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Posts Tagged ‘Spring Flowers’

I’ve mentioned a few times on this blog lately that I’ve been doing a lot of walking, so I thought I’d show you some of the things I see on these walks. If I choose to go this way, I can see a pond full of water plants like burr reed and yellow pond lilies. The big circular plant colonies are all yellow pond lilies, and they appear to be trying to take over the pond.

I’ve seen lots of hemlock varnish shelf fungi (Ganoderma tsugae) on an old hemlock stump and the pile of logs beside it. For the first time I’ve had a chance to see these mushrooms grow day by day and I can now understand that they grow quite fast. This one went from looking like a piece of dough to what we see here in less than two weeks. It’s about the size of a salad plate; less diameter than a dinner plate but more than a saucer. It is considered the most important of all the herbs and substances used in Chinese Herbal Medicine, including ginseng. In China it is called the Reishi mushroom, and scientists around the world are researching its anti-cancer potential.

Swamp candles (Lysimachia terrestris) burned brightly in roadside ditches. This is our first yellow loosestrife to bloom each year and I sometimes see them in great numbers. They like wet places and often grow right where the water meets the shore. In fact my knees were getting wet so this isn’t a very good shot.

Soft or common rush (Juncus effusus) also grew in a ditch alongside the road. Ditches are always a good place to find a variety of plants that like wet feet, like rushes and sedges. Soft rush can form large clumps and are easy to grow. They’re interesting if placed here and there around garden ponds.

Sedge stems are triangular and have edges but soft rush stems are smooth and cylindrical, with a light pith inside. They feel soft if you pinch them, not sharp. The flower head, shown in the above photo, looks like it grows from one side of the stem but the stem actually ends at the flowers. Anything appearing above the flowers is a bract, not part of the stem. The flowers are tiny and not showy, but overall the plant is pleasing to the eye.

Gray’s sedge (Carex grayi) always reminds me of the spiky mace weapons that knights used in the Middle Ages. A botanist would say this about that: each spikelet consists of a globoid cluster of perigynia that radiate in all directions. A perigynium is a fleshy cup or tube, which in this case comes to a point or beak. Coming out of each beak are the flowers, which are what look like threads in this photo. They start out white and brown as they age. Gray’s sedge is named after Asa Gray, who wrote Grays Manual of Botany in 1848. I read my copy about 50 years ago and have used it many times since that initial reading. If you have trouble sleeping at night just read Asa’s manual for a half our or so before bedtime. You’ll sleep like a stone.

Porcupine sedge (Carex hystericina) had recently flowered and I knew that because the tiny threads at the ends of the perigynia were still white. This common sedge is also called bottlebrush sedge. Waterfowl and other birds love its seeds.

Curly dock (Rumex crispus) has flowered and is now producing its tiny winged seeds, which look a bit like stalks full of flakes.

If you look closely, you will see that each flake, which is more like a wing, has a tiny seed on it. It looks like a seed pearl at this stage but as they ripen and age the seed and its wing will turn brownish. Finally they will fall from the plant and the wind will catch the tiny wings and blow them to new places to grow. They will often persist through winter and fall the following spring. Since March is the windiest month, it is a sensible strategy for a plant that depends on the wind to get around.

Marsh fern (Thelypteris palustris) is another ditch loving plant that likes full sun and wet feet. This one had a fern ball on its tip. Fern balls appear at the tip of a fern frond and look like what the photo shows. Inside the ball is a caterpillar, which has pulled the tip of the fern into a ball shape and tied it up with silk. Once inside the shelter they feed on the fern leaflets and live completely in the fern ball until they are ready to become a moth. Emily Dickinson once wrote “To live is so startling it leaves little time for anything else,” and I wonder if she didn’t see a fern ball just before she wrote it.  

Native Americans called blueberries star berries, and now you know why; the blossom end of each berry forms a five-pointed star. They used blueberries, and also the plant’s leaves and roots, medicinally as well as for food. They cultivated the bushes and made a pudding out of corn meal and water and added the blueberries to it. They then baked it, and it saved the life of many a European settler, as did their pemmican.

I see several native catalpa trees (Catalpa speciosa) on my walks and right now they’re in full bloom and very beautiful. It’s like looking at a tree full of orchids.

Catalpa flowers are big; your index finger will fit right in there. The trees they grow on are also very big and a mistake I see people make over and over again is planting them too close to their house. Catalpa, for all its beauty, is also a messy tree. First the spent flowers fall by the thousands in early summer, and then in fall the giant heart shaped leaves turn yellow and fall. In the spring the seedpods come down. These are like two-foot-long string beans and they make quite a mess. It is a tree that creates a lot of work if planted where everything that falls from it has to be raked up but in spite of all of this if someone asked me if they should plant a catalpa I’d say absolutely, just keep it away from the house. Plant it at the edge of the property, or by a pond if you have one.

I saw a bittersweet nightshade plant (Solanum dulcamara) coming up out of the center of a yew, and it was loaded with its pretty blue and yellow flowers. It might be pretty but it’s a real stinker, and if you break the stems, you’ll smell something unusual. It produces solanine which is a narcotic, and all parts of the plant are considered toxic, so that might account for the smell. The plant climbs up and over other plants and shrubs and often blossoms for most of the summer. It’s originally from Europe and Asia and is in the potato family, just like tomatoes. The fruit is a red berry, which in the fall looks like a soft and juicy, bright red, tiny Roma tomato. I wouldn’t eat one though.

I like the flowers when they’re fully open like this one but you have to be quick to catch them this way because the petals recurve quickly. You can see that most of them have done so in the previous photo. Cranberry flowers do the same thing.

A button bush (Cephalanthus occidentalis) was budding up and preparing to flower. It will have a perfectly spherical flower head that looks a lot like a pincushion before it is through. I’ve seen lots of button bush flowers but apparently, I’ve never paid any attention to the buds. These reminded me of the game Jacks that we used to play long ago.

English plantain (Plantago lanceolata) flowers open in rings as they circle their way up the flower stalk, starting at the bottom and working towards the top. Though an invasive from Europe and Asia English plantain prefers growing in soil that has been disturbed, so it isn’t often seen in natural areas where there is little activity. I see it in lawns more than anywhere else but I see more of it each year.

Pokeweed (Phytolacca americana) has just started blooming. This now common plant wasn’t always common in this area. When I was a boy, I had a transistor radio and at night I used to fall asleep listening to it. One of the songs I could count on hearing every night was Polk Salad Annie by Tony Joe White. It was about a poor southern girl who had only pokeweed to eat because her mother was on a chain gang and her grandmother was eaten by an alligator. Her father and brothers were lazy, so all they had were the poke greens. Of course all of us school kids talked about both the song and the plant, but when we asked our parents what pokeweed was, they didn’t know. They just said it must be a southern plant, but no more; now it’s an everywhere plant, and it is big and noticeable.

Pokeweed flowers are about 1/4 inch wide and have 5 petal-like, rounded sepals. In the center of the flower are green carpels that come together and will form the purple black berry. Native Americans called the plant pocon and used the juice from the berries to decorate their horses. People still use it to dye wool today. If you’d like to hear the song about Polk Salad Annie that I used to hear in 1969, just click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MCSsVvlj6YA

Pokeweed is toxic unless you get the early spring shoots and I’ve read that it can make you kind of crazy if you eat too much of it, so that might account for all the grunting and oohing you hear from Tony Joe White.

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) is having an amazing year and the plants are huge. It starts blooming usually in June and then takes a rest in the heat of summer before re-blooming when it cools off again. This plant was once so highly valued that it was traded among all the people of the earth, but now we hardly give it a glance. It is mentioned in the Chinese I Ching, which is said to pre date recorded history, and it was found in an excavation of a Neanderthal grave site. It was a valuable healing herb, one of the nine “holy herbs,” and its value was most likely due to its ability to staunch the flow of blood. The Achillea part of the scientific name comes from the Greek god Achilles, whose soldiers it is said, used the plant to treat their wounds. Because of its being so freely traded it is one of just a few plants that now grow on every continent except Antarctica. I see it everywhere I go.

Poplar seeds fall from the female trees and often find each other in the wind, and then roll into a ball of what looks like cotton. This is the reason the trees are also called cottonwoods. A tree 100 feet high and five feet across can grow from a seed just 5/32 of an inch long. For a certain amount of time in spring the air is filled with them.

Back when I was a boy everyone said that when the wind blew hard enough to show the bottoms of the leaves on trees like silver maple, it meant that it was going to rain. I have since learned that what it really means is that the wind is blowing, and nothing more. The strong wind might be caused by a front passing through, but that doesn’t always mean rain. On this day all the leaves were showing silver but we didn’t see a drop fall.

I like to watch grasses flower and turn purple, and one of the most purple of them all is Timothy, named after farmer Timothy Hanson, who began to cultivate and promote it in 1720. Each tiny flower on Timothy grass has three purple stamens and 2 wispy white stigmas. I spent a lot of time when I was a boy chewing on a piece of this grass hanging while I walked the railroad tracks and as I’ve mentioned before, it is the grass I think of when I hear the opening line of the song Ventura Highway by the band America, which starts Chewing on a piece of grass, walking down the road… I just listened to it and it still sounds as good as it did in 1972. It reminds me of simpler times.

These are the leaves of staghorn sumac, which I see just about everywhere I walk and which in spring remind me of bamboo. Later on they’ll remind me of palm trees. If I’m lucky I’ll see them wearing bright red in the fall.

I hope you enjoyed this walk, just one of several that I do. There is nothing easier than walking; you don’t even have to choose where to go because the paths are just there and going right or left really doesn’t matter. I’ve always been more of a walker than a driver but until now I never really paid attention to the health benefits. I’m losing weight, my legs and knees feel better and I can breathe much easier than I could just a few months ago. I don’t think of distance or destination or anything else. I just walk until I’m ready to stop. If you’re healthy and interested open your door and start walking, and just see what you see. Give yourself the time and freedom to wander. You might be surprised by what you find.

The only way to understand a land is to walk it. The only way to drink in its real meaning is to keep it firmly beneath one’s feet. Only the walker can form the wider view. ~Sinclair McKay

Thanks for stopping in.

