underside and I find that it often comes in shades of orange. It always helps to look at the underside of fungi when trying to identify them.

14-larch-branch

Eastern larch trees, also called tamarack larch or just tamarack, (Larix laricina) turn brilliant orange yellow in the fall and are one of the few conifers that shed their needles in winter. They like to grow in wet, swampy places and seeds that fall on dry ground usually won’t germinate. Tamarack was an important tree to Native Americans; some used branches and bark to make snow shoes and others used the bark from the roots to sew canoes. The Ojibwe people called the tree “muckigwatig,” meaning “swamp tree” and used parts of it to make medicine.

15-partridge-berries

Partridgeberry (Mitchella repens) is a native evergreen with small, heart shaped leaves on creeping stems which grow at ground level. In spring it has white trumpet shaped flowers that grow in pairs and share a single ovary. In the fall it has bright red berries which are edible but close to tasteless. I leave them for the turkeys, which seem to love them. Bobwhites, grouse, red foxes, skunks, and white-footed mice are also said to eat them.

16-partridge-berry

The unusual fused ovary on the partridgeberry’s twin blossoms form one berry, and you can always see where the two flowers were by looking for the dimples on the berry.

17-poison-ivy-berries-2

Poison ivy berries are ripening to white but until I saw this photo I didn’t know how it happened. It looks as if there is a brown shell around each white berry, and it looks as if the shell falls away to reveal it. Many songbirds eat the white berries, and deer eat the plant’s leaves. In fact there doesn’t seem to be an animal or bird that the plant bothers, but it sure bothers most humans by causing an always itchy, sometimes painful, and rarely dangerous rash. I get the rash every year but I’m lucky that it stays on the part of my body that touched the plant and doesn’t spread. That usually means a hand, knee, or ankle will itch for a week.

18-oak-apple-gall

An oak leaf had fallen with an apple gall still attached. Apple galls are caused by a wasp (Amphibolips confluenta) called the oak apple gall wasp. In May, the female wasp emerges from underground and injects one or more eggs into the mid-vein of an oak leaf. As it grows the wasp larva causes the leaf to form a round gall. Galls that form on leaves are less harmful to the tree than those that form on twigs, but neither causes any real damage.

19-oak-apple-gall

Both the leaf and gall together weighed next to nothing and the hole in the gall told me that the resident wasp had most likely flown the coop.

20-half-moon-pond

I don’t know its name but the hill on the other side of half-moon pond in Hancock still shows a little color. Even so, fall is nearly over now. We’ve had frosts, freezes and were lucky enough to have Indian summer twice and though we rarely talk about it we all know what comes next in the natural progression of the 4 seasons. But it’s only for 3 months, and the weather people now tell us that it will be “normal.”

Every corny thing that’s said about living with nature – being in harmony with the earth, feeling the cycle of the seasons – happens to be true. ~Susan Orlean

Thanks for coming by.

 

 

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1. Ashuelot River on 5-23-15

The month of May has been very warm and dry so far in this part of the state and we are now officially in a moderate drought, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Rainfall was down by 5.17 inches since March first at last look. It seems odd since we had record breaking snowfall last winter, but they say all of the water from winter has now dried up. To illustrate the dryness, this view of the Ashuelot River in Swanzey shows the many stones that aren’t usually visible until July. The water in this spot is shallow enough to allow walking across the river without getting your knees wet right now, but normally attempting that at this time of year would be foolish.

2. False Hellebore

Even tough plants like false hellebore (Veratrum viride) are slowing down. I was struck by the lack of insect damage on the beautiful pleated leaves of these plants. Though very toxic their leaves usually look like they’ve been shot through by buckshot at this time of year.  I’ve read that the roots of this plant can be ground and used in a spray form to keep insects away from garden plants so I can’t imagine what insect actually eats it, but whatever it is doesn’t appear to be very hungry this year.

A word of warning: if you think you might want to grind the roots of false hellebore and make a spray for your own garden you should be aware that this plant is extremely toxic. Native Americans once made poison arrows from its sap, and knowing that is enough to make me stay away from damaging it in any way.

3. Ginko Leaves

I don’t see many ginkgo leaves (Ginkgo biloba) so I have to take photos of them when I do. The order ginkgoales first appeared around 270 million years ago but almost all of its species had become extinct by the end of the Pliocene; wiped out during the ice ages by advancing ice. Ginkgo biloba, which is only found in the wild in China, is the single surviving species. The tree is an actual living fossil; fossilized leaves look much like those in the photo. Extracts made from this tree have been used medicinally for over 3000 years.

