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Posts Tagged ‘Spring Hiking’

I’ve been wanting to show you something so last Sunday I decided to climb Hewe’s Hill in Swanzey to see if I could see what I had in mind. Usually when I think of climbing a hill to show you something it doesn’t work, but I’ll keep trying. We start by crossing this hay field / meadow.

There were violets in the grass. There were also buttercups but my photos of them aren’t good enough to be shown here. I think this is a dog violet (Viola conspera) but I usually avoid trying to identify violets because there are so many and they all seem to look alike.

The grasses are starting to flower. Many grasses are beautiful and interesting when they flower, but it’s an event that I fear most of us miss.

Once we’re through the meadow and into the woods everything becomes very green, including the light through the new spring leaves.

There were thousands of starflowers (Trientalis borealis) along both sides of the trail. They are a woodland plant that doesn’t mind shade, so the leaves overhead don’t bother them.

I saw my first mushroom of the year but I don’t know its name. Someone wrote in once with a positive identification of this one but I can’t remember the name they told me or the date of the post it appeared in. There are an awful lot of mushrooms on this blog but finding a specific one can be tedious if you don’t have a name to search for.

Indian cucumber root plants (Medeola virginiana) were growing here and there. The plant gets its common name from its small white, carrot shaped edible root, which tastes like cucumber. Native Americans used it for food and also used it medicinally. The Medeola part of the plant’s scientific name is from Medea, a magical enchantress from Greek Mythology. It refers to the plant’s magical curative powers. These should be flowering in early July.

Botanically speaking a whorl is an “arrangement of sepals, petals, leaves, stipules or branches that radiate from a single point and surround or wrap around the stem,” and nothing illustrates this better than Indian cucumber root. Its leaves wrap around the stem arranged in a single flat plane, so if you saw them from the side theoretically you would see an edge, much like looking at the edge of a dinner plate. If any leaf or leaves in the arrangement are above or below others it’s not a true whorl.

I saw a few pink lady’s slippers budded but they usually won’t bloom until June. Some think they’ve found a pale yellow lady’s slipper when they see the buds are at this stage. This native orchid is our state wildflower.

As we get deeper into the forest it gets darker because of the canopy, and there is much less undergrowth.

There is a surprising openness in a dark forest overshadowed by evergreen hemlock and pine branches. I’ve heard that the same is true of jungles, because very little sunlight reaches the forest floor.

I saw a hemlock tree (Tsuga canadensis) with some young hemlock varnish shelf fungi (Ganoderma tsugae) growing on it. This mushroom’s common name comes from its shiny cap which will come later, and which looks like it has been varnished. You can tell that they’re young because of the white / tan color on their outer edges. As they age they will lose the whitish color and become deep, shiny red. This mushroom has been used medicinally in China for thousands of years. 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.

This hemlock didn’t have any fungi on it but it must have had insects inside it because the woodpeckers were having their way with it. A while ago I split a log that had thousands of big black carpenter ants in it and for a woodpecker they’re a delicacy.

The bedrock forms ledges here that appear to have risen from the surrounding terrain, creating caves under the overhangs. They aren’t big enough for bears but a porcupine, raccoon or even a bobcat might call them home.

When the trail reaches its steepest you know you’re very near the summit.

I gave a nod and a click of the shutter to Tippin Rock as I passed. The 40 ton erratic gets its name from the way it will “tip” if shoved in the right spot. It actually rocks back and forth very slowly, like a pendulum. I didn’t have time to wrestle it on this day but if you’re interested you can just type “Tippin Rock” in the search box over on the top right and you’ll be taken right to all the posts I’ve done about it.

This is what I wanted to show you; the forest canopy awash in spring greens. With the oaks and hickories finally chiming in all of the trees now have their new leaves. This is why the spring ephemeral wildflowers are done blooming in the forests. From now on it will be mostly meadow and roadside flowers.

We aren’t in the clouds up here but we are in the tree tops. How many shades of green can there be?

The forest seems to go on forever. Sitting alone up here with the breeze and birdsong I often find myself wondering what the early settlers might have thought when they looked out over something so vast and unbroken. I also wonder if I would have had the courage to face it. There were no houses out there, no stores, and no roads. Only what you carried; that and your own ability were all you could really rely on.

I sit with my back against the little toadskin lichen’s (Lasallia papulosa) boulder when I take photos of the views, so of course I have to spend some time with them. Most were surprisingly dry in spite of all the rain but still beautiful nonetheless.

