Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Ramps’

I’m happy to be able to say that the bees have suddenly appeared. This one happens to be the very first bumblebee I’ve seen this season, but honeybees have also shown up in what seems like great numbers.

The honeybees were swarming all over the flowers of the Cornelian cherry (Cornus mas) and it really was like a swarm. I thought for sure I’d get stung but they let me be.

But I couldn’t get a photo of a honeybee for you no matter what I did, so you’ll have to take my word for it. They were also swarming all over these willow flowers. It’s so good to see them in such great numbers. I was getting a little anxious about not seeing any, even on the warmer days. I think there are many people out there who don’t understand all of what bees do for us. If they go we go, and not long after unless we all work the orchards and fields with little paintbrushes. I do know how to pollinate flowers by hand but it isn’t something I’d want to do from dawn to dusk every day.

We had some major winds one day last week and a huge old white pine fell on my favorite grove of coltsfoot plants (Tussilago farfara.) Many of them appear to have been wiped out but there are enough left to re-seed the area, so I expect this little grove of plants will grow in again eventually. They seem to love this spot.

Remember what I said in my last flower post about coltsfoot blossoms always having a flat flower head rather than a mounded one like a dandelion? Well, you can forget that. I’m not sure when I’ll learn that there are no absolutes in nature. “Never” and “always” simply don’t apply when you describe nature, and nature reminds me of that every single time I use either word on this blog. I also said coltsfoot has a scaly stem though and that remains true, as you can see in the above photo.

If this doesn’t say spring then nothing ever will. The bulb gardens are coming along nicely and tulips are about to bloom. The fragrance of those hyacinths was almost overwhelming.

I think it’s almost time to say goodbye to the reticulated iris (Iris reticulata) for another year. Their time with us is brief, but beautiful.

I hope we see crocuses for another week but it’s up into the 60s F. this week and that might wither them. Thanks to a helpful reader I found that there are indeed many “bee friendly” and non-bee friendly crocus varieties out there, so I hope everyone will do their homework when buying crocus bulbs. Often when plant breeders work on flowers they have to sacrifice one thing to get another, like breeding the scent out of a rose to get bigger blooms. In the case of crocuses many bred varieties no longer have viable pollen and nectar for the bees. This is important because there are so few flowers blooming at this time of year and the bees don’t have a lot of choice. I’ve never seen a single bee on this group of flowers. I thank Emily Scott for leading me to this information.

Scilla (Scilla siberica) has just come up in the last week. They’re very cheery little flowers and they’re my favorite color. The only complaint I’ve heard about these nonnative bulbs is that they can be invasive. They can get into lawns here sometimes but people don’t seem to mind. In fact that’s just what many people want them to do.

Ground ivy (Glechoma hederacea) is doing well this year and I’m now seeing flowers by the hundreds. It’s a pretty little thing which can also be invasive, but nobody really seems to care.

I saw my first violet of the year. I think it’s a common blue violet because of the white hairs on the throat of the side petals. It came up among so many other plants I couldn’t even see its leaves.

I’ve been watching the trees and one of the things I’ve seen was a magnolia bud shrugging off its winter fur coat. I’d guess it will be a flower by next week at this time. Some magnolias are very fragrant and I’m looking forward to smelling them again.

Box elder buds (Acer negundo) had their dark, reddish brown male stamens just starting to show. These flowers are small and hang from long filaments. Each male flower has a tan colored, tiny stamen too small to be seen without magnification. Once the male flowers have opened the beautiful lime green female flowers will appear along with the leaves. Box elders have male and female flowers on separate trees, so I need to find a female.

Though both male and female flowers appear in the same cluster on American elms (Ulmus americana) I didn’t see any female flowers on this example, which was one of only a handful that I could reach. This is odd because the female flowers reach maturity first to prevent cross pollination, so they should be showing. It could be that I was too late to see them. Female flowers are white and wispy like feathers and male flowers have 7 to 9 stamens with reddish anthers. Each male flower is about 1/8 of an inch across and dangles at the end of a long flower stalk. (Pedicel)

The flowers of American elm appear before the leaves. This is a closer look at the male flowers, which are very small. They look like they’ve been dipped in sugar.

Some of the red elderberry (Sambucus racemosa) buds have opened and flower buds have formed. The white flower heads (racemes) aren’t what I’d call stunning but the bright red berries on black stems that follow them certainly are. The only problem with them is how quickly the birds eat them. It happens so fast that I have rarely been able to get a photo of them. The roots, bark, flowers and leaves of the shrub are poisonous but some people do make syrup or wine from the berries. Native Americans steamed the sweetened berries and made a kind of jelly or jam from them. The berries are very seedy and are said to be bitter when unsweetened. I’ve always heard they were poisonous like the rest of the plant, so I won’t be eating or drinking them.