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The pale, sulfur yellow petals of sulfur cinquefoil (Potentilla recta) have a deeper yellow splash in the center as if egg yolk had been spilled on them. This is a two-foot tall, rough looking plant that is said to be invasive, but I hardly ever see it and when I do, never in great numbers. It grows in unused pastures and along roadsides and in waste places and it is said to out compete grasses, but I don’t know where. I think it’s a very pretty flower and it’s big enough to be seen from a distance.

I have found orange hawkweed (Pilosella aurantiaca) growing in a meadow in Hancock, and I’ve also found it growing in another meadow in Walpole, but I’ve never seen it here until I found it growing in a roadside ditch. The meadows are hot and dry places in summer, with poor soil, but the roadside ditch has wetter soil so it’s hard to figure out what this plant prefers. Orange is a hard color to find in nature, so I’d love to see more of them. It’s from Europe and is considered invasive but I’m not sure where it is invasive.

Northern bush honeysuckles (Diervilla lonicera) have just started blooming. Their tubular, pale yellow flowers grow near the ends of arching branches that can hang down almost to the ground, so many people don’t even notice them. They are low growing shrubs that are especially interesting because of the orange inner bark. It isn’t a true honeysuckle, but gets its common name from its opposite leaves that resemble honeysuckles. It’s a pretty little thing that is native to eastern North America.

The flowers of bush honeysuckle have a single long, hairy petal that serves as a landing pad for insects. The hairs give them something to hang on to, presumably. Another interesting feature of these flowers is the big (relatively) red, mushroom shaped pistil.

There are quite a few plants in this post that I’ve never seen before, and one of them is the dwarf mallow (Malva neglecta) that I found growing along the foundation of an old mill building. From what I’ve read it is also called button weed or cheese plant. The leaves and flowers can be used to treat throat irritation and bronchitis. The seeds contain 21% protein and 15.2% fat and are eaten. In fact from what I’ve read the entire plant can be eaten.

A couple of years ago I found another mallow, but it was an upright plant that was about 5 feet tall. It bloomed in the fall and with help it was identified as marshmallow. This one is very low growing, almost creeping, but that could be caused by where it grows. It might have been “trained” to creep the way it does by being repeatedly weed whacked. In any event it’s a very pretty little flower, maybe an inch across. The identification comes from Google lens which isn’t always correct, so if you disagree, I hope you’ll let me know.

The milkweeds are starting to bloom, and native spreading dogbane (Apocynum androsaemifolium) is related to them. If you break a stem white latex will drip from it, much like milkweed. It is a wildflower that is a bit woody and looks like a two-foot-tall shrub. It likes growing in sandy soil along sunny forest edges, or in clearings. Many species of butterflies rely on it, so it should be left to grow whenever possible.

Spreading dogbane has pretty little small, light pink, bell shaped flowers that have deeper pink stripes on their insides. They are fragrant but their scent is hard to describe. Spicy maybe. It is pollinated by butterflies and the flowers have barbs inside that trap short tongued insects. That’s how it gets another of its common names: flytrap dogbane. Each flower is just about big enough to hold a pea.

Common milkweed has also just come into bloom. It’s a very beautiful flower that few pay any attention to. I’ve known it for such a long time. One of my earliest memories includes watching big black and yellow garden spiders catch insects in the webs that they stretched across adjoining milkweed plants.

Common sage flowers (Salvia officinalis) have never appeared on this blog and that is mostly because I never paid them any attention. For thousands of years many Native American tribes have used sage as an incense and a purifying herb. It is burned before traditional ceremonies as a spiritual cleanser, and is one of the herbs included in medicine bundles and amulets. I once worked for a lady who was studying homeopathic medicine and she had me grow armloads of sage that I cut, hung and dried for her. She used it medicinally and also as incense. Her house always smelled like thanksgiving.

But this time I have come for the flowers, and they’re very pretty. I won’t ignore them any longer.

White wood sorrel (Oxalis montana) is having a good year from what I’ve seen, though I only know one place where it grows. It likes to grow where it’s cool and moist with high humidity. Though the word Montana appears in its scientific name it doesn’t grow there. In fact it doesn’t grow in any state west of the Mississippi River. It is considered a climax species, which are plants that grow in mature forests, so that may be why I don’t often see it.

White wood sorrel goes to great lengths to attract insects, with its yellow spot on each petal and purplish guide lines. All things point right at the center where the treasure is found.

I found Deptford pink (Dianthus armeria) blooming by the roadside on one of my walks. Its flowers are smaller than their cousins maiden pinks (Dianthus deltoids) and bloom a bit later. They don’t usually have the same bold, jagged, deep maroon ring near their center, but this one did. These plants will get quite tall and don’t seem to have the clumping habit of maiden pinks. Both plants are originally from Europe and have escaped cultivation. Maiden pinks seem to prefer open lawns and meadows while Deptford pinks hide shyly just at the sunny edges of the forest.

As far as I know plant breeders have yet to come up with a truly black flower, but this columbine certainly looked black when I saw it. The camera saw it differently though, and I saw deep purple when I looked at the photo. It’s amazing how different it looks now compared to how it looked in the garden it grew in.

It was beautiful no matter how you looked at it, but it wasn’t black.

I don’t know what is going on with mountain laurels this year but I’m suddenly seeing pink ones. I’ve seen pink sheep laurels and bog laurels, but never a pink mountain laurel growing in a garden. They’ve always been white as long as I’ve known them. But I do like the pink ones, and I think I like them even more than the white ones.

This is something I’ve never seen a peached leaved bluebell (Campanula persicifolia) do. It is normally a bell-shaped flower in the campanula family but this one opened like a daisy. The name campanula comes from the Latin campana meaning bell, but this flower didn’t want any part of it and shrugged it off and became something new. I applauded its nonconformity.

Here is what a conventional peach leaved bluebell flower looks like. Until I saw the flower in the previous photo, I would have said that they had five lobes. The name “peach leaved” comes from its leaves resembling those of the peach tree. It is very easy to grow-literally a “plant it and forget it” perennial and it is said to be an English cottage garden classic. I’ve read that it grows in the Alps and other mountain ranges in Europe, but its natural habitat is woodland margins, rocky outcrops in broad-leaved woods, meadows and stream banks. It’s a very pretty, old fashioned flower that should really still be used in any perennial bed. I’d love to see a field full of them.

I saw a late blooming orange azalea in a local park. Some orange “flame” azaleas can shout, but this one barely whispered.

Here was another plant I’ve never seen before called wide or willow leaf eastern blue star (Amsonia tabernaemontana var. salicifolia). I love the star shaped blue flowers on a plant which reminds me of garden phlox, in a way. Its shape and height seem similar. It’s a native plant that is a member of the dogbane family, and it has a white, latex sap. From what I’ve read the sap makes it unappetizing to rabbits, slugs and deer. There are butterflies that like it very much though, so it sounds like a winner. I found it in a local garden.

I go by a house fairly regularly when I walk and the yard is mostly flowerless, but then one day there was this large mass of foot tall blooms which my color finding software tells me are violet or orchid colored. They grew right beside the road and I was surprised to see when I walked over to them that they were catchfly plants (Silene armeria). This plant is originally from Europe and is also called sweet William catchfly. It is said to be an old-fashioned garden plant in Europe and is supposed to be a “casual weed” in New Hampshire. The name catchfly comes from the sticky sap it produces along its stem. It’s a very pretty flower that really makes a statement when massed as these were, but I rarely see it.

Daisy fleabane (Erigeron strigosus) is suddenly everywhere. And I do mean everywhere; I’ve even seen this plant off in the woods in any spot that happens to get enough sunlight. Often if you find it in the shade the flowers will appear purple to the camera but in this bright sunlight on this day, they were white.

The forest floor is dotted here and there with small white, four pointed, furry stars and that means it’s partridgeberry (Mitchella repens) time. The flowers are always twinned, so there are two pair here. The tiny flowers are unusual in how they share a single ovary, and the red berry they produce will have two dimples where the flowers were. My favorite part of the plant is its leaves, which look like they were hammered out of metal. I hope you have such wonders where you are.

Flowers have a mysterious and subtle influence upon the feelings, not unlike some strains of music. They relax the tenseness of the mind. They dissolve its vigor. ~Henry Ward Beecher.

Thanks for coming by. Happy summer!

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Since I started the last flower post with blue flag irises, I thought I’d start this one with yellow flags (Iris pseudacorus.) There is a difference other than the obvious color difference; this one is originally from Europe and is very invasive, while blue flags are native. It was introduced in the mid-1800s as a garden plant but of course it escaped and began to naturalize and was reported near Poughkeepsie, New York in 1868 and in Concord, Massachusetts in 1884. Today it considered highly invasive and its sale and distribution is banned in New Hampshire. As you can see though, it doesn’t care a hoot about being banned and grows in the Ashuelot river in Keene. I’ve seen it take over entire ponds so only time will tell what it does in the river.

Just up the river bank from where the invasive yellow iris grow is a garden bed with more yellow iris in it, but these are not invasive; they were planted. I don’t know for sure but I believe they are a Japanese Iris called “Rising sun.” (Iris ensata v. Rising sun.) You can see how the petals have pointed ends, rather than the rounded petals on the yellow flags. It’s a beautiful thing.

You might not think that forget me nots would be water lovers but the largest colony of forget me nots I’ve ever seen was growing on a river bank that flooded regularly. This small clump also grew on the riverbank, maybe a foot from the yellow flags. It might become a large colony one day.

Last year a machine came along and cut the one bristly locust (Robinia hispida) plant that I knew of that grew along a rail trail, but when I went back this year there had to have been a dozen of them. I believe new shoots grew from the roots of the original plant, which is a habit that locusts seem to have. In any event I was happy to see them because the flowers are beautiful. Bristly locust is more shrub than tree, though it can reach 8 feet. What sets this locust apart from others are the bristly purple-brown hairs that cover its stems. Even its seedpods are covered by hairs.

