Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Pine Pollen on Water’

Last Sunday the thought hit me that I hadn’t seen any of our native blue flag irises, so I sat and tried to remember where I had found them in the past. There were a few places that came to mind but Goose Pond in Keene sounded like the most fun of all on what was supposed to be a hot day. This photo shows the trail that leads from the road to the pond.

You have to cross a stream, which is one of many you cross if you walk all the way around the pond. I hoped to see some salamanders in this spot but they were all hiding, apparently.

False Solomon’s seal (Maianthemum racemosum) was the first flower I saw, but I’m seeing lots of them this year, everywhere I go. I keep hoping I’ll find star-flowered Solomon’s Seal (Maianthemum stellatum) but I haven’t had any luck. I found it once years ago but I can’t remember where, so I can’t go back and try again.

And here was Goose Pond. I know I just visited a pond but Goose Pond is very different than Willard Pond. For one thing, this pond was made by damming streams. Goose Pond was called Crystal Lake by some in the 1860s, and was also known as Sylvan Lake in the 1900s. Keene had a major fire in 1865 and the town well and cisterns failed to provide enough water to put it out, so dams were built to enlarge the pond to 42 acres. The city stopped using the pond as a water supply in the 1930s and in 1984 designated the forest as a wilderness park. Surrounding the beautiful pond is a vast 1,044-acre tract of forest (up from 500 acres) that has been left nearly untouched since the mid-1800s. It’s a wilderness area, and it’s just 2.6 miles from downtown Keene.

Trails here are wide enough for two to pass but there are lots of roots and stones, and of course mud. The 2.1 mile long loop trail hugs the pond for the most part but there are one or two places where you can lose sight of it, so you have to watch the white blazes on the trees. They have faded over the years and need to be repainted, so in places you have to be alert. I’ve met a few people out here who had gotten turned around and didn’t know where they were but all you need to remember is if the pond is on your right when you start the trail it should be on your right when you finish, if you’re going all the way around. That and the fact that all streams you will cross run downhill to the pond is really all you need to know. I always feel sorry for them though, because I was lost in the woods once and it’s a scary place to be. As soon as you panic you lose all common sense, so you really have to stay calm.

Indian cucumber root (Medeola virginiana) grows abundantly out here. There are more plants here than I’ve ever seen anywhere else. I like the way their whorls of leaves grow in tiers. This one had a fly friend visiting that I never saw when I was taking the photo.

I don’t like trying to get a shot of Indian cucumber root flowers because it’s always an involved process. These plants grow in shade that is sometimes dense so you spend a lot of time fiddling with camera settings. Then when I get home I often find that what looked good on the camera screen is not good. This is the best of a bad lot from that day but at least you can tell what is going on. The flowers usually nod under the leaves and have 6 yellowish-green recurved tepals, 6 reddish stamens topped by greenish anthers, and 3 reddish-purple to brown, curved styles. These large styles are sometimes bright red-brown like those shown but I think they darken as they age. Each flower will become a shiny, inedible dark purplish-black berry. Also quite often in the fall the top tier of leaves will have a beautiful bright scarlet splotch on them. Nobody seems to know why.

Here was a hemlock tree full of hemlock varnish shelf fungi (Ganoderma tsugae) basking in the sun. Though some plants and most fungi grow in shade nothing I know of can grow totally in the dark, so everything gets its moment in the sun. Even if it is just a ray of cool morning sunlight landing on a slime mold for a half hour, everything gets at least some sunlight, or at the very least bright reflected light.

When mature this mushroom will look like a plate size, red shelf fungus that has been lacquered, but at this stage it looks like a gob of dough that someone stuck to the tree and spilled red paint on.  

Here was the first of two wooden bridges. You’ll see that these bridges are chained to trees to keep them from washing away if the streams flood. I’ve heard couples wondering out loud if the chains were there to stop people from stealing them but no, it would take quite a few people to move a bridge this size.

The view from the bridge.

There are quite a few royal ferns (Osmunda spectabilis) growing in and along the stream. I always make a point of showing this pretty fern because I’ve met people who didn’t know it was a fern. Royal ferns are thought to be one of the oldest living things, with fossil records of the Osmundaceae family dating back over 300 million years. Individual plants are believed to be able to live for over 100 years.

