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Posts Tagged ‘Starflower Seed Pod’

Last Saturday it rained most of the day but Sunday had hit or miss showers so I hoped for the best and went for one of my favorite walks along the Ashuelot River in Keene. It was a damp, humid day.

I’ve known this section of river all my life. I used to fish here at the dam when I was a boy and they still fish for trout, pickerel and sunfish here today. All I ever caught were perch and dace but the river was a lot dirtier in those days. This dam is known as the Faulkner and Colony dam because it was built around 1777 by that company to power their mill. A few years ago there was talk about removing it to open up the river and another idea would refurbish it to generate power but I haven’t heard anything lately about either idea. I like the thought of restoring the river to what it once was without any dams on it. Two other dams have been removed in the past 20 years; one in Swanzey and one in Hinsdale.

Twelve Native American sites have been found along this section of river so far. At least one site dates back 10, 500 years, and I wouldn’t be surprised if many of these trails were originally made by the Natives, because they hug the river closely and have many good fishing spots along them.  The word Ashuelot means “collection of many waters” in Native American language and many small tributaries pour into it throughout the area. The Ashuelot in turn, empties into the Connecticut River before it finally finds its way to the Atlantic.

Arrowwood viburnum berries (Viburnum dentatum) were ripe along the shore but hadn’t been touched by the birds.

Elderberries on the other hand, were being eaten the minute they ripened. There were green berries and half ripe red berries, but no fully ripe purple-black berries on this bush. I don’t suppose I’ll ever understand why birds choose to eat what they do. We still have staghorn sumacs full of last year’s fruit, and what’s wrong with viburnum berries?

Meadowsweet (Spirea alba) still blooms alongside rivers and ponds but its cousin steeple bush (Spirea tomentose) has finished. Native Americans used both plants medicinally.

Tall meadow rue (Thalictrum pubescens) was ready to call it a summer. The leaves on this plant sometimes turn a beautiful purple color at the end of summer. Some Native American tribes used this plant to treat nosebleeds and others used it as a spice. It likes to grow in disturbed soil near water.

The most popular spot for turtles in this part of the river is the end of this old log. You can almost always see a turtle or two on it at any time of day so it’s a good place for children to walk. When I was a boy it seemed like this place had everything a boy could want, and I spent many happy days here.

In places the trail widens enough so that 4 people could walk side by side, but this width doesn’t last. On most of the trail 2 people side by side is more like it.

The prize for the most unusual thing I saw on this day has to go to what I think is a bleeding tooth fungus (Hydnellum peckii.) This large fungus gets its common name from the many droplets of blood red liquid it exudes when young. Though some of the droplets on this example were red most were more amber colored. The “tooth” part of the common name comes from the spines on its underside. The liquid the fungus oozes contains a chemical called atromentin, which has anti-bacterial and anticoagulant properties.

Here is a look at the mushroom under LED light, which shows that most of the droplets are not red. Because of the color of the liquid and the fact that I found it growing on a tree rather than on the ground I question my identification, but I can’t find another mushroom that “bleeds” and grows on trees. If you know of another species that does this and grows on trees I’d love for you to tell me about it.

A large tree had fallen into the river on the far side. This is a fairly regular occurrence and it always reminds me that, however slowly, the river is always getting wider. It was also quite high due to all of the rain. I think we’re up to about 10 inches in three weeks, according to the rain gauge where I work. This is after a moderate drought in the first half of summer and the dry land has been sponging it up fairly well until lately. Now there aren’t many places for more water to go. Even the forest floor has standing water on it in many places, so we need a dry spell. As I write this it’s pouring rain yet again.

Something had been munching on the starflowers (Trientalis borealis.) The Trientalis part of the plant’s scientific name means “one third of a foot” in Latin, and that’s just about how tall this pretty little plant gets. The spring woods wouldn’t be the same without its white star shaped flowers. This one had a seed pod; you can just see the tiny white dot between the leaf at 12 o’clock and the one at 1 o’clock.

Tiny starflower seedpods always remind me of soccer balls. They’re just about the same size as an air gun BB. The few brown seeds inside need a cold period to germinate and will not do so until the fall of the second year. Ants and other insects “plant” the seeds.

I saw some colorful turkey tail fungi (Trametes versicolor,) the first fresh ones I’ve seen this season. I’m hoping to see lots of blue and purple ones this year.

Woodland agrimony (Agrimonia striata) looks almost like goldenrod from a distance. The small yellow flowers grow on long spikes (racemes) on a short, knee high plant.

Woodland agrimony is said to be rare in New England and I believe it because this is one of only two places I’ve ever seen it. It grows in the shade near a tangle of many other plant species. It has been used medicinally for thousands of years dating back to at least ancient Egypt. Though the plant is said to be native to the U.S. and Canada I can find no information on how it was used by Native Americans, and that’s unusual. It is also called roadside agrimony.

Blue vervain (Verbena hastata) is one of my summer favorites, mostly because it dresses in my favorite color. This is another plant that loves water and it grows near ponds and rivers, and even wet roadside ditches. The bitter roots of this plant were used by native Americans to relieve gastric irritation, as an expectorant, and to induce sweating. The seeds were roasted and ground into flour by some tribes, and others dried the flowers and used them as snuff to treat nosebleeds. Natives introduced the plant to the Europeans and they used it in much the same ways.

One of the reasons I wanted to visit this place was because I had seen narrow leaved gentians (Gentiana andrewsii) blooming in Nelson the previous week and I wanted to see if the closed or bottle gentians (Gentiana linearis) were blooming. Not only were they not blooming, they were barely budded. Narrow leaf and closed gentian flowers look identical, so you have to look at the leaves carefully to tell the difference. These leaves are wider and have a different overall shape than those of narrow leaf gentian.

