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Posts Tagged ‘Partridge Berry’

Goodbye February! It might be the shortest month, but it always seems like the longest to me. It’s still very cold here with below zero nights but the sun has greater warmth and the days are longer so the snow is slowly melting away from the places where fungi, mosses and lichens grow. What follows is some of what I’ve seen on recent walks.

 1. Gouty Oak Gall

Gouty oak gall is caused by a wasp called, not surprisingly, the gouty oak gall wasp (Callirhytis quercuspunctata). In spring the wasp lays its eggs in expanding plant tissue and secretes chemicals that will cause the abnormal growth seen in the photo. The gall grows quickly and once the eggs hatch the larvae feed on its tissue. It can take two years or more for the gall wasps to reach adulthood. One adult exits the gall through each hole.

 2. False Turkey Tail aka Stereum ostrea

I saw hundreds of these small bracket fungi covering a tree trunk and thought Great-false turkey tails-I won’t have to spend two weeks trying to identify them for the blog!  Nature had other ideas though- one look at the undersides told me that they were not false turkey tails (Stereum ostrea) at all. Unfortunately my peek at their hidden faces didn’t tell me what they were, and after looking through 4 mushroom books and countless web pages, I still don’t know. I thought I’d include them here to once again illustrate how important looking at the spore bearing surface of a mushroom is when you are trying to identify it.

 3. False Turkey Tail aka Stereum ostrea Underside

This is what the underside of the bracket fungus in the previous photo looked like. I’m sure I’ve seen them before but I can’t find a similar example in a book. False turkey tails have a smooth, whitish underside-much different than the maze like surface seen here.

 4. Barberry Inner Bark

The bark of the common or European barberry (Berberis vulgaris) contains berberine, a yellow crystalline, bitter alkaloid. It is said that chewing a piece of bark, even on the hottest days, will make your mouth water and slake your thirst. The inner bark is very yellow and it and the bark from the plant’s roots have been used for centuries to make yellow dye used to dye fabric and leather.

 5. Gypsy Moth Egg Case

I recently found several gypsy moth (Lymantria dispar) egg cases on a tree. Gypsy moths were first introduced from Europe in Massachusetts in 1869, to breed with the silkworm moth (Bombyx mori) to produce a hardier silkworm. Naturally, it escaped and has become one of the chief defoliators of deciduous trees and conifers in the eastern United States. Each egg mass can contain 100-1000 eggs and should be destroyed when found.

 6. Partridge Berries

There are still plenty of partridge berries under the evergreens and on south facing slopes where the snow has melted. Turkeys love these berries so I’m surprised to see that there are any left.

 7. Trametes hirsuta

I think this grayish white bracket fungus is the hairy bracket (Trametes hirsuta). This fungus is very hairy and turns brown as it ages. It is closely related to turkey tail fungi (trametes versicolor) and is zoned like they are, but its zones aren’t as pronounced or as colorful as those on turkey tails, and are easy to miss.

 8. Wavy Starburst Moss aka Atrichum altercristatum

I think this moss might be wavy starburst moss (Atrichum altercristatum).It doesn’t look like it has been affected by winter at all. When wet its bright green, rippled leaves spread out and give this moss a star like appearance and when dry they curl and turn brown. Finding green mosses in winter seems to make it easier to get through somehow.

 9. Northern Catalpa Leaf Scar aka Catalpa speciosa

Northern catalpa has some of the largest leaf scars of any tree I know. This one was a half inch long. The leaf scars are sunken and come in sets of three spaced around the diameter of the twig. The heart shaped leaves of catalpa are also some of the biggest that I know of. Its large clusters of orchid like flowers are beautiful and its wood is rot resistant and makes good fence posts.

 10. Oak Buds 3

Red oak (Quercus rubra) buds don’t seem to be swelling much. The terminal buds of this tree usually appear in a cluster and are conical and reddish brown. I like the chevron like pattern that the bud scales make. Red oak is one of our most common trees in New England but in the past many thousands were lost to gypsy moth infestations. It is an important source of lumber, flooring and fire wood. The USDA says that red oaks can live to be 500 years old.

11. Striped Maple Buds 2

Native Striped Maple buds (Acer pensylvanicum) buds always remind me of a trident. The large central terminal bud is unusual because it has only two bud scales. Red oak buds like those in the previous photo have 3 or more bud scales. Striped maple is very fussy about where it grows and will not stand pollution, heat, or drought. It likes cool, shady places with sandy soil that stays moist. They bloom in June and have very pretty green blossoms. I can’t say that they’re rare here, but I don’t see them very often. I’ve been searching for one in bloom for 3 years and haven’t found one yet.

