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Posts Tagged ‘Trees’

Last Saturday was cloudy but warm with temperatures in the 40s. Rain was supposed come in the late afternoon so I headed out to one of my favorite places in Keene early in the day. It’s a trail through a small park at the base of Beech Hill and there is just about anything a nature lover could want there, including a mixed hard and softwood forest, streams, seeps, a pond, and a huge assortment of wildflowers, fungi, and slime molds in spring, summer and fall.

About 6-7 inches of nuisance snow had fallen a few days before but this is a popular spot and many other feet had packed it down before I got there. I find that my trail breaking days through knee deep snow have ended, so my strategy is to let others go first and then follow their trail. There’s plenty to see out there for everybody and it doesn’t matter who sees it first.

Two or three seeps cross the trail, which is actually an old road. As I said in a post last month, a seep happens essentially when ground water reaches the surface. They are like puddles that never dry up and they don’t flow like a stream or brook. In my experience they don’t freeze either, even in the coldest weather. They are always good to look at closely, because many unusual aquatic fungi like eyelash fungi and swamp candles call them home.

The small pond here has been a favorite skating and fishing spot for children for all of my life, and I used to come here to do both when I was a boy. I was never a very good skater though, so I spent more time fishing than skating.

Despite the thin ice sign in the previous photo there were people skating and playing hockey. The pond is plowed each time it snows and it isn’t uncommon for the plow truck to go through the ice, where it sits up to its windows in water until it is towed out. There is a dam holding back the pond and a few years ago it had to be drained so the dam could be worked on, and I was shocked to see how shallow the water was. I think I could walk across it anywhere along its length without getting my hair wet, and I’m not very tall. That gray ice in this photo looks very soft and rotten and with temperatures predicted to be above freezing all week there might be no skating ice left at all by next weekend.

I wanted to show how very clean the water in our streams are by showing you the gravel at the bottom of one through the crystal clear water, but just as I started to click the shutter some snow fell from a tree branch and ruined the shot. Or so I thought; I think this is the only shot of ripples I’ve ever gotten. There is a certain amount of luck in nature photography, I’ve found.

Snow builds up on the branches of evergreens like Eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) and when the weather warms it melts, and in a forest like this on a warm day all that melting snow could make you think it was raining. That’s how it was on this day so I had to keep a plastic bag over the camera.

Fresh snow once again covered everything. I’ve lost count of how many times it has snowed this winter but luckily it has warmed enough between storms to melt much of what has fallen before. Otherwise we’d be in snow up to our eyeballs. It was just a few years ago that I had to shovel snow up over my head because it stayed so cold between storms that none of it melted. I had pathways around the yard that looked like canyons, and I couldn’t see out over the tops of them.

Even in silhouette the thorns of hawthorn (Crataegus) look formidable. And they are; you don’t want to run headlong into one. Another name for the shrub is thorn apple because the small red fruits bear a slight resemblance to apples. These fruits have been used to treat heart disease for centuries and parts of the plant are still used medicinally today.

Something had eaten part of a leaf and turned it into something resembling stained glass.

A young dead hemlock tree’s bark was flaking off in what I thought was an unusual way. Sometimes the platy bark of black cherry trees is described as having a “burnt potato chip” look, but that’s just what the bark of this hemlock reminded me of.

For many years, long before I heard of “forest bathing” or anything of that sort, I’ve believed that nature could heal. In fact in my own life it has indeed healed and has gotten me through some very rough patches, so I really don’t know what I’d do if I could no longer get into the woods. But I recently read of a program where you go into a forest to “heal” by pasting leaves and pinecones to yourself and weaving twigs in your hair and I have to say that it is silliness like this that is driving people away from forests, not toward them. I hope you’ll take the word of someone who has spent his whole life in the woods: you don’t need to do anything, say anything, sing, dance, or anything else to benefit from the healing power of the forest. All you need to do is simply be there. If you want to sing and dance and weave twigs in your hair and paste leaves on your arms by all means do so, but it’s important to me that you know that you don’t have to do any of those things to benefit from nature. And please remember, if something sounds absurd it probably is.

