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Posts Tagged ‘Red Elderberry’

1-half-moon-pond

After an extended nice warm January thaw we were brought back to reality by a sleet / freezing rain / snow/ rain storm that immediately froze into concrete like ice, making it treacherous to walk just about anywhere. This was the view across Half Moon Pond in Hancock to Mount Skatutakee, taken by cell phone the next morning. The pond Ice was cold but the air was warm, and that meant fog.

2-monadnock

It wasn’t fog but a cloud that tried to hide the summit of Mount Monadnock at Perkin’s Pond in Troy recently. There is still very little snow on this, the sunny side of the mountain. Every time it snows up there the sun melts it before it snows again, resulting in the least snowy Monadnock summit I’ve seen in a while.

3-puddle-mud

My thoughts turned from the lofty heights of mountaintops to the lowly depths of puddle mud when I found this. I don’t know if the mud froze and made these patterns or if ice on the puddle made them before it melted and then evaporated. Mud puddles can be very interesting things.

4-white-cushion-moss

The white cushion moss (Leucobryum glaucum) growing on a boulder made me want to reach out and pet it, and so I did. Though it looks like it might be stiff and prickly it’s actually quite soft. White cushion moss gets its common name from the way it turns a whitish color when it dries out so even though it was surrounded by ice this one was very dry. A perfect example of the winter desert when, though there is plenty of snow and ice, it’s too cold for any melt water to benefit plants.

5-crowded-parchment

Crowded parchment fungus (Stereum complicatum) lived up to its name on this log. The complicatum part of its scientific name means “folded back on itself.” This fungus often grows on fallen oak limbs and parasitizes some types of jelly fungi. It causes white rot of the heartwood when it grows on standing trees.

6-milk-white-toothed-polypore

I spoke about finding a very young milk white toothed polypore (Irpex lacteus) in my last post. Since then I’ve seen older ones and this is one of them. 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.” Look for them in the undersides of tree branches.

7-turkey-tails

I’ve been looking for turkey tail fungi (Trametes versicolor) that were wearing something other than brown all year and I finally found some that looked bluish gray. They were a little dry I think, because of their wilted looking edges, or maybe they were just old. This fungus been used medicinally by the Chinese, Japanese, and Native Americans for thousands of years and the FDA has approved them for trials on cancer patients. They’re found in forests all over the world from Europe to Asia in the US and Russia.

8-unknown-fungi

These mushrooms were well past their prime but I didn’t care because I loved their color and texture and the way they looked as if they had been sculpted and bronzed. In death they were far more beautiful than they had been in life.

9-sumac-berries

Birds aren’t eating staghorn sumac berries but they never seem to in this area until the end of winter. I’ve heard that birds shun them because they’re low in fat, but I wonder if that’s true of all birds because when birds like red winged blackbirds return in spring the berries disappear quickly. It’s a head scratcher because Jerry from the Quiet Solo Pursuits blog in Michigan says that the birds there gobble them up.

10-rose-hips

Birds haven’t eaten these rose hips either but they were as big as grapes, so maybe swallowing them is a problem. Fresh or dried rose hips are higher in vitamin C than citrus fruits and they can be used in many recipes, including a tea that is very soothing for a sore throat. The seeds inside rose hips should always be removed before use though, because they have a hairy covering that can be irritating. They can cost as much as $25.00 per pound in health food stores, which is more than the price of a rose bush, so it is worth growing your own if you have a fondness for them. The best time to harvest rose hips is after the first frost because frost removes some of the tartness. Choose fruit that is firm and has good, deep color. These examples were not firm but they had plenty of color.

11-cherries

These cherries were the size of peas, so it wasn’t size that turned the birds away from them. I think they were chokecherries (Prunus virginiana) which are dark purple / black when ripe, but I wonder if these might have frozen before they had a chance to ripen. Robins, thrushes, grosbeaks, woodpeckers, jays, bluebirds, catbirds, kingbirds, and grouse eat chokecherries, and so do mice, voles, chipmunks, squirrels, skunks, foxes, deer, bear, and moose. The inner bark of the chokecherry was used by Native Americans in the smoking mixture known as kinnikinnick to improve the taste of the bearberry leaf, which was the chief ingredient for many tribes.

12-red-elderberry-buds

I don’t see many red elderberry bushes (Sambucus racemosa) but I’m always happy when I do because then I get to see their chubby plum colored buds, which are some of my favorites. Later on the plant will have bright scarlet fruits that birds love. The berries are said to be toxic but they were cooked and eaten by Native Americans so I’m sure they knew how to cook them in such a way as to remove the toxicity. They also used them medicinally. Red elderberry is one of two elderberries native to New Hampshire. The other is the common or black elderberry (Sambucus nigra V. canadensis) which has black berries and isn’t toxic.