A close look at a bristly locust shows that it is in the pea family. It is native to the southeastern United States but has spread to all but 7 of the lower 48 states, with a lot of help from nurseries selling it for ornamental use. The beautiful pinkish purple bristly locust flowers are very fragrant and bees really love them. Every time I’ve see it in bloom it is absolutely covered with bees but this year there were just a few buzzing around.

Fawn’s breath I think is a great name for a flower, and it has just come into bloom. The flowers dance at the end of long, slim stems in the slightest breeze, as in the breath of a fawn. It is also called bowman’s root (Gillenia trifoliata) but though I search each year for the origin of that name I’ve never been able to find it. I like the asymmetrical appearance of the flowers. They look as if a chubby fingered toddler had glued them on. This is a native plant that really should be used more than it is, in my opinion. I know of just one place where it grows.

Ox-eye daisy blossoms (Leucanthemum vulgare) appear in June and very rarely before then, in my experience. It’s another European native that escaped gardens and is now found in meadows in every state in the U.S. including Alaska and Hawaii. A vigorous plant can produce up to 26,000 seeds. In tests 82% of those seeds remain viable even after being buried for 6 years, so don’t look for this one on the endangered list any time soon. I see them everywhere and I’m happy that I do.

The highway department planted the daisy in the previous photo alongside a highway in town, and when they did, they also planted lupines. The daisies thrived but the lupines did not, and now there are only five or six plants left. The flowers in this photo may be the last I see in this spot but thankfully I do see them in other places.

I saw more single flowered pink roses but these had a white eye. I believe they are another rugosa, the old standby, and just about the toughest rose known.  

I saw a white allium but the Olympus macro camera saw it differently.

I’ve heard that pretty maiden pink flowers (Dianthus deltoids) get their common name from the way the petals look like they were edged with pinking shears, but did pinking shears exist when they were named? This plant is a European native that has escaped gardens and can be found in lawns and meadows in many states in the U.S. A very similar plant is the Deptford Pink (Dianthus armeria) but its flowers have much narrower petals and it blooms a bit later.

What I think might be cow vetch (Vicia cracca) is a native of Europe and Asia that loves it here and has spread far and wide. According to the Invasive Plant Atlas of the United States the vining plant is present in every U.S. state. Cow vetch can have a taproot nearly a foot long and drops large numbers of seeds, so it is hard to eradicate. It is very similar to hairy vetch, but that plant has hairy stems. I like its color and I think it’s pretty. I enjoy seeing it sprinkled here and there among the tall grasses.

Arrow wood viburnums (Viburnum dentatum) have come into bloom. These shrubs get large, often growing to 6-8 feet tall and 10 feet wide at the edge of the forest, but each individual flower is hardly bigger than a pencil eraser.  An easy way to identify viburnums is to look for the five petals (or lobes) that they all have. Native dogwoods, which should be blooming any time now, will always have 4 petals.  The glossy, toothed leaves are a good indication that this plant is an arrow wood viburnum. The name “arrow wood” comes from just what you would expect; the straight, hard wood is excellent for making arrow shafts. The white flowers are followed by small, dark blue fruit that birds love.

Maple leaf viburnums (Viburnum acerifolium) have also started blooming. They and most of all the other viburnums are valuable plants to wildlife. Many songbirds eat the berries and beavers, rabbits, deer and moose eat the bark, twigs and leaves. What I like most about this plant is the way its leaves change colors in the fall. They can go from deep maroon to orange red to light, pastel pink and can be mottled with several different colors at once. Note how different they are from the viburnum dentatum leaves we saw in the previous photo. But also notice how alike the flowers are.

Clematis have also just started blooming. Unfortunately I don’t see many of these beautiful flowering vines.

Dutchman’s pipe vine (Aristolochia durior) has just started blooming but you have to search for the flowers under the very large, heart shaped leaves. The vine has historically been used as a privacy screen or for shade on porches and arbors. You can still see it used that way today, but most don’t see these small flowers. They’re mottled yellowish-green and brownish purple with a long yellow tube, and are visited by the pipevine swallowtail butterfly, and other insects.

But I think an insect would need a very long tongue to get in there. The heavily pebbled, rough surface must be to help insects hang on, I would guess. Dutchman’s pipe is native to some south eastern hardwood forests and has been cultivated in other parts of the country and Canada since the 1700s. All it needs is something strong to climb on. I would definitely not fertilize it, because once it gets going it grows fast.

I find goat’s beard (Tragopogon pratensis) growing in a meadow in full sun. This is an oddly behaving flower that closes up shop at around noon and for this reason some call it “Jack-go-to-bed-at-noon.” I remembered to go and see them at around 11:30 am, and many had already hung out their do not disturb signs. Why the one in the photo was still wide open, I don’t know. Another name for goat’s bead is meadow salsify and its spring buds are said to be good in salads, but since a kind of bubble gum can be made from the plant’s latex sap you may find your salad is a bit chewy. It is a biennial, which means it grows a low basal rosette of leaves the first year and then flowers and dies the second year. It is native to Europe, Central Asia and Turkey but it could hardly be considered invasive here; I have a hard time finding it. It has a large, fuzzy seed head similar to a dandelion seed head and that’s where the “beard” part of the name comes from.

Yellow hawkweed (Hieracium caespitosum) is blooming better than I’ve ever seen it this year and I’m seeing large clumps like this one wherever I go. They should bloom right into October.

There was a time when I hated having to deal with red clover but I once was blind, and now I see.

I found a small group of blue toadflax (Nuttallanthus canadensis) and every plant was covered with insect webs. They looked more like a spider mite than a spider web. I almost always find blue toadflax growing in hot sandy waste areas and along roadsides but I’ve even found it on mountain tops and in woodland clearings. It will bloom all summer, right up until a killing frost.

Common speedwell (Veronica officinalis) is blooming better than I’ve ever seen it. This creeping “weed” is a European native that is very common here in lawns, pastures and along roadsides, which is where I found the one in the photo. It has been used medicinally for centuries in cough medicine and its leaves have also been used as a tea substitute. In France they call it “Europe tea.”

The flowers are tiny, fused into a tube with the lower petal (lobe) smaller than the others as is common in all speedwells. They grow in a spike (raceme) and can be white, blue or purple with darker stripes. They are about 1/4 inch across and have 2 stamens and a single pistil. They’re very pretty little things and masses of flowers like I’m seeing this year can put on quite a show.

In this area fragrant white waterlilies (Nymphaea odorata) start to bloom in June, and I know of a pond near a highway that has many hundreds of them in it. I’ve noticed over the last two or three years that more and more people are showing up there when they come into bloom. Some just walk slowly, some fish, some take photos and some just sit. With a busy highway so near you couldn’t really call it a tranquil spot but still they come, and several of them have become regulars now, I’ve noticed. It’s always nice to see more people getting outside and I wouldn’t wonder that they’d come out to see such a beautiful thing.

I’ve seen great blue herons, geese, ducks, all kinds of songbirds, and even a mink here. I know there are beavers here too, though I’ve never seen one. The naked flower stalks with all the flowers and leaves gone tell me there is also a woodchuck living here and I always hope to see it. Of course I also come to see the waterlilies, and I always look for that one might be tilted just right so I can see the beautiful golden flames that burn in its center. I can’t say why the others come but I come for the beauty of the place and I always find it, in all seasons.

That pleasure which is at once the most pure, the most elevating and the most intense is derived, I maintain, from the contemplation of the beautiful. ~Edgar Allan Poe

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What I would have to call my favorite rail trail was calling to me and had been for a week or two, but I had resisted its pull until this day. Like getting a song out of your head by playing it, I had to walk this trail to stop it from calling, so here we are. Since I love jungles, I was happy to see that the area had almost become one. I hadn’t been here since last February and of course I didn’t see how overgrown it had become then.

The first thing I noticed was orchard grass (Dactylis glomerata) flowering along the side of the trail. Orchard grass is a pretty little grass. In my opinion a kind of architectural grass, if there could be such a thing. It was introduced into this country over two hundred years ago as a forage crop and of course it immediately escaped and is now everywhere I go. That’s fine with me because it’s very pretty when it flowers, as can be seen in the photo.

I followed the railroad tracks that were here when I was a boy every chance I had and one of my favorite things to do as I walked along in summer was to eat the raspberries that grew here. Last summer when I came here I didn’t see any, but there were plenty on this day. Not ripe yet but they’re coming along.

Blackberries are also waiting in the wings.

My biggest surprise on this day was finding ragged robin flowers (Lychnis flos-cuculi) growing along the trail. I’ve never seen them in any other place than in Hancock where I used to work, and I searched for many years before I found them there.

It’s a very unusual flower that is hard to find and amazingly, here it was right where I first flowered. I hope to one day see many of them here. It is said to prefer disturbed habitats like meadows and fields.

Multiflora roses (Rosa multiflora) have just started blooming and the pollen eaters aren’t wasting any time. Though this small flowered rose from China is very invasive it is also highly fragrant and I’ve always loved smelling it as I walk along. Birds plant it everywhere and I’ve met people who fertilized it, not knowing what it was or where it came from, but thankful for its wonderful scent. I’ve seen it climb 30 feet up into trees without any fertilizer, so personally I’d just let it be.

This is where as a boy I discovered that the best walks are unplanned. They are those with no purpose, when you have nothing to gain and no destination in mind. You just surrender yourself to the unknown and wander the countryside, and over and over again you stop, you see, you wonder, you learn. This is where I discovered the value of empty space and silence, and first found the solitude that was to become a life long friend. My grandmother worried about my being alone out here and thought I was “brooding,” as she put it. She thought I was deeply unhappy because I didn’t have a mother, but had I been older I would have asked her, how can you miss what you’ve never known? I was too young and didn’t have the words to explain to her that what I really felt out here was pure unencumbered bliss.

I tell these stories hoping that they will resonate with the parents and grandparents out there. Let your children and grandchildren run free in nature. Let them wander and wonder. Or, if you can’t bear to cut them loose, go with them. If you can’t bear that send them off to a nature camp. Nature will become their teacher, and they will be all the better for it. Just be prepared to find them books on botany, biology, entomology, nature study, etc., etc, because their heads will be full of questions. They’ll want to know everything; not about the latest video game but about life and their place in it.