There are stone walls everywhere out here and that is no surprise. If I ever walk through a New Hampshire forest without bumping into a stone wall that will be the surprise. There are an estimated 50,000 miles of stone walls in New Hampshire and 250,000 miles of walls in New England and New York. There is a mapping project going on now that wants to map all of the stone walls in the state, and to that I say good luck.

This is what you do when there isn’t a bridge. That third flat rock that is shaped like a slice of pizza wobbles when you step on it and I thought I was going down when I stepped on it. A friend of mine fell into a stream in exactly that way and cracked several ribs. Another friend gave me some walking poles when he got new ones but I never think to use them, even though I have them right in the car. I’m going to have to move them to the front seat. They would have been handy here.

Here was the pine tree that was struck by lightning. I came through here just a day or so after it happened a few years ago and found long strips of bark on the ground around the tree. The lightning had blown them right off the tree.

Slowly, this pine is dying. Each time I look more limbs have died and one day it will fall, probably into the pond.

I think this is the best shot I’ve ever gotten of the island, because the light was good. I wondered about how the island might have been a hilltop before the size of the pond was artificially increased. I would have loved to explore it as I have so many other islands but without a kayak, swimming would be the only way. I knew better; I tried to swim out to the island in Spofford Lake once and almost drowned because even when I was young, I had weak lungs.

Pine and hemlock pollen is falling. It floats on the water of lakes and ponds and makes designs every year at this time. Sometimes it can be very beautiful on water, and allergy sufferers would rather see it floating on water than in the air.

I use my phone camera quite a lot for landscape shots these days and it usually does a good job but sometimes the photos look a bit garish, and that’s the way this one looks to me. This shot is of one of two dams on the pond. It took me a while to get a shot of it because I saw a lot of people and a lot of dogs here on this day, and that’s what makes this pond so different from Willard Pond. I waited to take the shot as a young girl sneezed her way across the dam. “It sounds like someone might have allergies,” I said to her mother. “Yes, it seems like everyone is allergic to something these days,” she said. I agreed. I was never allergic to anything until I turned 50 and then I became allergic to many things. I can’t remember anyone in my family ever having allergies when I was a boy though, even during haying season.

I’ve seen lance leaved violets (Viola lanceolata) growing in the water at a pond’s edge before but here they were high and dry on the dam, and there were hundreds of them.  It is also called the bog white violet or strap leaved violet, for obvious reasons. The plant needs a wet, sunny habitat, preferably one that floods and then dries out. It is listed as present in 8 out of the 10 counties in New Hampshire but though I’ve been on a lot of pond shores, I’ve only seen it twice. It is said to be rare in Vermont.

For the most part lance leaved violets are said to have no hairs on the side petals, but according to what I’ve read they may occasionally have residual, greenish white hairs as this one did. The flowers nod on stems that can be as much as 6 inches long and both the bottom and side petals can have purple veining. This little plant only blooms for three weeks. The leaves are much longer than they are wide and after much searching in books and online I believe that this is the only violet that has them.

A sleepy-eyed female bullfrog rested on a mat of vegetation. You can tell she’s a female by the size of the external eardrum, which is called a tympanum and which appears just behind and below the eye. A male’s eardrum is much bigger than the eye. As soon as I got to the pond and all the way around it all I heard was the loud croaking of male bullfrogs, so it’s no wonder she needed a rest.

I saw the blue flag irises (Iris versicolor) I remembered were here, but there wasn’t a flower to be found on any of them. I think I must be rushing it a bit. I usually see them in June but sometimes they come out earlier so I thought I might see some.

Something that surprised me was all the painted trilliums (Trillium undulatum) I saw. There must have been two dozen of them here, right along the trail. They had all gone by as the one in the photo had but this is a hard plant to find in this area so I’ll have to remember to come here next year to see them. I’ve written myself a note, just in case. This one was forming a seedpod, which I was happy to see.