13-poplar-sunburst-lichen

I had to go and visit one of my favorite lichens; the poplar sunburst lichen (Xanthomendoza hasseana.) It grows on a tree near a retention pond in Keene, right next to a shopping mall. I’ve visited it off and on for years now and it has never stopped producing spores. The sucker like, cup shaped bits are its fruiting bodies (Apothecia) where the spores are produced. Will it ever stop producing spores? After watching it do so for about 4 years now, I doubt it. In fact, it could go on for millennia:

Another sunburst lichen, the elegant sunburst (Xanthoria elegans) was exposed to ultraviolet radiation, cosmic radiation, and the vacuum of space for one and a half years and when it was brought back to earth it grew on as if nothing had happened. Many believe that lichens are virtually indestructible and are therefore as close to immortal as any earthly being can be.

14-star-rosette-lichen-physcia-stellaris

As I finished admiring the poplar sunburst lichen my attention was drawn to another lichen that seemed to be winking at me. It was 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. These examples were kind of blue gray but it was a cloudy day.

15-black-birch-witchs-broom

I keep running into black birches (Betula lenta) with what appears to be a deformity in their buds. I wouldn’t call it witches broom but the buds grow in a tightly packed cluster which isn’t normal, judging by the other buds on the trees. I haven’t been able to find out anything about it from any source, so if you happen to know I’d love to hear from you.

16-black-birch-bud

This is what a normal black birch bud looks like. Birch beer was once made from the black birch and so was oil of wintergreen. If you aren’t sure if the tree you see is a black birch just chew a twig. If it’s a black birch it will taste like wintergreen. So many trees were taken to make oil of wintergreen that black birch is still hard to find in many areas today.

17-liverwort

I saw something on a tree that seemed very pale for this time of year. Most mosses are a deep green in winter so this chartreuse color really stood out. After a little research I think it is a liverwort called flat-leaved scalewort (Radula complanata.) I’ve read that it is common on trees and shrubs but I’ve never seen it. Plants are usually flattened, either forming patches like the one seen above or single stems creeping among mosses.

18-liverwort

A closer look at the liverwort shows round, flattened, overlapping leaves which are quite small. Each one is no more than 1/16  of an inch across. The even smaller, darker leaves look to be part of the same plant but I can find very little information on this liverwort. It is said to like sunny, sheltered, moist conditions and will sometimes grow on streamside rocks. Liverworts are epiphytes that take nothing from the trees they grow on. I’ve read that they were the first land plants to evolve about 500,000 million years ago and are the oldest living land plants.

19-twilight

The days are finally getting longer but it’s still too dark to do any serious photography before or after work. I took this shot of ice covered Half Moon Pond in Hancock at 7:30 one recent morning and it looks like the sun was setting rather than rising. The lack of light on weekdays leaves only weekends for taking photos and lately you can barely find the sun, even on a weekend. Our weather predicting groundhog Punxsutawney Phil just predicted six more weeks of winter (which just happens to coincide with the six weeks of winter left on the calendar) but the days are getting longer and not even old Punxsutawney Phil can stop that. I’m very much looking forward to being able to spend more time in the woods.

The days are short
The sun a spark
Hung thin between
The dark and dark.
 ~John Updike

Thanks for stopping in.

 

 

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1. Red Maple Flowering

Before our recent 5 inch snowstorm and two nights of record breaking cold I thought I’d try again to get a decent photo of a red maple (Acer rubrum) in flower. The above is my latest attempt. If you can imagine the scene repeated thousands of times side by side you have an idea what our hillsides and roadsides look like now. It appears as a red haze in the distance.

2. Red Maple Flowers

The female red maple flowers are about as big as they’ll get and if pollinated will now turn into winged seed pods called samaras. Many parts of the red maple are red, including the twigs, buds, flowers and seed pods.

3. Red Elderberry Bud

The leaves of the red elderberry (Sambucus racemosa) look like fingers as they pull themselves from the flower bud and straighten up. Bud break comes very early on this native shrub. The purplish green flower buds will become greenish white flowers soon, and they’ll be followed by bright red berries. The berries are said to be edible if correctly cooked but since the rest of the plant is toxic I think I’ll pass.

4. Daffodil

Last spring the first daffodil blossom didn’t appear on this blog until April 18th. This year they are over a month earlier, but the snow and colder temperatures have fooled them. Plants don’t get fooled often but it does happen.

5. Pennsylvania Sedge

I was surprised to see Pennsylvania sedge (Carex pensylvanica) in full bloom because when I went by here a week ago there wasn’t a single sign of flowers. This sedge doesn’t mind shade and will grow in the forest as long as it doesn’t get too wet. It likes sandy soil that dries quickly.

6. Pennsylvania Sedge

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 beautiful little plant that is well worth a second look.

7. Female Hazel Flower

Our American hazelnut (Corylus americana) shrubs are still blossoming as the above photo of the female blooms show. They are among the smallest flowers I know of, but getting a photo so you can see them up close is usually worth the effort.

8. Hyaxinths

The local college planted a bed of hyacinths. I love their fragrance.

