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Posts Tagged ‘Poison Ivy Berries’

Last Sunday I decided that a walk along the Ashuelot River in Keene was in order because this stretch of river is one of only two places I know of where gentians grow, and I wanted to see how they were coming along. They should bloom in a little over a month.

People have been walking along this path since long before I came along and it’s still a favorite of bike riders, dog walkers, joggers and nature lovers. On a good day you might see ducks, geese, blue heron, beavers, muskrats, squirrels, chipmunks and more birds than you can count here, as well as a wide variety of wildflowers and fungi. There have also been quite a few recent reports of a black bear in the area, but I was hoping that it was taking this day off.

You might even see something you’ve never seen before; that was my experience with this Asiatic dayflower (Commelina communis.) This is the first time it has appeared on this blog because this is the first time I’ve ever seen it. I was surprised by how small it was. I thought it would be as big as a tradescantia blossom but it was only half that size. It is an introduced plant from China and Japan but it could hardly be called invasive; it seems to be quite rare here. I love that shade of blue.

Another introduced plant that can be called very invasive is purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) and I was sorry but not surprised to see it here. If left unchecked it might very well be the only plant on these river banks a few years from now. It eventually chokes out almost every native plant it contacts.

Native Joe Pye weed (Eupatorium purpureum) grew along the river bank as well, and I hope it doesn’t lose the battle to purple loosestrife. I like seeing its dusty rose flower heads at this time of year.

Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis) also grew on the river bank but I couldn’t get near them because they were growing in the water. I was surprised because every other time I’ve seen this native shrub it was growing up high on the river bank well away from the water. The waterfowl will appreciate it being so close because they love the seeds.

This was one of a few strange things I saw on this day. I don’t know what it was all about but what struck me as even stranger than its being here in the first place was that hundreds of people have walked by it and nobody has touched it. I must have seen at least ten children walking or bike riding with their parents and I don’t know why they left it alone. They must be very well behaved. When my own son and daughter were little this would have been like a magnet to them.

This was another strange thing I saw. It was nailed to a pine tree and I don’t have any idea why.  I do know for sure that Europeans weren’t nailing metal tags to trees in New Hampshire in 1697 though.

Yet another strange thing I saw was a turtle that appeared to be trying to fly. It kept putting its hind legs up in the air and wiggling its toes in the breeze. I don’t know what it was trying to do but it seemed very happy to be doing it. Maybe it was just celebrating such a beautiful day.

A young robin flew into a nearby bush and watched the turtle trying to fly. It didn’t seem real impressed, but what bird would be?

Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum) and gray goldenrod (Solidago nemoralis) grew near the turtle’s log. At a glance common boneset looks like white Joe Pye weed. That’s because the two plants are closely related. In fact they can often be found growing side by side, but boneset blossoms a little later than Joe Pye weed here. I find it on river, pond and stream banks; almost always near water. The “perfoliatum” part of boneset’s scientific name means “through the leaf,” and that’s what boneset leaves look like; as if they had been perforated by the stem. The leaves joining around the stem as they do looked like bones knitting together as they healed to ancient herbalists, and that’s how the plant got its common name.

I’ve never seen pink lady’s slipper orchids (Cypripedium acaule) blooming along this stretch of the Ashuelot but the plants are here. I must not have walked this trail at the right time but I’ll be here next spring when they bloom.

There are many side trails off the main trail and every time I come out here I tell myself that I’m going to explore them one day but, even though I’ve been coming here since I was a boy, so far that day hasn’t come.

A crust fungus had nearly engulfed this entire tree stump. I think it was the netted crust fungus (Byssomerulius corium,) but I’ve never seen it get so big. It looked as if it was oozing right out of the stump.

White rattlesnake root (Prenanthes alba) is sometimes called white lettuce but it isn’t a lettuce, though they are in the same aster family that the lettuces are in. It’s probably thought to be another lettuce because it blooms at the same time and in the same locations as the wild lettuces do, but instead of the daisy like petals of lettuce flowers these look more bell shaped and lily like. The Native American Choctaw tribe used the tops of the plant in tea that they used to relieve pain. It is said that the common name comes from the way that some Native American tribes used the plant to treat snakebite.