The trail narrowed and got muddy after a time, but I was too busy enjoying all the wildflowers to care.

One of the wildflowers I saw was spotted jewelweed (Impatiens capensis,) which gets its name not from its orange flowers but from the way raindrops sparkle like jewels on its wax coated leaves.

I turn around at this little bridge because not too far beyond it you come to one of the main roads through Keene, and I didn’t need to see it again. Though this was a wet walk I made it all the way back and never did get rained on. It always does me good to be close to the river. I always come away feeling recharged, as if the 12 year old me has joined the me of today. I think that must be mainly due to the memories, because there isn’t a bad one to be found here.

The song of the river ends not at her banks, but in the hearts of those who have loved her. ~ Buffalo Joe

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1. Fly Agaric

Certain mushrooms seem to appear at the same time each year, and yellow fly agarics (Amanita muscaria var, guessowii) are right on schedule. This one was about as big as my index finger, but was strong enough to push up through a mat of wet leaves.

2. Indian Pipes

I’ve never seen as many Indian pipes (Monotropa uniflora) as I have this year.  Not only have their numbers increased but they appeared earlier than usual. Since they don’t make their own food and live as parasites, stealing nutrients from the mycelia of certain fungi, they don’t need chlorophyll. The lack of chlorophyll leads to another common name: ghost plant.

3. Leaf Spot on Aster

If you’re a gardener a fungal disease like leaf spot is the last thing you want to see in the garden but if you can get past the feelings of disappointment and frustration and see it for what it is, it can be quite pretty. Many fungal infections of plants are caused by high humidity, poor air circulation, and / or lack of direct sunlight. Increasing air circulation and the amount of sunlight reaching the plant by cutting back surrounding growth or moving the plant will often solve the problem.

4. Starflower Fruit

I visited a web site that said the seed pod of a starflower (Trientalis borealis) was 6 to 8 millimeters in diameter, but I think they forgot a decimal point. .6 to .8 millimeters (.024-.031 in) would be more like it, and even that is stretching it. If the seed pods are that small, just think how small the seeds must be. Seeds of starflowers don’t germinate until the fall of their second year, which gives birds and insects plenty of time to move them around.

 5. Wood Frog

The dark eye mask makes this wood frog easy to identify. Wood frogs are the only frogs to live north of the Arctic Circle and they manage that by being able to freeze in winter. They produce a kind of antifreeze that prevents their cells from freezing. When it gets cold they just crawl under the leaf litter. Their heart stops beating and they stop breathing until the weather warms again in spring, when they mate and lay their eggs in vernal pools. This one was 2-3 inches long, which is big compared to a thumbnail sized spring peeper.

6. Hanging Caterpillar

This caterpillar was just hanging around one day on a silken thread so fine that I couldn’t even see it. Much to my surprise the camera couldn’t either, so it looks like he is defying gravity. I think he’s an inchworm. I wonder what they get out of doing this.

 7. Blue Black Wasp

I saw a flash of blue out of the corner of my eye and turned to find that this large, blue-black wasp (Ichneumon centrator) had landed next to me. He didn’t stay long though, and only gave me time for a couple of shots. This wasp is about 3/4 of an inch long and adult females hibernate under the loose bark of fallen trees in winter. This one pictured is an adult male. Thanks to the good folks at Bugguide.net for the help with identification.

8. Orange Mushrooms

Over the years I’ve noticed that the first mushrooms to appear are mostly white or brown, then come the red, yellow, and orange ones and after them the purples. Right now we’re in our red, yellow, orange phase. I think these might be one of the wax cap mushrooms, possibly the butter wax cap (Hygrocybe ceracea).

9. Pinwheel Mushrooms

These small pinwheel mushrooms, (Marasmius rotula) none bigger than a pea, grew on a piece of tree bark. These mushrooms are fairly easy to see after a rain but when they dry out the whitish cap shrivels down to a dot at the end of a hair-like stalk and they become almost invisible-at least to my eyes.

 10. Daddy Longlegs

I thought that this black and white spider on a hazelnut leaf had the longest legs of any spider that I’ve seen, and a tiny body that seemed out of proportion to its legs. Thanks to the folks at Buggide.net I learned that this is not a spider but a harvestman (Opiliones). The difference is that spiders have a two part body and harvestmen have a one part body. And this is indeed a daddy longlegs. What I thought were daddy longlegs all these years are actually spiders called cellar spiders (Pholcus phalangioides). Who knew?

11. False Solomon's Seal Foliage

As I’ve said before on this blog, fall starts on the forest floor and, even though none of us want to hear it, this false Solomon’s seal (Maianthemum racemosum) is a perfect example of how it begins.

12. Wild Sarsaparilla Fall Color 2

Other signs that fall is on the way include the turning leaves on wild sarsaparilla plants (Aralia nudicaulis). Almost as soon as its berries ripen the leaves start to change to yellow, the deep rosy brown seen here, or a mixture of both colors.

13. Fly Honeysuckle Fruit

Another sign of fall is of course, ripening berries. These are the unusual twin berries of American fly honeysuckle (Lonicera canadensis).

 14. Reindeer Lichen

With all this talk of fall you might think that this is a dusting of snow in the woods but no, it’s just a drift of reindeer lichens (Cladonia arbuscula). I’m hoping that they don’t get covered by a snow blanket for a good long time.

Wildness reminds us what it means to be human, what we are connected to rather than what we are separate from. ~Terry Tempest Williams

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