9. False Hellebore

I like to see the deeply pleated leaves of false hellebore (Veratrum viride) in the spring. This is another plant that seemed to appear overnight; last week there was no sign of them here. False hellebore is one of the most toxic plants known, and people have died from eating it by mistaking it for something else. It’s usually the roots that cause poisoning when they are confused with ramps or other plant roots.

10. Skunk Cabbage Leaf

There is a very short time when the first leaf of skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) really does look like cabbage but you wouldn’t want it with your corned beef. It comes by its common name honestly because it does have a skunk like odor. Whether or not it tastes like it smells is anyone’s guess; I don’t know anyone who has ever eaten it. I’ve read that eating the leaves can cause burning and inflammation, and that the roots should be considered toxic. One Native American tribe inhaled the odor of the crushed leaves to cure headache or toothache, but I wonder if the sharp odor didn’t simply take their minds off the pain.

11. Trout Lily Leaf

I was happy to see trout lily leaves. Surely the yellow bronze buds and the spring beauties can’t be far behind. I learned by trying to get a sharp photo of this leaf that it couldn’t be done, on this day by my camera anyhow. Though everything else in the shot is in focus the leaf is blurred and it stayed blurred in close to twenty shots. I wonder if it isn’t the camouflage like coloration that caused it. I’ve never noticed before if they did this or not and I’d be interested in hearing if anyone else had seen it happen.

12. Forsythia

On the day of our recent snowstorm forsythia was blooming well, but on the day after not a blossom could be seen. Luckily most of the shrubs hadn’t bloomed yet, but I don’t know if the cold nights hurt the buds or not.  I’ll check them today.

13. Forsythia

Forsythia is over used and common but it’s hard to argue that they aren’t beautiful, and seeing a large display of them all blooming at once can be breath taking.

14. Box Elder Flowers

The lime green, sticky pistils of female box elder flowers (Acer negundo) often appear along with the tree’s leaves, but a few days after the male flowers have fully opened, I’ve noticed. In the examples shown here they were just starting to poke out of the buds. They’re beautiful when fully open and I hope to see some this weekend. Box elders have male flowers on one tree and female flowers on another, unlike red maples which can have both on one tree. Several Native American tribes made sugar from this tree’s sap and the earliest known example of a Native American flute, dating from 620-670 AD, was made from its wood.

15. Lilac Bud 3

Lilac leaf buds are opening but I haven’t seen any colorful flower buds yet.

16. Beech Bud

In the spring as the sun gets brighter and the days grow longer light sensitive tree buds can tell when there is enough daylight for the leaves to begin photosynthesizing, so the buds begin to break. Bud break is defined as “when the green tip of a leaf can be seen emerging from the bud” and this can be a very beautiful thing. American beech (Fagus grandifolia) bud break begins when the normally straight buds start to curl, as in the above photo. The curling is caused by the cells on the sunny side of the bud growing faster than those on the shaded side. This creates a tension that curls the bud and eventually causes the bud scales to pull apart so the leaves can emerge. At the bud’s location on the tree branch an entire year’s new leaves and stems will often grow from a single bud. Last year beech bud break didn’t start until May, so I think the example in this photo is a fluke. Others I saw had not curled yet.

17. Hobblebush Leaf Bud

The buds of our native viburnum that we call hobblebush (Viburnum lantanoides) has naked buds, meaning that there are no bud scales encasing the leaf and flower buds to protect them. Instead this shrub uses dense hairs. As the weather warms the leaf buds grow longer and the flower buds swell, and the above photo shows a growing and expanding leaf bud.

18. Magnolia

I love the color of the flower buds on this magnolia. It grows at the local college and I don’t know its name. As magnolias go it’s a small tree.

19. Striped Squill

One of the spring flowering bulbs I most look forward to seeing each year is striped squill. The simple blue stripe down the middle of each white petal makes them exceedingly beautiful, in my opinion. The bulbs are hard to find but they are out there. If you’d like some just Google Puschkinia scilloides, var. libanotica and I’m sure that you’ll find a nursery or two that carries them. They are much like the scilla (Scilla siberica) that most of us are familiar with in size and shape but they aren’t seen anywhere near as often and border on rare in this area. The example pictured here grows in a local park and they were blooming a full month earlier than last year. I’ll have to go see what the cold did to them, if anything.

20. Snow on Seed Head

I’ve heard that Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, and virtually all of New England are having the same on again / off again spring with snow and cold, so we all just wait confident that it will happen eventually. In 1816 there was a “year without a summer” when snow fell in June and cold killed crops in July, but that was an anomaly caused by volcanic activity that will surely not happen again. At least we hope not.

Despite the forecast, live like it’s spring. ~Lilly Pulitzer

Thanks for stopping in.

 

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1. Male and Female Alder Catkins

I’ve tried many times to get a fairly good photo of male and female speckled alder catkins (Alnus incana) together but always failed until this time. The male catkin is the large golden object on the left and the female catkins are the long brown pointy objects on the right. They grow on the same bush but are very hard to get in the same photo.

