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Posts Tagged ‘Poplar Sunburst Lichen’

1. The Tree

A few posts ago Jerry from the Quiet Solo Pursuits blog and I were talking about how much there is to see on the bark of trees. Almost like an entire world in one square foot of tree bark, we agreed. Of course that got me thinking that it might be interesting to see what I could actually find on a square foot of tree bark, and the above photo is of the tree I chose. It’s nothing special; just a tree in a local shopping mall, but I’ve had trouble figuring out what it is. Landscape architects have hundreds if not thousands of trees to choose from these days, so it could be from virtually any place on earth. Its bark and shape look a lot like hop hornbeam, but I don’t think that’s what it is. Anyhow, this post isn’t about the tree.

2. Miniature Garden

This post is about the gardens that grow on trees, and this particular specimen had so much growing on it that you could hardly see its bark in places. To give you some idea of the scale of what we’re looking at, that little tuft of moss in the center of the photo is roughly the same diameter as a quarter, or slightly less than an inch (24.26 mm).

At this point I should say that, though many people think that lichens, mosses, and algae growing on a tree will harm the tree, that isn’t true. These growths are epiphytes and take nothing at all from the tree. They are simply looking for a convenient place to perch, much like a bird, and get everything they need from the sun, rain and air. However they do like high humidity and still air and their presence might be a sign that the tree should be in a drier place with better air circulation, but if a tree seems sick we shouldn’t automatically blame what’s growing on it. Instead we should call a certified arborist and find the true cause.

3. Moss

Trees have natural channels in their bark that channel rain water down to their roots, and mosses and lichens often take advantage of that. Both lichens and mosses like lots of water and can usually be found growing along these tiny streams. This photo is a closer look at the moss in the center of the above photo. I’m fairly certain that it’s called Lyell´s bristle-moss (Orthotrichum lyellii.) In this photo it was good and wet.

 4. Moss

It’s hard to believe that this is the same moss that’s in the previous photo, but it is. The difference is this photo shows what it looks like when it dries out. I took these photos over a few days so I could show you the changes that these plants go through between their wet and dry states. This is a good illustration of why serious moss and lichen hunters do so immediately after it rains.

5. Penny on Tree

I finally figured out how to make a penny defy gravity so we could get an even better idea of the scale of some of these lichens. For those of you not familiar with the size of a penny, they are 3/4 of an inch (19.05mm) in diameter. Unfortunately, though I can show you this lichen’s size I can’t tell you its name. There are a few poplar sunburst lichens in this area but I’ve never seen one as flat or as round as this one, so I’m not sure if that is what it is.

6. Unknown Yellow Shield Lichen

Whatever it is it was producing spores, as its tiny round fruiting bodies (apothecia) show. They’re the parts that look like tiny suction cups. For now I think I’ll just call it a yellow shield lichen. I know where it lives so I’ll watch it over time to see how it changes.

7. Poplar Sunburst Lichen

I have no doubt that this lichen is a poplar sunburst lichen (Xanthoria hasseana.) Its growth habit is much different than the flat, round example seen previously. Virtually every photo I’ve seen of this lichen shows the mounded, irregular shape seen here.

8. Poplar Sunburst Lichen

Poplar sunburst is a beautiful lichen and one of my favorites. It seems to never stop producing spores as the many fruiting bodies (apothecia) in this photo shows. You would think that such a prolific lichen would show up just about everywhere, but this is the only place I’ve ever seen it. That makes me wonder about the viability of its spores and how far they really travel on the wind.

9. Star Rosette Lichen

This lichen almost had me fooled into thinking that it was a black eyed rosette lichen (Physcia phaea) but the photo clearly shows that its “eyes” (apothecia) are more bluish gray than black. For that reason I believe that it’s a star rosette lichen (Physcia stellaris), which has dark brown apothecia that are often pruinose. Pruinose refers to a white, waxy, powdery coating like that found on blueberries, plums, and first year black raspberry canes. I’ve noticed by watching smoky eye boulder lichens, which also have pruinose apothecia, that the coating can reflect light in different ways, sometimes appearing gray and at other times more blue.

10. Powder Edged Ruffle Lichen aka Parmotrema stuppem

The uniform pale gray color, broad rounded lobes with erect edges, and soralia on the lobe edges all point towards this being a powder edged ruffle lichen (Parmotrema stuppeum). In this example the soralia are white and granular and make the lichen look like its edges have been dipped in sugar.  Soralia are meant to fall or break off a lichen and are used as a vegetative means of propagation. Another feature used to identify this lichen is its black to brown undersides, which aren’t visible in this photo.