I checked on one of two places I know of where ramps (Allium tricoccum) grow last week and there was no sign of them. This week there they were, up and growing fast. These wild leeks look like scallions and taste somewhere between onions and garlic. They are considered a great delicacy and are a favorite spring vegetable in many parts of the world, but they’ve been over collected so harvesting has been banned in many parts of the U.S. and Canada. They’re slow growers from seed and a 10 percent harvest of a colony can take 10 years to grow back. They take 18 months to germinate from seed and 5 to 7 years to become mature enough to harvest. That’s why, when people write in and ask me where to find them, I can’t tell them. The two small colonies I’ve found have less than 300 plants combined.

This photo is from a few years ago when I foolishly pulled up a couple of ramps, not knowing how rare they were. It shows their resemblance to scallions though, and that’s what I wanted you to see. They are said to be strongly flavored with a pungent odor, but they’ve been prized by mankind since the ancient Egyptians ate them. Each spring there are ramp festivals all over the world and in some places they’re called the “King of stink.” The name ramp comes from the English word ramson, which is a common name of the European bear leek (Allium ursinum,) which is a cousin of the North American wild leek.

I saw the salmon pink shoots of Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum biflorum) just out of the ground. This plant grows fast and will be flowering in no time.

I also saw some new shoots of red or purple trillium (Trillium erectum.) The leaves should be unfurled by the weekend and the large reddish flowers will quickly follow. It isn’t a flower you want to get on your knees to sniff though; another common name is stinking Benjamin, and it lives up to it. These early plants have to get it done before the leaves come out on the trees, so they live life in the fast lane. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them blooming next week.

I was looking for yellow trout lilies and was feeling disappointed because I saw many leaves but didn’t see a single bud, so I thought I’d wander a few yards over into the part of the woods where the spring beauties grow. Usually trout lilies bloom before spring beauties, so you could have knocked me over with a feather when I saw dozens of spring beauties blooming. I was so happy to see them; even though each blossom is only the size of an aspirin they’re very beautiful things.

Imagine the one thing in all the world that you want more than anything else is suddenly there lying right at your feet and you’ll have a good idea of how I feel when I stumble upon the first spring wildflowers. My pulse begins to quicken, every thought flies out of my head, I fall to my knees and it’s just the flower and me; an instant dullard. The entire town of Keene could have paraded right by me and I’d never have known it.

The spring came suddenly, bursting upon the world as a child bursts into a room, with a laugh and a shout and hands full of flowers. ~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Thanks for coming by.

Read Full Post »

In my last post I spoke about climbing Pitcher Mountain in Stoddard. I took a short detour on the way home that day to see Bailey Brook Falls in Nelson. The brook wasn’t running quite as high as I expected considering the regular rain and all the snowmelt we’ve seen lately. The state says we’re still in a moderate drought because the underground aquifers have been depleted, so hopefully we’ll see our average rainfall this summer. That would help a lot.

This is my favorite view of the falls. Interesting how the brook is always split in two here.

A pileated woodpecker had carved a deep hole out of this white pine (Pinus strobus.) There’s nothing remarkable about that; I see holes like this all the time. It’s what happened afterwards that is worth noting.

The pine tree’s sap had turned a beautiful blue, deeper in color than most I see. I see more blue pine sap in winter than at other times of year so I’ve always assumed that it was the cold that turned it blue, like it does to some lichens, but now that I’m noticing it in warmer weather as well I’m just not sure. Does the cold turn it blue in winter and then it stays that way from then on? I’ve spent many hours searching for the answer and can’t find a single reference to blue pine sap, so I can’t answer the question.

Ninety five percent of the white pine sap I see looks like this; kind of a cloudy tan color, and that’s why blue pine sap is so startling and unusual. Pine sap (resin) has been used by Native American tribes for thousands of years to waterproof just about anything that needed it; baskets, pails, and especially canoes. The Chippewa tribe also used pine sap to treat infections and wounds. The treatment was usually successful because pine sap seems to contain several antimicrobials.

I also saw some resin on a black cherry tree, which is something I’ve never seen before. It was clear and amber colored and very different than pine resin. This is the kind of resin that insects got trapped in millions of years ago and which are found occasionally today, preserved forever just as they were when they became stuck in the sticky sap. There were quite large globs of it here and there on this tree and I wish I had taken one to add to my collection of outdoor oddities.

Because of colorblindness I don’t usually try bird identification but I think I’m safe saying that this is a European starling. European starlings were first introduce into New York In the 1890s. Those original 100 birds have now become  over 200 million, and they can be found from Alaska to Mexico. I saw three birds working this lawn for insects; not exactly a flock. The name starling comes from their resemblance to a four pointed star when they fly.

I’ve read that a starling’s spots are more easily seen in winter and all but disappear in summer, but they were very noticeable on all 3 of these birds. They’re a pretty bird but I understand that a lot of people here in the U.S. don’t like them.

Milk white toothed polypore is a resupinate fungus, which means it looks like it grows upside down, and that’s what many crust fungi seem to do. Their spore bearing surface can be wrinkled, smooth, warty, toothed, or porous and though they appear on the undersides of branches the main body of the fungus is in the wood, slowly decomposing it.