What I think was powdery sunburst lichen (Xanthoria ulophyllodes) grew on a black locust tree. It was very small but thanks to my camera I could see that it was also very beautiful. It can be a real pleasure to find such colorful things when the whole world seems white.

I’ve seen this enough times to know I should look up to see what’s been going on.

Woodpeckers, that’s what’s been going on. In this case a pileated woodpecker, judging by the large rectangular holes.

The snow inside this tree shows how deeply they can drill into the wood, though sometimes they find that the tree is hollow. I’ve seen huge, living trees fall that were completely hollow; it was only their bark and the cambium layer under it that kept them standing.

This tree has had it, I’m afraid. It’s never a good thing to see fungi growing on a living, standing tree and in fact most of them won’t. Many fungi will attack and fruit on only dead and fallen trees because their mission is not to kill, only to decompose. It’s hard to imagine a forest without the decomposers. You wouldn’t be able to walk through it for all the fallen limbs and other litter.

Some bracket fungi are annuals that live for just one year and they turn white when they die, and I thought that was what I was seeing until I ran my hand over these. They were perfectly pliable and very much alive, even after the extreme below zero cold we’ve had. They were also very small; no bigger than my thumbnail.

The small white bracket fungi were very young, I think, and I haven’t been able to identify them. The fragrant bracket (Trametes suaveolens) might be a possibility. This is a photo of the spore bearing surface on their undersides.

There are things that are as beautiful in death as they were in life, and I offer up this empty aster (I think) seed head as proof. Though it is dry and fairly monotone it looks every bit as beautiful as the flower it came from to me.

I’ll tell you what hermits realize. If you go off into a far, far forest and get very quiet, you’ll come to understand that you’re connected with everything. ~Alan watts

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1. Pondside View

Many trees have shed their leaves now and the peak foliage time has passed but you can still find spots with some color, like this scene I spotted along a local highway. The maples have been beautiful this year.

 2. Maple Tree

This is another maple, seen beside a different road.

 3. Birch Grove

Many birch trees have lost their leaves. The bigger trees in this grove of gray birch were bare but the smaller saplings still hung onto theirs.

4. Lone Maple Tree

This maple was just unbelievable. I don’t think I’ve ever seen another tree so colorful. It was way off across an old pasture at the base of a hill but was lit up like it had a spotlight trained on it. I had to stop and get a photo of it.

5. Foliage

This is an old road that I walk along now and then to find wildflowers. Even though there were no flowers there was still plenty of color.

6. Hillside Foliage

Keene lies in a valley that is surrounded by hills, and this is what they look like at this time of year.

7. Lake View

This was taken at one of our many lakes.

8. Rail Trail

The rail trails cut right through the forest and are lined with beautiful colors all the way along them.

9. Maple Leaved Viburnum

This is a maple leaf viburnum wearing just one or two of its many colors.

10. Maple Leaved Viburnum

This is also a maple leaf viburnum.

11. Maple Leaved Viburnum

And this is another maple leaved viburnum. I don’t know of any other shrub that sports so many different fall colors. They really are beautiful native shrubs that are almost never used in gardens, but I’ve never understood why. I have one in my backyard.

12. Oak Leaves

The leaves are falling quickly now and soon the oaks and beeches will wrap up the foliage season.

13. Dirt Road

The golden yellow of beeches is already the dominant color in some places.

14. Beeches

In this section of forest beeches were the only trees left with any color.

15. Beech Leaves

Even they are starting to turn brown, so the end of the foliage season is fast approaching. It has been beautiful this year and I hate to see it go, but it’s time. We are supposed to see snow flurries today.

Autumn burned brightly, a running flame through the mountains, a torch flung to the trees. ~Faith Baldwin

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1. Branch River Colors

We seem to be very close to our peak foliage colors here in this part of New Hampshire so I thought I’d show you a few more of my favorite places to see them. The above photo is of the Branch River in Marlborough. What look like bright yellow shrubs along its banks are actually thickets of oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus,), which is a very invasive vine.