Brown and purple scales on the male alder catkin are on short stalks and surround a central axis. There are three flowers beneath each scale, each with a lobed calyx cup and three to five stamens with anthers, which are usually covered in yellow pollen.

2. Female Alder Catkins

Each female speckled alder catkin is cone shaped and about a half inch long. A catkin, botanically speaking, is a slim, cylindrical flower cluster, usually with no petals. It is also called an ament. When I look for alder flowers I can only see a faint hint of red in the right light; the flowers are too small to see without a camera or loupe.

3. Female Alder Catkins

Each flower is a thin reddish strand that is the stigma; the part of the flower that receives the pollen. Normally a flower’s central pistil is made up of the stigma on the end of a style which then connects to the ovary. These flowers are so small that I can’t think of anything to compare them to except a hair, but they are bigger in diameter than that. They are certainly the smallest flowers that I try to photograph.

4. Hazel Catkins

The late afternoon sun turned the catkins of American hazel (Corylus americana) to gold. American hazel is a common roadside shrub that I don’t think many people ever see. When I tell people about it and the hazelnuts that it bears they always seem surprised. I wonder if that’s because they like hazelnut flavored coffee.

5. Hazel Catkins 2

The male hazel catkins are just starting to release their pollen. It pays to watch them develop because once they’re releasing pollen the tiny female flowers will soon begin to blossom.

6. Hazel Female Flower

The female hazel blossom is another flower that it’s hard to convey the size of. They are simple sticky crimson stigma just like the alders we saw previously, but since they grow from a bud rather than a catkin they’re slightly easier to see. I still have to look for a reddish blush though, because they’re too small for me to see. Luckily the camera can see very small things.

7. Golden Willow

The willow trees have taken on their golden spring crown but our willow shrubs are still holding on to their furry gray catkins. Maybe this will be the day that they bloom. It’s supposed to sunny and warm.

8. Crocus

Crocuses are blooming a little more but still seem a bit hesitant to really let go and bloom to their full potential. It could be the up and down weather.

9. Crocus

They were in the shade so these crocus blossoms didn’t seem to want to open but that was fine, because I was loving them just as they were. I’ve never seen this variety before.

10. Reticulated Iris

Reticulated irises (Iris reticulata) are our earliest iris I think, and usually bloom at about the same time as crocus. I love these examples for their color, though I’m not sure what it is. I see blue but my color finding software sees both blue and purple. I’m happy believing they’re all blue. This beautiful little plant comes from Turkey, the Caucasus, Northern Iraq and Iran.

11. Skunk Cabbage1

Something strange is happening to the skunk cabbages (Symplocarpus foetidus) this year. The spathes, which are seen here, aren’t opening fully and the flowers on the spadices inside aren’t producing pollen. Normally you would be able to see the spadix with its flowers inside the spathe at this time of year, dusted with pollen. They’re noting that the same thing is happening with skunk cabbages in New York. It’s a mystery.

12. Male Red Maple Flowers

Many of the male red maple flowers I’ve seen have stopped producing pollen already.

13. Female Red Maple Flowers

But the female red maple flowers seem to be still waiting to be pollinated.

14. Yellow Witch Hazel

The yellow vernal witch hazel (Hamamelis) that grows in a local park was timid and slow to get started this year but now it’s blooming better than I’ve ever seen it. Every branch is loaded with strap shaped petals.

15. Orange Witch Hazel

The orange vernal witch hazel’s branches are as full of blossoms as the yellow but these flowers are smaller with shorter petals. But what they lack in size is more than made up for with fragrance. I’ve never smelled anything else like it and standing downwind from a shrub full of these flowers is like smelling a bit of heaven. It’s such a fresh, clean scent.

16. Coltsfoot

Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) has just started poking out from under the leaves to bloom. These examples were quite small as can be seen by comparing them to the acorn cap in the upper left corner. I expect that I’ll see many more this weekend.

17. Robin

It’s always a little surprising when a bird or animal acts like it has no fear of humans by getting close to you but it also means a great opportunity for photos, and I thanked this robin for swooping down beside me and posing.  Robins used to be harbingers of spring but the people who know birds say that many stay with us year round. That may be, but over the last few years I’ve watched their numbers increase each spring. It’s almost as if someone flipped a switch and suddenly there are flocks of robins everywhere.

18. Snowy Road

Once again the warmth and sunshine gave way to winter’s return, but thankfully it was a short visit. The streaks in the sky in this photo were made by falling snowflakes just after sunrise.

19. Half Moon Pond

This photo was taken in the afternoon of our snow day. By the time it got dark most of the snow had melted but the rest of the week turned cloudy and cool.

20. Red Elderberry Bud

The buds on the red elderberry (Sambucus racemosa) have opened and they didn’t seem to mind the snow. There’s a lot going on in there. The part that looks like it has fingers will be a leaf; when the bud scales are closed tightly one leaf on each side wrap around the flower bud to protect it. The flower buds will be deep purple soon, and will resemble lilac buds for just a short time. As time passes they’ll become greenish white flowers. I hope I can show them to you when they’re at their most beautiful.

Behold, my friends, the spring is come; the earth has gladly received the embraces of the sun, and we shall soon see the results of their love! ~Sitting Bull

Thanks for stopping in. I hope everyone has a happy Easter.

 

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1. Vole Tracks JANUARY

I’ve never done one but since year in review posts seem to be becoming more popular, I thought I’d give it a try. The hardest part seems to be choosing which photo to show for each month. I struggled with trying to decide at times, so some months have two. I’ll start with a reader favorite from last January; this shot of vole tracks on the snow seemed to draw a lot of comments.

1.2 Red Elderberry Buds JANUARY

Another reader favorite from last January and a favorite of mine as well was this shot of red elderberry buds (Sambucus racemosa.) I remember wondering why the bud scales were opening so early in the year since they’re there to protect the bud. We must have had a warm spell, but I remember it being very cold.

2. Ashuelot River FEBRUARY

There was no warmth in February, as this photo of the Ashuelot River in Swanzey shows. We had below zero F cold for long periods throughout the month and the river froze from bank to bank. That’s very rare in this spot and when it happens you know it has been cold.

3. Skunk Cabbage Spathe MARCH

Despite of the cold of February in March the skunk cabbages (Symplocarpus foetidus) appeared right on schedule, signaling the start of the growing season.  Through a process called thermogenesis in which plants create their own heat, skunk cabbage can raise the temperature above the surrounding air temperature. This means it can melt its way through ice and snow, which is exactly what it had done before I took this photo. Skunk cabbage is in the arum family.

4. Female Hazel Blossom APRIL

In April the tiny female flowers of our native hazelnuts (Corylus americana) appear and I’m always pleased to see them. I measured the buds with calipers once and found that they were about the same diameter as a strand of spaghetti, so you really have to look closely to find the flowers.

5. Beech Bud Break MAY

In May the beautiful downy angel wing-like leaves of American Beech (Fagus grandifolia) begin to appear. Seeing them just after they’ve opened is one of the great delights of a walk in the forest in spring, in my opinion.  Beech is the tree that taught me how leaves open in the spring. I won’t bother explaining it here but it’s a fascinating process.

5.2 Trailing Arbutus MAY

Since mayflowers, also known as trailing arbutus (Epigaea repens,) were one of my grandmother’s favorites I had to include them here. They are also one of the most searched for flowers on this blog. I’m anxious to smell their heavenly scent again already, and it’s only January.

6. Red Sandspurry JUNE

In June I stopped to take a photo of the red sandspurry (Spergularia rubra) that I’d been ignoring for so long. These are easily among the smallest flowers I’ve ever tried to photograph, but also among the most beautiful. Though they’re considered an invasive weed from Europe I don’t see how something so tiny can be considered a pest. They are small enough so about all I can see is their color when I view them in person, so I was surprised by their delicate beauty when I saw them in a photo. I’ll be watching for them again this year.

7. Meadow Flowers JULY

July is when our roadside meadows really start to attract attention. There are beautiful scenes like this one virtually everywhere you look. For me these scenes are always bitter sweet because though they are beautiful and bring me great joy, they also mark the quick passing of summer.

8. Unknown Shorebird AUGUST

In August I saw this little yellow legged tail wagger at a local pond. I didn’t know its name but luckily readers did. It’s a cute little juvenile spotted sandpiper, which is not something I expect to see on the shore of a pond in New Hampshire.  It must have been used to seeing people because it went about searching the shore and let me take as many photos as I wished.

8.2 Violet Coral Fungus aka Clavaria zollingeri AUGUST

August was also when my daughter pointed me to this violet coral fungus (Clavaria zollingeri,) easily the most beautiful coral fungus that I’ve ever seen. It grew in a part of the woods with difficult lighting and I had to try many times to get a photo that I felt accurately reproduced its color. I plan to go back in August of this year and see if it will grow in the same spot again. Stumbling across rare beauty like this is what gets my motor running and that’s why I’m out there every day. You can lose yourself in something so beautiful and I highly recommend doing so as often as possible.

9. Aging Purple Cort SEPTEMBER

According to reader comments this aging purple cort mushroom (Cortinarius iodeoides) was the hit of the September 12th post. This mushroom starts life shiny and purple and then develops white and yellow streaks as it ages. Its shine when young comes from a very bitter slime that covers it. Only slugs don’t mind the bitterness apparently, because squirrels and chipmunks never seem to touch it.

10. Bumblebee on Heath Aster OCTOBER

In October all that was left blooming were a few of our various native asters and goldenrods. The temperature was getting cool enough to slow down the bumblebees, sometimes to the point of their not moving at all. It’s hard to imagine anything more perfect in nature than a bee sleeping in a flower.

10.2 Fallen Leaves OCTOBER

This was my favorite shot in October, mostly because the fallen leaves remind me of shuffling through them as a schoolboy. And I’ll never forget that smell.  If only I could describe it.

11. Oaks and Beeches NOVEMBER

But leaves are always more beautiful on the tree, as this November photo of Willard Pond in Antrim shows. The oaks and beeches were more colorful than I’ve ever seen them and I could only stand in awe after I entered the forest. It was total immersion in one of the most beautiful forests I’ve ever been in.

Then strangely, on Friday November 6th, all the leaves fell from nearly every oak in one great rush. People said they had never seen anything like it. I got word from Vermont, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Maine, saying the same thing happened in those states on the exact same day. It will be interesting to see what the oaks do this year. I can’t find a single word about the strange phenomenon on the news or in any publication, or online, so I can’t tell you what science has to say about it. The post I did on Willard Pond generated more comments than any other ever has on this blog.

11.2. Porcupine NOVEMBER

It was also in November when Yoda the porcupine slowly waddled his way across a Walpole meadow and sat at my feet. I wasn’t sure exactly what he wanted but I wondered if maybe he just wished to have his photo taken. After all, I could tell that he had just seen his stylist by his perfectly groomed hair. I was happy to oblige and this is one of the photos taken that day. He was just too cute to not include here.

12. Water Plants DECEMBER

This one I’m sure most of you remember since it just appeared in the December 9th post. That was when I decided to do an entire post with nothing but photos that I had taken with my phone, and this was the winner, according to you. It’s a simple snapshot of some water plants that I saw in Half Moon Pond in Hancock one foggy morning, and it showed me that you don’t need to go out and spend thousands of dollars on camera equipment to be a nature photographer. Or a nature blogger.

13. Strange Shot

So you don’t think that I just click the shutter and get a perfect photo each time, I’ve included this little gem. The oddest thing about it is, I don’t know how or where it was taken. It just appeared on the camera’s memory card so I must have clicked the shutter without realizing it. It illustrates why for every photo that appears on this blog there are many, many more that don’t.

Perhaps you need to look back before you can move ahead. ~Alan Brennert

Thanks for stopping in. As always, I hope readers will be able to get out and experience some of the beauty and serenity that nature has to offer in the New Year.

 

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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

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Note to those new to this blog: Quite often I have photos of a lot of different things which for whatever reason didn’t make it into other blog posts. I save them all up and when I have enough I use them in a “things I’ve seen” post. They are by far the toughest posts of all because of the research involved but they seem to be popular, so I keep putting them together when I have the time. I hope you’ll enjoy this one.

1. Glossy Buckthorn Leaf

I liked the color of this leaf but didn’t pay much attention to what it was attached to until I looked at the photo, which shows vertical lenticels (pores) on the branch it was on. I couldn’t think of any tree or shrub that had vertical lenticels; cherry, birch, alder and other common trees and shrubs that grow in this area have horizontal lenticels. A little Googling told me that it must be glossy buckthorn (Frangula alnus,) a very invasive shrub that I’ve never noticed in this spot. If you’ve seen anything similar I’d like to hear about it.

2. Feather on a Branch

I’m always finding feathers blowing around out there and this one was blowing even as I snapped the shutter. It has a dreamy kind of look. Or maybe it’s just out of focus.

 3. Black Jelly Fungus

It looks like someone must have smeared black paint or tar on this limb but I’ve been fooled by this before. It is really a black jelly fungus (Exidia glandulosa,) which shrivels down to a flake when it dries out. As you look at the following photo try to remember how flat it is here.

4. Black Jelly Fungus 2

This is the same black jelly fungus in the previous photo after some rain fell. It swelled up to 10 times the size and became clusters of shiny black, pillow shaped fruit bodies. They aren’t shiny everywhere though; if you take a close look at most jelly fungi you’ll find areas that are shiny and areas that have a matte like finish. Most jelly fungi have these two different surfaces and some, like amber jelly fungi (Exidia recisa,) produce their spores on the shiny areas. Why they wait until winter to produce them is a mystery to me. Black jellies are quite large and can be seen from a distance, and I almost always find them on alder branches.

5. Mole Hill

The moles are telling me that the soil hasn’t frozen yet. People seem to get very upset when they see evidence of moles in their gardens but though their tunnels might be unsightly they really don’t do any damage to plants. Contrary to popular belief, moles do not eat more than an occasional bite or two of vegetation. They don’t eat grass or tree roots, bulbs, tree bark or the roots of annuals, perennials or vegetables. They aren’t rodents but are members of the order Insectivora and are primarily carnivores with a diet of beetle grubs, earthworms, beetles, and insect larvae. Among the small amount of plant material they do eat are fungi, and this can help clean up infected tree roots. One study of the stomach contents of 100 moles showed that only one had eaten vegetation, so if trails and burrows along with plant damage are seen then it is most likely caused by voles. Unlike moles, they can do a lot of damage to both trees and garden plants.

6. Black Raspberry

Though November was cold here December was mild. Mild enough apparently to fool this black raspberry into thinking it was spring. How do I know it’s a black raspberry? Because of the blue “bloom” on the stem. First year canes of black raspberry (and many other plants, fruits, and even lichens) use this waxy coating as a form of protection against harsh sunlight among other things, but raspberries and blackberries do not. There are several other ways to identify a black raspberry but this is the easiest way for those too lazy to use them.

7. Red Elderberry Buds

The chubby buds of red elderberry (Sambucus racemosa) might have been fooled by the warmth too. They don’t usually show their beautiful purple color until they begin to swell in spring. The streaks of green down the middle show that the bud scales have started separating, and that isn’t good at this time of year because the bud scales protect the tiny new leaves and flowers within. Spring might reveal some deformed and / or burned leaves and flowers this year and that would be too bad, because red elderberry is one of the most beautiful plants in the forest in spring when its buds break to reveal its deep purple leaves.  Once the leaves begin to green up and photosynthesize the plant will produce white flowers that will be followed by bright red berries. The berries are a favorite of many birds and animals but they, along with all other parts of this plant, can make us quite sick.

8. Fungal Growth on Beech bark

Before I started nature blogging I sometimes said “Gee that’s interesting” and never went much further in trying to identify what I had seen, but when you start trying to explain to others what you have seen and what makes it so interesting you find that you have to be part scientist and part detective.  A good example of the detective work involved is the 3 years it has taken to identify these tiny fungi which I’m now fairly certain are called Annulohypoxylon cohaerens. Sorry but they have no common name, apparently. Every other time I’ve seen them they have been growing on American Beech logs (Fagus grandifolia,) but this time grew on a standing tree. They are hard, blackish lumps which are described as “perithecia with ostiole papillate stroma.” Come to think of it you also have to be a translator, which I’ll try to be after the next photo.

9. Fungal Growth on Beech bark

“Perithecia with ostiole papillate stroma” means (I think) that the fruiting bodies of the fungus are round or flask-shaped (Perithecia). Ostiole means the fruiting body has small pores which the spores are discharged through and papillate means that they are nipple or pustule shaped.  A stroma is a cushion like mass of fungal tissue. So all of that means that we have a round, cushion like mass of fungal tissue with tiny, nipple shaped pores, and if you look closely at the above photo you’ll see that they are exactly that. They are also often very small –less than half the diameter of an average pea. I’m very glad that I don’t have to wonder what they are anymore.

 10. Unknown Yellow Fungi in Log

But I’m not entirely through wondering, because no one who studies nature ever is.  I saw a flash of yellow in the crack in a log as I walked by and, though it was too small to see very well the camera revealed something that looks like a bunch of lemon drop fungi (Bisporella citrina) all squashed together. They usually grow as tiny yellow disks on the surfaces of logs, so I’m not real sure what is going on here. I’ve never seen anything else like it.

11. Red Tailed hawk

We have many cornfields here in Keene and recently I’ve been watching what I’m fairly certain is a red tailed hawk hunting them. I haven’t been able to get a decent phot of this bird but several times I’ve watched him fly from the tallest tree in one area to the tallest tree in another, always in sight of the corn stubbled, open fields. For this shot I had my lens maxed out as far as its zoom capabilities, which would be the equivalent of about 8oo mm on a DSLR, but he still saw me and flew even further away.

 12. Boreal Oakmoss Lichen

When I hear the word “boreal” I think of tundra and the cold north woods of Canada, but it turns out that we have at least a bit of boreal right here in New Hampshire in the form of boreal oakmoss lichen. If that is, I have identified it correctly. With the help of my new lichen book Lichens of North America, I think I have.  I find this lichen on both hardwoods and softwoods, usually on the branches of birch or white pine and it’s very easy to spot at this time of year.

13. Dark Green Lichen

This lichen has had me confused for a few years now and still does, even with the new lichen book. I’m fairly certain it is one of the beard or horse hair lichens (Bryoria,) but I can’t figure out which species. Every time I’ve seen it, it has been growing on the branches or trunks of white pines (Pinus strobus), often very near the boreal oakmoss lichens in the previous photo. If you know what it might be I’d love to hear from you.

14. Pine sap

White pines seem to bleed their resin all summer long, especially where they have been damaged. The resin is amber colored and very sticky but in the winter it hardens and turns a whitish color. Usually, that is-in this instance it turned blue. I’m not sure what caused the damage on this tree but I’m guessing that parts of it might have been caused by a porcupine. They will eat the inner bark of white pines and can kill a tree if they girdle it.

15. Pine Sap

Here’s a closer look at the bluest part of the frozen pine resin. In the past I’ve been fooled by pine sap that has dripped on stones and turned blue. They looked just like some kind of blue crustose lichen, so if you find “blue lichens” on a horizontal face of a stone that is near a white pine I’d be wary of them. If it is on a vertical face of the stone where pine resin couldn’t possibly have dripped then it could really be a blue lichen. They’re rare, but I have seen them.

All is mystery; but he is a slave who will not struggle to penetrate the dark veil. ~Benjamin Disraeli

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1. Pennsylvania Sedge aka Carex pensylvanica

Along the river creamy yellow male staminate flowers bloom above the wispy, feather like, white female pistillate flowers of Pennsylvania sedge (Carex pensylvanica.) This is a very early bloomer that usually appears at just about the same time as spring beauties and trout lilies. As the plant ages the male flowers will turn light brown and the female flowers, if pollinated by the wind, will bear seed.

2. Pennsylvania Sedge Clump aka Carex pensylvanica

When it isn’t blooming Pennsylvania sedge is easily mistaken for a course grass. I find it along the river and also in the woods under trees. It doesn’t seem too fussy about where it grows and will tolerate shade.

3. Virginia Creeper

Tendrils of Virginia creeper first exude a sticky substance before expanding into a disc shaped pad that essentially glues itself to the object that the vine wants to climb-in this case, a dead tree limb.  Once the adhesive discs at the tendril ends are stuck in place the tendrils coil themselves tightly to hold the vine in place. Charles Darwin discovered that each adhesive pad can support two pounds. Just imagine how much weight a mature vine with many thousands of these sticky pads could support. It’s no wonder that Virginia creeper can pull the siding off a house.

4. Bittersweet on Grass

Invasive oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus) doesn’t have tendrils so it becomes a tendril over its entire length and winds its way up trees, wires, and even grass stems, as the photo shows. I’ve seen old bittersweet vines as big around as my leg.

5. Lady Fern Fiddleheads (2)

Lady fern (Athyrium filix-femina) fiddleheads are about 2 inches tall. The dark brown scales on their smooth lower stems help to identify this one. 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.

6. Red Maple Seeds Forming

The wind has brought plenty of pollen from the male flowers so now the pistillate female flowers of red maple (Acer rubrum) have begun turning into seeds, which are called samaras. These are one of the smallest seeds in the maple family. It is estimated that a single tree 12 inches in diameter can produce nearly a million seeds, and if the tree is fertilized for 2 years seed production can increase by 10 times. It’s no wonder that red maple is getting a reputation for being a weed tree.

7. Apple Moss

It’s easy to see how apple moss (Bartramia pomiformis) got its common name. This moss grows its almost spherical spore capsules (sporangia) very early in spring. As they age the capsules turn brown but it pays to watch closely because some spore capsules will turn red between their green and brown stages, and that’s when these tiny orbs really look like apples. It’s an event in nature that most people never get to see.

8. Black Oak Inner Bark aka Quercus velutina

The inner bark of the black oak (Quercus velutina) shows why this tree was once called yellow oak. Native Americans made yellow dye from this bark and also used it medicinally. The yellow pigment is called quercitron and was sold in a bright yellow dye in Europe as late as the 1940s. Black oak is a member of the red oak family and easily cross breeds with red oaks to form many natural hybrids.

9. Red Elderberry aka Sambucus racemosa

Elderberry flowers really aren’t much to look at (or to smell) but the flower buds of this red elderberry (Sambucus racemosa) are very beautiful. Since the flowers are white, plum purple is a very odd color for the buds. They remind me of lilac buds.

10. Lilac Buds Breaking

Of course, after comparing red elderberry buds to lilac buds I had to show those as well. This is a French hybrid, deep purple lilac that was given to me by a friend many years ago. Its bud scales have just broken to reveal the flower buds tucked inside. This is part of the magic that is spring, and something I love to watch happen.

11. Unknown Gall on Oak

This is the strangest gall I’ve seen. It looks (and feels) like a group of small deflated balloons. It was growing on an oak limb and I haven’t been able to identify it.

NOTE: Helpful readers have identified this gall as the oak fig gall, caused by the wasp Trigonaspis quercusforticorne. They are specific to the white oak family, apparently. Thank you to David and Charley for the identification. I learned a lot.

12. Rockfoam Lichen

Rock Foam (Stereocaulon saxatile) is a fragile looking lichen but it is really quite tough. As their common name suggests, they are found on rocks and boulders, usually in full sun. These lichens are often used as a prospecting tool because a simple lab test will show what type of rock they grow on and what minerals, like copper or magnesium, are present.

13. Rockfoam Lichen Closeup

A closer look at rock foam lichen. When it is dry it feels as rough as it looks.

 14. Orange Oak Leaf

I’m seeing a lot of orange oak leaves this spring and I’m not sure what makes them turn this color. It must be some kind of bacteria or fungus.

15. Hairy Cap Moss aka Polytrichum commune

This hairy cap moss (Polytrichum commune) with its water droplet reminded me that flowers aren’t the only beautiful things to see in spring. There is plenty there for the seeing if only we take the time to look.

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new landscapes, but in having new eyes. ~ Marcel Proust

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