The “teeth” are actually ragged bits of spore bearing tissue. They start life as tubes or pores and break apart and turn brown as they age. Milk white toothed polypores appear very late in the year and are considered “winter mushrooms.”

Lady fern (Athyrium filix-femina) is one of our earliest to show in spring but this year it was even earlier than I thought so it got ahead of me. These fiddleheads were already about 6 inches tall. This fern doesn’t like windy places, so if you find a shaded dell where a grove of lady fern grows it’s safe to assume that it doesn’t ever get very windy there. Lady fern is the only one I know of with brown / black scales on its stalks. It likes wet or very moist ground along rivers and streams.

I found a beard lichen (Usnea) still attached to a cut log and it turned out to be the longest one I’ve seen. They’re very common on pines and hemlocks in our area. They attach themselves to the bark but take nothing from the tree, much like a bird perching. Lichens in the Usnea genus contain usnic acid and have antiseptic / antibiotic properties. They have been used since ancient times throughout the world to heal wounds.

Bud break is defined as “when the green tip of a leaf can be seen emerging from the bud,” and I can’t think of a better plant to demonstrate it than rhubarb.

There is a very short time when skunk cabbage leaves (Symplocarpus foetidus) actually look like cabbage leaves. I’m guessing that with skunk in their name they don’t taste anything like cabbage though, and I hope I’m never hungry enough to be tempted by them. I’ve heard that bears will eat them when they can’t find anything else.

Ramps (Allium tricoccum) are up and growing fast. These wild leeks look like scallions and taste somewhere between an onion and garlic. They are considered a great delicacy and are a favorite spring vegetable from Quebec to Tennessee, and ramp festivals are held in almost all states on the U.S. east coast and in many other countries in the world. Unfortunately they are slow growers and a ten percent harvest of a colony can take ten years to grow back. They take up to 18 months to germinate from seed, and five to seven years to mature enough to harvest. That’s why ramp harvesting has been banned in many national and state parks and in pats of Canada, and why Ramp farming is now being promoted by the United States Department of Agriculture.

This photo from a few years ago shows what the complete ramp looks like. The bulbs and leaves are said to be very strongly flavored with a pungent odor. In some places they are called “The king of stink.” The name ramps comes from the English word ramson, which is a common name of the European bear leek (Allium ursinum), which is a cousin of the North American wild leek. Their usage has been recorded throughout history starting with the ancient Egyptians. They were an important food for Native Americans and later for white settlers as well.

False hellebores (Veratrum viride) grow close to the ramps and woe be to the forager who confuses them. Though all parts of ramps are edible false hellebore is one of the most toxic plants in the New England forest, so it would be wise to know both well before foraging for ramps. One clue would be the deeply pleated leaves of the false hellebore, which look nothing like ramp leaves. Second would be the color; ramps are a much deeper green. Third would be size; everything about false hellebore is bigger, including leaf size. The final clue would be the roots. False hellebore roots are tough and fibrous and don’t look at all like the bulbous, scallion like root of ramps. I’m surprised that anyone could confuse the two, but apparently it has happened.

I think these buds were on a white ash (Fraxinus americana), but it could also be a green ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica). Both are commonly planted along streets and in parking lots and I saw this tree in a store parking lot. One thing that helps identify ash trees are the shape of the leaf scars that appear just below the buds, and I didn’t look at it closely. On the white ash these scars are “C” shaped and on green ash they look like a “D.” White ash leaf scars are also much larger than those on green ash. Ash bears male and female flowers on separate trees.

The beautiful fruits (samaras) of the silver maple (Acer saccharinum) start out their lives deep red with a white furry coat. When you see them beginning to form you have to check them frequently to catch them in this stage because it happens quickly and ends just as quickly. The mature seeds are the largest of any native maple and are a favorite food of the eastern chipmunk. Silver maples get their common name from the downy surface of the leaf underside, which flashes silver in the slightest breeze.

The pinkish leaf buds of striped maple (Acer pensylvanicum) are growing quickly now. They often show hints of orange and are quite beautiful at this stage; in my opinion one of the most beautiful things in the forest at this time of year. Branches full of them stop me in in my tracks. There is so much beauty out there; I hope all of you are seeing as much of it as you are able to.

I meant to do my work today, but a brown bird sang in the apple tree, and a butterfly flitted across the field, and all the leaves were calling. ~Richard le Gallienn

Thanks for stopping in.

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

1. Rhubarb

I saw a great example of bud break in this rhubarb plant. Bud break is defined as “when the green tip of a leaf can be seen emerging from the bud,” but there is often far more to it than that. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a more crinkly leaf.

2. Gritty British Soldier Lichen

At first I thought these were British soldier lichens but something about them didn’t seem quite right. They seemed almost gritty, and that’s because they’re gritty British soldiers (Cladonia floerkeanna.) They like to grow on well-rotted wood or soil and I found this example on very old wood. The stems are covered with granules and squamules, which are lobed, scale like growths on the body of a lichen.