I went down the embankment to see what was once a cornfield, but what is now forest. Nothing but silver and red maples, and sensitive ferns. All of it has sprung up over the last 50 years or so, which means that I’m older than everything in this photo. The way the flooding of the river and Ash Brook happens now I doubt this will ever be farmland again.

I was surprised to find bloodroot plants (Sanguinaria canadensis) out here because I’ve never seen them here before. Next May I’ll have to come back and see their flowers.

I could tell that the plants had bloomed because they had seedpods on them. They also had poison ivy growing all around them and I knelt right in it. As of this writing my knees aren’t itching but since I end up with a poison ivy rash every year I won’t be surprised if they do.

Something seemed to be ravaging the new buds on American hazelnuts (Corylus americana), which will mean no nuts this year on this bush.

I can’t blame this tiny creature for the damaged hazelnut buds but it was the only insect I found on the plant. After a bit of searching I have been able to identify it as the larva of an Asian ladybug (Harmonia axyridis) so it was not eating the hazelnut buds. It will actually eat the aphids that do harm to so many plants.

River grapes (Vitis riparia) were flowering in high numbers and I was happy to see them. I hope the grapes will draw the Baltimore orioles back to the area. There used to be lots of them when I was young but I never see them out here anymore. Grape flowers are among the smallest I see but when thousands of them bloom together their wonderful fragrance can be smelled from quite a distance. I’m sure many have smelled them and not known what they were smelling. The vines climb high into the treetops by using tendrils, and you can just see one over on the left, looking for something to cling to.

Other plants have different strategies when it comes to climbing. Native climbing false buckwheat (Fallopia scandens) does it by sending long shoots straight up, hoping to find something to twine itself around. This one missed the mark by a few feet but it will just fall over after a bit and grab on to whatever it can. Eventually it will get to where the most sunlight is. This plant is also called climbing bindweed and there are invasives that resemble it.

A bicycle built for two had ridden over the trestle just before I reached it. I saw lots of people on bikes out here on this day including an old friend I hadn’t seen in many years. I was glad to see so many people using the trail. That means it will stay open and will be cared for.

I went down beside the trestle, which is something I used to do regularly years ago, just to explore. The banks seem to have narrowed quite a lot between the stream and the abutments since those days but I suppose it’s in the nature of a stream to want to widen over the years. I wanted to go under the trestle but I didn’t trust the mud there. When conditions are right you can sink into it quickly. I saw animal tracks but no human ones, so I stayed away.

I tried to get a good shot of the entire trestle but low hanging silver maple limbs were in the way. Since when I was a boy I had to cross another trestle near my house to get to this one, this will always be the second trestle to me. Its sides are much lower than the first trestle for some reason, maybe only as high as the bottom of a rail car. For that reason I also think of it as the small trestle. When I was a boy, I could and often did sit out here all day long and not see another person. The brook meets the Ashuelot river just around that bend and there is a high sand bluff where bank swallows used to nest, and I would sit and watch them for hours, wondering how a bird could dig a hole.

Ash Brook was calm and shallow and behaving nicely on this day but I wasn’t fooled by its calm demeanor. I’ve seen it rage and swell up and pour over its banks too many times. This was a good place to learn about the true power of nature.  

As you get closer to the brook the trees get bigger because this land was never cleared like the land from a few photos ago was. It wasn’t cleared for planting because it has always flooded, but never like it has lately. You can see where the waterline shows on some of the tree trunks from the flooding last February. The water here would have been up to my chest in this spot, I’d guess, which is deeper than I’ve ever seen it. I remember standing on the embankment listening to the hissing, creaking and cracking ice. Of course deeper water means it spreads further over the land, and that’s why there is no corn grown anywhere near here now. It takes too long for the soil to dry out so planting can begin.  

The undergrowth in the photos of the forest is made up almost entirely of sensitive ferns (Onoclea sensibilis). Many thousands of them grow here, for as far as the eye can see. They, like the trees, don’t mind wet ground and in fact they are a good wetland indicator. Their rhizomes branch and creep and as this photo shows, this fern can form large colonies. I know this fern is toxic to cattle and horses but I don’t know if it is toxic to wildlife. I do know that Deer and muskrats won’t eat it. The only animal I’ve ever seen have anything to do with it was a beaver that was swimming down the river with a huge bundle of fronds in its mouth one day. I supposed it would use them for soft bedding rather than food.

Though there were so many ferns you couldn’t see the ground, more were still coming. I’ve heard that you can eat the spring fiddleheads but I certainly wouldn’t.

Can you see the wind when you look at this nodding sedge (Carex gynandra)? See how the hanging seed spikes aren’t hanging perfectly vertical? The breeze came from the right and the camera had to stop the motion.

On the way back I saw lots of stitchwort blossoms (Stellaria graminea) that I hadn’t seen on the way out. They’re pretty little things and I’m always happy to see them, even if they are a weed.

I also saw plenty of fuzzy staghorn sumac buds (Rhus typhina). Soon they will be tiny green fuzzy flowers that will become first pink and then red, fuzzy berries. This was the first time I’ve noticed that the buds spiral up the stem. The spiral is nature’s way of packing the most flower buds into the least amount of space, but that’s only one example of how nature uses spirals. I see them everywhere all the time, in everything from trees to snail shells to coiled snakes. It’s just another one of those many things in nature that makes you wonder and seek answers.

Must we always teach our children with books? Let them look at the stars and the mountains above. Let them look at the waters and the trees and flowers on Earth. Then they will begin to think, and to think is the beginning of a real education.  ~David Polis

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It was funny, after walking all around Goose Pond looking for them, to find blue flag irises (Iris versicolor) growing just down the road from my house. The flowers seem to appear overnight, even when the plants didn’t look budded the day before. Then, when you see one or two blossoms you start seeing them everywhere. They love wet feet and will often grow in water. The name “flag” comes from the Middle English flagge, which means rush or reed and which I assume applies to the plant’s cattail like leaves.

Black locust trees (Robinia pseudoacacia) are just coming into bloom and they’re beautiful with their long white tresses of very fragrant flowers. Honey made from the flowers is considered choice and commands a high price. These are beautiful trees and we’re lucky to have them as natives. Lucky that is, unless you want to get rid of one. Then you might not feel quite so lucky because there’s a good chance shoots will keep growing from the stump and you’ll probably have seedlings all over the yard. But why would you want to get rid of something so beautiful in the first place?

Black locust is in the pea family, as is easily seen by the shape of the flowers. The wood of the tree has been used for fence posts historically, because it is completely rot resistant. Black locust fence posts have survived a hundred years or more without rotting away. I wish you could smell those flowers. They remind me of white wisteria blossoms.

Native blue bead lilies are having a good year and it’s about time. For the last few years they haven’t bloomed well and the only thing I can think of that is different is all the rain we had last summer. The leaves of the plant look like lady’s slipper leaves without the pleats and the flowers do indeed look like miniature Canada lilies.

Since the flowers nod at the ground they’re hard to get a good shot of but the flower stalk is strong and will take a little gentle bending. Each blossom is slightly bigger than a trout lily blossom and there are usually two or three per stalk. Flower parts appear in multiples of three in the lily family and to prove it this blossom has three petals, three sepals, and six stamens. 

This photo from a few years ago shows the beautiful electric blue berries that give blue bead lily its name. They will appear later on in July and August and I hope I see some this year because they can be hard to find. The berries are said to be toxic but birds and chipmunks snap them right up as soon as they ripen. Some Native American tribes rubbed the root of this plant on their bear traps because its fragrance attracted bears.

It’s spiderwort (Tradescantia) time again and I hope you aren’t tired of seeing them or hearing stories about them. They used to grow wild on the railroad tracks all the way from my house to downtown Keene and my father used to see them when he walked to and from work at the screw factory each day. That’s why he asked me why I was “dragging those damned old weeds home” when he saw me planting them in the yard. Even trains couldn’t kill them! I don’t remember what my answer was but he never made me dig them up so it must have been a satisfactory one. I’ve always loved their color and I’d guess that was probably just what I told him.

Then a few years ago I ran into a purple flowered tradescantia and I was surprised that plant breeders would be working with damned old weeds like them, but here they were.

I like the purple but I always considered blue my favorite until I saw this one. I just about fell over the first time I saw it and I thought it must be some kind of natural hybrid but no, you can buy it. Its name is “Osprey” and it works so well for me because it is simple but so very beautiful at the same time. If I had to choose which flowers new to me that I had found over the eleven years I’ve been doing this blog that were the most beautiful, this would have to be in the top five. I might just have to have one in my yard someday. Tradescantias do have a bad reputation though, because the old varieties tend to sprawl and have very viable seeds that come up everywhere but I doubt the new hybrids are very challenging. If anyone reading this has tried them, I’d be interested in hearing about the aggressiveness of the newer varieties.

This wisteria is another plant that just about knocked me over when I first saw it. It grows high up in a black cherry tree at a local school and blooms beautifully ever year at this time, unless someone can’t tell what it is by the leaves and cuts it down. That has happened but you aren’t going to kill a wisteria that easily, so it grows right back.

Since the flowers dangle high over head its hard to get good shots of them but this one is good enough to show that wisteria is another plant in the pea family, like the black locust we saw earlier. It is also very fragrant. This is a plant I’d love to have but it’s a big aggressive vine that needs a lot of room and I doubt I could keep it away from the house. If too close to a house they’ll climb up onto the roof and grow under the shingles and eventually tear them right off the roof. They’ll also find any holes in the siding, soffits and fascia and if you aren’t careful, you could find one growing inside your walls. A doctor’s wife I used to work for had me lean out of a second-floor window with a pole pruner occasionally to keep that from happening to her house. They had planted the vine to grow on a pergola that was attached to the house and it was a never-ending battle.

If there had been three red sand spurry flowers (Spergularia rubra) growing together in a triangle with their petals just touching, I could have just about hidden them all from view with a pencil eraser. That’s how small these flowers are. But size doesn’t matter where beauty is concerned because they are a quite beautiful little “weed.” This plant was originally introduced from Europe in the 1800s and it has reached many states on the east and west coasts but doesn’t appear in any state along the Mississippi river except Minnesota. It must have been introduced on both coasts rather than first appearing in New England and then crossing the country like so many other invasive plants have.  I find them growing in dry, sandy waste areas.

