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Posts Tagged ‘Tamarack’

I’d heard about a very special place in Antrim, New Hampshire, a town that lies about 20 miles northwest of Keene. The place is called Loveren’s Mill, named after Josiah Loveren, who in 1864 became the third owner of a combined saw and grist mill originally built in 1798. The mill changed hands several times until it finally closed in 1920. It isn’t the mill site that I went to see however-there is an Atlantic cedar swamp on the property that pollen tests have shown is at least 4000 years old, and most likely much older.

1.Trail Sign

The Atlantic white cedars (Chamaecyparis thyoides) here aren’t cedars at all-they are white cypress-but they are also very rare and appear in just a few pockets along the Atlantic coast. One reason they are so rare is because they grow so slowly, in some cases taking hundreds of years to reach a foot in height.

 2. Stone Foundation

I don’t know if this old stone foundation was for a mill, house, or barn but it sits close to the north branch of the Contoocook River.

 3. Contoocook

The Contoocook river is notable as the only river in New Hampshire to run north instead of south. This photo was taken near the site of the mill, which stood a little way upriver on its far side.

 4. Plant Covered Boulder

 As you move away from the river deeper into the woods you can feel that this is an ancient place. Every stump, boulder and log is a garden, covered with mosses, liverworts, ferns, lichens and fungi.

5. Boardwalk

 Before too long, off the main trial to the right, a 200 foot long boardwalk leads through the spongy peat mosses into a grove of cedars.  Atlantic white cedar swamps are rare in New Hampshire and are considered globally rare as well. This swamp is unusual because of its 1,083 foot elevation and by the way the surrounding hills funnel cold air down into it. Because it stays so cool it supports plant life that is usually found only in boreal forests much farther north. I’ve heard that in spring the trails are lined with pink ladies slippers and native pink azaleas. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a great variety of orchids here, along with sundews, pitcher, and other plants that like cool, acidic water.

 6. Cedar Swamp

You don’t want to step off the boardwalk because you would probably sink into the floating mat of mosses up to your knees if you did-the trees in this photo are growing in standing water. They can’t stand much fluctuation in the water level, and their survival here shows that things haven’t changed much over the millennia. Still, I have heard that the boardwalks are sometimes under water in spring from snow melt, so it must fluctuate some.

 7. Cedar Fruiting

Fruiting cones show that the cedars which are actually cypress must be happy. The flat, scaly leaves and grayish, peeling bark are common to both cedar and cypress, so it is easy to confuse the two. Though many cypress are deciduous, these Chamaecyparis thyoides are evergreen, which makes identification even more difficult.

 8. Larch Branch

Eastern larch (Larix laricina) is another tree that prefers wet, swampy ground and they do quite well here in the swamp. They like to be cool and can stand temperatures down to -85 degrees F. Other trees found here include balsam fir (Abies balsamea) and red spruce (Picea rubens) and like the cypress, these trees are usually found much farther north in boreal forests.

 9. Fern Moss aka Thuidium delicatulum

There were so many different mosses growing here that I might have to do a post on just mosses. This beautiful thing is one of the fern mosses called delicate fern moss (Thuidium delicatulum). It is very lacy and fragile looking and I don’t see it too often. This moss forms large mats and will grow in sun or shade as long as the soil is moist. It is available commercially for moss gardens.

 10. Dog Lichen (Peltigera polydactyla)

I saw many lichens in the area, but I didn’t expect to see this dog lichen (Peltigera) growing on a moss covered stump. I should have gotten a few photos of its underside-that would have made species identification easier. I’ve never seen it before so I’ll have to re-visit it to be sure about its identity. It grows right beside the trail so it shouldn’t be too hard to find again.

 11. Dog Lichen Apothecia

This is one of the fruiting bodies (apothecia) of the dog lichen in the previous photo. I’ve heard three different stories of why this is called “dog” lichen. One says that the lichen itself is shaped like a dog. Another says spiky projections on the lichens look like dog teeth, and the third says that the apothecia curl into a shape that resembles a dog’s ear, which you can see happening in this photo.

 12. Worm Like Lichenized Fungi (Multiclavula mucida)

These greenish white growths were the size of toothpicks. I found them growing on a debarked log and as it turned out that is an important identifying characteristic. At least, I’ve identified them as much as I’m able to. Depending on whom you ask these growths are either fungi or lichens.  One web site says they are lichenized fungi, so I’ve decide to go with that. Their name is Multiclavula mucida, and the mucid part of the scientific name means slimy. That’s also important, because these lichenized fungi always grow in association with green algae and the algae is what makes the log in the photo look so slimy. I’ve never seen these before.

 13. Creeping Snowberry 2

Something else I’ve never seen is the evergreen creeping snowberry (Gaultheria hispidula). With no flowers it was hard to identify, but I’m fairly certain that the small trailing plant with alternate leaves in the above photo is it. This plant is classified as a prostrate shrub in the same family as American wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens), which is commonly called teaberry or checkerberry. It has greenish white flowers in spring which are followed by round white berries that are twice the size of the leaves. The berries are said to taste like wintergreen and the crushed leaves smell like wintergreen. This plant is also called Moxie Plum because it is thought to have been an ingredient in the original Moxie soft drink, along with gentian root. Native Americans had many uses for this plant.

 14. Alboleptonia sericella Mushrooms

These small white leptonia  (Alboleptonia sericella) mushrooms were very small and hard to photograph. The largest one is about the same diameter as a pea. I can’t think of anything to compare the smallest one to, but it was tiny. These mushrooms have pink spores and some mushrooms in this family are a beautiful midnight blue.

 15. Contoocook Pool

There were many places where the river widened into pools that would be nice to sit beside for a while, but I didn’t have the time this day. That doesn’t bother me because I know I’ll be coming back in the spring. On just a short 3 mile hike I saw 6 or 7 plants that I’ve never seen before, and that amazes me enough to make re-visiting this place a top priority for next season. I get excited just thinking about what plants I might see from spring through summer in this fascinating place.

As you sit on the hillside, or lie prone under the trees of the forest, or sprawl wet-legged on the shingly beach of a mountain stream, the great door that does not look like a door opens. ~ Stephen Graham

Thanks for coming by.

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There probably isn’t anyone who is sick of seeing flowers but absence, as they say, makes the heart grow fonder so I thought I’d show a few other things that I find interesting. If you ever need a boulder New Hampshire is the place to come and shop. This one is solid granite and is almost as big as a U.P.S. truck. What good are boulders, you ask?Well, smooth rock tripe (Umbilicaria mammulata) likes to grow on boulders. I found a large colony of it growing on one near here. I thought the recent rains would plump up lichens, which were looking pretty sad. I don’t think they look any plumper, but they feel much more pliable and alive. This group of Solomon’s seal was growing happily on a boulder. Leaves, pine needles and other forest litter fall on boulders and eventually all become soil. Boulders also absorb the sun’s heat and release it slowly. Many plants take advantage of this–I’ve seen many ferns as green in December as they would be in June, and they weren’t evergreen ferns. This fern does happen to be evergreen and is called the Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides.) It will also grow in large colonies on boulders. Each leaflet bears tiny little barbs along its margins.Scouring rush (Equisetum hyemale affine) is more likely to be found growing near a stream or pond than on a boulder. These bamboo-like plants are in the horsetail family and can grow to be 4 feet tall. The stems of this plant contain silica granules and were used by pioneers to scrub pots. These are ancient plants that have been on earth for an estimated 280-380 million years. Much of the coal burned today comes from giant, tree size horsetails that lived in the past.One of the joints in a scouring rush stem. Each New hollow stem segment grows from the ring-like sheath of the segment below it. The rim of the sheath can be white, gray, black or brown but always ends in tiny black teeth, which are deciduous and can break off.This is the tip of a scouring rush stem.  This is where fertile stems will form colorful, spore bearing, cone shaped fruiting bodies. This plant also likes wet places and was growing very close to the scouring rushes. This is the royal fern (Osmunda spectabilis) just after it unfurled its fronds. I like its feathery look at this stage of its development; it looks very different than other ferns. This fern is the maidenhair fern (Adiantum pedatum,) which is so rare in this part of the state that I’ve only seen it once in the wild. A friend gave me this one and it grows in my yard. I think it is one of the most delicate and beautiful ferns. American larch trees (Larix laricina,) also known as tamarack, like to grow in wet, swampy places and seeds that fall on dry ground usually won’t germinate. That’s why when one is seen growing in someone’s yard like the one in the photo was it’s a fair bet that it was planted there. Larches are an unusual tree because, unlike most other conifers, they lose their needles in the fall. These trees are native to the U.S. and Canada. Tamarack was an important tree to Native Americans; some used branches and bark to make snow shoes and others used the bark from the roots to sew canoes. The Ojibwe people called the tree “muckigwatig,” meaning “swamp tree” and used parts of it to make medicine. Oak leaves aren’t only the last to fall, but also the last to unfurl. Even poplar and sumac are ahead of the oaks this year.  I like the fuzziness of fresh oak leaves.  Oak leaves also have a waxy coating that helps prevent moisture loss in dry times. This coating is also why fallen oak leaves are so dry when they are raked in the fall. I seem to be stumbling (literally) onto quite a lot of tree roots that look as if an artist had spent days carving, sanding and polishing them. I’m always happy to find one because I think they’re beautiful things. This feather wasn’t there when I went to bed but it was the next morning. It certainly is a good example of how birds stay dry in the rain. Sometimes nature makes a mistake and a plant will grow more leaves than it can support. This was probably why a maple tree shed this new leaf. It, along with the remnants of a single tiny blossom, spun slowly on the breeze in a spider’s web.

Birth, life and death – each took place on the hidden side of a leaf. ~ Toni Morrison  

I hope you didn’t miss the flowers too much. They’ll be back next post. Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

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