3. Birds Nest Fungus

Fluted bird’s nest fungi (Cyathus striatus) grew in the mulch at a local park. The tiny funnel shaped nests are the spore producing fruiting bodies of this fungus and are called peridia. Their shape makes them splash cups and when a raindrop falls into one it splashes out the eggs (peridioles), which contain the spores. Unfortunately the eggs had already been splashed out of these examples, but I’m hoping they might produce another crop.

4. Birds Nest Fungus

This view of the bird’s nest fungus shows the funnel shape and inside flutes. The flutes on the inside and brown hairs on the outside are identifying features. Each one is about .39 inches (1 cm) tall. They are very hard to spot since they are so small and essentially the same color as the wood that they grow on, and this is only the second time that I’ve ever seen them. They felt quite tough and almost woody.

5. Great Blue Heron

Even though I was sitting in my truck taking photos through the windshield this great blue heron was determined to keep as many cattails between us as he could. Then just for a few seconds he stepped out into the open to catch a spring peeper and was caught in the above photo. The small pond is full of spring peepers and he was doing his best to clean it up. He caught a few while I watched but I couldn’t catch the action with the camera. The pond also has some big snapping turtles in it but I don’t know if they’d bother a bird this big.

6. Canada Geese

Along the Ashuelot river the Canada geese came as close to shore as I’ve ever seen. Normally they stay well out in the middle but on this day for some reason they had no fear. They were also very quiet and didn’t honk once the entire time I was there, which is also unusual. They’re usually quite loud.

7. Canada Goose

This one kept a wary eye on me as if wondering just what I was up to. Or it could have been that he was hoping for a few crumbs of bread, but I didn’t have any.

8. Striped Maple

The buds of striped maples (Acer pensylvanicum) have just started to break. These are among the most beautiful buds in the forest, covered in soft down which is sometimes orange and sometimes pink, and often both together. They are worth looking for, and now is the time. Soon two other beautiful leaf bids will open; beech and shagbark hickory. Those are events I never miss.

9. Woodpecker Tree

I’m guessing that this tree is a woodpecker’s equivalent to the corner convenience store. I’ve never seen a tree so full of holes, and they went all the way up the trunk. It must be full of insects.

10. Colonial Coin

You might think I’m straying far from the forest when you see this coin but since it was found in the forest I’m really not straying far. I show it here for the history buffs out there and because it’s a very important coin; the first official copper one cent piece ever minted in the Colonial United States. It was designed by Benjamin Franklin and is called the Fugio cent because of its image of the sun shining down on a sundial in the center with the word “Fugio” on the left. Fugio is Latin for “I flee / fly,” which when shown with the sundial reminds the bearer that time flies. On the right is the date 1787 and at the bottom are the words “Mind Your Business.” A coworker found it near an old cellar hole in the woods. To hold something over 200 years old that Benjamin Franklin had a hand in was a rare treat.

11. Colonial Coin Reverse

The reverse side of the coin has the words “We Are One” in the center, surrounded by the words “United States.” A chain with 13 links symbolizes the 13 original states. I wonder how much it must have hurt to lose this coin in 1787. At about the diameter of a Kennedy half dollar (1.2 inches) it is large for a cent.

12. Ramps

Ramps (Allium tricoccum) are up and growing fast. These wild leeks look like scallions and taste somewhere between an onion and garlic. They are a favorite spring vegetable from Quebec to Tennessee, and ramp festivals are held in almost all states on the U.S. east coast and many other countries in the world. Unfortunately they are slow growers and a ten percent harvest of a colony can take ten years to grow back. They take up to 18 months to germinate from seed, and five to seven years to mature enough to harvest. That’s why ramp harvesting has been banned in many national and state parks and in pats of Canada, and why Ramp farming is now being promoted by the United States Department of Agriculture.

13. Ramp Bulbs

This is what the complete ramp looks like. I foolishly pulled these two plants three years ago before I knew they were being threatened. The bulbs and leaves are said to be very strongly flavored with a pungent odor. In some places they are called “The king of stink.” The name ramps comes from the English word ramson, which is a common name of the European bear leek (Allium ursinum), which is a cousin of the North American wild leek. Their usage has been recorded throughout history starting with the ancient Egyptians. They were an important food for Native Americans and later for white settlers as well.

14. False Hellebore

False hellebores (Veratrum viride) grow close to the ramps and woe be to the forager who confuses them. Though all parts of ramps are edible false hellebore is one of the most toxic plants in the New England forest, so it would be wise to know both well before foraging for ramps. One clue would be the deeply pleated leaves of the false hellebore, which look nothing like ramp leaves. Second would be the color; ramps are a much deeper green. Third would be size; everything about false hellebore is bigger, including leaf size. The final clue would be the roots. False hellebore roots are tough and fibrous and don’t look at all like the bulbous, scallion like root of ramps. I’m really surprised that anyone could confuse the two, but apparently it does happen.

15. Willow

I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a willow more colorful than this one was. A kind of orange red, I think.

16. Robin

This robin watched me watch him. He was only about two feet away and just sat quietly while I took his photo. I said thank you and told him that his photo would be seen all around the world. He didn’t seem at all impressed and went back to seeing what he could find to eat.