Blunt leaved sandwort (Moehringia lateriflora) with its masses of aspirin size white flowers is blooming and I think this year it is blooming better than it ever has, because I’m seeing many thousands of flowers everywhere I go. It’s a pretty little native plant that looks like it might make a good groundcover. It is said to like woodlands, woodland edges, prairies, and along streams in rocky or sandy soil. I’ve read that it is easily overlooked and I would say that was true. Another name is grove sandwort.

I saw a beautiful old fashioned bridal wreath spirea (Spiraea prunifolia) at the local college. It looked like a floral waterfall. If you’re looking for a low to no maintenance shrub that asks for nothing, this is the shrub for you. When I was gardening professionally every yard seemed to have at least one but I don’t see many now. This one is huge; it grew far up over my head.

I find large drifts of dame’s rocket (Hesperis matronalis) in a local park and I’m always glad an overzealous weeder hasn’t weeded it out. But I suppose technically, it is a weed. In fact it’s an invasive species, but it’s a pretty one that has a heavenly fragrance. This drift used to be well mixed with white, pink and purple but now it is mostly purple, which must be the dominant color.

Dame’s rocket at a glance could easily be confused with garden phlox but just count the petals. Phlox has five petals and dame’s rocket has four. I’m seeing these plants along roadsides more each year, so they are spreading.

This is the first time you’ve seen a camas on this blog because this is the first one I’ve ever seen. It’s a very pretty flower that is in the lily family and grows from a bulb. I don’t know for sure what its name is but it resembles photos I’ve seen of the common camas (Camassia quamash.) The bulbs of the plant were highly valued by many Native American tribes. Once cooked, a third of bulb’s weight became the sugar fructose and Natives dried them or ground them into a kind of sweet flour after steaming or roasting them. According to the U.S. Forest service the prairie tribe Nez Pierce fed Lewis and Clark camas in 1805. Lewis liked them so much he over ate and became sick, but he wrote a detailed description of the plant; one of the most detailed accounts of any plant he collected on the entire expedition. If you decide to go to the prairies and try one beware, because there is one called death camas. I think it is a white flowered plant but there is no telling if they cross breed.

A new customer once told me under no circumstances should I plant anemones in her yard. She detested them, she said. Well I told her, you have anemones growing right over there. They’re native Canada or meadow anemones (Anemone canadensis.) She said they weren’t the same anemones she was talking about so I said alright, I just won’t plant any anemones, no matter where they come from. Though I worked for her for many years I never did find out what it was about anemones that she disliked so much. Since they had lived all over the world in many different countries, I’m guessing they must have been the smaller windflowers.

We have so many varieties of native viburnum here that it’s easy sometimes to say “ho hum, just another viburnum.“  That is apparently what I’ve done with the native nannyberry, also called sheepberry (Viburnum lentago,) because it has never appeared on this blog except in bud form. I found this one while searching for nodding trilliums and realized how pretty it was. In fact people like it so much it is often used as a native landscape shrub. It can also be trained to a single stem and used as a small tree.

The numerous small, five lobed white flowers are very pretty with their five yellow tipped stamens. They’ll be followed by edible dark blue, juicy one seeded berries (drupes), which are sometimes called wild raisins. If you are trying to attract birds and other wildlife to your garden nannyberry, or any of our many other native viburnums, would be an excellent choice. And you’d also have a garden full of beautiful flowers as well.

It’s going to be a good year for both raspberries and blackberries. These plants grow along one of the walks I regularly take, so I might have to sample a few before the birds get them all.

For the violet lovers out there, I finally found a true marsh blue violet (Viola cucullata) that I can be sure of. I can say, also for certain, that it is not the only violet that raises its flowers high above the leaves on long stems, as the Forest Service says it is. There has to be at least one other violet that does that because it is that one that I have kept confusing with the marsh blue violet. Whatever it is, it grows by the hundreds in the deep cut rail trail in Westmoreland.

If you’ve ever looked closely at a violet blossom, you probably noticed that most of them have fine hairs called “beards” on the two side petals, just at the throat. Marsh blue violets have short, thick, club shaped hairs instead and it is that feature that will make them easy to identify from now on. At least I hope so. This plant has given me a rough ride.

The first rose I saw this season was a single pink one that reminded me of an old standby called “Betty Prior” but I think it was too tall and too uniformly pink to be Betty.

I found a very fragrant azalea blooming in a local park that looked a lot like our native early azalea. Unfortunately all the leaves were being eaten by something. The soft tissue was gone and only the ribs were left. Whether this will weaken the plant enough to keep it from blooming next year, I don’t know. I hope not, because it’s a beautiful thing. There is no such thing as too much beauty in this life.

Every bird, every tree, every flower reminds me what a blessing and privilege it is just to be alive.
~Marty Rubin

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Last Sunday the thought hit me that I hadn’t seen any of our native blue flag irises, so I sat and tried to remember where I had found them in the past. There were a few places that came to mind but Goose Pond in Keene sounded like the most fun of all on what was supposed to be a hot day. This photo shows the trail that leads from the road to the pond.

You have to cross a stream, which is one of many you cross if you walk all the way around the pond. I hoped to see some salamanders in this spot but they were all hiding, apparently.

False Solomon’s seal (Maianthemum racemosum) was the first flower I saw, but I’m seeing lots of them this year, everywhere I go. I keep hoping I’ll find star-flowered Solomon’s Seal (Maianthemum stellatum) but I haven’t had any luck. I found it once years ago but I can’t remember where, so I can’t go back and try again.

And here was Goose Pond. I know I just visited a pond but Goose Pond is very different than Willard Pond. For one thing, this pond was made by damming streams. Goose Pond was called Crystal Lake by some in the 1860s, and was also known as Sylvan Lake in the 1900s. Keene had a major fire in 1865 and the town well and cisterns failed to provide enough water to put it out, so dams were built to enlarge the pond to 42 acres. The city stopped using the pond as a water supply in the 1930s and in 1984 designated the forest as a wilderness park. Surrounding the beautiful pond is a vast 1,044-acre tract of forest (up from 500 acres) that has been left nearly untouched since the mid-1800s. It’s a wilderness area, and it’s just 2.6 miles from downtown Keene.

Trails here are wide enough for two to pass but there are lots of roots and stones, and of course mud. The 2.1 mile long loop trail hugs the pond for the most part but there are one or two places where you can lose sight of it, so you have to watch the white blazes on the trees. They have faded over the years and need to be repainted, so in places you have to be alert. I’ve met a few people out here who had gotten turned around and didn’t know where they were but all you need to remember is if the pond is on your right when you start the trail it should be on your right when you finish, if you’re going all the way around. That and the fact that all streams you will cross run downhill to the pond is really all you need to know. I always feel sorry for them though, because I was lost in the woods once and it’s a scary place to be. As soon as you panic you lose all common sense, so you really have to stay calm.

Indian cucumber root (Medeola virginiana) grows abundantly out here. There are more plants here than I’ve ever seen anywhere else. I like the way their whorls of leaves grow in tiers. This one had a fly friend visiting that I never saw when I was taking the photo.

I don’t like trying to get a shot of Indian cucumber root flowers because it’s always an involved process. These plants grow in shade that is sometimes dense so you spend a lot of time fiddling with camera settings. Then when I get home I often find that what looked good on the camera screen is not good. This is the best of a bad lot from that day but at least you can tell what is going on. The flowers usually nod under the leaves and have 6 yellowish-green recurved tepals, 6 reddish stamens topped by greenish anthers, and 3 reddish-purple to brown, curved styles. These large styles are sometimes bright red-brown like those shown but I think they darken as they age. Each flower will become a shiny, inedible dark purplish-black berry. Also quite often in the fall the top tier of leaves will have a beautiful bright scarlet splotch on them. Nobody seems to know why.

Here was a hemlock tree full of hemlock varnish shelf fungi (Ganoderma tsugae) basking in the sun. Though some plants and most fungi grow in shade nothing I know of can grow totally in the dark, so everything gets its moment in the sun. Even if it is just a ray of cool morning sunlight landing on a slime mold for a half hour, everything gets at least some sunlight, or at the very least bright reflected light.

When mature this mushroom will look like a plate size, red shelf fungus that has been lacquered, but at this stage it looks like a gob of dough that someone stuck to the tree and spilled red paint on.  

Here was the first of two wooden bridges. You’ll see that these bridges are chained to trees to keep them from washing away if the streams flood. I’ve heard couples wondering out loud if the chains were there to stop people from stealing them but no, it would take quite a few people to move a bridge this size.

The view from the bridge.

There are quite a few royal ferns (Osmunda spectabilis) growing in and along the stream. I always make a point of showing this pretty fern because I’ve met people who didn’t know it was a fern. Royal ferns are thought to be one of the oldest living things, with fossil records of the Osmundaceae family dating back over 300 million years. Individual plants are believed to be able to live for over 100 years.

There are stone walls everywhere out here and that is no surprise. If I ever walk through a New Hampshire forest without bumping into a stone wall that will be the surprise. There are an estimated 50,000 miles of stone walls in New Hampshire and 250,000 miles of walls in New England and New York. There is a mapping project going on now that wants to map all of the stone walls in the state, and to that I say good luck.

This is what you do when there isn’t a bridge. That third flat rock that is shaped like a slice of pizza wobbles when you step on it and I thought I was going down when I stepped on it. A friend of mine fell into a stream in exactly that way and cracked several ribs. Another friend gave me some walking poles when he got new ones but I never think to use them, even though I have them right in the car. I’m going to have to move them to the front seat. They would have been handy here.

Here was the pine tree that was struck by lightning. I came through here just a day or so after it happened a few years ago and found long strips of bark on the ground around the tree. The lightning had blown them right off the tree.

Slowly, this pine is dying. Each time I look more limbs have died and one day it will fall, probably into the pond.