4. Grass Flowering

Grasses are starting to flower. Many grasses are beautiful and interesting when they flower, but it’s an event that most of us miss. If only we had the time to slow down a little and look a little closer at the things around us, how much more interesting this world might be.

5. Dandelion Seed Head

Dandelions aren’t wasting any time in their quest for world domination, though they do seem to be blooming later in spring here each year. Dandelions are apomictic plants, meaning they can produce seeds without being pollinated. They produce somewhere between 54 to 172 seeds per seed head and a single plant can produce more than 2000 seeds per season, all without the help of insects.

6. Haircap Moss

Common hair-cap moss (Polytrichum commune) is tending to perpetuation of the species which, if you know anything about the way this moss reproduces, is odd, considering the lack of rain.

7. Haircap Moss Splash Cup

Male and female plants of common hair cap moss grow in separate colonies but the colonies are usually quite close together. Male plants have splash cups like that shown in the above photo where sperm are produced. In spring, raindrops splash the sperm from the male shoots to the female plants where they then swim to the eggs.

8. Haircap Moss Spore Capsule

Common hair cap moss gets its name from the hairs that cover, or cap, the calyptra where each spore case is held, and which can just be seen in the above photo. Once the male sperm reaches the eggs and fertilizes them spores are produced in the capsules. Later on in the summer the capsules will open and the wind will carry the spores to new locations where they will germinate so the process can begin again. But none of this can happen without rain; rain to splash the sperm out of the splash cups and moisture on the plants for them to swim in to reach the eggs.  Maybe they know it’s going to rain.

9. New Oak Leaves

The gall insects aren’t wasting any time, as these new oak leaves show; hardly unfurled and already galled. Oak apple galls are usually found on the midrib of an oak leaf so these might be them just beginning to form. Galls can be unsightly but don’t hurt the tree and the best thing to do about them is to just let nature take its course.

10. Japanese Andromeda Leaves

The new leaves on this Japanese Andromeda (Pieris japonica) were a startling shade of red. Chlorophyll absorbs red and blue light and reflects green so leaves look green, but most plants also have other pigments present. Carotenoids are usually yellow to orange and anthocyanins are red to purple. Only one pigment usually dominates, so a plant with red leaves probably has higher than usual amounts of anthocyanins. Chlorophyll is still present even in leaves that aren’t green, and if a plant like this Andromeda normally has green leaves chlorophyll will eventually dominate and its new red leaves will soon turn green. Thanks go to Susan K. Pell, director of science at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden for explaining that so well.

11. Poison Ivy

Poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) also starts out life in spring with its leaves colored red or bronze and people are often fooled by it at this stage. It is a plant that anyone who spends time in the woods should get to know well, but even then you can still occasionally be caught by it. It doesn’t need to have leaves on it to produce a reaction; I got a blistering rash on my lower leg this spring from kneeling on the leafless vines to take photos of spring beauties. Even burning the plants and inhaling the smoke can be dangerous; having the rash inside your body can lead to a hospital stay.

12. Robin Eggs

Friends of mine have robins nesting in their holly bush again this year, so they must have had success there last year. It might have something to do with their little dog Minnie, who spends much of her time just a few feet from the nest and keeps the cats away.

13. Snapping Turtle

I asked this snapping turtle to smile for the camera but this was the best he could do. He doesn’t have to worry about me dangling my toes in his pond. I think the yellowish string like objects are floating pine needles that somehow came out looking vertical.

14. Spring Peeper aka Pseudacris crucifer

This tiny little spring peeper (Pseudacris crucifer) was hopping through the dry forest litter and I wondered if he was looking for water. Most of the smaller forest pools and brooks have dried up, so he might have a hard time finding it. They say that we might see thundershowers every afternoon this week but showers don’t usually help much.

Man – despite his artistic pretensions, his sophistication, and his many accomplishments – owes his existence to a six inch layer of topsoil and the fact that it rains. ~Anonymous

Thanks for coming by.

 

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This is another post full of things I’ve seen in the woods which, for one reason or another, didn’t fit into other posts.

1. European  Barberry Thorns aka Berberis vulgaris

Early settlers planted European barberry (Berberis vulgaris) so they could make jam from its fruit and yellow dye from its bark. This plant, along with American barberry (Berberis canadensis) plays host to wheat rust disease and has been slowly but surely undergoing eradication by the U.S. government.  Both plants have clusters of 3 or more thorns, but American barberry doesn’t grow in New England. Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii), grows in New England but it has just a single thorn under each leaf or cluster of leaves.