The serenity produced by the contemplation and philosophy of nature is the only remedy for prejudice, superstition, and inordinate self-importance, teaching us that we are all a part of Nature herself, strengthening the bond of sympathy which should exist between ourselves and our brother man. ~Luther Burbank

Thanks for coming by.

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

1. Forsythia

I’ve heard all the arguments against forsythia and I agree with most of them, but you have to admit that spring would be very different without their cheery blooms.

2. Forsythia

Forsythias shout that spring has arrived and it’s hard to ignore them because they are everywhere. I think you’d have a hard time finding a street in this town that doesn’t have at least one.

3. Magnolia Blossom

It’s great to stop for the daily paper and see this beautiful pink magnolia on my way into the store. Every time I do I feel like I should thank the owner for planting it.

4. Reticulated Iris

Someone at the local college must like reticulated iris (Iris reticulata) because hundreds of them grow there. They’re a very early spring flower that does well in rock gardens and goes well with miniature daffodils like tete-a-tete.

5. Cornelian Cherry Flowers

I’m interested in both botany and history and they come together in the Cornelian cherry (Cornus mas). This under used shrub is in the dogwood family and is our earliest blooming member of that family, often blooming at just about the same time as forsythias do. The small yellow flowers will produce fruit that resembles a red olive and which will mature in the fall. It is very sour but high in vitamin C and has been used for at least 7000 years for both food and medicine. In northern Greece early Neolithic people left behind remains of meals that included cornelian cherry, and the Persians and early Romans also knew it well. As you look at its flowers it’s amazing to think that Homer, Rumi, and Marcus Aurelius most likely did the same.

6. False Hellebore Shoot

The shoots of false hellebore (Veratrum viride) rise straight out of the damp ground and look like a rocket for a short time before opening into a sheaf of deeply pleated leaves.

7. False Hellebore

I can’t think of another plant that false hellebore really resembles but people occasionally poison themselves by eating it. When it comes to poisonous plants false hellebore is the real deal and can kill, and it’s not a good way to go. In 2010 five people who had been hiking the Chilkoot Trail in Alaska had to be evacuated by helicopter for emergency medical treatment after they ate false hellebore roots. Luckily they all survived, with quite a tale to tell.

Native American used the plant medicinally but they knew it well and dug the roots in the winter when their toxicity was at its lowest level. There is a legend that says the plant was used in the selection of new chiefs, and by the sounds of it anyone who lived through the experience was thought of as chief material.

8. Wild Leeks

Wild leeks (Allium tricoccum) come up at the same time as false hellebore and in fact I found these growing very near the false hellebore plants shown previously. But how anyone could confuse the two is beyond me, because they look nothing like each other. Even the leaf color is different. Wild leeks, also called ramps, are edible and considered a great delicacy, and each year there are ramp festivals all over the world.  These plants lose their leaves before they flower in midsummer and that makes the flowers very hard to find, so this year I’m telling myself that I’m going to put marking tape on the trees near where these plants grow so I can finally get photos of the flowers later on.

9. Hellebore

Some friends of mine have this beautiful hellebore growing in their garden and I wanted to get a shot of the flower to see if it looked anything like the flowers of false hellebore. False hellebore flowers bear a slight superficial resemblance, but they are much smaller and are green, and the leaves look nothing like a true hellebore. Nobody seems to know how the name false hellebore came about. If it wasn’t because of the flowers or leaves, what could it have been? Maybe because true hellebores are also poisonous?

Pliny said that if an eagle saw you digging up a hellebore he (the eagle) would cause your death. He also said that you should draw a circle around the plant, face east and offer a prayer before digging it up. Apparently doing so would appease the eagle.

10. Spring Beauties

There are plants that can take me out of myself and cause a shift in my perception of time so that I often have no idea how long I’ve been kneeling before them, and spring beauty (Claytonia virginica) is one of them. How could you not lose yourself in something so beautiful?

11. Spring Beauty Just Opened

I’ve read that spring beauties that grow in the shade are the most colorful and for the most part I’ve found that to be true, but this year I noticed that the newly opened flowers were also more colorful than those that were fully opened. Just look at this example’s deep color and near perfect form. To me it’s everything a flower should be and though I can think of many flowers that are as beautiful, I’d have a hard time naming one that was more beautiful.

 12. Trout Lily Budded

I know a place where hundreds of thousands of trout lilies (Erythronium americanum) grow but each year I find a single one that buds before all of the others. Though I didn’t mark it I think this is the same one that budded first last year. I think that because of its being located to the right of a path near a small pond, and this year I want to mark the location. This plant gets its common name from its leaves, which are said to resemble the side of a trout. A brook trout maybe, but not a rainbow.

13. Bloodroot

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) is another of our beautiful native wildflowers that I wanted to show you but it was cloudy, cold and windy on the day that I went to take their photo and they don’t like that kind of weather any more than we do, so they all closed up and wrapped themselves in their leaves. Earlier in the week they weren’t even showing yet, so they’ll be around long enough to give me another chance. Bloodroot’s common name comes from the poisonous blood red juice found in its roots. Native Americans once used this juice for war paint.