Some plants seem to shine with the light of creation and some lichens are no different. Sometimes you can see entire solar systems on the face of a toadskin lichen.

It looks like Mister Smiley Face is growing a mossy beard. I hope it doesn’t get too out of control. We always smile at each other on my way down.

I hope you enjoyed seeing the spring forest from above.

To see what others cannot…
You must climb the mountain.

~Ron Akers

Thanks for stopping in.

 

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1. The Group

Last Saturday afternoon the weather cooperated and after 2 or 3 false starts the Pathfinders finally made it to Keene for their tour of the old abandoned road that follows Beaver Brook. Their group was much smaller than what had been originally planned last winter, but I hope that the ones who couldn’t make it can come another day. When I took this photo of them walking up the old road I thought oops, I forgot to tell them to wear long pants. The road is covered with poison ivy along one side and it’ll be a miracle if none of them starts itching.

2. Poison Ivy

I was busy showing them the mosses, lichens and liverworts that they had come to see and didn’t take many photos so I went back the following day after it had rained to get more shots of the poison ivy and other things that we saw. That’s why it’s going to look dry in some of these photos and wet in others.

I pointed the poison ivy out to the Pathfinders right away but I didn’t need to because they all knew it well. I forgot that they are called “Pathfinders” for a reason and probably know the woods as well as I do.

3. Jewelweed

Many think that jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) gets its common name from its spotted orange or yellow flowers but the name actually comes from the way the waxy coating on its leaves makes rain water bead up and sparkle like jewels. The pathfinders noted that the plant always seems to grow near poison ivy, and how its sap has been used since before recorded time by Native Americans to alleviate the rash brought on by its toxins. It’s as if nature put the illness and the cure side by side.

4. Smokey Eye Boulder Lichen

Everyone was impressed by how the spore bearing apothecial disks of the smoky eye boulder lichens (Porpidia albocaerulescens) looked blue gray in certain light but more blue in a photo. They have a waxy coating that reflects light much like the whitish bloom on blueberries and that makes them appear blue in the right light. The black border on each disk makes them really stand out from the body of the lichen but they are still very small.

The Pathfinders needed to find 5 lichens, 5 mosses, and a liverwort (I think) to earn their badges in one of the nature categories, similar to what the Boy Scouts do, by the sounds of it. In the end they found all they needed and more.

5. Dryad's Saddle Fungus

I saw some dryad’s saddle (Polyporus squamosus) bracket fungi on a dead elm. I was surprised to see them since May had been such a dry month. These mushrooms get quite large and are fairly common on dead hardwood trees and stumps in the spring and fall. They are often funnel shaped rather than flat and saddle shaped like the example above.  The squamosus part of the scientific name means scaly and this mushroom almost always has brown scales on its cap. By the way, a dryad is a tree nymph or female tree spirit from Greek mythology. They were considered very shy creatures but I suppose even shy creatures need somewhere to sit down every now and then.

6. False Solomon's Seal

There were many false Solomon’s seal plants (Maianthemum racemosum) blooming along the roadsides. This common plant grows in every state except Hawaii and is also called treacle berry because its ripe red fruit tastes like molasses. Native Americans had many medicinal uses for the plant including as a cough suppressant and a treatment for sunburn. They say that the young spring shoots taste like asparagus but there are other poisonous plants with shoots the look much the same, so I think I’ll just let them grow.

7. False Solomon's Seal

Each tiny false Solomon’s seal flower is slightly more than an eighth inch across and made up of 6 tepals, 6 stamens, and a central pistil with a short pudgy style. The word tepal is used when a flower’s petals and sepals look enough alike to be nearly indistinguishable, as they do in this case.

8. Forest Tent Caterpillar

The forest tent caterpillar (Malacosoma disstria Hübner) is found in hardwood forests across America and is especially abundant here in the east. Though their preferred foods are sugar maple, aspen, cherry, apple, oaks, birch, ash, alder, elm, and basswood this one had been munching on a flowering raspberry leaf (Rubus odoratus.) They hatch near the time of bud break and eat both flower and leaf buds along with mature foliage. If they happen to defoliate the same tree more than 2 years in a row they can kill it. I’m not crazy about it defoliating trees but I love the beautiful sky blue color of its stripe.