11. Rimelia Reticulata Lichen

Here is another example of soralia (aka soredia) on the lobe edges of a lichen but these are much larger and more noticeable than those in the previous photo, and it’s easier to imagine them breaking off when a chipmunk runs over them. I’m fairly certain that this is a netted rimelia lichen (Rimelia reticulata) because of its soralia, but also its black undersides and root like rhizines, which are hard to see in this photo but are there. This is the first time I’ve ever seen this lichen and the previous powder edged ruffle lichen, so I’ve learned a lot from that tree.

12. Hammered Shield Lichen

This lichen I have seen before but only once or twice. Because it looks like its lobes were hammered out of a sheet of steel it has the not so surprising name of hammered shield lichen (Parmelia sulcata). I’m glad that I found so many different gray lichens. At a glance it’s easy to think ho hum, another gray shield lichen, but I hope this post might convince people that it really is worth taking a moment to get a closer look. Even gray lichens can be surprisingly beautiful.

 13. Unknown

Here is something that has had jerry and I scratching our heads and wondering about for over a month now. Jerry first noticed that his lichen photos showed some kind of white, thread like filaments on them and when I went back and looked at my photos I saw that some of the lichens showed the same thing. The fact that they were on moss in this instance almost fooled me, because the club shaped objects in the photo look much like the spore capsules on a moss called puckered tuft moss (Ulota coarctata) and for a short time I thought I had solved the puzzle.

14. Unknown Seed

This photo shows a single tiny club shaped object from the mass in the previous photo. It is so small that I can’t even think of anything to compare it to. Human hair might be best, but the club like end has a greater diameter. It can’t be a moss spore capsule because if it were there would be an opening in the end nearest us for the spores to escape through. Since there is no opening it must be something else. I think that the shiny, hair-like filaments at the far end show that it is a seed of some kind, and those shiny filaments are the seed’s crushed “parachute.” It’s very similar to a dandelion seed but I don’t know if that’s exactly it. There are many other plants with cottony seeds in the area including willows, asters, cattails, milkweed, yellow goat’s beard and others, but none of them are an exact match. If you are reading this and know what plant it came from I’d be very grateful if you filled me in. I’m sure that Jerry would thank you too.

15. 800px-Dandelion_seed_-_May_2012

This excellent photo by Wolfgang Arnold on Wikipedia Commons shows the “parachute” part of a dandelion seed looking like we would expect it to, but what would it look like after being stuck to a tree all winter?  And what happens when the brown seed falls off or degrades? Does it leave a white, club shaped end like we see in the previous photo? As often happens nature brings more questions than answers, but we can learn a lot by solving the riddles that are presented to us. I’m anxious to see dandelions bloom again.

 16. Bristly Beard Lichen aka Usnea hirta

There were some very healthy looking examples of bristly beard lichens (Usnea hirta) on this tree, and If you look closely at the lower right side of this one you’ll see how the white filaments catch on lichens and show up so clearly in photos.

I’m sorry that this post turned out to be so long but that’s what happens sometimes when you stop to look at a tree-whole new worlds open up unexpectedly and you see things that you’ve never seen before. I hope you’ll find that out for yourself one day soon.

Science cannot solve the ultimate mystery of nature. And that is because, in the last analysis, we ourselves are a part of the mystery that we are trying to solve. ~Max Planck

Thanks for coming by.

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1. Storefronts

In 2003 bulldozers and dump trucks moved onto a local wetland and began tearing it up. After two years had passed what was left was a sprawling 70 acre suburban eyesore, and any trace of what was once a natural wetland was gone. Or so I thought. I’ve been keeping an eye on this place since it was built just to see what kind of an impact it would have on the natural surroundings and I’ve been surprised again and again.

2. Pond

When they built the shopping center they also built a retention basin to manage runoff and hopefully improve the quality of the water that makes it into the Ashuelot River and from there ultimately to the Atlantic Ocean. Retention basins are described as “artificial lakes with vegetation around the perimeter which include a permanent pool of water in their design.”  This is more of a pond than a lake but it is able to hold the runoff from drainage ditches that were dug around the entire perimeter. The pond did come very close to flooding one summer but that was because beavers moved in and immediately dammed the outflow channel. The beavers also began cutting down and feeding on the very expensive ornamental trees that the landscape architects ordered, but they didn’t get far. After they dropped the first thousand dollar Bradford pear they “disappeared” and I haven’t seen a beaver here since.