 2. Bittersweet Berries

One way oriental bittersweet spreads is by people cutting it to make wreaths for the holidays and then when the holidays are over, tossing the wreath in their compost or taking it to the local landfill. These vines are strong enough to strangle trees to death, just as if a wire was wrapped around them.

 3. Dirt Road

I’ve driven down so many back roads lately that I don’t even remember where this one was, but it doesn’t really matter because at this time of year they all look like this.

4. Ferns

I took a few photos of this spot last summer and really liked the ferns, so I thought I’d go back and see what it looked like. I still like the ferns.

5. Fern Turning

Some ferns fade slowly until they become completely white. Others turn yellow and then brown.

6. Pond View

The morning I went to this pond was very cloudy but then the clouds parted for just a minute or two and lit up these trees. The clouds closed in again and I took photos of cranberries, which is what I went there for in the first place.

7. Forest Path

I love just wandering through the woods at this time of year with no real destination in mind. As the Beatles said; oh that magic feeling, nowhere to go.

8. Maple Leaf Viburnum

Something I find growing along the path in the previous photo is maple leaf viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium,) which is one of the most beautiful shrubs in the forest, in my opinion.  It changes color from green to orange, pink, purple, red, or a combination of several colors before changing to a pale, almost white, pastel pink before finally falling.

9. Monadnock

One of my favorite views of Mount Monadnock was showing less color than I expected.

10. Monadnock from Perkins Pond

Another favorite view from Perkins Pond was showing virtually no foliage colors. I think the bare trees are birches. They turn first and the howling winds that blow through here strip the leaves from them quickly, so I miss them every year here.

11. Blazing Birches

This is what I was hoping the birches in the previous photo were going to look like.

12. Hillside Colors

It’s not easy to judge the quality of light and what it will do to fall foliage colors in photos. Not only light’s intensity but the direction it is coming from makes a big difference. As I stood at this place looking at the hills clouds were racing by so I was able to shoot the same scene in both full sun and deep shade. In this instance the colors in the photos looked dull and drab in the shade and harsh in full sun. I think that a slight overcast would have helped.

13. North Ashuelot

The upper Ashuelot River in Keene was ablaze with color one afternoon. Being in this leaf tunnel with the sun shining brightly outside of it was amazing.

14. South Ashuelot

The lower  Ashuelot in Swanzey is colorful as well, but the colors have come more slowly here.

15. Fallen Leaves

As if the beauty of the colors wasn’t enough, we also have all of the scents that take us back to childhood; overripe grapes, apple cider, witch hazel and wood smoke. But especially the leaves; nobody who grew up in New England could ever forget the earthy smell of the ankle deep leaves after scuffling through them on their way to school every day.

Why is it that so many of us persist in thinking that autumn is a sad season? Nature has merely fallen asleep, and her dreams must be beautiful if we are to judge by her countenance. ~Samuel Taylor Coleridge

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1. Horse Chestnut Bud Break

Leaf and flower buds can look very different when they first open compared to when they’re fully grown. The colors alone can make them quite beautiful but sometimes there are other surprises. For instance, when the leaves on this horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) unfurled they revealed the flower bud that they had been protecting. It was as big as my thumb.

2. Beech Buds Breaking

Bud break is defined as “when the green tip of a leaf can be seen emerging from the bud,” but there is often far more to it than that. These beech buds turned a beautiful orangey color and the tension brought on by some cells growing faster than others caused them to curl. Any time now the leaves will begin to unfurl completely and they will look like downy, silvery angel wings for just a very short time.

3. Horsetail

Technically not a bud break but interesting nonetheless, the fertile spore bearing stem of a common horsetail (Equisetum arvense) ends in a light brown, cone shaped structure called a strobilus. Since it doesn’t photosynthesize at this point in its development the plant has no need for chlorophyll, so most of it is a pale, whitish color. When it’s ready to release its spores the cone opens to reveal tiny, mushroom shaped sporangiophores. The whitish “ruffles” at the base of each brown sporangiophore are the spore producing sporangia. When the horsetail looks like the one in the photo it has released its spores and will soon die and be replaced by an infertile stem. Nature can seem very complicated at times but it always comes down to one simple thing: continuation of the species.

4. Bitternut Hickory Buds aka Carya cordiformis

I was walking along an old rail bed and spotted an unbelievable shade of yellow. The strange color belonged to the buds of a bitternut hickory tree (Carya cordiformis), which is something I’ve never seen before. When I see something like this I wonder what the tree gains from having buds this color. It’s possible that it has something to do with keeping animals from browsing on the new shoots, but I don’t know that for sure.  It is said that the nuts from this tree are so bitter that even squirrels won’t eat them, so maybe the buds are too.

5. Box Elder Bud Break

The female flowers of box elder (Acer negundo) have bright green, hairy pistils with sticky stigmas that split in two. The winged seeds that appear after the flowers hang in clusters and will stay on the tree throughout winter, sometimes into spring. Some trees flower before growing leaves and some grow their leaves first and then flower. Box elders fall somewhere in between, with both flowers and leaves on the tree at the same time.

6. Japanese Knotweed

Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica) is a hated plant because of its invasive qualities but in spring it can be very beautiful as it unravels itself from the bud. I’ve heard that these new shoots taste much like rhubarb. Maybe if we stopped fighting it and started eating it we could lick the problem of its being so invasive. Last spring we had a hard, late frost and Japanese knotweed shoots were killed to the ground, but within 3 weeks they had come right back and grew as if it had never happened.

7. New Ginger Leaves

Our native wild ginger (Asarum canadense) takes its time opening its new leaves. I’ve been watching these plants for close to three weeks now, since they first came up, and this photo shows the progress they’ve made in that time. I wonder if the small brown flowers will take as long to appear as the leaves take to unfold.

8. White Baneberry Buds

The opening buds of baneberry always remind me of a hand and it isn’t hard to imagine webbed fingers clawing their way out of the soil. Here they grasp the flower bud which will soon become a globular mass of tiny white flowers. The plant shown here is white baneberry (Actaea pachypoda), also called doll’s eyes, and by the end of summer its flowers will have become porcelain white berries with single black dots on their ends. These berries are beautiful and especially attractive to children, but are also very toxic. Fortunately their bitter taste keeps most children from being poisoned by them.

9. Sweetfern Catkins

Sweetfern (Comptonia peregrina) sometimes hangs onto its old leaves even as it is making mew ones. In this photo last year’s leaves wrap around this year’s male catkins. I always run my hands over the leaves to release the fragrance that it is named for. Some compare it to soap, others to spices or fresh mown hay. It is a very unusual scent that smells clean and a bit spicy to me. Though its leaves resemble fern leaves it is really a deciduous shrub. Crushing a few leaves and rubbing them over your skin will keep mosquitoes and other bugs away.

10. Sweet Fern Female Flower

Further down the stem of the sweet fern not only are new leaves breaking, but the tiny scarlet female flower is waiting for the wind to bring pollen from male catkins. You can just make it out on the left, beside where the new leaves are forming. I think it is even smaller than the female flower of American hazelnut (Corylus Americana,) which means that it’s too small for these aging eyes to see. Getting a photo of it was simple luck.

11. Skunk Cabbage

Some of the biggest buds I know of are those of skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus.) As the leaves begin to unfurl they do look a bit like cabbage leaves but if you tried cooking them their odor would soon let you know that you weren’t dealing with cabbage! In this photo not only can you see the new leaves but the spathe and even the flower covered spadix in the broken spathe to the right of center. It’s the first time I’ve been able to get all of the different parts of a skunk cabbage plant in one photo.