9. Rose Moss

I was able to show the pathfinders a few rare mosses including rose moss (Rhodobryum roseum). I think it was their favorite, judging by the amount of photos being taken. It’s a beautiful thing that isn’t often seen in this area. It isn’t normally so shiny; the shininess of it in this photo is because it had rained.

10. Polypody Fern Sporangia

We spent a little time talking about polypody ferns (Polypodium virginanum) and I showed them what the sporangia, where the spores are produced, looked like. They grew on the boulders all around us and explained very nicely why “rock cap fern” is one of their common names.

11. Polypody Fern

Polypody ferns are one of our few evergreen ferns. They love to grow on boulders and could be seen topping many of the larger stones. They have a very tough, leathery feel, not delicate at all.

12. Beaver Brook

Beaver brook was little more than a trickle in places; so low that I don’t think a beaver could have swam in it without first damming it up. In a normal spring with normal rainfall I would have been swept downstream if I had tried to stand where I was when I took this photo.

 13. Falls

All but one of us made the slide / climb down to the falls. The light was all wrong for a good photo but the bright sun brought out the pinks and tans in the microcline feldspar that is so prevalent here. The brook was low enough to walk across so some of the kids crossed over and had some fun splashing around in the small pool at the base of the falls (and almost losing shoes.)  I’ve never seen these falls with so little water flowing over them, even in July. It was really surprising and drove home the point that rainfall is down nearly 6 inches from March first. The Pathfinders wanted to know if you could swim here. I told them that people used to but nobody did.

14. The Road Dark

The Pathfinders are polite, well behaved, fun, happy, and all around good kids. I really enjoyed my time with them and I hope we can get together again sometime. Though this old road leads nowhere these days, I have a strong hope that the experiences they had on it will help lead them to a love of nature that will stay with them throughout their lives.

Teaching children about the natural world should be seen as one of the most important events in their lives. ~ Thomas Berry

Thanks for coming by.

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1. Brickyard Brook Falls

We had about two inches of rain last week and almost all the snow has now melted, so I set off to find out how our streams and rivers were handling all of the extra water. Brickyard Brook in Richmond (above) didn’t look any different than it would in high summer. The small gorge this little brook cuts through is a favorite spot of mine. It’s always shaded and cool and is a great place to just sit and enjoy the sounds of falling water.

2. Bailey Brook Lower Falls

Bailey Brook in Nelson drops considerably more than Brickyard Brook and has two waterfalls along its length. This photo shows the lower falls, which were roaring. This is not the place to come if you’re looking for a quiet day beside a gentle stream.

3. False Hellebores

I was very surprised to see false hellebore (Veratrum viride) shoots about four inches high. Nelson is supposed to be one of the coldest towns in the county but many plants are further along there than they are in the warmer southern towns.

4. False Hellebores Eaten

I was also surprised to see that something had eaten a couple of the false hellebore shoots. This plant is among the most toxic in the forest but I’ve read that deer have a “toxicity threshold” and can eat as many as they like as long as they don’t go above that threshold. This lets them also eat skunk cabbage, another toxic plant. False hellebore can sicken sheep, goats and cattle, and can kill people who sometimes mistake it for wild leeks at this time of year.

5. Bailey Brook Upper Falls

The upper falls on Bailey Brook didn’t have anywhere near the amount of water falling over them as I thought they would. Again, not much more than they would in summer.  I wanted to get closer for a better photo without the tree in the way but I took a fall here last year and almost ended up in the brook, so I decided that I could live with the tree in the shot.

6. Beaver Brook

Further south in Keene Beaver Brook was different. There was a lot of water there, filling the banks.

7. Tree Over Beaver Brook

Even thought it was high, you could see by how the water stripped the bark from the lower part of this tree that it has been much higher in the past. The exposed part of the log had been bleached silver-gray.

8. Eddy

White foam swirled in eddies in the sheltered areas along its banks.

9. Ice in the Woods

There is still a lot of ice left to melt in shaded areas of the forest.  Maybe this was why Beaver Brook was running faster than the others.

10. Disappearing Hillside Waterfall

The disappearing waterfall on the far hillside was there, just as I thought it would be. It runs for a day or two after a good rain and then disappears, so it can literally be here one day and gone the next. There was still snow in the shaded areas on that side of the brook.