I think this is the best shot I’ve ever gotten of the island, because the light was good. I wondered about how the island might have been a hilltop before the size of the pond was artificially increased. I would have loved to explore it as I have so many other islands but without a kayak, swimming would be the only way. I knew better; I tried to swim out to the island in Spofford Lake once and almost drowned because even when I was young, I had weak lungs.

Pine and hemlock pollen is falling. It floats on the water of lakes and ponds and makes designs every year at this time. Sometimes it can be very beautiful on water, and allergy sufferers would rather see it floating on water than in the air.

I use my phone camera quite a lot for landscape shots these days and it usually does a good job but sometimes the photos look a bit garish, and that’s the way this one looks to me. This shot is of one of two dams on the pond. It took me a while to get a shot of it because I saw a lot of people and a lot of dogs here on this day, and that’s what makes this pond so different from Willard Pond. I waited to take the shot as a young girl sneezed her way across the dam. “It sounds like someone might have allergies,” I said to her mother. “Yes, it seems like everyone is allergic to something these days,” she said. I agreed. I was never allergic to anything until I turned 50 and then I became allergic to many things. I can’t remember anyone in my family ever having allergies when I was a boy though, even during haying season.

I’ve seen lance leaved violets (Viola lanceolata) growing in the water at a pond’s edge before but here they were high and dry on the dam, and there were hundreds of them.  It is also called the bog white violet or strap leaved violet, for obvious reasons. The plant needs a wet, sunny habitat, preferably one that floods and then dries out. It is listed as present in 8 out of the 10 counties in New Hampshire but though I’ve been on a lot of pond shores, I’ve only seen it twice. It is said to be rare in Vermont.

For the most part lance leaved violets are said to have no hairs on the side petals, but according to what I’ve read they may occasionally have residual, greenish white hairs as this one did. The flowers nod on stems that can be as much as 6 inches long and both the bottom and side petals can have purple veining. This little plant only blooms for three weeks. The leaves are much longer than they are wide and after much searching in books and online I believe that this is the only violet that has them.

A sleepy-eyed female bullfrog rested on a mat of vegetation. You can tell she’s a female by the size of the external eardrum, which is called a tympanum and which appears just behind and below the eye. A male’s eardrum is much bigger than the eye. As soon as I got to the pond and all the way around it all I heard was the loud croaking of male bullfrogs, so it’s no wonder she needed a rest.

I saw the blue flag irises (Iris versicolor) I remembered were here, but there wasn’t a flower to be found on any of them. I think I must be rushing it a bit. I usually see them in June but sometimes they come out earlier so I thought I might see some.

Something that surprised me was all the painted trilliums (Trillium undulatum) I saw. There must have been two dozen of them here, right along the trail. They had all gone by as the one in the photo had but this is a hard plant to find in this area so I’ll have to remember to come here next year to see them. I’ve written myself a note, just in case. This one was forming a seedpod, which I was happy to see.

The old stump I sit by sometimes showed that the water level had dropped an inch or two. Goose Pond is a great place to find mushrooms so I’m hoping we don’t have a dry summer. An inch of rain per week would be perfect but I don’t think there is any such thing as a perfect summer anymore, if there ever was. Last summer it rained two or three days each week and was too wet but the two summers before that saw hardly any rain at all, so I’m hoping we can get back to average this year, whatever that may be. Whatever happens we’re sure to still be surrounded by the beautiful countryside we’ve been blessed with, so it’s hard to complain.

If you reconnect with nature and the wilderness you will not only find the meaning of life, but you will experience what it means to be truly alive. ~Sylvia Dolson

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Here we are at the time of year when it’s almost time to leave the forest to seek the flowers that need sunlight rather than shade but first there are a few flowers still blooming in the woods, like the beautiful wild azalea (Rhododendron prinophyllum) seen in the photo above. They are also called early azaleas, though others in the family such as rhodora do bloom first. In my last post I spoke about finding the kind of beauty that makes me go silent and still, and this beautiful native shrub always does that to me.

This shot shows how hairy the buds are. Those hairs persist even after the flowers open and they are what give this plant another name: wooly azalea. It is those hairs that emit the wonderful fragrance that these flowers have. It is a fragrance that is said to induce creative imagination.

I’ve been waiting a few years now for pretty little bunchberry plants (Cornus canadensis) to have a good year and finally, here it is. If they look familiar that’s because they are in the dogwood family. Like a dogwood blossom its large white bracts surround its smaller flowers. Even the 2 larger and 4 smaller leaves look like a dogwood. In fact, an old name for the plant is creeping dogwood. They like moist, shady woods.

If pollinated each tiny flower will become a bright red, single seeded drupe, and the plant will then have the bunch of “berries” that give it its common name. It is rare in my experience to find a plant full of fruit, but I keep looking. The plant’s berries are loaded with pectin and Native Americans used them both medicinally and as food.

Here bunchberry plants are growing through the V made by two oak branches, as they do here almost every year. Bunchberry is often found growing on and through tree trunks, stumps, and fallen logs but exactly why isn’t fully understood. It’s thought that they must get nutrients from the decaying wood, and because of its association with wood it’s a very difficult plant to establish in a garden. Native plants that are dug up will soon die off unless the natural growing conditions can be accurately reproduced, so it’s best to just admire it and let it be.

I found a dogwood tree blooming at the local college so I took a photo of one of the flowers. It looks remarkably like a larger version of a bunchberry blossom, so it’s easy to see why they are in the same family.

Pretty little blue eyed grass blossoms (Sisyrinchium angustifolium), hardly bigger than an aspirin, have appeared. The plants are in the iris family and if I had gotten a better shot of the leaves it would be obvious. They are the same bluish gray color as those of bearded irises. It is just a roadside “weed” to many, but I look forward to seeing it each year.

Blue eyed grass flowers taught me this year that they come out very dark, like the blossom on the left and then fade rather quickly to look like that blossom on the left. I’ve never noticed this before.

What look like tiny purple airplanes are now carpeting forest floors. Though this little plant in the milkwort family’s common name is fringed polygala (Polygala paucifolia) another name is “gaywings,” so that tells me that I’m not the only one who sees the resemblance to planes. They’re small and at a glance can pass for a violet so you have to keep your eyes on the ground to find them.

They’re very pretty and worth finding. the flowers are made up of five sepals and two petals. Two of the petals form a tube and two of the sepals form the “wings.” The little fringe like structure at the end of the tube is part of the third petal which is mostly hidden. When an insect lands on the fringed part, the third petal drops down to create an opening so the insect can enter the tube. It’s an amazing process that I keep hoping I’ll see happen but so far, not yet.

As I always do, I immediately thought of my mother when I saw these white lilacs. She planted one just before she died and though I never knew her she lives on in the flowers she chose to plant in the yard. I know, by what she chose, that she loved both color and fragrance. When I sat on the porch as a boy and smelled the lilacs or the cabbage roses, or in the fall when I admired the beautiful scarlet leaves of the Virginia creeper she planted, she was there. And she still is. One of the greatest gifts you can give a child in my opinion, is a love of flowers. It doesn’t take much; my mother did it without even being there. Whatever flowers you grow they will learn to love them, and later on in life when they see a flower they grew up with, they’ll think of you.

Sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum) is a low growing summer wildflower with small, 4 petaled white flowers that seems to prefer the shade at the edges of forests. It makes an excellent old-fashioned groundcover but it likes plenty of water; it won’t spread if it gets too dry. The odoratum part of the scientific name comes from the pleasant, very strong fragrance of its dried leaves. They are often used in potpourris because the fragrance lasts for years. It is also called sweet scented bedstraw and is a native of Europe.

The long wiry stems of what I believe is marsh stitchwort (Stellaria palustris) keep the flowers up above the tall grass so insects can find them. The flowers are said to be smaller than those of greater stitchwort but larger than those of lesser stitchwort, but such things don’t excite me anymore so I don’t pay much attention. I just enjoy seeing their cheery faces alongside the path I’m on, even if they aren’t native. They are a native of Europe and are also called chickweed, but there are over 50 different chickweeds. The Stellaria part of the scientific name means “star like,” and the common name stitchwort refers to the plant being used in herbal remedies to cure the pain in the side that we call a stitch.

Lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis) had just started blooming when I found a large colony of them on one of my walks. This is one of the first plants I have stored in my memory. I can remember as a boy picking them along with violets and dandelions to bring to my grandmother. To this day I still like the colors white, yellow and purple together.

I found a painted trillium (Trillium undulatum) that had just come up. It hadn’t reached full size yet but it had the beginnings of the reddish “V” at the base of each petal. Someone thought it looked as if they had been painted on, and that’s where the common name comes from. This one also displayed where the undulatum part of the scientific name came from with its wavy, undulating petal edges. They will straighten out a bit as the plant grows. They like boggy, acidic soil and are much harder to find than other varieties, though I never did find nodding trilliums this year.

I had never seen bird’s eye speedwell (Veronica chamaedrys) anywhere but in Hancock where I used to work until I went grocery shopping and looked in an old pasture where a barn used to stand before the store was built. There were hundreds of them growing there, so if my memory still works in the future I’ll be able to see them whenever I want. Most speedwell flowers are borderline microscopic but these are huge in comparison. I’d guess they must be as big as an aspirin. Another name for the plant is germander speedwell.

Robin’s plantain (Erigeron pulchellus) is a flower that always makes me smile, and not just because it is so pretty. No, I smile because it is a flower that reveals a lot about people at this time of year. You can go by a house that has not a flower or flowering shrub or tree anywhere on its property, but then in spring a big island of robin’s plantain will have been left uncut in the mowed lawn. This plant is in the fleabane family and is the earliest fleabane to bloom, with big 1-inch blossoms. They can be white to pink to lavender and are made up of ray florets surrounding yellow disk florets in the center. It’s a pretty, very noticeable “weed.”

I went to a spot I had never been to off in the woods near Willard Pond in Hancock and found hundreds of pink lady’s slippers (Cypripedium acaule), more than I’ve ever seen together anywhere else. They’re one of our most beautiful native orchids and I was happy to see so many growing together. I wondered how many other large colonies there were off in the wilderness that nobody has ever seen. I hope there are many.