3. Juniper Berries

For some unknown reason, possibly to keep people from driving into it, they built long mounds of earth called berms all along the edges of the parking lots and roadways near the retention pond. The berms are about 5-6 feet high but apparently that wasn’t enough so they planted evergreens on top of them. They used spruce, balsam fir, white pine and juniper and they do a great job of completely hiding any hint of of water. The junipers here fruit heavier than any I’ve seen and I wanted to get a photo of the beautiful blue berries (actually modified cones). So there I was with my Panasonic Lumix point and shoot that I use for macro photos all warmed up and ready to go when a blackish colored head popped up out of the snow not three feet from where I stood. It saw me and immediately dropped back down into the snow, but just a few seconds later popped up again and stared at me. I felt like I was playing one of those Whack a Mole games. “Well hello there,” I said, “what are you doing here?” A stupid question if there ever was one I know, but it was all I could think of with such short notice.

4. Mink on the Run-3

And then after a few seconds of trying to figure out what I was off it went, bounding over the snow, so I just pointed the Panasonic in its general direction and without even looking through the view finder clicked the shutter as fast as my finger could go. The very poor photo above is the result, but it along with a lot of detective work tells me that this sleek blackish brown animal with white under his chin and a tail that tapers to a point is very probably an American Mink. He was about 2 feet long and his round hairy tail made up about a third of his length.

5. Burrow

This explained how he could pop up out of the snow without having snow all over his face and head. Minks are burrowing animals but they usually take over the burrows of muskrats and other animals in embankments along rivers and ponds instead of digging them themselves. They are carnivores and eat just about anything including frogs, mice and voles, fish, and birds. They also kill and eat muskrats and will go right into their burrows to do so. I haven’t been able to find any information on whether or not they bother beavers but I wondered if minks could be responsible for the mysterious disappearance of the beavers from this pond.

6. MinkTracks

If I understand what I’ve read correctly, one way to tell a mink from other members of the weasel family is by its bounding gait. This one was a real bounder and moved surprisingly fast. Rough measurements with my monopod tell me that there are about 14 inches between these prints. Minks can also climb trees and this one headed right for the evergreens along the top of the berm.

7. Paw Prints

I went back the next day to see if I could get photos of the mink’s tracks but because of the powdery snow he bounded through the tracks were barely visible. The ones in this photo were the best and they aren’t great, but one of them does show claw marks.  I’ve read that minks have paws that are slightly webbed, but nothing like the webbing that otters have. The State Fish and Game website says that minks and other members of the weasel family are very rarely seen, so I feel lucky to have gotten these photos even if they aren’t great.

8. Poplar Sunburst Lichen

After the excitement of seeing the mink died down I decided to visit one of my favorite lichens, the poplar sunburst (Xanthoria hasseana.) These lichens grow on the Bradford pear trees that grow alongside the pond and this is the only place that I’ve ever seen them. I’ve been visiting them for several years and each year they get more beautiful. The parts that look like suction cups are their fruiting bodies (apothecia) where their spores are produced.

 9. Hawthorn Fruit

For the most part the landscaping here seems uninspired and unimaginative, but there are bright spots like the two or three hawthorn (Crataegus) trees planted off in a corner where few ever see them.  They usually fruit quite heavily and the birds snap up the berry-like haws quickly. The haws, botanically speaking, are pomes, like apples and pears.  One odd fact about hawthorns is how their young leaves and flower buds are edible and can be used in salads.

10. Hawthorn Thorn

If the haws and the roundish, bright red buds don’t convince you that you’re looking at a hawthorn then the sharp, inch long thorns probably will.

 11.Spruce

I thought I’d use some of the evergreens that they planted on the berms to show you an easy way to tell a spruce from a fir. One way is by their cones. Spruce cones hang down from the branches.

12. Balsam Fir

And fir cones stand up on the branches like candles. This isn’t a great example but it’s the best I could find. Fir cones break apart as they ripen and the thing that looks like a skinny mushroom over on the upper right is what is left behind. Just a stalk and a few scales at the top. Since cones usually appear high up in the tree and are often only produced in 3-5 year cycles it’s wise to learn how to tell conifers apart by other means. Needle shape, length and color, bark appearance, overall growth habits and fragrance can all be used to identify conifers. Since spruce needles are sharp, stiff and square and fir needles are soft, flexible and flat I would have known these trees even if they hadn’t had cones, but the differences would have been much harder to illustrate here.

13. Meadow

The strip of unbroken snow in the foreground of the above photo is one of the drainage ditches and I come here in summer to take photos of arrowhead, nodding burr marigold and other wetland wildflowers that grow in great abundance here. This is a good spot to photograph them because I can get closer to them than I can when they grow in pond water. In the mini meadow in the background goldenrod, Joe Pye weed, boneset, purple loosestrife and other taller wildflowers create scenes worthy of a Monet painting in late summer.