11. Beaver Brook Falls

Beaver brook falls roared over its 30 to 40 foot height. It wasn’t deafening but it was plenty loud. The surface of the brook was made much choppier than it usually is by the force of so much falling water. Since the ice was gone in this spot I was able to climb / slide down the steep embankment to the canyon for an unobstructed view. I’ve wasted many a climb down to the brook only to find the falls in deep shade, but on this day the lighting was perfect.

12. Ashuelot on 4-20

Regular readers of this blog know that this story will end at the Ashuelot River as it must, since all streams, brooks, and rivers in the region drain into it before it drains into the much larger Connecticut River. Its banks are full at the moment. The clouds above it formed an arrow pointing upriver and as I look at the photo I wonder if I should have followed the sign.

For those new to this blog, the name Ashuelot is pronounced ash-wil-ot or ash-wee-lot. I was raised to say ash-wil-ot. In Native American Penacook or Natick language the word means “the place between.” I assume they must have meant “between hills” because we have plenty of those and the river does run between them.

13. Ashuelot Flooding

Downriver in Swanzey the Ashuelot had jumped its banks and turned these hayfields into a temporary marsh. The normal course of the river is off in the distance, just in front of the trees to the left, and it would be hard to see from this spot in summer. This land has probably been flooding since the glaciers that helped form it melted.

14. Canada Geese

The Canada geese seemed very happy with the flooding.

Sit by a river. Find peace and meaning in the rhythm of the lifeblood of the Earth.  ~Anonymous

Thanks for stopping in.

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This post is another full of those interesting and sometimes strange things that I’ve seen in my travels through the woods.

1. Trail

The trails are much easier to negotiate these days. Just a short time ago there was so much snow here that snowshoes were needed.

 2. Bubblegum Lichen

I came upon some bubblegum lichen (Icmadophila ericetorum) a while ago. This lichen gets its name from the bubble gum pink fruiting bodies. They really stand out against the light blue body of the lichen-even for someone as colorblind as I am. This lichen likes dry, very acidic soil. I often find it growing near blueberry bushes.

 3. Hobblebush Bud

The naked flower buds of hobblebush (Viburnum lantanoides) have grown large since the last time I checked on them. We should see the beautiful white blossoms within the next two weeks, I’d guess. This is one of my favorite viburnums.

 4. Bird

Regular readers of this blog know that they won’t see many bird or animal pictures here, but occasionally one will pose for me like this bird did recently. I have a blurry side view that leads me to believe it is an eastern phoebe.  Usually color blindness lets birds and animals blend right into the background when I try to find them, and that’s why I don’t spend a lot of time trying to photograph them.  This day there were several of these little flycatchers darting among the cattails at a local pond, and that made them much easier to see.

 5. Robin

This robin was bobbing along beside a road I was walking on. It seemed important for him to stay just slightly ahead of me, so we played the game of me trying to catch up to him for a while before he flew off.

6. Bittersweet Damage to Tree

Oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus) tried to strangle this tree but the tree grew out over the vine and enveloped it, choking it off instead.  Oriental bittersweet was intentionally imported to help with erosion control. Almost immediately, it escaped and began trying to take over the U.S. Once established it is very hard eradicate.

 7. Large Bittersweet

This example of an oriental bittersweet was as big as my wrist and like an anaconda, had slowly strangled the life out of the tree it climbed on.

8. Amber Jelly Fungus

Jelly fungi like this amber one (Exidia recisa) seem to be much more plentiful in winter and spring rather than in summer.  Common names for this fungus include willow brain fungus and amber jelly roll. It always reminds me of canned cranberry jelly.

9. Yellow Jelly Fungus

Yellow jelly fungi (Tremella aurantia) seem more plentiful in the warmer months. I’ve just started seeing them in the woods again after its being absent for most of the winter. Common names for the fungus in the photo include golden ear fungus. It is very similar to yellow witch’s butter (Tremella mesenterica) but has a matte finish rather than a shiny, wet looking finish. It also seems to more closely resemble a brain.

10. Oak Buds

Weeks after seeing the book Photographing Patterns in Nature I’m still finding patterns everywhere. I like the chevron patterns on these small oak buds. I think these were on a black oak (Fagaceae Quercus.) I could have verified this by looking at the inner bark, which is a light orange color, but I didn’t have a knife.

 11. Cinnamon Fern Fiddleheads

Cinnamon ferns (Osmunda cinnamomea) have fuzzy fiddleheads. They look like they’ve been wrapped in wool but deer don’t mind-they will eat all they can find.  This fern gets its common name from its fruiting fronds that turn a cinnamon color after starting life bright green. These fiddleheads stood about 3 inches tall and are the first I’ve seen this spring.