That flower in the previous photo was quite dark pink but here was one that was lighter. Lady’s slippers, as do all orchids, have both male and female reproductive structures fused into a single structure. Many different insects pollinate orchids but in lady’s slippers bees do the job. They enter the flower through the center slit in the pouch, which can be seen here. Once inside they discover that they’re trapped and can’t get out the way they came in.

Guide hairs inside the flower, which can just be seen in this shot, point the way to the top of the pouch or slipper, and once the bee reaches the top it finds two holes big enough to fit through. Just above each hole the flower has positioned a pollen packet so once the bee crawls through the hole it is dusted with pollen. The flower’s stigma is also located above the exit holes and if the bee carries pollen from another lady’s slipper it will be deposited on the sticky stigma as it escapes the pouch, and fertilization will have been successful. Is it any wonder that orchids are considered the most highly evolved of all flowering plants?

Pollination had been very successful in this spot. I saw many lady’s slipper seedpods. These seed pods contain between 10,000 and 20,00 tiny, dust like seeds. According to the U.S. Forest Service “The seeds require threads of a fungus in the Rhizoctonia genus to break them open and attach them to it. The fungus will pass on food and nutrients to the pink lady’s slipper seed. When the lady’s slipper plant is older and producing most of its own nutrients, the fungus will extract nutrients from the orchid roots. This mutually beneficial relationship between the orchid and the fungus is known as “symbiosis” and is typical of almost all orchid species.” This is why it is waste of time to collect orchids or orchid seed from the wild and expect them to grow in your yard.

Since I skipped doing a flower post one week, I’m behind in keeping up with showing you what is blooming and has bloomed here. I went back out to the ledges in Westmoreland as I said I would though, and found the columbines in beautiful, full bloom. This would have been about 2 weeks ago, I think. I was happy to find more plants blooming than I ever have before, and I hope some of you were also able to see them.

There is no other flower that I know of that is quite like them. When a breeze blows through where they grow, they all dance at the ends of their long wiry stems and you can imagine them making themselves more visible to the insect by doing so.

I always like to show this photo of a columbine blossom from a few years ago because it helps to illustrate how various names came to be attached to this flower. The Aquilegia part of the scientific name comes from the Latin Aquila, which means “eagle” and refers to the spurred petals that Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus thought resembled an eagle’s talons. Others have thought they resembled pigeons around a dish, and the name Columbine comes from the Latin Columbinus, which means “pertaining to doves or pigeons.” Throughout history columbines have been associated with birds, but I didn’t see eagles or doves when I saw this photo. I immediately thought of five beautiful white swans with outstretched wings. However you choose to look at a columbine blossom it is a beautiful thing, and growing them adds interest to any garden.

Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.
~Rumi

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Every year around Halloween I go to Willard Pond over in Hancock to see what in my opinion, is some of the most colorful foliage in the region. Every year I tell myself that I’ll come back in the spring to see what it looks like then but I never have, until now. We’re going to be walking through a beautiful hardwood forest of oak, beech, and birch right along that shoreline over there behind that boulder.

Though the forest looked leafless in that previous shot there were plenty of spring leaves to see. This is the start of the trail that I follow. It is called the Tudor trail but I think I would have named it serenity, because that’s where it leads.

There were lots of new, velvety oak leaves.

Shadbushes (Amelanchier canadensis) still bloomed.

Ferns were in all stages of growth.

And everywhere you looked there were the big white flowerheads of hobblebushes (Viburnum lantanoides). It was hard to get a shot of them in the bright sunlight so I had to underexpose this shot. White is a tricky color for a camera on a sunny day. I’ve had several questions about cameras and how to use them lately and if this situation seems tricky for you, you might want to read about “bracketing exposures.”  It’s a simple tip that covers a lot of bases and helps you get more used to changing the settings on your camera.

Another native viburnum, maple leaved viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium), showed how it got the name. In the fall these leaves can turn pink, purple, red, yellow, and orange and combinations of two or three, and are really beautiful. The Native American Chippewa tribe used the inner bark of this plant to relieve stomach pains.

The beavers had cut down a big beech and were in the process of stripping all its bark from it.

I stopped to look at the hillside across the pond with its soft, hushed hints of green. I saw what I had suspected; that this place is beautiful no matter what time of year it is. I could hear a loon laughing and giggling over there somewhere and I wondered what the early settlers must have thought when they first head loons. With all of their many superstitious beliefs it must have scared them half to death. If you’d like to hear what I heard, just click here: www.loon.org/the-call-of-the-loon/

A fly fisherman was fishing for trout from his kayak and he heard the loon too. The loon was most likely also fishing for trout. Willard pond is considered a trout pond and there are rainbow and brook trout, as well as with smallmouth bass. No boats with motors are allowed, and fly fishing is the only form of fishing allowed. Since it is part of a wildlife sanctuary the land surrounding the pond can never be developed. It is about as close to true wilderness as you can find in this area and it is beautiful.

Several times when I came here in the fall, I saw the seed heads of rhodora (Rhododendron canadense). They’re one of our most beautiful shrubs and I hoped to find them in bloom, but all I saw were buds. I had to go back to get these photos of them but it was worth it because this is not a common shrub.

Rhodora is a small, two-foot-tall native rhododendron (actually an azalea) that loves swampy places. It is native to the northeastern U.S. and Canada and both its western and southern limits are reached in Pennsylvania. The flowers appear just before the leaves, but only for a short time in spring. They bloom just before irises in this area, and by mid-June their flowers will have all vanished. Henry David Thoreau knew it well, and wrote “The splendid Rhodora now sets the swamps on fire with its masses of rich color.” He would have loved this place.

Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum commutatum) grew all along the trail and on some of the boulders. I saw plenty of buds but no flowers yet. In the fall dark blue or purple berries will hang where the flowers were.

I’m including this view of the trail to show that if you come here, you’d be wise to wear good sturdy hiking boots. Mud, stones and roots are some of the things you’ll have to scramble up and over. I tell you about trail conditions in these posts so you won’t get here and wonder what you’ve gotten yourself into. I often wish someone had done the same for me. Every hike has its own set of challenges, and their difficulty seems to increase with age.

For years, each fall I’ve seen what I thought was a species of dicentra growing on a boulder. But which boulder, I wondered on this trip. Then up ahead I saw that a tree had fallen across the path, stopped only by a boulder. When I got to the boulder sure enough, it was the boulder with the plant I was looking for on it. Luckily the tree hadn’t crushed the plants, so I was able to see them flowering. I could see that they weren’t dicentra.

Though I could see that they weren’t dicentra I didn’t know what they were because I had never seen them before. I took photos of the flowers and leaves from all sides as I always do and when I got home, I found that they were pale cordyalis. (Corydalis sempervirens.) They are a native which, from what I’ve read likes sandy, stony soil along pond and river banks. They are also called rock harlequin and why is perfectly clear, since this one grew on a boulder.

The small flowers of pale corydalis have two pairs of petals, which are bright pink with yellow tips. Some were white, but I’m not sure if they fade to white or come out white and turn pink. They are a biennial, which means that the plants appear in the first year and flower in the second. Flowers are small and appear in clusters (Racemes). They are related to Dutchman’s breeches, which is a native dicentra.

When I got home and saw this photo I took of the forest I thought my camera had lost its marbles, but then I checked the shots I took with the other two cameras I carried and they all showed the same; the most intense green I’ve ever seen. Colorblindness makes it hard to understand what color I’m seeing sometimes and sometimes the colors I see just don’t seem possible. “Find that on a color wheel” my mind taunts.

I’m always awe struck by this huge boulder. In relation to the glacier that scraped it up and brought it here it must have been little more than a grain of sand, and it’s hard to even imagine that.

Violets grew out of the moss on a stone at the water’s edge.

Blue flag irises grew close enough to the water to have wet feet, and that’s what they like. I haven’t seen any in bloom as of this post.

Over the years a few people have told me what I’ve missed by not following the trail past this old oak with its rickety little bench but I’ve seen, heard and felt enough, and I usually have more photos than I would want or need by the time I get here, so this is where I end my hike. I could go on to what is called “the point” or I could climb Bald Mountain, but I don’t feel a need to do so. This spot always calls to me to come and sit so that’s what I do, and it has always been enough.

I sit on the ground these days because the bench is getting wobbly, but it doesn’t matter. The view is the same and the sounds are the same. There is just the lapping of the waves and bird song, and maybe an occasional chuckle or hoot from a loon.

I watched the shadows from the waves move over the stone covered pond bottom. There was just enough of a breeze to kick them up a bit and thankfully, to keep the biting bugs away. In this region you would be hard pressed to find a day when there wasn’t a breeze coming across a lake or pond.

The one thing that is most abundant here is silence, and the simplest lesson nature teaches is the most valuable: silence heightens awareness. Once we have learned this silence becomes the teacher, and silence teaches peace. When I come upon the kind of beauty that makes me quiet and still, be it a tiny flower or a mountain top, I find that peace is always there, waiting. I do hope that you find the same.

The best places aren’t easy to see; instead of following light one must follow silence. ~Hanna Abi Akl

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Starflowers (Trientalis borealis) are having a great year and I’m seeing lots of them. They usually grow in the forest in places that gets an hour or two of sunlight, but this year they seem to be everywhere. They sparkle like the first snowflakes of winter on the forest floor. The Trientalis part of the scientific name means “one third of a foot” in Latin and four inches is just about how tall they grow.

 I always like to see how many flowers I can find on a single starflower plant and this year I’m seeing many with three flowers. I’ve seen four flowers twice but one of the flowers had passed each time. It used to be that seeing three flowers was rare and seeing four was almost unheard of, but they seem to have more flowers each year now. More flowers are always a good thing, in my opinion.

Wood anemones (Anemone quinquefolia) grow alongside trout lilies in many places and though the trout lilies didn’t do well this year the anemones did. Anemones are sun lovers and they bloomed well, so it can’t be a lack of sunlight that caused of the lack of trout lily blossoms.

Much like a bloodroot blossom the petals of an anemone have almost imperceptible veins that show only in the right light. I was lucky enough to be there and able to capture it when the lighting was right.