2. Boston Ivy Berries

Boston ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata) looks a lot like English ivy (Hedera helix), but English ivy is evergreen and Boston ivy is deciduous, with leaves that turn bright red in the fall before falling. Both plants will climb trees, brick walls, and just about anything else in their path. This photo shows the plant’s dried (and probably frozen) berries. Interestingly, the plant is from Eastern Asia, not Boston.

3. Hydrangea

Some hydrangea blossoms stay on the plant throughout winter and will eventually come to look “skeletonized” and lace like. I keep checking mine, but it hasn’t happened yet.

 4. Indian Pipe Seed Pod

Indian pipe flowers (Monotropa uniflora) are nodding until they have been pollinated, and then they stand straight up. The seed pods dry that way and take on the look of old wood. This capsule will split down its sides into 5 parts to release its seeds. It is said that Native Americans had a story that this plant first appeared where an Indian had dumped some white ashes from his pipe.

5. Marble Gall on Oak

The hole in the side of this oak marble gall tells me that the gall wasp (Andricus kollari) that lived inside it has grown and flown.

6. Witch's Broom on Blueberry

Witch’s broom is a deformity described as a “dense mass of shoots growing from a single point, with the resulting structure resembling a broom or a bird’s nest.” The example in the photo is on a highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum ) and was caused by a fungus (Pucciniastrum goeppertianum). This fungus spends part of its life cycle on the needles of balsam fir (Abies balsamea). When it releases its spores and they land on the stems and leaves of the blueberry, it becomes infected. The fungus overwinters on blueberry bushes and in the spring again releases spores which will infect even more balsam fir trees and the cycle will begin again. In my experience witch’s broom doesn’t affect fruit production.

 7. Hawthorn Fruit

Hawthorns (Crataegusmight have evolved thorns to keep animals away but they don’t keep birds away. This bush had been stripped of every fruit except one tired old, mummified haw.

 8. Winterberry Fruit

There are still plenty of fruit on the winterberry bushes (Ilex verticillata), but they’re starting to whither a bit too. Winterberry is a deciduous native holly with berries that have a low fat content, so birds tend to leave them until last, when it gets a little warmer.  Even so, it is said that 48 different species of birds and many small mammals eat them. Native Americans used the bark of this shrub medicinally to treat inflammations and fevers, which explains how it came by another of its common names: fever bush. It was also used as a substitute for quinine in parts of the U.S. in the 18th century.

9. Disk Lichen aka Lecidella stigmatea

The body (Thallus) of a rock disk lichen (Lecidella stigmatea) can be gray or whitish, but can also be stained green, red-brown or black, so sometimes it’s hard to know what you’ve found. My color finding software sees gray with green in this example. This lichen’s fruiting bodies (Apothecia) are flat or convex dark brown or black disks. This lichen is similar to tile lichens, but the fruiting bodies on tile lichens are always sunken into the body of the lichen rather than even with or standing above it. The rock it was on was wet and that’s why it’s so shiny.

 12. Small White Cup Shaped Fungi

I think these tiny things might be bird’s nest fungi, but I can’t be sure because there are no “eggs” in them. The eggs are actually fruiting bodies that contain spores and are called peridioles. These peridioles have hard waxy coatings and get splashed out of the cup shaped “nest” by raindrops. Once the outer coating wears away the spores can germinate.

11. Small White Cup Shaped Fungi

If you have ever shot an air rifle (BB gun) and know what a “BB” is, picture a single BB filling one of these cups. For those of you unfamiliar with BB guns, most BBs are 0.171 to 0.173 inches (4.3 to 4.4 mm) in diameter. If you would like to see some great photos of bird’s nest fungi with their eggs,  Rick at the Between Blinks blog just did a post about them. You can get there by clicking here.

13. Oak Leaves

Oak leaves curl into each other in the winter as if to keep warm.  I can’t think of any other leaves that do this.

14. Burdock Seeds

When viewing a seed head from the burdock plant (Arctium species) in an extreme close up it’s easy to see why they stick to everything. When Swiss inventor George de Mestral pulled a bunch of burrs from his pants and looked at them under a microscope in 1940, he came up with the hook and loop system that is called Velcro today. The word Velcro comes from the words velour and crotchet. Not surprising really, since the burr seeds look like tiny crochet hooks.

The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself. ~Henry Miller

Thanks for stopping in.