Native long leaved pondweed (Potamogeton nodosus) also grew in the calm shallows. It likes to root in the mud and grow in full sun in warm standing water up to 4 feet deep. Many types of waterfowl including ducks and swans eat the seeds and leaves of this plant and muskrats like the stems. Many species of turtle eat the leaves, so it seems to be a plant that feeds just about every critter on the river. A man and woman came along when I was taking this photo and the woman came over to see what I thought was so interesting “Yuck, that’s disgusting!” she said. Since I see nothing disgusting about it her reaction to this important pond weed baffled me. Maybe she just doesn’t get out much.

Poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) is doing well this year; this plant was loaded with berries. They’ll ripen to a chalky white from the green seen here. I get into it every year and this year was no exception. One of my fingers has had a blister on it for about a week and is itching as I type this. Luckily it stays put on me and doesn’t spread, but I’ve known people who were hospitalized by it.

Tall blue lettuce (Lactuca biennis) isn’t being very blue this year. I keep hoping to find a plant with deep blue flowers but so far all I’ve seen are ice blue examples. There are hundreds of plants along this stretch of river and I know of many more that grow along a stream and some near a pond, so the plant must like to be near water, possibly due to the increased humidity.

Though I usually look for narrow leaf gentians (Gentiana linearis) near mid-August the bottle gentians (Gentiana andrewsii) along the Ashuelot were nowhere near blooming. Last year I found them blooming in mid-September, so I’ll wait awhile and come back. The plants looked good and healthy with plenty of buds and hadn’t been eaten by bug or beast, so they should bloom well.

I was born not far from this river and I first put my toes into it just about 50 years ago. I’ve been near it pretty much ever since but even after all this time I still see many things along its banks that I’ve never seen, and I guess that’s why I keep coming back. I hope there is a river in your life as well.

If you have a river, then you should share it with everyone. ~Chen Guangbiao

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1. Frost Crystals

The plan was to get out early last Saturday and hike a rail trail since I skipped it last week in favor of a pond, but nature had other plans. We got about 5 inches of snow on Friday and the temperature at 7:00 am on Saturday was barely 17 degrees F. I thought I’d wait for the sun to warm it up a bit and took photos of frost crystals while I waited. They were very feathery.

2. Trail

Eventually I did get out there and found a beautiful warm and sunny day.  Warm was 35 degrees but since last February saw below zero temperatures nearly all month long 35 degrees seemed like a gift.

3. Tire Track

I saw that a bike with balloon tires had gone through the snow. I’ve heard that the tires on them are underinflated, and that these bikes can go just about anywhere. It seems as if it has taken a good part of my lifetime for bikes to get back to where they were when I was a boy. I can remember them with fat balloon tires that always seemed to be underinflated back then, but we just rode them on the streets.

4. Little Bluestem Grass

There is a pasture for horses that runs for a short way along one side of the trail and on the far side of it what I think was little bluestem grass (Schizachyrium scoparium) glowed beautifully in the sunshine. I love the golden color that some grasses have when they’re “dead.”

5. Poison Ivy Berries

Poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) can grow as a shrub or a vine. In this case it grew as a vine on a tree trunk and its white berries gave away its identity, even in winter. I’m glad I saw the berries before I touched the tree trunk. You can catch a good case of poison ivy rash even when the plants have no leaves on them and as general rule I try not to touch plants with white berries. Poison ivy hasn’t ever bothered me much but there is always a first time. Some people get it so badly they have to be hospitalized. Over 60 species of birds are known to eat poison ivy berries, so the toxic part of the plant must have no effect on them.

6. Oak Gall

A gall wasp made a perfectly round escape hole in its near perfectly spherical oak gall. It is said that oaks carry more galls than any other tree. This example is a marble gall.

7. Pine Sap

White pines (Pinus strobus) have shown me that I can use their sap as a kind of thermometer in the winter because the colder it gets, the bluer it becomes. This example was sort of a medium blue which kind of parallels our almost cold winter. I’ll have to look at some if the temperature plunges next weekend as forecast.

8. Trestle

Snowmobile clubs have built wooden guardrails along the sides of all of the train trestles in the area to make sure that nobody goes over the side and into the river. That wouldn’t be good, especially if there was ice on the river. Snowmobile clubs work very hard to maintain these trails and all of us who use them owe them a great debt of gratitude, because without their hard work the trails would most likely be overgrown and impassable. I know part of one trail that hasn’t seen any maintenance and it’s like a jungle, so I hope you’ll consider making a small donation to your local club as a thank you.