14. Alder Tounge Gall

Native shrubs in the area include various willows, sumacs, and common alder (Alnus glutinosa). The long strap shaped growths coming out of the female alder cones (strobiles) in the above photo are tongue galls caused by a fungus called Taphrina alni. The fungus causes a chemical reaction that deforms the alder strobiles and produces the tongue like galls. Early in the season when the galls are fresh they’re green but as they age they can become yellow, pink, red, purple or orange. Once they mature they turn brown or black and often stay on the strobiles until the next season. I always seem to miss their younger, more colorful stages.

Note: Julie has correctly pointed out that common Alder is a native of Europe. It also goes by the name of black or European alder and was introduced by the earliest settlers. It has taken well to its new home and is seen everywhere here in New Hampshire along with our native gray or speckled alder (Alnus incana.) It is so common that I think of it as a native, even though I know better. Thanks Julie!

15. Hawk

I happened to glance up and saw this hawk sitting on a light pole. I think it’s the same red tailed hawk that I’ve seen in the general area several times before, but I’m not positive about that identification. It’s a big bird; bigger than a crow-and always sits on the highest point available, watching open fields. I’m sorry again about the poor quality of these photos but I’m pretty sure if I could get a look into this bird’s nest I’d find a Canon Powershot SX40 manual that it reads when it isn’t out hunting, because every time I see him / her it makes sure that it is just beyond what the zoom on my camera can comfortably handle. These shots were taken at what would be the equivalent of about 840mm with a DSLR and I still had to crop them.

16. Hawk

When I’m around this bird never sits still long enough to even think about getting the camera on a monopod or tripod. As soon as it sees me with a camera it flies off. I wonder what the mink’s chances are now that it has moved into the neighborhood. If I were him I think I’d be just a bit worried.

Surprisingly, as this walk around this strip mall shows, nature seems to be thriving here. In fact if you include the mink and the hawk, I’ve actually seen a greater cross section of nature here than I usually do in the woods. While I was taking these photos and thinking about what I was seeing I had a strong feeling that nature couldn’t wait to reclaim this land.

Nature is what you see plus what you think about it. ~John Sloan

Thanks for stopping in.

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1. Snowy Road

All of the sudden we’re seeing more sunny days but it’s still cold enough to keep the snow from melting very fast. The word is we’re going to see warmer days next week. A few days above freezing will get the sap flowing in these maples.

 2. Poplar Sunburst Lichen

In spite of the snow the poplar sunburst lichens (Xanthoria hasseana) are looking good. This one has grown quite a bit since the last time I visited it and is now about an inch in diameter. The round fruiting cups, called apothecia, are where this lichen’s spores are produced. This lichen never seems to be affected by the weather.

 3. Foliose Lichen Comparison

These photos are of the same lichen but the photo on the left was taken when it was moist from rain and snow and the photo on the right was taken after it had dried out. This is a good example of why serious lichen hunters look for them after it rains. The color change due to weather conditions can be dramatic.

 4. White Lichen Possibly Diploicia canescens

I thought this white shield lichen was very beautiful, but is it really white or has it changed color because it has dried out? That is the dilemma facing people who enjoy finding lichens. The only example of a white shield lichen I can find is called pleated white lichen (Diploicia canescens), which can be white, bluish white, or grayish white. I don’t know whether or not the one in the photo is that lichen.

 5. Black Jelly Fungus

Jelly fungi also go through drastic changes due to weather conditions. On the left side of the photo are black jelly fungi (Exidia glandulosa) when very dry and on the right side are the same fungi after a good rain. The difference is pretty amazing. When dry they look like black crust fungi and when wet like small black pillows. I find them mostly on alder bark.

 6. Carrion Flower Berries aka Smilax herbacea 

The berries on this smooth carrion flower (Smilax herbacea) vine haven’t been touched by either bird or animal.  This plant gets its common name from the way the flowers smell like decaying meat but even so, it is said that song and game birds, along with raccoons and black bears, eat the berries. Native Americans and early colonists ate the roots, spring shoots and berries-all said to be odorless- but after smelling its flowers I think I’d have a hard time eating any part of this plant.

 7. Cedar Waxwings

I drove by a spot that had several crab apple trees planted in a row and each tree was full of cedar waxwings. This soft, not quite sharp photo was the best I could do out of the window. I thought I probably didn’t have much time and sure enough, just after I came to a stop and took a couple of quick shots they all flew off.

 8. West Street Dam

The cedar waxwings reminded me of last year when I visited this waterfall and inadvertently got between a cedar waxwing and the silky dogwood berries he wanted. He kept flying directly at my face, pulling up at only the last minute.  Some readers suggested that he might have gotten drunk on the fermented berries. There is a lot more ice built up on the rocks at the base of the fall now than there was then!