There’s nothing left to see of them where I go, but I met a friend on a trail one day and he said the trout lilies (Erythronium americanum) in his yard were blooming beautifully. What the differences were between his yard and the places I visited, I don’t know.

Crabapples are blooming beautifully this year and some trees are so full of blossoms you almost can’t see the branches. The crabapple is the only apple truly native to North America and there are four species of them. They are Malus fusca, Malus coronaria, Malus angustifolia and Malus ioensis. The tree in my own yard was full of blossoms last year and this year I couldn’t find a single one.

Apples are also doing well. We’re lucky to have wild apple and crabapple trees on forest edges almost everywhere you look. Many people don’t realize that apples aren’t native because they’ve been with us for so long. My grandmother had a few trees which, by the time I came along, were grown more for their flowers than for fruit. They were very fragrant and I have many happy memories of bringing branches full of flowers upstairs to her.

The fragrance of lilacs is all I smell when I go on my daily walks now. Almost every house on any street I walk on has at least one, but though it is the state flower of New Hampshire it is not native to North America. I’m glad we have them though. It just wouldn’t be spring without them.

I know of only two places where rare dwarf ginseng (Panax trifolius) grows and in one of them, I was happy to find many seedlings this year. This one’s flowers had deeply pleated petals, which is something I can’t remember ever seeing. You have to search for the very small plants because they don’t like disturbed ground and so will only grow in soil that has been untended for many years. I find them by a forested stream in ground that has never been cultivated that I know of.

Plants are very small and most will easily fit inside a teacup. Individual dwarf ginseng flowers are about 1/8″ across and have 5 white petals, a short white calyx, and 5 white stamens. The flowers might last three weeks, and if pollinated are followed by tiny yellow fruits. This is not the ginseng used in herbal medicine and it should never be picked.

There are close to 45 species of pussytoes (Antennaria), which makes identifying them difficult, but they are popping up in lawns everywhere right now. They’re a good sign that the lawn has poor soil, because this plant likes to grow in sandy, rocky, almost gravel like soil. Pussytoes are a favorite of many butterfly species so they’re an important plant. Another common name for the plant is everlasting. Its female flowers seen in this photo.

The flowers of the pussytoes plant are said to look like cat’s paws, and that’s where they get their common name. Someone also thought the stamens on a male pussytoes flower, seen here, looked like butterfly antennae. I don’t know about that but that’s where the Antennaria part of the scientific name came from. Native Americans used the plant medicinally to treat coughs, fevers, bruises, and inflammations.

I learned a long time ago that trying to identify small yellow flowers can make you crazy so I pass most of them by, but this one follows me wherever I go. It could be a dwarf cinquefoil (Potentilla canadensis), which is native.

Whatever its name is I think the bright yellow flowers are pretty. I see them blooming everywhere right now.

Japanese quince (Chaenomeles japonica) is an old-fashioned shrub that I’m not sure is even sold any more, but back when I was gardening it was fairly common. This one is very old and large, and it was just coming into bloom when I found it.

It’s hard to mistake a Japanese quince for any other shrub. Its pinkish orange blooms appear on thorny branches long before its leaves do. It’s in the apple family and has edible fruit that is said to make excellent jelly. I worked for a lady who called it Japonica, which is what it was called in the 1800s. I planted a quince hedge once for some people and it worked out well.

If you happen to be a violet lover this is your year. I’ve never seen so many.

I thought these were dog violets but if I go by the longish throat hairs they can’t be, because dog violets have short, stubby throat hairs. I learned that recently by reading the Saratoga Woods and Waterways blog. It’s one of my favorites and it can be found over there on the right.

And what about this violet that looks like someone splattered it with paint? I found it in a garden at a local park.

Its name is “Freckles” (Viola Sororia Freckles) and I kind of like it, but knowing how quickly violets multiply as I do, would I dare plant it in a garden? I think I’d have to talk to someone who had planted it in their garden first to see if it was bent on taking over the world. I spent far too many years weeding violets out of gardens to have a nonchalant attitude about planting them, even if it is a cultivar.

I think tulip time is over now but this is my favorite for this post.

I like looking inside tulips, and this is why. You never really know what you’ll see, so it’s part of the fun.

These tulips had gone far beyond their best, but they were going out with a bang. Their petals moved like ocean waves and I thought they were passing on beautifully.

Here’s to the moments when you realize the simple things are wonderful and enough. ~Jill Badonsky

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I saw hobblebushes blooming in the woods along the roadsides so I knew it was time to visit the Beaver Brook Natural Area in Keene. It’s a place where I know I can get close to the hobblebushes and many other plants. I start off by following the old abandoned road that used to be the route to Concord, which is the state capitol, from Keene. The road was abandoned in the 1970s when the new Route 9 north was built, and nature has been doing its best to reclaim it ever since.

The old road is full of cracks, which are filled in immediately by green, growing life. This of course makes the cracks even wider so more plants can move in. Its a slow but inexorable process that will go on until the forest takes back what was carved out of it.

Cinnamon ferns (Osmundastrum cinnamomeum) unfurled by one of the vernal pools found along the old road.

Foamflowers (Tiarella cordifolia) grew near another pool. These pretty white flowered plants like wet feet so when you kneel for a photo you usually get wet knees. They have hairy, maple-like leaves and foot high flower stalks, and small, bright white flowers. Their leaves are bright green at first and then turn a darker green, sometimes mottled with maroon or brown.

The “Foam” part of the name comes from the many stamens on the flowers, which give large colonies a kind of frothy look. Each flower has 5 white petals, 5 white sepals, and 10 stamens. Foam flowers are popular in garden centers and are grown in gardens as much for their foliage as the flowers. Native Americans used the leaves and roots medicinally as a mouthwash for mouth sores. The plant is also called “cool wort” because the leaves were once used on scalds and burns to relieve the pain.

New maple leaves are still wearing their bright colors.

I’ve seen this spot when all the green you see to the right was underwater, but the brook was tame on this day. Maybe a little higher than average but not too bad.

I’m surprised flooding hadn’t washed all of this away, or maybe it was flooding that carried it here. This is just upstream from where I was in the previous shot.

There were an amazing number of trees in the brook so it will take quite a flood to wash them downstream. I’d cut them up if I was in charge because “downstream” from here means right through the heart of Keene. There must be a thousand places further on where a mess like this could get hung up. Waiting until high summer when the water was at its lowest and then having two men wade in with a battery-operated chainsaw would be the way to go.

But I was glad I wasn’t in charge because clearing that log jam will be worse than pulling apart a beaver dam by a longshot. How lucky I was; all I had to do was keep walking and enjoying a beautiful day.

I stopped to see the beautiful smoky eye boulder lichens (Porpidia albocaerulescens) that live here. It always looks like someone has spilled jewels on the stone.

Not too far up the old road from the smoky eye boulder lichens are the hobblebushes, and that’s the amazing thing about this place; just walk a few steps and there is another beautiful thing to stop and see. This is why, though it is less than a mile’s walk to Beaver Brook Falls, it often takes me two hours or more. I don’t come here for exercise, I come for the beauty of the place.

And there is little that is more beautiful than the flowers of our native hobblebush (Viburnum lantanoides). The large, sterile flowers around the perimeter are there just to attract insects to the smaller, fertile flowers. The outer flowers are delicate, and a strong wind or heavy rain can strip them from the flower head.

Golden Alexanders (Zizia aurea) were bright yellow among last year’s leaves. They like wet, sunny meadows and open woodlands and there are a lot of them here.

There were no flowers on them yet though, just buds. The plant is said to be important to a number of short-tongued insects that are able to easily reach the nectar in the small yellow flowers. Each flower will be only about an eighth of an inch long with five sepals, five petals, and five stamens.

There were lots of blue marsh violets (Viola cucullata) (I think) blooming along the roadsides on this day. The long flower stems held the flowers high above the leaves and I believe the blue marsh violet is the only one that does this.

Jack in the pulpits (Arisaema triphyllum) still hadn’t unfurled their leaves but they had nice color on their spathes.

The old road goes uphill the entire way but it’s an easy climb and there are many interesting things to see along with all the plants and trees, like the old guard posts still guarding against accidents that will never happen. The electric lines seen here run through the area on their way to elsewhere. There are no houses along the road.

The disappearing stream that runs down the hillside had done just that. It was too bad because it can be beautiful in spring.

Here it was in March while there was still ice melting. The stream ran then.

There aren’t many places where you can get right down to the brook but there are two or three and this is one of them. All the stone along the embankment was put there to prevent washouts and it’s hard to walk on, so you have to be careful.

The stone didn’t prevent all washouts. This old culvert washed into the brook years ago. The brook slowly eats away at the road and in the end it will most likely win.

All the walking and hiking I’ve been doing has improved my legs and lungs so much I thought I could just skip down the embankment to see Beaver Brook Falls. It didn’t work out quite that way but I made it without breaking my neck. The amount of water going over the falls was perfect. There’s a huge stone that juts out right in the middle and when there is too little water it splits the falls in two, so the scene isn’t quite as photogenic in my opinion.

The only trouble was, I took the wrong trail down to the brook so I was even further away from the falls than this. I was glad I had a zoom lens. There used to be just one trail down to the brook but now somehow there are three, all looking equally worn. Since I took this one, I would have had to wade in the brook to get any closer. I wasn’t interested in getting wet but it could have been done. People used to swim here all the time, rocks and all.

This shot shows the climb back to the road, or half of it anyway. About half way up I leaned my back against a tree and took a photo to show what you’re up against if you decide to do this. The small trees kept me from getting too much forward momentum on the way down, and then they helped me climb back up. That big rock will slide right down the hill if you put too much weight on it but the others were pretty firm.

Just to the right, out of camera range in that previous photo, there was a colony of what must have been twenty trilliums or more. I saw them along the road all the way up and saw those I had missed on the way down. In fact I saw more trilliums here than I’ve ever seen in one place before, so if you live in the area and it is wildflowers you want to see, this is a great place to start looking. Those I’ve shown in this post are really just a small part of what can be found here.

There is a serene and settled majesty to woodland scenery that enters into the soul and delights and elevates it, and fills it with noble inclinations. ~Washington Irving.

Thanks for stopping in.

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