The old stump I sit by sometimes showed that the water level had dropped an inch or two. Goose Pond is a great place to find mushrooms so I’m hoping we don’t have a dry summer. An inch of rain per week would be perfect but I don’t think there is any such thing as a perfect summer anymore, if there ever was. Last summer it rained two or three days each week and was too wet but the two summers before that saw hardly any rain at all, so I’m hoping we can get back to average this year, whatever that may be. Whatever happens we’re sure to still be surrounded by the beautiful countryside we’ve been blessed with, so it’s hard to complain.

If you reconnect with nature and the wilderness you will not only find the meaning of life, but you will experience what it means to be truly alive. ~Sylvia Dolson

Thanks for stopping in.

Read Full Post »

It’s turtle time here in this part of New Hampshire and the big snapping turtles are on the move, looking for soft sand to dig their nest in.  Average adult snapping turtles can be over two feet long and weigh as much as 50 pounds and they can be very aggressive on land, so it’s best to stay away from them. They don’t have teeth but they have strong jaws and beaks that can easily break fingers. I took this photo of a female wandering along the side of a dirt road from my car window.  I’ve read that the largest snapper ever recorded weighed 75 pounds. It must have been huge.

Snapping turtles dig rather shallow holes with their hind legs and lay anywhere from 25-80 eggs each year. Incubation time is 9-18 weeks but many eggs don’t make it anywhere near that long. Foxes, minks, skunks, crows and raccoons dig them up and eat them and destroyed nests are a common sight along sandy roadsides. These big turtles eat plants, fish, frogs, snakes, ducklings, and just about anything else they can catch. Oddly, when in the water they are rather placid and don’t bother humans.

Snapping turtles aren’t the only reptiles laying eggs; painted turtles are also nesting.

Tent caterpillars are out of their nests and searching for food. Many people confuse tent caterpillars with fall webworms, but tent caterpillars appear in spring and do much more damage than fall webworms, which usually eat foliage that trees no longer need. Tent caterpillars prefer fruit trees but will also eat maples, hawthorns, and others. They can defoliate a tree in a short amount of time and a large outbreak can leave large areas of forest weakened.

I’m seeing more swallowtail butterflies this year than I’ve ever seen but I can’t get a single one to pose for a photo. This cabbage white was willing though, and sat for a while on this yellow hawkweed blossom while I clicked the shutter. At least I think it’s a cabbage white; my insect identification abilities aren’t what they should be.

I was able to identify this rosy maple moth because there apparently aren’t too many others that look like it. This is a cute little thing with its wooly yellow body and pink and creamy yellow wing stripes. These moths lay their tiny eggs on the undersides of maple leaves and that’s how they come by their common name. Adult moths do not eat but the caterpillars are able to eat a few leaves each. They are called green striped maple worms.

I went looking for the beautiful purple flowers of the larch tree (Larix laricina) but instead I found the tiny yellow eggs of a ladybug stuck to a larch branch. Each egg is less than a millimeter in length and this entire batch of them was less than an inch long. This larch must have an aphid problem because I’ve read that ladybugs will always try to mate as close to an aphid colony as possible. The ladybug lays infertile eggs along with the fertile ones though, and the hatchlings will eat these infertile eggs if they can’t find any aphids. They also eat scale insects and mealybugs, so they are great friends to have in a garden.

On the same larch I also saw some newly emerging needles which I thought were something most of us never see. Larch trees lose their needles in winter and grow new ones each spring; the only conifer I know of to do so.

Other conifers are busy right now too; pines are growing pollen cones, which are the tree’s male flowers. Pine trees are wind pollinated and great clouds of smoke like yellow-green pollen can be seen coming from them on windy days. The trees look like they’re on fire and virtually everything gets dusted with pollen; cars, houses, and even entire lakes and ponds. If you live near pine trees it’s impossible not to breathe some of it in, but pine pollen is a strong antioxidant that has been used medicinally around the world for thousands of years. Its numerous health benefits were first written of in China nearly 5000 years ago.

Here’s a close look at some pine pollen cones that have opened and released their pollen. Not good news for allergy sufferers, I’m afraid.