9. Tire Track

This is a tire print from a large front end loader that was used to move snow. I liked the tread pattern.

10. Horse Chestnut Buds

The buds of the horse chestnut are some that can fool you into thinking that they’re swelling from sap flow, but they stay this way all winter. This tree lives in a local park so I don’t know its name but it has beautiful pink flowers each June.

 11. Tulip Tree Bracts

Across from the horse chestnut is a native yellow, or tulip poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera). This photo shows what is left of the seed head once most of the seeds have fallen.

 13. Woodpecker Sawdust

Finding sawdust (bill dust?) like this on the snow can only mean one thing-a woodpecker was here.

 13. Woodpecker Hole

This hole is small and round rather than large and rectangular, and the sawdust on the snow is made up of fine particles rather than large, torn shreds, so I know this wasn’t a pileated woodpecker. One of the smaller ones made this hole and even excavated a chamber that leads down into the heart of this dead tree. Woodpeckers mate from March through May, so this might be an important bit of wood work.

 14. Milk White Toothed Polypore aka Irpex lacteus

This milk white, toothed polypore (Irpex lacteus) looked fresh in spite of the snow and below zero temperatures. According to Mushroom Expert.com this is a resupinate mushroom. Resupinate means upside down, but in the case of mushrooms, according to The Journal of Wild Mushrooming, it means it is a “fertile surface with its back attached to or intergrown with the substrate.”  In other words it looks like a crust fungus with teeth.

 15. Milk White Toothed Polypore aka Irpex lacteus Closeup

This is a closer view of the teeth on the milk white, toothed polypore.  I think they were frozen solid. The Irpex part of the scientific name means “a large rake with iron teeth” and lacteus means “milky.”

Commonly we stride through the out-of-doors too swiftly to see more than the most obvious and prominent things. For observing nature, the best pace is a snail’s pace. ~Edward Way Teale

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Here are some more of those sometimes odd, often beautiful, and always interesting things that I see in the woods.

 1. Poplar Sunburst Lichen

It’s interesting how nature seems to use the same shapes over and over again in different ways. The round fruiting cups, called apothecia, of the Poplar Sunburst Lichen (Xanthoria hasseana) remind me of the suckers on an octopus or squid. Instead of latching onto things however, this lichen uses its cups for spore production. To give you a sense of scale-the largest of those in the photo is about an eighth of an inch across. The entire lichen might have been an inch and a half across.

 2. Many Forked cladonis Lichen

This lichen had me stumped for a while because I thought that beard lichens only grew on trees, and it was growing on stone. One bristly lichen that does grow on stones is called rock bushy lichen (Ramalina intermedia) but it has flattened branches that resemble noodles, and the one in the photo has round branches. I went back to re-visit it the other day and found that, though it was perched on a large boulder, there was soil on the boulder. That fact led me to discover a lichen new to me-the many forked cladonia (Cladonia furcata,) which grows on soil or stone. It is eaten by elk and reindeer in northern latitudes. This is the only example of it in this area that I know of.

 3. Common Liverwort aka Marchantia polymorpha

I went through most of my life ignoring liverworts, but after seeing one or two of them now I see them everywhere. The one in the photo is the common liverwort (Marchantia polymorpha.) It can often be found growing in nursery pots as a weed, but I found this one by a stream. This is also called the umbrella liverwort, because male plants have reproductive structures (Antheridiophores) that look like the ribs of an umbrella. They remind me of palm trees.

 4. Orange Mushroom Gills

Sometimes I like to take a photo of something I see just because I find it interesting or beautiful, without worrying about its name or how and why it grows the way that it does. That’s all that this photo of orange / brown mushroom gills is.

 5. Fallen Mushroom

Sometimes mushrooms are as interesting dead as they are alive. Sometimes even more so.

 6. Virginia Creeper Berries

Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) stems and berries add color to the landscape. I got to these before the birds did. A paper titled “The dissemination of Virginia Creeper Seeds by English Sparrows” by Bartle T. Harvey describes how the author found 70 Virginia creeper seedlings in fifty square feet of ground under a known English sparrow roost in Colorado.

 7. Possible Jack O Lantern Mushrooms

I think these mushrooms might be jack ‘o lantern mushrooms (Omphalotus illudens,) which are orange and fruit in late fall in clusters on wood. If I could see them at night I’d know for sure, because through bio-luminescence this mushroom’s gills glow in the dark. It is said that they glow an eerie green color and work in much the same way that fireflies do. They are also very toxic.

8. Jack O' Lantern Mushrooms

This photo of glowing jack o’ lantern mushrooms is from Wikipedia. Only the gills glow, even though it looks as if the entire mushroom does.