 12. Twisted Log

I loved the figural grain patterns on this log and wished that I could take it home and make a desk or table from it.  Who wouldn’t want to be able to see such beautiful wood each day?

13. Sedge Flowering

It isn’t often that I see sedges flowering, so I was happy to see this one. Its grass like leaves, purple bracts and relatively large male staminate flowers at the end of the stalk tell me this plant is one of the carex sedges.  Once I got home and looked at the photo I was even happier to see the shiny leaves of broom moss (Dicranium scoparium) in the background. This moss is one of the easiest to identify because of its grass green leaves. They taper from base to tip and also curve in a continuous arc. Another common name is wind swept moss because of the way that the leaves all appear to be pointing in the same general direction. It is, I think, one of the most beautiful mosses.

The forest makes your heart gentle.  You become one with it… No place for greed or anger there.  ~Pha Pachak

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This post is another one of those filled with all of the strange things I’ve seen that don’t fit anywhere else.

1. Red Stain on Pine Bark

I found several white pine trees (Pinus strobus) on less than a square acre of land with some type of red substance on the base of their trunks. I don’t know if this was caused by a fungus or not, but I’m fairly certain that it wasn’t a lichen or slime mold, and I’m sure it wasn’t paint. I’ve never seen this before.

 2. Red Lichen on Tree Trunk

This tree also had a red substance on it, but it was higher up than that on the white pines was. This looked like it might have been a crustose lichen-possibly one of the fire dot lichens.

 3. Wild Cucumber

Last summer long I kept watch for a wild cucumber vine (Echinocystis lobata) but never saw one. Then I recently found this one, or what was left of it. This summer I’ll go back to this place and get the shots I wanted last summer. These vines are very fragrant when they bloom and people have started growing them in gardens for their enjoyable fragrance.

 4. White Pine Bark

This bark was on the end of a fallen log. It was much smoother and was a different color than all of the bark around it, and it looked as if someone had sanded and stained it. Seeing things like this always make me wonder how and why they happened.

5. Frozen Tree Sap

We are still having freezing cold days here and this recently cut hemlock stump with its sap frozen solid illustrates just how cold it can get when the wind is from the north.

 6. Dead Fern

This dead fern made me imagine the rib cage of some unknown forest creature.

7. Feather on a Twig

Birds must lose a lot of feathers, because I see them hung up on shrubs all the time. Sometimes from a distance they can be easily mistaken for flowers. Since I’m tired of bush whacking my way through the woods to look at feathers that I thought were flowers, I bought myself some nifty mini binoculars to scan my surroundings with. They weigh almost nothing and will fit in a pocket.  I might even get to see some birds with them.

 8. White Bracket Polypore Underside

I recently thumbed through a book called “Photographing the Patterns of Nature,” which was a mistake because now I’m seeing patterns everywhere.  This is the pattern on the underside of a bracket fungus.

9. Pine Cone Gall on Willow

 A tiny midge (Rhabdophaga strobiloides) laid an egg in the developing terminal leaf buds of a willow and when the larva grew it caused this pine cone gall by releasing a chemical which interferes with the willow’s normal development. The adult insect will emerge soon and repeat the cycle.

 10. Grape Damage on Tree

When something that doesn’t stretch is wrapped around the trunk of a tree it interferes with the tree’s normal development by stopping the flow of nutrients to its roots from its crown. This is called girdling. Unless it has other branches that aren’t girdled so nutrients can reach its roots, the tree will usually die. In the case of the tree sapling in the photo, this girdling was caused by a grape vine tendril.

11.Beard Lichen 2

I took this picture of this beard lichen because it looked so ancient-as if it had been clinging to this branch since the dawn of time.

12. Moon and Clouds

One cold morning at about 6:00 am I saw clouds around the moon so I gathered up my camera and tripod, and out I went. Out of over 100 photos, this is the only one worth showing here.  Keeping both the moon and clouds in focus was much harder than it should have been. I’ll see if I can learn from the rejects and try again the next time the moon is in the clouds.

In those vernal seasons of the year, when the air is calm and pleasant, it were an injury and sullenness against Nature not to go out and see her riches, and partake in her rejoicing with heaven and earth.  ~John Milton

Thanks for stopping in.

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