14. Red Elderberry Buds

The bud scales of red elderberry (Sambucus racemosa) have opened to reveal lilac like flower buds. They are handsome at this stage but the whitish, cone shaped flowers are less than spectacular. Though this plant’s bright red berries are edible when cooked I’ve heard that they don’t taste very good. The leaves bark and roots are toxic enough to make you sick, so this shrub shouldn’t be confused with common elderberry (Sambucus nigra) which is the shrub that elderberry wine comes from.

15. Sedge

You might think this was just an old weed not worth more than a passing glance but if you did you’d be wrong, and you’d miss one of the high points of early spring in New England.

16. Sedge Flowering

Most people never see the beautiful flowers of Pennsylvania sedge (Carex pensylvanica) that appear on the weedy looking plant in the previous photo in mid-April. Creamy yellow male staminate flowers release their pollen above wispy, feather like, white female pistillate flowers but the female flowers always open first to receive pollen from a different plant. As the plant ages the male flowers will turn light brown and the female flowers, if pollinated by the wind, will bear seed. It’s a plant that is well worth a second look.

The spring came suddenly, bursting upon the world as a child bursts into a room, with a laugh and a shout and hands full of flowers. ~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Thanks for stopping in.

Read Full Post »

1. Bald Mountain Sign

Bald Mountain Preserve in Marlow, New Hampshire is a great place to see many wildflowers, including purple trillium (Trillium erectum), painted trillium (Trillium undulatum), blue bead lily (Clintonia borealis), foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia), goldthread (Coptis trifolia), violets, and others. It is north of Keene and is called “the icebox of Cheshire County” because it often boasts the lowest temperature in winter.

2. Trail

Can you see the trail? There it is just to the left of the fallen birch. You have to climb over the stones to follow it.

3. Stream Crossing

You also have to use stones to cross a stream that winds its way through the preserve.

4. Hobblebush Flower Bud Opening 2

I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen so many hobble bushes (Viburnum lantanoides) in one place, and they were almost ready to bloom. I’ve got to remember to get back here soon because all of these bushes in bloom must be quite a sight. They are one of most showy and beautiful native shrubs.

 5. False Hellebores

False hellebore (Veratrum viride) plants grow all along the stream banks here and I’ve seen many bear flowers in the past. This tells me that they have been here for a while because this plant doesn’t begin to bloom until it is at least 10 years old.

8. False Hellebore

People often mistake false hellebore for skunk cabbage, but the leaves of skunk cabbage aren’t pleated like these are. Confusing the two isn’t an issue because people don’t eat skunk cabbage, but unfortunately people do confuse false hellebore with edible ramps, also known as wild leeks (Allium tricoccum) and have been poisoned by doing so.

False hellebore is one of the most toxic plants in the forest and if you forage for edible plants, you should know it well. In 2010 five campers in Alaska nearly died from eating its roots. Thanks to being airlifted by helicopter to a hospital they survived. There is another account of an entire family being poisoned by cooking and eating the leaves. It is said that the plant was used by some Native American tribes to select a new leader. All the candidates would eat the root, and the last to start vomiting would become the new leader. I think I would have been comfortable with just being a follower.

9. Ramps

Though I didn’t find them at the Bald Mountain preserve I’m including a photo of ramps here so people can compare them to the previous photo of false hellebore. Personally, since even the color is different, I don’t see how anyone could confuse the two plants, but it has happened.

10. Bench

Some kindhearted soul built a bench to sit on. There isn’t much of a view from it but you can sit and catch your breath.

11. Monolith

The most impressive sight here is this monolithic granite outcrop that has to be at least 60 feet tall. It would soar above a two story house and it is a large part of the reason that this place is so popular with rock climbers.

12. Fallen Slabs

By pacing off this broken slab I got rough measurements of 30 feet long by 15 feet wide by about 4 feet thick. At 168 pounds per cubic foot that equals over 150 tons, which is more than a diesel locomotive. What a sound it must have made when it fell from the cliff face! Even more remarkable than its weight is how one face is almost perfectly flat.

13. Polypody Fern

It’s clear that these boulders have been here for a very long time. This one was all decked out in mosses and polypody ferns (Polypodium virginanum.) They are also called rock cap ferns, for good reason. Grouse, deer and wild turkeys feed on their evergreen fronds in winter.

14. Cinnamon Fern Fiddlehead

Other ferns like cinnamon fern were just out of the soil. It is interesting how plants that have just come up out of often wet soil can look so clean. The muddy soil doesn’t seem to stick to them at all. If I could discover their secret it sure would save me a lot of laundry and vacuuming time.

15. Marlow Waterfall

In the end I didn’t find any wildflowers but that doesn’t bother me because I know that when they’re finished blooming in Keene they will still be blooming here, so I’m glad that I made the journey.

I was surprised to see the waterfall in the above photo on my way home-surprised because it is in a spot that I’ve driven by hundreds of times without ever seeing a waterfall. It’s amazing what we miss.