 9. Orange Jelly Fungus

More orange can be found in the forest in the form of orange jelly fungus (Dacrymyces palmatus.) These are very common but I see more of them at this time of year than I do in warmer months.

 10. Hobblebush Buds

Hobblebushes (Viburnum lantanoides) have already grown their spring leaves and they will remain this way, naked and unprotected, throughout the winter months. I got a good lesson on why they are called hobblebush recently when my feet got tangled in the ground hugging branches. They hobbled me and I went down fast and hard. Luckily there were no stones there to fall on-a miracle in the Granite State.

 11. Maaple Leave ViburnamAnother viburnum, maple leaf viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium), has leaves that turn to just about every fall color , including deep purple,  before they finally fade to an almost imperceptible pastel pink before falling to the ground.

 12. Marple Leaf Viburnum

This is an example of just some of the colors that can be found on maple leaf viburnums.

 13. Larch

The few larch trees (Larix) went out in a blaze of color. Larches lose their needles from the bottom up. It is our only conifer that loses all of its needles in the fall.

 14. River Reflections

The shrubs along the river have lost their leaves. The few yellow leaves that appear here and there are on bittersweet vines.

If you will stay close to nature, to its simplicity, to the small things hardly noticeable, those things can unexpectedly become great and immeasurable. ~Rainer Maria Rilke

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Another post full of things that don’t fit in other posts.

 1. Deformed Chanterelle Mushroom

I’ve noticed that something is causing chanterelle mushroom deformation this year. I’ve seen this happening in several different places so I was curious as to what might be causing it. After doing some reading on mushroom deformation I found that large amounts of water will cause deformation in chanterelles. That makes sense since we’ve had rain nearly every day for the last 3 weeks. This will not make mushroom hunters happy because chanterelles are considered a great delicacy.

 2. Chanterelle Mushroom

This is what a chanterelle should look like. This one was growing very near to several deformed ones. Why some were deformed and others were not depends on their water intake, I suppose. It seems odd to see mushrooms taking in enough moisture to hurt themselves.

 3. Poplar Sunburst Lichen

I stopped by a local tree to check on an old friend. This poplar sunburst lichen (Xanthomendoza hasseana) hasn’t gotten much bigger since the last time I saw it, but it’s still every bit as beautiful. The white material is new though, and I’m hoping it’s another lichen rather than some kind of disease.

 4. Eastern Spruce Adelgid Gall on Blue Spruce

Years ago when my son and daughter were little I planted a small Colorado blue spruce so we could have an outdoor lighted Christmas tree. I was looking at it the other day and noticed these strange growths on some branches that turned out to be galls, which are caused by a tiny insect called the eastern spruce gall Adelgid (Adelges abietis.) Thankfully the adelgids won’t kill the tree but if I prune the galls off before the eggs hatch it will interrupt their life cycle and put an end to the galls. I hope.

5. Moth Wing

I used to work at a place with overhead lights that stayed on all night and in the morning the pavement under the lights would be covered with moth and other insect’s wings. The wings were all that was left after the bats had fed. I found this wing on a leaf. It looked like its owner had tangled with a spider web before becoming a snack.

6. Black Locust Thorns

Earlier in the season I posted some honey locust flowers that several people thought were black locust flowers. I didn’t have the above photo of black locust thorns or the one below of honey locust thorns to illustrate my explanation, but the thorns are the easiest way to tell the two plants apart. Black locust thorns always grow in pairs where the leaf petioles meet the stem and are relatively short.

7. Honey Locust Thorn

Honey locust thorns grow singly and appear right out of the bark on branches and trunk. They can be 3 to 6 inches long and sometimes branch like the example in the photo. These are thorns that you don’t want to run into accidentally.

8. Canada Goose

Canada geese usually turn their backs and walk away but this one seemed as interested in me as I was in him. (Or her.) Maybe it was the designated decoy, keeping me busy while the flock waddled off. There were probably thirty geese in this pasture, including goslings.

9. Deep Blue Dragonfly

This dragonfly (or damsel fly) was deep indigo blue, including its wings, and was a very beautiful insect. I’ve looked online for it but can’t even find anything similar. I suppose that I should get an insect ID guide.

10. Japanese Beetle

No need for a guide for Japanese beetles-I’ve known them for years. I have to say though, that I’ve never noticed the white dots like this one has. After doing some searching I found that these dots are the eggs of the tachinid fly, and once they hatch the larva will burrow into the beetle and eat it. Then they will become flies and lay eggs on even more Japanese beetles. This fly has been found to parasitize 20 percent of the Japanese beetles in Connecticut alone, so if you see a Japanese beetle with white spots, let it be. Biological control of a pest is a good thing.