12. Vernal Witch Hazel

This vernal (spring blooming) witch hazel (Hamamelis vernalis) grows in a local park. I think it miscalculated this year and bloomed too early. You can see how some of its strap shaped petals got too cold and browned before retracting back into the tiny cup like bracts. Proof that even nature can make an occasional mistake. Our native witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) blooms in late fall.

The most beautiful things in life go un-noticed. ~ Omar Hickman

Thanks for stopping in.

 

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Here are a few more of the wildflowers that I’ve seen recently.

 1. Chicory

Blue has always been my favorite color and I can’t think of another flower more blue than chicory (Cichorium intybus.) I’ve read that chicory flowers can also rarely be white or pink, but I’ve never seen them. These plants aren’t real common here but you can find small colonies dotted here and there throughout the countryside. The large, inch and a half diameter flowers on 4 foot tall plants means they’re easy easy to see. The roasted and ground root of chicory makes a passable coffee substitute.

 2. Blue Vervain

Vervain (Verbena hastata) is described as having reddish blue or violet flowers but I see the same beautiful blue color that I see in the chicory flower in the previous photo. Somebody else must have seen the same thing, because they named the plant blue vervain. Sometimes color blindness isn’t so bad! Vervain flowers are considerably smaller than chicory, but there are usually so many blooming that they’re as easy to spot as that plant is. Vervain can get quite tall and has erect, terminal flower clusters. The bitter roots of this plant were used medicinally by Native Americans.

3. Common Speedwell aka Veronica officinalis

Common speedwell (Veronica officinalis) is another flower that looks blue to me, but that some books describe as purple. In other books I’ve seen it described as “blue to white.” In any case the flowers are very small, so you usually have to lie on your stomach in the dirt to get a good photo of them. This plant is a European native and its leaves were once used as a substitute for tea there. It has also been used medicinally for centuries.

4. Ants on Bristly Sarsaparilla

This bristly sarsaparilla (Aralia hispida) flower head had ants all over it, so I’m assuming that’s how it is pollinated. This plant is a native but it isn’t common and isn’t well known. I find it growing in full sun in very dry, sandy waste areas. It 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.

5. Moth Mullein

Moth mullein (Verbascum blattaria) gets its common name from the way the flowers’ stamens resembled moth antennae to the person who named it. This plant was introduced from Europe and found in Pennsylvania in 1818 and immediately escaped gardens to become a roadside weed now found in every state except Wyoming and Alaska. It isn’t very common in this area however-I only know of one plant. Its flowers can also be white.

6. Tall Meadow Rue

In early spring it is easy to confuse tall meadow rue (Thalictrum pubescens) with columbine because their leaves look so much alike, but as you watch the plant grow to sometimes 6 feet in height it is obvious that it isn’t columbine. The flowers of tall meadow rue don’t have any petals-the yellow tipped white parts are male stamens on the example in the photo. Female plants have white pistils that appear much like the male stamens at a glance. It’s appropriate that these plants bloom near the 4th of July because they remind me of “bombs bursting in air.”

7. Partridgeberry

Partridge berry (Mitchella repens) flowers have filled the woods this year. This is an evergreen trailing plant that can form dense mats that are quite large. The strange thing about partridgeberry is how its two flowers fuse at the base to form one ovary. In one flower the male stamens are long and the female pistil is short. In the other flower the female pistil is longer than the male stamens. This prevents self-fertilization. The two flowers produce one red berry that bears two dimples, showing where the flowers were.  I always try to show the very hairy white petals when I take photos of partridgeberry.

8. American Wintergreen

 American wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens) is just starting to open its small white flowers that look a lot like blueberry flowers. Wintergreens get their common name from the way they stay green in the winter-what we call evergreen-and this plant is probably the most well-known among natives because of its shiny green leaves that turn purple when it gets colder. I call the plant teaberry because its red berries taste just like teaberry gum. My grandmother always called it checkerberry.

 9. Shinleaf

Shinleaf (Pyrola elliptica) is a common wildflower in the wintergreen family. Many plants in the wintergreen family contain compounds that are very similar to aspirin, and shinleaf was used by Native Americans as a poultice on injured shins and other parts of the body. That’s how this plant gets its common name. Shinleaf leaves form a rosette at the base of the single, 4-5 inch tall flower stalk.