On the path that leads to nowhere
I have sometimes found my soul.
~Corinne Roosevelt Robinson

Thanks for stopping in.

 

Read Full Post »

More flowers are blooming daily now and it’s getting a little harder to keep up with them. Here are just a few that I’ve seen.

Striped Squill

This striped sqill (Puschkinia scilloides, variety libanotica) was a big hit the last time I showed it here so I thought I’d give readers a little more information about where to find it. First, it is a spring flowering bulb that is planted in the fall, so it shouldn’t be ordered until mid to late summer.  The only place I have been able to find it for sale is Brent and Becky’s Bulbs’ spring / fall catalog, which you can view online by clicking here. Our friends in the U.K. can order them through Kevock Gardens by clicking here. If you order these bulbs you should remember to specify the variety, which is Libanotica. I’m sorry to say that I wasn’t able to find a European supplier, but I’d bet that there is at least one out there.

Daffodil

Daffodils have just started blooming. These were the first ones I’ve seen.

 Magnolia Blossom

This is the first magnolia blossom I’ve seen. It was very fragrant, with a scent that reminded me of cabbage roses or peonies. The temperature might drop as low as 25 degrees tonight-I hope the petals don’t get nipped by frost.

Bloodroot

In the forest bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) is all ready to bloom. This plant gets its common name from the way its root “bleeds” red sap when it is cut. Native Americans used the colored sap for decorating baskets, as war paint, and even as an insect repellant. Each plant has a single leaf and flower growing on separate stems.

False Hellbore Side

False hellebore (Veratrum viride) has just come up over the last 3 or 4 days. Though it was used by Native Americans in various ways including medicinally, this plant is one of the most toxic n the New England forest. Unfortunately at this time of year it is also one of the most interesting, and big enough to make it hard to miss. Most people who eat it mistake it for ramps and eat the root, which is its most potent part.

 False Hellebore Top

I like the patterns made by the deep pleats in the leaves of false hellebore. Its small green flowers are interesting, but not very pretty. I went looking for them last year and never found them, so I’ll have to try again.

Trout Lily

Yellow trout lily (Erythronium americanum ) isn’t blooming yet but I they are very close. Each pair of leaves sends up one stalk which bears a single yellow, nodding flower. This plant is also called dogtooth violet because of the underground bulbous root that looks like a tooth.  The name trout lily comes from the way the mottled leaves resemble a trout’s body.

 Spring Beauty Blossom

Spring beauties (Claytonia virginica) grow among the trout lilies. Each flower consists of 5 white, pink striped petals, 2 green sepals, 5 pink tipped stamens, and a single tripartite pistil, which means that it splits into 3 parts. Two days ago I didn’t see a single spring beauty blossom and now the woods are full of them.

Trillium

It seems early for trilliums here but these plants were growing out of a crack in a boulder, so maybe the sun-warmed stone gave them an extra boost.  These were very near a popular trail so I’m hoping nobody picks them before I get back to see the flowers.

Ramps

These leaves might not look like much but they cause quite a stir each spring, even causing entire towns to close down to have festivals in this plant’s honor. These are ramps (Allium tricoccum,) also called ramson, wild leeks, wood leeks, wild garlic, and spring onions. Ramps are native and considered a vegetable. Note the difference between these plants and false hellebore, above. Ramps are said to have a strong, garlic like odor and a strong onion taste. I can only vouch for the odor-they do smell a bit like garlic, but more like onion to me. Native Americans called the plant chicagou and, since it grew there in abundance, the city of Chicago was named after it.

Ramp Bulbs

The white, swollen lower stem of ramps is what all the fuss is about. Ramps remind me of the fiddleheads from ferns that are available for just a short time in spring. Both plants are considered great delicacies and are served in upscale restaurants at astronomical prices.  I haven’t seen any fiddleheads yet and was surprised at the size of these plants.

Dandelion

This dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) blossom is barely bigger than an acorn cap so it won’t win any prizes, but it’s the first one I’ve seen this spring. It seems like they are late this year.

Willow Blossom

We may have as many as nine different willow species here in New Hampshire and they all bloom at different times. This, one of the earliest, just started blooming. I believe the photo is of the male flower of Salix discolor, known as pussy or glaucous willow, but it could also be Goat Willow (Salix caprea.) Willows are one of my favorite spring flowers.

Skunk Cabbage with Leaf

 I hope you can stand another look at skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus.) I wanted to show people in places it doesn’t grow what the leaf looked like so they could see how much they really do resemble cabbage leaves at this stage. The leaves are the stinkiest part of the plant, so it’s doubtful that anyone could ever eat one by mistake. I had a woman stop while I was taking this picture and tell me that she was glad that these plants weren’t growing outside her bedroom window.

Blossom by blossom the spring begins~ Algernon Charles Swinburne

Thanks for stopping in.

