Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Star Flower’

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.

 

Read Full Post »

There are still plenty of wildflowers blooming.  In fact, they come and go so quickly that I can barely keep up with them, but here are a few that I was lucky enough to find. Autumn Olive (iElaeagnus umbellate) is still blooming. This shrub’s fragrance is amazing even as you ride by in a car if you have the windows open. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a shrub attract as many insects as this one does. Autumn olive is originally from Asia and is considered an invasive species. The fruit is edible. It looks like it will be a good year for most berries.  Both blackberry (pictured above) and raspberry canes are loaded with blossoms. Blue Toadflax (Nuttallanthus canadensis ) has just started blooming. These small sky blue and white flowers bloom on wiry stems, starting at the bottom and working their way up. The native plants prefer dry, sandy soil and are often seen on roadsides, which is where these were. The more common and well known butter and eggs plant is also a toadflax. The name “toadflax” was supposedly given to the plant because toads liked to hide “among its branches.” Since none of the toadflax plants that I’ve seen over the years had branches, this must have been a difficult thing for the toads to do. Canada Mayflowers (Maianthemum canadense ) are still blooming. Their blooming season seems to be extended this year as it is with many other plants. As a gardener I can say that this is one of the worst plants to allow in your garden beds because once it is in, it is there to stay. When pulled it breaks off at ground level and the root lives on to grow new plants and it stands up quite well to herbicides. If Canada mayflower is allowed to grow in a garden before too long the garden will look like this. Note the almost complete lack of other species. The white, flat topped flower clusters and feathery leaves of common yarrow can be seen everywhere on roadsides now. Yarrow must take the prize for the plant with the most common names, because it is also called–are you ready? Bad man’s plaything, bloodwort, carpenter’s grass, carpenter’s weed, devil’s nettle, devil’s plaything, dog daisy, fern weed, field hoop, herb militaris, knight’s milfoil, little feather, milfoil, nosebleed, old man’s pepper, sanguinary, soldier’s woundwort, squirrel tail, staunch grass, staunch weed, thousand-leaf, thousand-seal, thousand-weed, and yarroway. Whew! This plant and all of its baggage in the form of names originally came over from Europe. Plant breeders have been working with it for years and have produced many beautiful cultivars for the garden. This plant has been used medicinally for many centuries-remains of yarrow were even found in an excavation of a Neanderthal grave site. Native Indian cucumber root (Medeola virginiana) isn’t one of those showy wild flowers. If you weren’t looking for it you might never even see it because of the flower’s greenish yellow color. I look for the leaves rather than flowers to find it, because its leaves grow in (usually) two whorls around the stem. The edible roots are eaten raw and are said to taste like cucumber, but this plant is scarce and shouldn’t be dug up. It should also never be confused with the similar looking Whorled Pogonia, which is poisonous. This maple leaved viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium) grows in my backyard and has just started blooming. Over the years I’ve watched as it has increased to a sizeable colony and I’m happy to have its white flower clusters light up the dark edges of the forest. These plants are very useful because they do well in shaded, dry, poor soils like that usually found at forest edges. In the fall the leaves turn a deep, reddish purple and dark blue, almost black fruit clusters hang where the flowers were. Opposite leaves, five petals and five stamens help identify viburnums. The leaves of American high bush cranberry (Viburnum opulus) are very similar, but that plant has red berries. There are over 100 species of viburnum, but only 15 of those are native. I finally found a 4 flowered starflower (Trientalis borealis) plant! Actually, 3 flowers and a bud, which I’m sure has become a flower by now. That might not seem like a lot to crow about but I’ve never seen more than 3 flowers on a single plant.Showy yellow goat’s beard (Tragopogon pratensis,) also known as meadow salsify, has the odd habit of closing its flowers at around noontime each day. This gives it the strange common name of Jack-go-to-bed-at-noon. Aids in identification are how the large, 2 inch flowers follow the sun so that they are always facing it and petals that have 5 notches on their outer edges. Also, the seed heads look like a large dandelion seed head and a white latex sap will ooze from the stems if they are broken. The plant shown here was about 3 feet tall and was found at the local landfill. There is also a very similar western yellow goat’s beard (Tragopogon dubius.) The easiest way to tell the difference between the two is by the green bracts, which are shorter than the petals on Tragopogon pratensis and longer than the petals on Tragopogon dubius. This plant is originally from Europe. Showy Yellow Goat’s Beard Bud. Showy Yellow Goat’s Beard seed head. These are big-just slightly smaller than a baseball. I don’t haveto go far to find Yellow hawkweed (Hieracium caespitosum)  because it grows in my yard. This plant is in the sunflower family and is related to the dandelion. One flower head can produce as many as 50 seeds and the plant can also spread by underground stems called rhizomes. This plant is all about reproduction and it does it well-I’ve never seen as much of it as I have this year. Yellow hawkweed has a familiar story; it was introduced from Europe as a garden ornamental, escaped, and is now trying to take over the world. This plant is much harder to control than dandelions. This Lesser Stitchwort (Stellaria graminea ) had a friend visiting when I took its picture. This small flowered plant likes to hide in among the tall grasses at the edges of mown fields and roadsides.  It blossoms on a weak, wiry stem that tends to flop around every which way, so it’s hard to tell where it begins. The white, half inch flowers look like they have 10 petals but actually have only 5 that are deeply split or cleft. Each flower stays open for three days, but there are many of them. This plant that I walk by everyday bloomed only for about a week. It is native to Britain. Tall Meadow Rue (Thalictrum pubescens) probably gets mistaken for columbine quite often when it isn’t blooming because the foliage resembles that of columbine.  Once it blooms though, there can be no mistaking the quarter sized, petal-less flowers that are made up of long, thin stamens if it is a male plant and pistils with just a few stamens if it is female. These plants get quite tall-I’ve seen them at about 4 feet but the books say they can reach 6 feet and a few web sites say 9 feet. I have a cultivated version of this native plant in my garden that has much larger, purple flower clusters. Bees and butterflies love these plants.

None can have a healthy love for flowers unless he loves the wild ones ~Forbes Watson 

Next time I may have to do a post with more wildflowers because there are so many blooming. Thanks for stopping in.

Read Full Post »