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Posts Tagged ‘Pan-STARRS comet’

Spring starts today at 7:02 am so I’ll wish everyone happy spring, even if the weather is saying otherwise and even if the first full day isn’t until tomorrow. Two years ago today this blog started. I remember thinking that I’d be lucky to keep it going for 6 months, because there just wasn’t that much to write about. Fortunately nature has provided plenty. In this post you’ll find those things I’ve seen that don’t seem to fit anywhere else.

 1. Skunk Cabbage

A large patch of skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) that I visit is near a swamp with a water level that rises in winter and falls in the spring. Most of the plants grow in soil that was underwater in the winter but has dried out somewhat by the time they come up. Except for this year-two days of rain along with snow melt refilled the swamp, so now many skunk cabbage plants are underwater. The plant in the photo just barely escaped.

2. Fan Clubmoss aka Diphasiastrum digitatum

The thing that makes our native evergreen fan clubmoss (Diphasiastrum digitatum) easier to identify is the way the very flat, shiny branches are parallel to the ground. Once you get looking at clubmosses closely the differences between them are easy to see. Clubmosses got their common name from the fertile, upright, club-like shoot that is called a peduncle. On the peduncle are strobili, which are cone-like fruiting bodies.  Spores are released in the fall. On this clubmoss the peduncle (not seen here) branches near the tip.

 3. Wrinkled Broom Moss aka Dicranum polysetum

Clubmosses aren’t true mosses but this wrinkled broom moss (Dicranum polysetum) is. I found it growing on the ground in a small clump, surprised that there wasn’t more of it around. Its shiny, greenish-gold, rippled leaves stand out against the surrounding terrain, making it easy to see. It wasn’t fruiting but y new moss book “Common Mosses of the Northeast and Appalachians” says that this moss has “macaroni shaped spore capsules with exaggerated, long beaks.”

4. Cinnabar Polypore aka Pycnoporus cinnabarinus

Cinnabar polypore (Pycnoporus cinnabarinus) is a bracket fungus that grows on hardwood logs. Mushroom books describe it as “widespread but not common.” I’d have to agree since I’ve never seen it before. The bright orange-red color really lights up the forest and makes these fungi easy to spot from quite a distance. These two were about the size of a standard chocolate chip cookie and were frosted with a little snow.

5. Cinnabar Polypore aka Pycnoporus cinnabarinus Underside

The underside of the cinnabar polypore is bright red. The cinnabarinus part of the scientific name means “bright red” or “vermillion.” As they age these polypores lose color and slowly lighten to almost white. These mushroom cause white rot in fallen logs.

6. Toothed Bracket fungi

Growing on another deciduous log near the cinnabar polypores were these bracket fungi that I’ve been trying to identify for about a year and a half. I thought they might be jelly rot fungi (Phlebia tremellosa), but they don’t quite match the description. If anyone knows what they are I’d love to hear from you.

7. Poison Ivy Berries

Poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans ) berries can still give you quite a rash, even when they are dried out like these were. Last spring I knelt on some leafless ivy plants while shooting pictures of trout lilies and had itchy knees for a week or two. This spring when the trout lilies bloom I’ll have a tarp with me.

 8. Pussy Willow aka Salix discolor

This is the first and only pussy willow that I’ve seen this spring. If you were to order a pussy willow from a nursery in this area you would most likely get Salix discolor, which is also called American willow. In nature study though, it’s common practice to call any plant with soft, fuzzy, gray catkins a pussy willow. I believe the one pictured, which grew near a beaver pond, is an American willow.

9. Winged Euonymus

The stems of burning bush (Euonymus alatus) have thin, corky projections that protrude from the stems in a spiral pattern. This gives it the common name winged euonymus. The word alatus from the scientific name is Latin for “winged.”  This shrub is from China, Korea, and Japan and is considered invasive, spread by birds eating the small, red berries. It is beautiful in the fall when the foliage turns from a deep maroon to bright red and then to a light, pastel pink just before the leaves fall.

10. Maleberry

If you came across a maleberry (Lyonia ligustrina) shrub when it was blooming you might think you were seeing a blueberry bush, because the blossoms and leaves are very similar. You would have a long wait for blueberries though, because maleberrry shrubs grow 5 part, hard, woody seed capsules instead of a fruit. The seed capsules stay on this medium sized shrub almost year round, which makes for easy identification.

11. Polypody Fern Sori Closeup

The common polypody fern (Polypodium vulgare) bears watching at this time of year because its naked spore capsules (Sori) start out life on the undersides of leaves looking like small piles of birdseed and then turn into what look like little mounds of orangey flowers when they mature.  Each sori is made up of a cluster of sporangia, which are small enclosures where spores develop. Many thousands of dust-like spores live in the sporangia until they mature, and then the wind blows them away.

12. Crescent Moon

I heard that March 13th would be prime viewing time for the Pan-STARRS comet, so at the recommended 45 minutes after sundown I set up my camera and tripod, looking off to the west. The comet was supposed to appear just above and slightly to the right of the crescent moon, but I waited until it was almost too dark to see and never saw it. It is supposed to be visible from March 12-24 in this part of the world, but every night since the 13th has been cloudy.

A day spent without the sight or sound of beauty, the contemplation of mystery, or the search of truth or perfection is a poverty-stricken day; and a succession of such days is fatal to human life.~Lewis Mumford

Thanks for stopping in.

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