11. Bee on Knapweed

Butterflies and bumblebees love knapweed, I’ve discovered. They seem to be so engrossed in the flowers that they ignore me completely and let me snap away as long as I want.

12. Ox-Eye daisy

The yellow center of a common ox-eye daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare) is made up of tiny yellow disk florets that bloom from the edge of the disk to the center. These florets are perfect, meaning they have both male and female parts, while the white ray flowers, commonly called petals, are female. It is said that when these “petals” are pulled in the classic loves me / loves me not way the results are almost always favorable, because over 90 percent of ox-eye daisy flowers have an uneven number of petals.

13. Thunderheads

Strong afternoon thunderstorms have plagued this part of the state for 3 weeks now, causing flash flooding in some areas and swelling rivers to bank-full conditions. The air is so saturated it feels like you’re swimming through it. Couple that with hot afternoon sunshine and you have the two things a thunderstorm needs to form. On almost any afternoon the thunderheads grow to tens of thousands of feet and then the downpours start at between 4 and 5 pm. I hope it is a lot drier wherever you are.

 14. Ashuelot River on 7-4-13

This is a recent view of the Ashuelot River, showing how close it is to the top of its banks. It’s also very muddy, meaning that it is carrying tons of New Hampshire soil to the Atlantic.

Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass on a summer day listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is hardly a waste of time.  ~John Lubbock

Thanks for stopping in.

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I’ve been finding a lot of lichens lately and since I did a lichen post last year, I thought I’d put them all in one post again. I know that not all readers of this blog are interested in lichens but I hope posts like this might show how beautiful and fascinating they are. They can be found at any time of year growing just about anywhere and that makes winter just a little more exciting for me.

I don’t have any way to identify lichens microscopically or chemically, so the lichens in this post have been identified visually with the aid of guide books.

1. Scattered Rock Posy aka Rhizoplaca subdiscrepans

Scattered rock posy lichen (Rhizoplaca  subdiscrepans) is both beautiful and unusual with its brain like body (Thallus) and pale orange fruiting discs (Apothecia.) This one was growing on stone in full sun. It was very small-no bigger than a penny. Lichens are a good indicator of air quality, so if you see a lot of lichens where you live your air is of good quality. If you aren’t seeing them you might want to check into your local air quality.

 2. Script Lichen

Script Lichen (Graphis scripta) looks like someone took a pocket knife and stuck the tip into a powdery, grayish crustose lichen over and over again leaving small, dark slits. This one was about the size of a tennis ball and was growing on the bark of a maple tree near a stream. I’ve noticed through hunting lichens that many of them prefer high humidity and grow near lakes, ponds, and streams.

3. Smokey Eye Boulder Lichen aka Porpidia albocaerulescens

Smokey Eye Boulder Lichen (Porpidia albocaerulescens) is a crustose lichen, meaning it grows like a crust on the substrate, in this case stone. I showed this lichen in my last post and said that I wasn’t sure of my identification because of the blue color of the fruiting discs. Since then I’ve seen other pictures of this lichen with nearly the same blue color. I’m still going to re-visit this one on a sunny day though, because descriptions say these discs should be light to dark gray.

4. Bitter Wart Lichen aka Pertusaria amara

I first saw this bitter wart lichen (Pertusaria amara) several months ago and it has taken me that long to identify it. It resembles several lichens known as toad skin lichens but I’m convinced that it isn’t one of those. One sure way to identify it would be to chew a tiny bit but my lichen book says that if I did I would have a bitter taste in my mouth for a “long time,” so I don’t think I’m ready to go there.  The bumpy, warty growths are part of the body (Thallus) and hide the fruiting bodies (Apothecia.)

5. Spotted Camoflage Lichen aka Melanohalea olivacea

I found this spotted camouflage lichen (Melanohalea olivacea) growing on a birch branch near a pond. It is a foliose lichen, meaning it looks leafy. The olive green color and tiny white spots (pseudocyphellae) that line the margins of some of the lobes and fruiting discs help to identify this one.

6. Poplar Sunburst Lichen

I’ve never seen poplar sunburst lichen (Xanthoria hasseana) growing on a poplar but I’ve found many growing on ornamental Bradford pear trees near a beaver pond. This is another foliose lichen and is very beautiful, in my opinion. These lichens like to grow on trees in open areas. This one was probably as long as an egg.

7. Fringed Wrinkle Lichen

Fringed wrinkle lichen (Tuckermanopsis americana) is another common but beautiful foliose lichen. I see them growing mostly on birch branches near ponds. Like many lichens their color changes quite a lot when they dry out. They are dark brown when dry and on the greenish / lighter side when wet. You have to look carefully for lichens in trees. I’ve seen a tree covered with them standing next to a tree with none at all.

 8. Cumberland Rock Shield Lichen

Cumberland rock shield lichen (Xanthoparmelia cumberlandia) likes to grow on boulders and that’s where I found this one. The body (Thallus) is described as being “yellow-green to sometimes bluish green.” I’m not seeing that but my color finding software is. Being color blind, I can’t disagree. The fruiting discs (Apothecia) are “cinnamon to dark brown.”

 9. Cumberland Rock Sheild Lichen Close Up

This is a close up of apothecia on a Cumberland rock shield lichen. Technically apothecia are “fungal reproductive structures, in which the fungus reproduces itself through the production of spores” This is not the only way that lichens reproduce, but it is common.

10. Sea Storm Lichen aka Cetrelia chicitae-olivetorum

Sea Storm Lichen (Cetrelia chicitae-olivetorum) gets its common name from the way the lobes of the body (Thallus) undulate and have powdery or granular margins. These two attributes reminded whoever named the lichen of storm tossed ocean waves.  This foliose lichen likes to grow on mossy rocks in shady places and that is exactly where this one grew.

 11. Powdery Sunburst Lichen

Powdery Sunburst Lichen (Xanthomendoza ulophyllodes) was growing on a stone in a stone wall. This foliose lichen is easy to see, even when it’s small, because of its bright orange yellow color. This lichen really likes moisture and is often found growing near channels that carry water on stone or bark.

By stripping off the bonds of individuality the lichens have produced a world-conquering union. ~David Haskell in his book “The Forest Unseen”

I hope you’ll take a liking to lichens! Thanks for stopping in.

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A few years ago developers decided that they would build a shopping center in a field that is in a corner of two intersecting highways here in Keene, New Hampshire

 1. Wetland

The trouble was it wasn’t just a field but a wetland as well. After fighting tooth and nail over what impact building in a wetland would have on the town, the developers and the town came to an agreement and the shopping center was built on the drier part of the large parcel.

 2. Evergreen Screen On Berm

 They started by building huge berms and planting them with pine, spruce, fir, cedar and juniper to give the place a woodsy feel and to hide what remained of the wetland. In landscaping terminology a berm is a long mound of soil that resembles a dam or levee but doesn’t hold back any water. They are a good way to reduce noise and they provide a good screen when planted.

 3. Mountain Ash Berries

I’ll have to give the developers credit for not totally ignoring the wildlife in the area because they planted quite a few fruit bearing trees like mountain ash (Sorbus,) the fruits of which are shown here. Many birds feed on these berries.

4. Juniper Berries

Nice ripe juniper berries also await hungry birds.

5. Flowering Crab

Flowering crab apple trees offer even more fruit.

 6. Beaver Lodge

Everything seemed to be going well and all of the local birds and beasts happily co-existed with the shopping center. Until beavers started moving into the water retention pond, that is. Then things started to get interesting.

 7. Beaver Stump

The beavers started cutting down the ornamental trees-in this case a Bradford pear (Pyrus calleryiana.) A tree this size would easily cost over $500.00 to replace and might run close to a thousand after the stump was dug out and a new tree planted. But what should the developers expect after providing a nice man made pond and then an open path from the tree to the pond?  The beavers said “Thank you very much-we’ll take it! You can bet we’ll shop here again!”

 8. Poplar Sunburst Lichen aka Xanthoria hasseana

There are many more ornamental trees in this area and one of them had these beautiful poplar sunburst (Xanthoria hasseana) lichens on it. I hope the beavers will leave this tree alone but I doubt that they will. Hungry beavers have to eat, after all.

 9. Alder Tongue Gall

Alders grow naturally on the banks of the pond so I’m surprised that the beavers aren’t eating them or the many birches and poplars that grow nearby. These female alder cones (strobiles) have alder tongue gall, brought on by a natural pathogen that causes a chemically induced distortion of tissues. These long curled “tongues” are very noticeable.

 10. Cattails

Cattails (Typha) grow in abundance throughout the wetland. Beavers eat the new shoots in the spring and red winged blackbirds will line their nests with the fluffy seeds.

 11. Beaver Pond

For now the pond and wetland are iced over except for the small area shown in the photo, but before long the ice will melt. Beavers are extra hungry in the spring, so the shopping center managers might want to start putting some stout wire fencing on their tree trunks now.

12. American Beaver

This photo of a happy beaver is from Wikipedia. Beavers in this area are very wary of man and I’ve never gotten a good photo of one.

In nature there are neither rewards nor punishments; there are consequences. ~Robert Green Ingersoll

Thanks for stopping in.

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