Read Full Post »

Flowers are beautiful and people enjoy seeing them but there is much, much more to nature than just flowers. Today’s post has a few flowers in it but also has other bits of nature that many may not see regularly, like a larch tree cone or iron ore in the form of hematite. To me these things can be every bit as beautiful as flowers, but they aren’t seen anywhere near as often. I hope others will see the beauty in them as much as I do.Accidently backing into the thorns of a Honey Locust (Gleditsia triacanthos) will get the blood flowing quickly on a cool spring morning. These odd but beautiful thorns always look as if they have been polished to me. They can grow to 4 inches or more in length and Civil War soldiers were said to have used them as pins to hold their uniforms together. Since the sweet, edible pulp on the insides of the seed pods is prized by animals, it is believed that the tree developed thorns to keep browsers away.  Thorns aren’t very desirable in most home landscaping situations so nurserymen have developed many thornless varieties which make excellent shade trees. Honey locusts can live for over 100 years and prefer moist soil. Groups of wild leeks (Allium tricoccum) are easy to see from quite far away due to the lack of foliage on the underbrush at this time of year.  These are also called ramps, which is a name that comes from the very old English. At this stage the plant reminds me of lily of the valley, which is toxic. False hellebore, which is very poisonous and grows at the same time of year, has been mistaken for wild leeks. The plant is in the onion family and is edible, but positive identification is important before eating any unknown plant. One of the obvious aids in identification is their strong fragrance, which to me resembles garlic more than onions. Other aids are the occasional purple or burgundy color of the lower stems and the small underground bulbs. The leaves will disappear before small white flowers appear at the end of a long, leafless stalk. These plants are so prized in some areas of the world that wild leek festivals are held every spring. These have to be among some of the stranger fungi that I’ve seen. They’re very fuzzy on the upper white part and “toothy” on the lower parts. Not surprisingly, I haven’t been able to identify them. In fact even after several hours of searching mushroom books and websites, I haven’t seen anything that even comes close to looking like these. Thanks to the book Lichens of the North Woods by Joe Walewski, I’m quite confident that these lichens are concentric boulder lichens (Porpidia crustulata). They grew on a boulder in full sun and formed somewhat concentric rings. There was also a lot of rust on this stone. Ferrous iron in stones, when combined with oxygen and water, can produce rust in the form of iron oxide. Speaking of iron in stones, Hematite is an iron ore that often forms nodules that look to be shiny black bubbles on the surface of the stone in the photo. When broken open hematite is blood red inside so it’s also known as blood stone.  The name comes from the Greek “ema” which means blood. Extensive hematite deposits can be found on a roadside leading north to Walpole, New Hampshire. Large drifts of bloodroot grew next to the wild leeks. I think I’ve seen more bloodroot this spring than I ever have, so maybe that’s a sign that it is coming back after being collected to near extinction. Sweet fern (Comptonia peregrine) isn’t a well-known plant because it isn’t at all showy. Sweet fern prefers very dry, sandy soil and often grows on road sides. It isn’t a fern at all but a deciduous shrub that grows to about 3 feet high. Its name comes from its fern like foliage which many describe as having a spicy or soapy fragrance. The shrub has both male and female flowers, which are seen here. The longer, cylindrical male flowers are in the form of catkins at the branch tips. The female flower always grows lower on the branch and is the smaller oval shaped, reddish catkin to the right. The tiny red pistils of the female flower are seen a little more clearly in the inset photo at the upper right. Pistils at this stage are ready to receive pollen, which the male flowers produce in large amounts. After pollination a burr like fruit with 4 seeds will form in place of the female blossom.  Rub a few leaves between your palms and you’ll never forget sweet fern. Tracy over at the blog called Season’s Flow likes lichens and fungi, so here is a beard lichen for Tracy and all of the others, including myself, who like seeing them.  If you’re curious about what is growing in Ohio Tracy’s blog is a great place to find out. Their wildflowers open before ours and their weather almost always comes this way, so seeing what is happening there is a little like seeing into the future. Right now they have violets blooming everywhere.I finally realized what these fringed wrinkle lichens remind me of-leaf lettuce! No wonder I can’t stop taking pictures of them. This one at eye level on a branch seemed to say “Hey, look at me.” I’m glad I did because it was a real beauty. 

This is a cone from a larch tree (Larix.) Native larch trees grow in wet places like swamps and wetlands and are the only conifers that lose their needles. They grow very straight and tall and have soft, light green, needle-like leaves that turn bright yellow before dropping in the fall. The unusual and impressive cones often stay on the tree for several years before they fall.  Larch trees can live for more than 200 years.I like wood. I like all of the fascinating things that nature does with it to make it so beautiful. I also like to read it to see if I can understand how it grew. All the little bumps and swirls on this piece tell me that it is burl and would probably make a beautiful bowl if it wasn’t so small. Woodworkers call these swirls and bumps eyes, and the more eyes a piece of burl has the more valuable it can be. Nobody really knows what causes burl figuring in trees but it is thought that a virus, fungus, or injury is the cause.

I hope you enjoyed seeing some of the forest beauty that is easily missed and often passed by without a second glance. Thanks for stopping in.

Read Full Post »