10. Shinleaf Blossom

Ten orange tipped, pollen bearing stamens hide under the upper two petals on shinleaf blossoms. Shinleaf is pollinated by flies.

11. Shinleaf Blossom

The best way to identify shinleaf is by the long, curved style that hangs down from the center of the flower. It’s easy to see how an insect would use the stigma at the end of the style for a landing pad and leave sticky pollen behind.

12. Pipsissewa Colony

Pipsissewa (Chimaphila umbellate or Pyrola umbellata) is also in the wintergreen family and recently I found a large colony of it. This plant likes to grow in groups, but they are usually made up of 10-15 plants. This group had many hundreds of plants and is the largest I’ve seen. The shiny green leaves make this plant easy to find.

13. Pipsissewa Flower

 Pipsissewa has nodding flowers that grow quite close to the ground and this makes getting a good photo difficult. Luckily I found a plant with a bent flower stalk and was able to get a look at the large center pistil and the 10 odd shaped anthers. It is said that the plant’s common name comes from the Native American word pipsiskeweu which means “it breaks into small pieces.” This refers to their belief that pipsissewa would break up kidney stones.

14. Striped Wintergreen

Yet another plant in the wintergreen family is striped wintergreen (Chimaphila maculata,) but unlike pipsissewa, teaberry, and shinleaf, this plant is rare in this area. In fact, it is considered rare in Canada and all of New England. I’ve only seen two in my lifetime and the plant pictured is one of them. This plant is also called spotted wintergreen or striped pipsissewa. The flowers are very beautiful and I’m hoping that I’ll be able to find this plant again so I can show them to you. Native Americans used striped wintergreen medicinally for a variety of internal and external ailments.

He who is born with a silver spoon in his mouth is generally considered a fortunate person, but his good fortune is small compared to that of the happy mortal who enters this world with a passion for flowers in his soul. ~ Celia Thaxter

Thanks for coming by.

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Up until Christmas we’ve had a snowless winter here, more or less, but we woke to a dusting on Christmas morning and Wednesday night into Thursday we had a real snowstorm that dropped 4 or 5 inches. These pictures were taken before all of that happened though, so you won’t see much snow here just yet.

1. Christmas Eve Moon

The moon rose early on Christmas Eve.

2. Lumix

I was surprised to find this under the tree on Christmas day. Not too long ago I bought a Canon SX 40HS camera and I’m real happy with it, except when it comes to macro mode. It’s probably me doing something wrong, but I just can’t get as close as I want to with the SX40. Melanie at the Lemony Egghead blog uses a Panasonic Lumix camera and does some amazing things with it, so I decided that I’d get one sometime. “Sometime” came a little earlier than I expected, because my kids got it for me for Christmas. You can check out Melanie’s blog by clicking here. You won’t be sorry that you did.

3. Dec. 26th Witch Hazel Blooming

The Panasonic is a great camera. I took a picture of this very confused witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) with it on the day after Christmas and the Leica lens is just as clear and sharp as you would expect anything with the Leica name on it to be. Our native witch hazel blooms in late fall, but I’ve never seen it bloom on Christmas.

4. Orange Rock Posy Lichen aka Rhizoplaca chrysoleuca

I’ve never been able to get this close to a lichen with any camera I’ve owned. This bit of orange rock posy lichen (Rhizoplaca chrysoleuca) was about as big as an aspirin tablet.

5. Lichens with Lumix

Lichens take on an other-worldly appearance when you get in real close. One of the reasons I think macro photography is so much fun is because it always reveals things that I couldn’t see when I was taking the picture. These lichens appear to be some kind of rock tripe but I can’t find them in books or on line.

6. Orange Witch's Butter 2

This orange witch’s butter (Dacrymyces palmatus ) was frozen solid and even had a little snow on it. The color becomes more intense as it dries and I was able to spot it from quite a distance.

7. Rose

This rose has seen better days, but I still find it fascinating to look at.

8. Partridge Berry

The twin flowers of the partridgeberry (Mitchella repens) have a fused ovary and form one berry, but you can always see where the two flowers were by looking for the dimples on the berry. This berry had a face on it.

9. Black Eyed Susan Seed Head

A common Black Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) seed head, looking uncommonly geometric.

10. Inner Bark of Staghorn Sumac

I switched back to the Canon to get this shot of the colorful inner bark of a staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina.)  At least I think it’s a staghorn sumac-I visit a spot quite often that had several old trees blow down last summer so I’m assuming this is one of them. The inner bark of staghorn sumac was used to make dye by Native Americans. It looks bright red to me but my color finding software tells me that it’s brown. 

11. Moon and Jupiter on Christmas Night

Something I wouldn’t ask the Panasonic camera to do is take a shot of the not quite full moon and Jupiter like the Canon did on Christmas night.

12. Christmas Kisses  

But when I need to get in real close I’ll call on the Panasonic every time.  I’m sure it will see a lot of use as I walk off the Christmas goodies!

When there’s snow on the ground, I like to pretend I’m walking on clouds ~Takayuki Ikkaku

I hope all of you had a wonderful Christmas and that the weather treated you kindly. Thanks for visiting.

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This post is another of those that contain those interesting things I see that don’t seem to fit anywhere else.

Forked blue curl (Trichostema dichotomum) seed pods show four round, dimpled seeds. These are so small that it’s hard to see them without magnification. This plant in the mint family is an annual and depends on its seeds growing into new plants the following season. The beautiful blue flowers appear quite late in the season. 

It had to have been the light, but these Indian pipes (Monotropa uniflora) looked just as blue in the woods as they do in this photo. I can’t find any reference to blue Indian pipes, either in books or online. Even my color finder software sees blue. I wonder if anyone else has ever seen this. We don’t pay much attention to this plant once the flowers go by, but Indian cucumber root (Medeola virginiana) has quite showy fruit. The plant’s common name comes from the flavor of its small root. The spiky seed pod on this jimsonweed plant (Datura stramonium) might be trying to tell us that its seeds can be very dangerous if eaten. It’s no wonder the plant is also called thorn apple.

I love the colors found on a sycamore tree (Platanus occidentalis.) If you walk around to the backside of this tree where it never gets any sun, it looks totally different-nowhere near as colorful. Whenever I start to think that I understand nature I run into something like this tree, which reminds me that I really know very little. Is this tree’s bark a light color so it reflects, rather than absorbs heat from the sun? That’s just one of the questions I have about sycamores.

I’m glad I didn’t accidentally grab the branch this tussock moth caterpillar (Lymantriidae) was on. Many caterpillars in this family have hairs called urticating hairs that are very similar to those found on stinging nettles. It is said that their sting can be quite painful and last for several days. These caterpillars are supposed to be voracious eaters and can cause quite a lot of damage to crops. 

This turtle was really craning his neck to see what I was up to, so I took a couple of shots and left him alone. Turtles spend winter buried in the mud of the pond they live in. They also sleep there, and can breathe as well as absorb oxygen through their skin. I think it might be a painted turtle.

This great Blue Heron had his back to me and didn’t seem to care what I was doing. He flew off shortly after I took this photo though. I’ve seen this bird here many times and he always seems to be waiting for the sun to come up because when it does he flies off.

This great black Cormorant fishes at a local pond and another one-or maybe it’s the same one-fishes in a river near here. The sun was dropping fast and I had to almost shoot into it, so I really didn’t think I’d get a picture of this bird. It’s not the sharpest picture I’ve ever taken, but it is the only one of a great cormorant that I have. The feathers on this bird’s belly and leading wing edge look more like scales than feathers, and it has big webbed feet so it can really move quickly when chasing fish under water. They can also hold their breath for quite a while under water.

The partridge berries (Mitchella repens) are ripe. This one shows the two dimples left by the twin flowers whose ovaries fuse to form one berry. This small trailing vine can form colonies that are several feet across under the right conditions.

This mushroom had released its spores, making it look as if someone had spray painted the pine needles. Mushroom spores should never be inhaled. There are documented instances of spores actually growing in human lungs. 

Maple leaved viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium) is also called arrow wood. Its beautiful white flowers turn into blue-black berries, which aren’t often seen. This plant’s fall foliage is some of the most colorful in the forest and I always look for it. The shrub is called arrow wood because its branches grow very straight and some believe that Native Americans used it for arrow shafts. 

Maple leaved viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium) really lights up dark spaces in the fall.

If you have ever tried to get one of these spiky seed pods out of your dog’s fur you have a good idea of one reason rough cockleburr (Xanthium strumarium) is considered a noxious weed. The hooked spines on the seed pods get caught on just about anything and are why this plant has spread far and wide. I found this one growing on a riverbank, but they will grow just about anywhere.

The universe is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper ~Eden Phillpotts

Thanks for stopping in.

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