9. Warning Wires

Years ago before air brakes came along, brakemen had to climb to the top of moving boxcars to manually set each car’s brakes. The job of brakeman was considered one of the most dangerous in the railroad industry because many died from being knocked from the train when it entered a trestle or tunnel. This led to the invention seen in the above photo, called a “tell-tale.” Soft wires about the diameter of a pencil hung from a cross brace, so when the brakeman on top of the train was hit by the wires he knew that he had only seconds to duck down to avoid running into the top of a tunnel, trestle, or other obstruction. Getting hit by the wires at even 10 miles per hour must have hurt some, but I’m sure it was better than the alternative.

I’ve spent over 50 years wondering what these wires were called and was able to find out just recently. I also discovered that though tell-tales were once seen on each side of every trestle and tunnel, today they are rarely seen. The above photo shows the only example I know of and I chose to walk this particular section of rail trail because of it.

10. Ashuelot

There is a nice view of the Ashuelot River from the trestle. It’s very placid here but its banks seem wild and untamed, and it’s easy to imagine that this is what it looked like before colonists came here.

11. Rivets

Though there is surface rust on the ironwork of the trestle they were built to last and I wouldn’t be surprised if it looks the same as it does now after standing for another 150 years. You can see in this photo that the rust is just a very thin coating on the heads of the rivets.

12. Stone Wall

Stone walls marked the property line between landowner and railroad. I’ve tried to find out how wide railroad rights of way are but it seems to vary considerably. I’ve read that the average setback on each side is 25 feet from the center of the nearest rail. Add 10 feet or so for engine width and you have a 60 foot wide rail trail right of way, which seems about right in this region of the country.

13. Snowshoer

On my way back I was passed by a lady on snowshoes who asked me what I was taking photos of. “Anything and everything,” I told her, but I really wasn’t planning on taking her photo until I realized that she might give the place a sense of scale. This photo shows how, though the right of way might be 60 feet wide the sides aren’t often flat, so this might leave an actual trail width of only 20 feet.

14. Lowbush Blueberry

Railroad tracks have always been a great place to go berry picking. Raspberries, blackberries and blueberries can all be found in great abundance along most trails. In this section lowbush blueberry bushes (Vaccinium angustifolium) looked spidery against the snow.

15. Maple Dust Lichen on Beech

On this trip something I had been wondering about for a few years was finally put to rest, and that was the question do maple dust lichens (Lecanora thysanophora) only grow on maple trees? The one pictured was growing on a beech tree, so the answer is no. So why are they called maple dust lichens? That question I don’t have an answer for.

16. Amber Jelly

I saw the biggest amber jelly (Exidia recisa) fungus I’ve ever seen out here. It was as big as a toddler’s ear and felt just like an ear lobe. As usual it reminded me of cranberry jelly, which isn’t amber colored at all.

17. Sweet Fern

I saw the sun lighting up the orange brown leaves of this sweet fern from quite a distance away. Sweet fern is a small shrub with incredibly aromatic leaves which release their fragrance on warm summer days. They can be smelled from quite a distance and are part of the summer experience for me.  Though they aren’t ferns their leaves look similar to fern leaves. They are actually a member of the bayberry family and the leaves make a good tasting tea. Native Americans made a kind of spring tonic from them and also used them as an insect repellant. On this day I just admired their beauty, glowing there in the sun.

18. Fungi on a Branch

A fallen branch poked up out of the snow as if it had been waiting for me to come along. It showed off what looked from a distance like little orange flowers, but I knew that couldn’t be.

19. Fungi on a Branch

They weren’t flowers but they might as well have been because they were just as beautiful. I’m not sure but I think they were older examples of milk white toothed polypores, which are known to brown with age. These hadn’t reached the brown stage but they were very orange and very interesting.

Each living thing gives its life to the beauty of all life, and that gift is its prayer. ~Douglas Wood

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1. Ashuelot River

Canada geese are flying in pairs up and down the Ashuelot River again and the ice that covered it for a while in this spot has melted. The deep snow that has kept me off its banks has melted enough so it is once again possible to explore, and it’s a great feeling because I’ve missed being there. The going can still be difficult though. Just after I snapped the above photo we saw snow squalls, so these shots had to be taken over 2 or 3 days.

2. Hollow Grass Stem

One of the first things I saw was a broken grass stem, so I thought I’d see how close I could get with my camera.

3. Black Eyed Susan Seed Head

Black eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta) still have plenty of seeds on them.  With a winter like the one we’ve just had I would expect every food source to be stripped clean but there are still large amounts of natural bird feed out there.  I’m not sure what to make of it. Maybe it happens every year and I’ve just never noticed.