When all that pollen falls on water it can make some fantastic abstract designs that I love watching as they slowly float along on the current and change shapes and patterns. There were also white locust blossoms scattered here and there on the pond on this day. The scene kind of takes me back to the seventies when my consciousness was expanding.

Here was a snake like river of pollen on the surface of a pond. I can’t even begin to explain how it could have formed. I hope everyone gets to see such beautiful things in their day to day travels. These are the things that make us wonder and, as Edgar Allan Poe once said: It is happiness to wonder, it is happiness to dream.

To ensure that there will be plenty of pollen available for future generations here was a tiny white pine (Pinus strobus) seedling. If everything goes according to plan it will grow to become one of our largest trees.

Sometimes I wonder if every now and then nature does something just to please us because I can’t think of any other reason rattlesnake weed’s foliage (Hieracium venosum) would have evolved into something as beautiful as this. Leaves colored in such a manner would only lessen photosynthesis I would think and I doubt that would be a benefit to any plant, so until I learn differently I’m going to believe that this kind of beauty was put here simply to please any onlookers that might pass by. This is the only plant of its kind I’ve ever seen and each year I make a special pilgrimage to see it, so I hope you like it. It is in the hawkweed family and has flowers that resemble those of yellow hawkweed.

And here was another plant at the river that looked like it was trying to mimic rattlesnake weed. I haven’t been able to identify it but I do know that I’ve never seen another like it. If you should recognize it I’d love to know what it is. It grew very low to the ground.

Here’s something that I’d guess that most of us have never seen; the tiny seed pods of dwarf ginseng (Panax trifolius.) I know of one small colony of perhaps 20 plants and this is the first time I’ve ever seen seed pods on one. I hope all of them grow into new plants.

The tiny splash cups of juniper haircap moss (Polytrichum juniperinum) have appeared. These are the male reproductive organs of this common moss, which grows both male and female plants. Male plants produce sperm in these cups and when a raindrop falls into the cup the sperm is splashed out. If everything is wet enough and all goes well the sperm will swim to a female plant and fertilize the eggs found there. If you sat a single pea in one of these splash cups the tiny cup would disappear behind it.

When young the female spore capsule (sporangium) of juniper haircap moss is covered by a cap called a calyptra. This cap is very hairy, which is where the common name comes from, and it protects the spore capsule and the spores within. As the capsule ages it moves from a semi vertical to a more horizontal position and the calyptra will fall off. The spore capsule will continue to ripen and when the time is right the end cap will fall off and  the spores will be released to the wind. At this stage the capsule is about the same diameter as a piece of cooked spaghetti.

It has been so dry here we’re already down about 3.5 inches from our average rainfall so I’m not seeing much in the way of fungi, but I did see these examples growing on a pine root. There are many mushrooms that look like these so I’m not sure what their name is. They are pretty though.

I also saw a few examples of the aquatic fungi known as swamp beacons (Mitrula elegans.) Each one is about as big as a wooden match stick and I find them in seeps where there is open water year round. They are classified as “amphibious fungi” and use a process called soft rot to decompose plant material in low oxygen areas. Since they only decompose soft tissue they aren’t found on twigs or bark; only on things like last year’s saturated leaves.

I looked down into the heart of a yucca plant and wished I could think of something to make from all those threads. Native Americans used yucca fibers to weave sandals, cords, and baskets. They also ate the fruit of the plant. The sharp points at the tips of the leaves were used as sewing needles and the roots were peeled and ground and mixed with water to make soap for washing their hair and treating dandruff.  Sap from the leaves was used medicinally to stop bleeding and heal sores. They used every single part of this plant.

It’s hard to believe that something as tiny as a river grape blossom (Vitis riparia) could be fragrant but in places right now you can follow your nose right to the vines, so strong is the fragrance. And this isn’t the end of the joy they bring; in the fall the fermented fruit on a warm day will make the woods smell just like grape jelly.

Live this life in wonder, in wonder of the beauty, the magic, the true magnificence that surrounds you every day. It is all so beautiful, so wonderful. Let yourself wonder.
~Avina Celeste

Thanks for stopping in.

 

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »