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Posts Tagged ‘Red Maple Bark Patterns’

Last weekend I decided to go and see a bridge I wrote a post about in January of 2017 called Bridging a Dangerous Crossing.  They were still building it then but have since finished it, so I thought I’d go and see what crossing it was like. It just happens to be on the same rail trail that I grew up walking as a boy so not only would I see the bridge, but I’d see pieces of my past as well.

Back then the rail trail was a working railroad with Boston and Maine trains passing my house twice each day. I used to play in the cornfield in the above photo, which runs alongside the trail. There were lots of crows in it on this day and you can see a couple of them flying there on the right. In the fall after the corn is harvested hundreds of Canada geese also visit these fields. They’ve been doing so at least as long as I’ve been around.

If you know where to look there are good views of Mount Monadnock along the rail trail. When I was a boy it was my favorite mountain because it was always just over my shoulder no matter where I went. When I was still quite young I foolishly came up with the idea of cataloging all the plants on the mountain. In my teen years I still had the dream but I was sure someone else must have already done it. Sure enough, Henry David Thoreau had started an inventory of the mountain’s plants and it was fairly extensive, and that’s how I first discovered Henry David Thoreau. When I found that we seemed to think a lot alike I immediately read everything I could find that he had written. But I never did catalog the plants of Monadnock. The closest I came was helping the ladies of the Keene Garden Club plant wildflowers on its flanks. I wouldn’t dream of doing such a thing today but at the time it seemed the right thing to do.

Along these tracks is where my curiosity about the things I was seeing in nature grew until I couldn’t stand not knowing any longer, so I began reading to find answers to the many questions I had, like why is a young black raspberry cane blue? The answer is the same waxy “bloom” found on plums, grapes, and other fruits and plants. They and other plants along these railroad tracks were what prodded me into reading books like “Grays Manual of Botany.” Easily the driest book I’ve ever read, but I learned a lot from it. I began to visit used book stores and usually spent any money I earned on botany and gardening books, and that and a plant loving grandmother is what started me on the path to professional gardening.

I didn’t always have my nose in a book; somewhere along this rail trail my own initials are carved into the bark of a maple, much like these are.

In no time at all here was the bridge, open at last. The arch of the thing was startling because from the side it looks almost level.

Here is the bridge from the side in a photo taken in January 2017 as the concrete deck was being poured. This is why the arch in the previous view was such a surprise; I’m not really seeing such a pronounced arch from here.

Here it is again, closer to the center of the span. It’s very strange that it could look so level from the side.

Up here I was closer to the red maple (Acer rubrum) buds; thousands of them, just starting to open. If you’re looking for red maple flowers as I do each spring, look for a maple with these kinds of round bud clusters on its branches.

Red maples can look a lot like silver maples (Acer saccharinum) but if I understand what I’ve read correctly, only red maples get target canker, which causes platy bark to appear in circular target-like patterns like that seen here. Silver maples prefer damp swampy areas while red maples are more likely to grow in drier places.

The bridge was built so local college students could cross this very busy highway safely. They walk through here constantly to get to the athletic fields which lie beside the rail trail. There is a sister bridge that crosses another nearby highway, and that was originally built because someone was killed trying to cross that road. Nobody wanted to see that happen here so it was agreed that another bridge should be built. These days traffic is very heavy and I’ve waited for quite a while trying to get across. When I was a boy I could walk across this road without having to hurry at all because on many days there was hardly a car to be seen.

Once you’ve crossed the new bridge you come to the old Boston and Maine Railroad trestle. When I was a boy you could sit here all day and not see a soul, but now there’s a steady stream of college students walking across it so it took a while to get shots of it with nobody on it. When this was built there was nothing here; it was just another trestle in the middle of the woods, but now it has all grown up and there’s a huge shopping center just behind and to the left of this view. The college takes up all the land to the right, and if you follow the rail trail straight ahead you end up in downtown Keene. These days this is a very busy spot.

The railroad tracks are gone now and this portion of the rail trail has been paved, and it even gets plowed by the looks. Up just a short distance to the left is the house I grew up in, built in 1920 and changed many times since. Pass that and cross a street and you would have been at my Grandmother’s house, which is now a parking lot. Back in the film camera days when I used to sell photos I always heard that you needed the owner’s permission to publish a photo of a residence so I didn’t take a photo of my old house, but I saw that the box elder tree that I planted when I was about 10 years old is still there. It’s huge now and still shades the porch, just like I planted it to do.

This side view of the trestle shows the wooden rails that have been put up on most of these trestles by snowmobile groups. You wouldn’t want to drive a snowmobile off the edge of a trestle. This view also shows how much land the trestle covers on each end. That’s because this area floods regularly and I’ve seen the Ashuelot River rise almost to the bottom of this bridge many times.

This is “my view” of the river that I grew up with. It looks placid now but when it floods the river can swallow the land seen on the left. The local college foolishly built a student parking lot there and I’ve seen cars floating there in the not so distant past. It’s hard to tell from the photo but the land on the right where my old house still stands is slightly higher than the land on the left, so the flood waters never reached the house that I know of. The cellar sure got wet in the spring though.

Seeing this granite abutment almost completely underwater and the river pouring over the land beyond was a scary thing to a boy living just feet from the river and it has stayed with me; I still get a bit nervous when I see high water, even in photos. The granite in the abutment was harvested locally, most likely in Marlborough, which is a small town slightly west of Keene. It was brought here and laid up dry, with no mortar. It has stood just as it was built for nearly 150 years.

I spent a lot of time under the old trestle as a boy and this view looks up at it from the underside. You can see the original wooden ties, now covered by boards. When I was small I was afraid of the spaces between the ties but before too long I could almost run across, even in the dark. In fact this is where I learned that darkness comes in different shades.

I spent a lot of time sitting and watching the river from this spot beside the old trestle. It might not look like much but it was a wonderful, magical place to grow up. I was lucky that my father let me run and explore and explore I did, and I learned so much. My early years here were so enjoyable; if I had a chance to go back to any time and place I would choose this place in my childhood years, without a second thought. I hope readers with children will please let them explore nature as well. It’s what childhood should be all about.

I was surprised and happy to see that the old path from my house to the rail trail was still there and still being used, apparently. I would have given anything to have followed it home but I know that this home exists only in my memory now.  And what a memory it is. I hope you all have such great memories.

I hope you didn’t mind this little diversion from the botanical to the mechanical. I don’t mention it often but I’m a mechanical engineer as well as a gardener, so bridges and such things can give me a thrill. No thrill is as great as the one that comes with spring though, and I’ll get back to it in the next post.

Just imagine becoming the way you used to be as a very young child, before you understood the meaning of any word, before opinions took over your mind. The real you is loving, joyful, and free. The real you is just like a flower, just like the wind, just like the ocean, just like the sun. ~Miguel Angel Ruiz

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

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1. Path on Bedrock

Since I couldn’t remember the last time I had climbed Mount Caesar in Swanzey I thought it was probably time that I did. I had two objectives in mind: I wanted to see the toadskin lichens that grow on its summit, and I wanted to see the arrow that is carved into the granite on the summit, supposedly by Native Americans. It is said that it points the way to Mount Monadnock. In fact it is said that every hill in this area has an arrow on its summit which points to Monadnock. As you can see in the above photo, the trail starts out as granite bedrock covered by a thin layer of pine needles.

2. Blowdown

What soil there is here is a very thin layer on top of bedrock, as this blown down white pine shows. When it fell it took the soil in its root mass with it, revealing the granite underneath. It’s hard to believe that such a big tree would have a root system no more than 6 or 8 inches thick but this one did.

3. Fern Christmas Tree

A fellow hiker pointed out these small ferns growing on the underside of the blowdown’s rootball. “Christmas ferns in the shape of a Christmas tree,” he said. And so they were.

4. Fallen Tree

Yet another fallen tree had a tangle of oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus) vine in its topmost branches. This invasive vine climbs trees, strangling them on the way, to get to the most sunshine. Between their strangling habit and shading out a tree’s crown, the vines weaken the tree and it eventually falls, just like this cherry did.

5. Blue Gray Lichen

Blue is a tough color to find in nature especially in the world of fungi and lichens, so I was surprised when I saw several of these blue gray crustose examples on a stone beside the trail. Crustose lichens grow like a crust and usually can’t be removed without damage to the substrate. I haven’t been able to identify this one.

6. Running Club Moss

I don’t remember ever seeing running club moss (Lycopodium clavatum) on Mt. Caesar but here was a large colony of it. This plant gets its name from the part that isn’t seen in this photo; a long, running stem (rhizome) under the leaves from which the upright parts that are seen here grow. Though this example had no fruiting members (called strobili), the spores that they produce were one collected, dried and used in photography as flash powder before flash bulbs were invented.

7. Teaberry

Teaberries (Gaultheria procumbens) grew right alongside the running clubmoss. If I had to go back as far as my memory could take me and search for the first plant that I ever got to know well, this one would have to be it. My grandmother called them checkerberries and loved the minty taste of the berries. She used to take me into the woods to find the plants when I was just a very young boy. While searching for the plants I would see other plants and ask her what they were, and that’s how my woodland education began. I’ve wanted to know the name of every plant that I see ever since. Teaberry is one of our native wintergreens and is also called American wintergreen.

 8. Bark Patterns on Red Maple

I wondered for a long time what caused these circular patterns in the bark of red maples until I finally found out that they are natural markings that the tree eventually outgrows.  I don’t see them often but every now and then a single tree will be marked in this way. Now I wonder why a certain tree will have them when all of the others around it don’t. If you know anything about it I’d love to hear from you.

Note: Thanks very much to Kathy Schillemat, Josh Fecteau and Al Stoops for identifying this unusual bark pattern as target canker that affects only red maples. The bark pattern is actually caused by the tree defending itself against the canker. Al also sent me an excellent article about how and why Michael Wojtech wrote the book Bark: A Field Guide to Trees of the Northeast. It’s very much worth a read and can be found by clicking on the word HERE.

 9. Branch Collar

There is a huge old log lying parallel to the trail that always tells me three things:
1. I am very close to the summit.
2. I’m not as young as I used to be.
3. It’s time to stop and pretend that I’ve seen something fascinating while catching my breath.

Only this time I really did see something fascinating; a perfect example of a branch collar. If you do any tree pruning you would do well to read all you can find about branch collars, because if you prune off a branch while ignoring the branch collar you could be slowing down the healing process and inviting any number of diseases to come and visit your trees.

10. View

It wasn’t a great day for looking at the views but it didn’t bother me because that wasn’t what I came here for. It seemed very hazy on this day but it was warm and spring like, so I couldn’t complain. I chose this photo because it shows one of the cliff edges found here. Since I fell out of a tree and shattered my spine in my early teen years heights and I haven’t been the best of friends, but I got close enough to this edge to make the fluttering butterflies in my stomach become soaring eagles. Doing so isn’t something I make a habit of.

 11. Toadskin Lichen

This is what I came to see; my old friends the toadskin lichens (Lasallia papulosa.) I’ve only found them in two places and both are on mountain tops. I was surprised to see their grayish color because that meant they were drying out, even after all the rain we’ve had. When wet they are pea green and very pliable, but apparently it doesn’t take them long to dry out and become crisp like a potato chip. I took many photos of them but I chose this one to show you because the lighter gray area shows how they attach their undersides to the stone at a central point, much like a belly button. That is why they are classified as umbilicate lichens. I like their warty-ness.

 12. Carving on Summit

I paced back and forth over every inch of exposed bedrock on the summit but I couldn’t find the arrow pointing to Mount Monadnock. Instead I found this, which I I’m not fond of seeing. Defacing mountain tops has been going on for a very long time but that doesn’t make it right. Even Henry David Thoreau complained about it when he climbed Mount Monadnock back in 1858 and found a name that had been chiseled into the granite in 1801. The date of this example looks like either 1936 or 1986.

I think the very bright sunshine might have had something to do with my not being able to see the arrow, but I know it exists because I’ve seen photos of it online. It really looks more like a “V” than an arrow. It wasn’t a total loss though because I found toadskin lichens growing in 2 more locations that I didn’t know about.

 13. Split Granite

I also found this while I was looking for the arrow. One of the ways stone was split in colonial New England was by drilling a row of holes in it and filling them with water in the winter. When the water froze and expanded it would split the stone along the path made by the holes. Such is the power of ice, and though man had nothing to do with it I’d guess that ice is why this large piece of granite originally split in two. Over the eons-how many is anyone’s guess-the part on the left has been sliding down the mountainside and one day, most likely with an earth shaking roar, it will probably go over the edge.

14. Sign

Well, in the end I did find an arrow pointing to Mount Monadnock but it wasn’t exactly what I had in mind. I had to laugh though, because I’ll bet that I’ve walked by this 50 times without seeing it. So much for my great powers of observation. It’s good to be humbled once in a while when we get too big for our britches but that doesn’t stop me from hoping someone will write in and say that they just tacked it to that pine tree last week.

 15. Monadnock

In case you’re new to this blog and are wondering what the hubbub over Mount Monadnock is all about, here is a photo of it. At 3,165 feet it’s the highest point in southern New Hampshire and is said to be the second most climbed mountain in the world after Mount Fuji in Japan. The word Monadnock is thought to originate with the Native American Abenaki tribe and is said to mean “mountain that stands alone. “ It’s hard to get a good feel for its elevation from this photo but it is 2203 feet higher than where I stood when I clicked the shutter.

No matter how sophisticated you may be, a large granite mountain cannot be denied – it speaks in silence to the very core of your being. ~Ansel Adams

Thanks for coming by.

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Have you heard about Punxsutawney Phil, the weather predicting ground hog? He has been indicted in Ohio for fraud because of his “misrepresentation of spring.” The indictment alleges that he acted with “prior calculation and design” to cause people to believe that spring would arrive early.

Of course, his handlers claim that poor Phil is being railroaded. “There are several defenses,” they claim, including the fact that, since Feb. 2, “there have been spring like temperature spikes. “

Exactly-spring like temperature spikes followed by winter like temperature dips. Or, two steps backward for every step forward. Historically, the rodent’s predictions are accurate only 30% of the time, so we have only ourselves to blame if we jumped for joy at his early spring prediction this year.

Cincinnati prosecutor Mike Gmoser doesn’t see it that way though, and is calling for the death penalty, citing “aggravating circumstances.”  Here is a man who is obviously very sick of winter! I wonder what he’ll do about the National Climatic Data Center and the National Weather Service-who also called for an early spring.

 1. Asuelot River on 3-17-13

This is what the Ashuelot River looked like on Saint Patrick’s Day, March 17th.  Nice and spring-like.

 2. River Waves

The river was so happy to see some sunshine that it was chuckling and pretending to be the ocean.

 3. Asuelot River on 3-19-13

Here is what the river looked like 2 days later on Tuesday, March 19th after about 9 inches of snow fell.  (This shot is in color.) Oh well, the temperature is above freezing each day so it is all melting away again, slowly. Fortunately, I had spent some time in the woods before it snowed.

4. Foam Flower Leaves

The dusty rose-pink leaves of our native heart leaf foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia) will soon turn green, but for now they really stand out among the brown leaves and snow on the forest floor. This plant loses its green color in the fall when other leaves are changing, but it hangs on to its leaves all winter, green or not. It gets its common name from the shape of its leaves and from the many small white flowers that look like foam.

 5. Brocade Moss  aka Hypnum imponens

Brocade Moss (Hypnum imponens) forms extensive mats and looks as if it has been embroidered on what it is growing on. This moss is easy to spot due to its greenish golden color along with yellow and orange highlights and rust colored stems. A close look at the small, overlapping leaves shows that they look like they have been braided along the stem. This moss likes moist areas.

6. Common Goldspeck Lichen

Common gold speck lichen (Candelariella vitellina) grows just about anywhere, but I usually find it growing on parts of stones that don’t receive any direct rain. Some say its color resembles egg yolks and others say powdered mustard. It looks pale, sulfur yellow to me, and sometimes looks a little green.  This is a crustose lichen which grows like a crust on its substrate.

7. Common Goldspec Lichen on Stone Wall

Common gold speck lichen is easy to spot growing on stone walls. This picture shows how it grows in sheltered places that aren’t likely to receive any direct rain.

8. Golden Moonglow Lichen aka Dimelaena oreina

I found this golden moon glow lichen (Dimelaena oreina) growing on polished granite in full sun. It was small-no bigger than a dime-but noticeable because of the way the dark, disc shaped fruiting bodies (Apothecia) in the center shade into the greenish yellow outer edges. One unusual aspect of this lichen is its squamulose form. A squamulose lichen falls somewhere between the leafy foliose lichens and crusty crustose lichens and has “squamules,” which in this case are the tiny, curled lobes around its outer edges.

 9. Blue Flag Iris Shoots

Native blue flag iris (Iris versicolor) shoots were green and growing along the river bank before the snow fell.  This is a tough plant so it’s doubtful that snow will hurt it. The flowers have 3 sepals and 3 petals and are deep blue (sometimes purple) and showy with yellow or white highlights at the base of the sepals. This plant was very valuable medicinally to Native Americans and it is said that many tribes grew it close to their villages.

10. Pattern in Red Maple Tree Bark

Last year I saw a maple tree with this circular pattern repeated in the bark all up and down the trunk. This year I found the same pattern on a different tree. After a year of searching books and websites I finally found a naturalist who identifies these circular patterns as normal markings on young red maple trees (Acer rubrum.) As the tree ages the circles are obscured by other lines and ridges.  My question is: After decades of roaming in the forest why have I only seen this twice?

11. Honey Locust Thorn

When it comes to thorns the honey locust tree (Gleditsia triacanthos) has to be king of the forest in this area. The three pronged thorns on these trees are hard enough to pierce before they break off. They can be 6 inches long or more under optimal conditions and are very sharp. During the Civil War Confederate soldiers used the thorns to hold their uniforms together, which led to the common name of Confederate pin tree.

Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known. ~ Carl Sagan

Thanks for coming by.

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