 

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These photos are of what nature has shown me over the last week or so.

1. Hornet's Nest

Piece of a hornet’s nest blew down onto the snow, so I had to get a picture of it. It looks very abstract and I wonder if I would guess that it was a picture of part of a hornet’s nest if I didn’t already know.

2. Hornet's Nest

When I took pictures of it with the new Panasonic macro master camera, it was even more abstract, but also more interesting and beautiful.

3. Goldspeck LichenCommon gold speck lichen (Candelariella vitellina) grows on granite rock in full sun. This crustose lichen grows in small patches in this area so I always need a macro lens for it. The fruit bearing bodies of this lichen are tiny, flat discs-so small that I’m not even sure that I could get a picture of them.

4. Turtlehead Seed Pods

I took a picture of turtlehead blossoms (Chelone glabra) last fall and wrote that I didn’t really see any resemblance to a real turtle’s head. A friend said just the opposite-he thought the blossoms looked just like turtle heads. Now, on the other side of the solstice, the seed pods do remind me of turtle heads- a bunch of hungry, snapping turtle heads. According to the U.S. Forest Service this native plant is also called balmony, bitter herb, codhead, fish mouth, shellflower, snakehead, snake mouth, and turtle bloom.

5. Hawthorn

The hawthorn (Crataegus species) is a tree that doesn’t mess around and is not about to be used as browse for moose and deer. Its 1-1/2 inch long thorns are every bit as sharp as they look, and they keep the browsers away. The unlucky person who finds themselves tangled in a hawthorn thicket will most likely need some new clothes. And maybe some time to heal.

6. Lowbush Blueberry in Snow

I like the way the branching structure of shrubs and trees is so visible in the winter .This is a low bush blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium) no more than 8 inches tall.

7. Oak Leaf on Snow

Something about this oak leaf on top of the snow grabbed me, but I’m not sure what it was. Maybe that it seemed so alone.

8. Rose Hips

Rose hips are the fruit of a rose. In this case the plant is a multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora,) which is considered an invasive species. Its small red hips are one of the most colorful things in the winter landscape. Unfortunately, birds like them and spread them everywhere. I think I could have worked on the depth of field a little more in this picture, but you get the idea.

 9. Intermediate Woodfern

Intermediate woodfern (Dryopteris spinulosa var. intermedia) doesn’t let a little snow slow it down. This is one of our native evergreen ferns and is also called American shield fern, evergreen woodfern, or fancy fern. This clump I saw growing on a boulder was smaller than my hand.

10. Tall Grass I drive by this clump of tall grass quite often and have admired not only its 4 foot height, but also its resilience. It’s been through two snow storms and still stands proud as the tallest weed in the field. 

11. Oak Leaves Close Up

I took a couple of pictures of a cluster of oak leaves that interested me because of the way they hung-they seemed to all be clasping each other, trying to stay warm. When I got home and looked at the photo though, I didn’t like it. Then I cropped it just to see what would happen, and it became an entirely different picture that I do like.

The tree which moves some to tears of joy is, in the eyes of others, only a green thing that stands in the way ~William Blake