 4. Cord Glaze Moss aka Entodon seductrix

 Something I haven’t seen here before was a large clump of cord glaze moss (Entodon seductrix). This moss is a sun lover and it was growing on a stone in full sun. It is also called glossy moss because of the way it shines. Its leaves become translucent when wet and a little shinier when dry, but unlike many other mosses its appearance doesn’t change much between its wet and dry states.

5. Bitter Wart Lichen

Bitter wart lichen (Pertusaria amara) is a rarity here. The only one I know of grows on the limb of an old dead American hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana) tree that still stands near the river. When I went to visit this lichen I noticed with dismay that all of the bark is falling from the dead limb that it grows on, so this might be that last shot I get of this particular example.

6. Bitter Wart Lichen Closeup

This close up shot of the bitter wart lichen shows the darker gray, deeply fissured body (thallus) and whitish fruiting bodies (apothecia) that erupt from it. The apothecia look like warts and are how this lichen gets its common name. From what I’ve read about this lichen the apothecia are rarely fertile, and that might explain why I’ve only seen just this one. The “bitter” part of the common name comes from its bitter taste. Not that I’ve tasted it-I just take the lichenologist’s word for it.

7. Dry Deer Tongue Grass

There is a lot of dead deer tongue grass (Dichanthelium clandestinum) showing in places, all beaten down by the heavy snow load. This grass is tough and it amazes me how this can all just disappear into the soil in just a few short months. This grass gets its common name from the way its leaves resemble a deer’s tongue.

8. White Pine Buds

White pines (Pinus strobus) are showing signs of sticky new growth. In his writings Henry David Thoreau mentioned the white pine more than any other tree, and once wrote of being able to see distant hills after climbing to the top of one. The tallest one on record was about 180′ tall.

9. Staghorn Sumac Buds

Staghorn sumacs (Rhus typhina) grow along the edges of the woods that line the river and their buds are swelling. Up close the hairy, first year branches of this tree look more animal than plant. Another name for staghorn sumac is velvet tree, and that’s exactly what it feels like.

10. Staghorn Sumac Inner Bark

Along this stretch of river is where the inner bark on dead staghorn sumacs is a bright, reddish orange color. I’ve looked at dead sumacs in other locations and have never seen any others with bark this color. I’ve read descriptions that say the inner bark is “light green and sweet to chew on,” but no reference to its changing color when it dries, so it is a mystery to me. If you’re reading this and know something about sumac bark I’d love to hear from you.

11. Witch Hazel Seed Pods

Native witch hazels (Hamamelis virginiana) also line the banks of the Ashuelot in this area. This is a shot of the recently opened seed pods, which explode with force and can throw the seeds as far as 30 feet. I’ve read that you can hear them pop when they open and even though I keep trying to be there at the right time to see and hear it happening, I never am.

12. Poison Ivy Berries

There are no man made trails here but there is a very narrow game trail which in places is crowded by poison ivy plants (Toxicodendron radicans) on both sides, so I always wear long pants when I come here. Even with longs pants one early spring I knelt to take a photo of a wildflower and must have landed right on some poison ivy because my knees itched for two weeks afterward. I’m lucky that the rash stays right on the body part that contacted the plant and doesn’t spread like it does on most people. In the above photo are the plant’s berries looking a little winter beaten, but which will also give you a rash if you touch them.  This is a good plant to get to know intimately if you plan on spending much time in the woods because every part of it, in winter or summer, will make you itch like you’ve never itched before.

 12. Ashuelot Waves

The river seems so happy now that the dam that stood here for more than 250 years is gone. Trout and other fish have returned. Eagles once again fish it, ducks and geese swim in it, and all manner of animals visit its shores.

I can remember when the Ashuelot ran a different color each day because of the dyes that the woolen mills discharged directly into it. I’ve seen it run orange, purple, and everything in between. It was very polluted at one time but thankfully it was cleaned up and today tells a story of not only how we nearly destroyed it, but also how we saved it. Knowing what I do of its history, it’s hard not to be happy when I walk its banks.

The mark of a successful man is one that has spent an entire day on the bank of a river without feeling guilty about it. ~Chinese philosopher

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Here are a few more of those things I’ve seen on the trail that didn’t make it into other posts.

1. Chubby Chipmunk

This chipmunk saw me but just sat on his rock, not making a sound. After I got home and saw the photo I wondered if maybe he was too chubby to be able to run away.