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There probably isn’t anyone who is sick of seeing flowers but absence, as they say, makes the heart grow fonder so I thought I’d show a few other things that I find interesting. If you ever need a boulder New Hampshire is the place to come and shop. This one is solid granite and is almost as big as a U.P.S. truck. What good are boulders, you ask?Well, smooth rock tripe (Umbilicaria mammulata) likes to grow on boulders. I found a large colony of it growing on one near here. I thought the recent rains would plump up lichens, which were looking pretty sad. I don’t think they look any plumper, but they feel much more pliable and alive. This group of Solomon’s seal was growing happily on a boulder. Leaves, pine needles and other forest litter fall on boulders and eventually all become soil. Boulders also absorb the sun’s heat and release it slowly. Many plants take advantage of this–I’ve seen many ferns as green in December as they would be in June, and they weren’t evergreen ferns. This fern does happen to be evergreen and is called the Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides.) It will also grow in large colonies on boulders. Each leaflet bears tiny little barbs along its margins.Scouring rush (Equisetum hyemale affine) is more likely to be found growing near a stream or pond than on a boulder. These bamboo-like plants are in the horsetail family and can grow to be 4 feet tall. The stems of this plant contain silica granules and were used by pioneers to scrub pots. These are ancient plants that have been on earth for an estimated 280-380 million years. Much of the coal burned today comes from giant, tree size horsetails that lived in the past.One of the joints in a scouring rush stem. Each New hollow stem segment grows from the ring-like sheath of the segment below it. The rim of the sheath can be white, gray, black or brown but always ends in tiny black teeth, which are deciduous and can break off.This is the tip of a scouring rush stem.  This is where fertile stems will form colorful, spore bearing, cone shaped fruiting bodies. This plant also likes wet places and was growing very close to the scouring rushes. This is the royal fern (Osmunda spectabilis) just after it unfurled its fronds. I like its feathery look at this stage of its development; it looks very different than other ferns. This fern is the maidenhair fern (Adiantum pedatum,) which is so rare in this part of the state that I’ve only seen it once in the wild. A friend gave me this one and it grows in my yard. I think it is one of the most delicate and beautiful ferns. American larch trees (Larix laricina,) also known as tamarack, like to grow in wet, swampy places and seeds that fall on dry ground usually won’t germinate. That’s why when one is seen growing in someone’s yard like the one in the photo was it’s a fair bet that it was planted there. Larches are an unusual tree because, unlike most other conifers, they lose their needles in the fall. These trees are native to the U.S. and Canada. Tamarack was an important tree to Native Americans; some used branches and bark to make snow shoes and others used the bark from the roots to sew canoes. The Ojibwe people called the tree “muckigwatig,” meaning “swamp tree” and used parts of it to make medicine. Oak leaves aren’t only the last to fall, but also the last to unfurl. Even poplar and sumac are ahead of the oaks this year.  I like the fuzziness of fresh oak leaves.  Oak leaves also have a waxy coating that helps prevent moisture loss in dry times. This coating is also why fallen oak leaves are so dry when they are raked in the fall. I seem to be stumbling (literally) onto quite a lot of tree roots that look as if an artist had spent days carving, sanding and polishing them. I’m always happy to find one because I think they’re beautiful things. This feather wasn’t there when I went to bed but it was the next morning. It certainly is a good example of how birds stay dry in the rain. Sometimes nature makes a mistake and a plant will grow more leaves than it can support. This was probably why a maple tree shed this new leaf. It, along with the remnants of a single tiny blossom, spun slowly on the breeze in a spider’s web.

Birth, life and death – each took place on the hidden side of a leaf. ~ Toni Morrison  

I hope you didn’t miss the flowers too much. They’ll be back next post. Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

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I spent a large part of the day last Saturday raking leaves again. It wasn’t a great comfort, once I’d finished, looking up and seeing thousands of leaves still clinging to the two oak trees in my neighbor’s yard, (that would fall in my yard) but neither was it a surprise. 

I’ve learned over the years to make peace with the late falling oak leaves. After all, spring cleanup should always include raking the lawn, and a few scattered leaves on it aren’t going to matter in the grand scheme of things.  Even though it would be so much more convenient if all the trees dropped their leaves at the same time, why they don’t is part of nature’s plan.   

In the fall shortening day length tells most deciduous trees that it’s time to stop growing, so the tree forms a layer of waxy, corky cells at the base of each leaf. This is called an abscission layer, and it slows and finally stops the flow of sap to the leaf. Once the sap stops flowing to the leaves they lose chlorophyll and the reds, yellows and oranges that the green chlorophyll was hiding finally become visible. 

In some trees like oak (Quercus), beech (Fagus), and hornbeam (Carpinus) , this abscission layer forms much later, so even though the leaves might freeze dead and turn completely brown they still cling to the branches. Pin oaks (Quercus palustris) don’t form an abscission layer until spring, so their leaves stay on the tree all winter. This retention of dead leaves is known as marcescence. 

Nobody really seems to know for certain why trees retain dead leaves but some believe that one reason might be to ward off foraging moose, deer and other animals. Animals will eat the bud bearing twigs from the lower parts of older trees and from nearly all parts of younger trees. One theory says that they don’t like the taste or texture of the dead leaves so they stay away from the trees, which means the buds stay safe and can grow on.

 Another theory says that dead leaves clinging to the lower branches trap snow and ensure that the trees get plenty of water in the spring when it melts.  I’ve seen nature do some pretty amazing things, but this idea seems a little far fetched to me. What, I have to ask, if the tree is on a hillside-doesn’t all the water from the melting snow just run down hill? 

Even though we know how the leaves remain on certain trees, we don’t really know why, so I’ll view the “why don’t some leaves fall in the fall?” question as just another one of nature’s great mysteries. It will give me something to ponder as I rake more leaves today.

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