2. Acorn

It’s been a good year for all kinds of fruits and nuts, including acorns. Maybe that’s why the chipmunk is so chubby.

 3. Laurel Sphinx Caterpillar aka Sphinx kalmiae

This caterpillar was happily eating all the leaves from my lilac. The helpful folks over at bugguide.net  tell me that it is a laurel sphinx caterpillar (Sphinx kalmiae). It was as big as my index finger and had a wild looking horn. In this stage the caterpillar is nearly ready to stop feeding and start looking for soil to pupate in. The laurel sphinx moth is gray brown with brownish yellow wings-not nearly as colorful as the caterpillar.

4. Turkey Tails

I’m seeing many more turkey tail fungi (Trametes versicolor) this year than I did last. They are very colorful this year. Polysaccharide-K, a compound found in these fungi, has shown to be beneficial in the treatment of gastric, esophageal, colorectal, breast and lung cancers.

 5. Toothed Fungus

Lion’s mane, bear’s head, monkey head, icicle mushroom-call it what you will, Hericium americanum is a toothed fungus that is always fun to find in the woods. This mushroom is edible but unless you can be 100% sure of your identification you should never eat a wild mushroom. Bruce Ruck, director of drug information and professional education for New Jersey Poison Control at Rutgers, says it better than I: “Eating even a few bites of certain mushrooms can cause severe illness. Unless you are a mycologist, it is difficult to tell the difference between a toxic and non-toxic mushroom”

6. Pigskin Puffball

Speaking of toxic mushrooms, here’s one now. This is the toxic pigskin puffball (Scleroderma citrinum), which isn’t really a puffball at all but an earth ball. Earth balls are always hard to the touch and never “squishy” like puffballs. If you eat them they won’t kill you, but they can make you quite sick. In the book A Northwoods Companion author John Bates says that “a single large puffball contains so many spores that if every spore germinated to an adult for two generations, the resultant mass would be 800 times the volume of the earth.” But what is considered large? The largest puffball ever found was nearly 5 feet across.

 7. Forked Blue Curl Seeds

Forked bluecurl seeds (Trichostema dichotomum) are so small that the only way I can see them is in a photo. This plant has beautiful blue flowers with long, curving, blue stamens. It is an annual, so it has to grow new from seed each year. Two or three seeds nestle in a basket shaped, open pod and sometimes I take a few seed pods home, hoping that I can get the plant to grow in my yard. So far I have had limited success, even though I’ve provided the same growing conditions.

8. New York  Fern Sori

Many of the woodland ferns have lost their chlorophyll and have gone pale now. I recently turned one of these pale fronds over and found all these tiny sori. These are clusters of even tinier sporangia which are the spore masses where the fern’s spores are produced. I think this one might be a New York fern (Thelypteris noveboracensis), but to be honest I didn’t pay close enough attention to its identifying characteristics to be certain.

9. Poison Ivy

Even poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) has to get in on the fall show. Poison ivy can grow in the form of a shrub or a vine and in this case it had twined its way up a birch tree. Beautiful to look at but you don’t want to touch it. The oils in the plant form a complex with skin proteins and interrupt the chemical signals that the skin sends to the rest of the body. The area of exposed skin is then viewed as foreign and the body attacks it, which results in a very itchy rash that can becomes sore and bleed. And if that isn’t bad enough it is also systemic, meaning you can touch the plant with your hand and end up with a rash on your leg or any other part of your body. Some internal cases of poison ivy- that can come from eating the leaves –have been fatal.

10. Poison Ivy Berries

I found another poison ivy on another tree that had lost all its leaves and had just its berries showing. Over sixty species of birds have been documented as eating these berries.  Apparently birds are immune to its toxic effects.

 11. Cranberry

The native cranberries (Vaccinium macrocarpon) have ripened, but you’ll sure get your feet wet harvesting them. I find them growing in a bog in Fitzwilliam, New Hampshire. The pilgrims named this fruit “crane berry” because they thought the flowers looked like sandhill cranes. They were taught how to use the berries by Native Americans, who used them as a food, as a medicine, and as a dye.

12. Bumblebee on Purple Stemmed Aster

One cool day I found this bumblebee curled into a ball in an aster blossom and I thought it had died there but, as I watched I could see it moving very slowly. I’ve read that bumblebee queens hibernate in winter, but I can’t find out what happens to the rest of the hive.

In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous. ~Aristotle

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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

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