 12. Sugar Maple Leaf Bud aka Acer saccharum

The late afternoon sun was doing some strange things to the veins on this emerging sugar maple leaf (Acer saccharum). I don’t think I’ve ever seen a new leave’s veins stand out from the body of the leaf in this way. I thought it was a beautiful sight but was surprised that a deer hadn’t eaten it.

When man gives his whole heart to Nature and has no cares outside, it is surprising how observant he becomes, and how curious he is to know the cause of things. ~William Davies

Happy mother’s day tomorrow to all of the moms out there. Thanks for coming by.

 

 

 

 

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About two weeks ago the sun came out and has stayed out, and each day has been warmer than the last. The eighty degree temperatures make it feel like summer and I have to keep reminding myself that it’s still early May. Of course, the sunny days mean no rain and we are starting to see the effects of that.

1. Water Line on Rocks

The boulders at a local reservoir show that the water level is about three feet lower than it should be. The water level is drawn down in the fall to make room for snow melt and spring rains. Unfortunately the spring rains haven’t happened this year and now we are about 4 inches below normal.

2. Cloudless Sky

This has been our weather-not a cloud in the sky-for about 15 days.

 3. Weeping Willow Flowers

 Some plants have been affected by the lack of rain but not this weeping willow (Salix babylonica,) which was in full flower the day I visited it. Weeping willows like a lot of water so it was surprising to see the tree in such fine shape.

 4. Christmas Fern Fiddleheads

Ferns are still coming up in the wetter areas. These are the silvery fiddleheads of evergreen Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides.)

 5. Cinnamon Fern Unfurling

The fronds of cinnamon ferns (Osmunda cinnamomea) are just starting to unfurl. These ferns seem to prefer wet areas. That’s where I see most of them growing.

 6. Coltsfoot Seedhead 4

In spite of the dryness coltsfoot held up well and had quite a long blooming season. Now the wind is doing its job of distributing the seeds. Once the seed heads have disappeared the leaves will begin to grow. One of coltsfoot’s common names is “son before the father” because of the way the flowers appear before the leaves.

 7. False Morel Mushrooms

I was surprised to see several false morel mushrooms in such dry soil. I think these are Gyromitra esculenta. This is a mushroom that you don’t want to eat by mistake. According to Tom Volk’s fungus identification website these fungi contain a chemical called gyromitrin (N-methyl-N-formylhydrazine), which is metabolized to monomethylhydrazine when eaten. This is rocket fuel. Really-rocket fuel-and it destroys red blood cells in human beings who are unlucky enough to ingest it. People have even gotten sick from inhaling the steam produced by boiling these fungi.

 8. Rattlesnake weed aka Hieracium venosum

Rattlesnake weed (Hieracium venosum) got its common name from the way people thought it grew where there were rattlesnakes. We have timber rattlers in New Hampshire but they are as rare as a blue moon. This plant has flowers that resemble those of yellow hawkweed, but I like its purple veined leaves. I can’t say for sure how rare this plant is in New Hampshire but I’ve seen only one in my lifetime, and this is it. It is listed as endangered in Maine. This plant grows in a dry, sandy spot in full sun.

9. Red Baneberry Buds

The new leaves of red baneberry (Actaea rubra) always look tortured to me- as if they were in a gale force wind. I like looking at them and have pictures from last year that I keep telling myself I’m going to draw. Someday.  This plant is already showing flower buds and will later have poisonous red berries.  The leaves closely resemble those of black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa.) This one grows on an embankment that never dries out completely. They seem to like a lot of water.

10. Skunk Cabbage Fruiting

I thought I’d show what the fruit of skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) looks like when it is forming for those of you who have been following along and watching the plant’s development. The fruit is contained within the splotchy purple/yellow/brown spathe and will ripen between July and September. These plants like low, swampy places that are wet in spring but don’t seem to mind a little dryness later in the year.

11. New Oak Leaves

These tiny new oak leaves were red and fuzzy. I ‘ve been reading about why new spring leaves aren’t green in many species of trees and have found, according to the Vermont Monitoring Cooperative, that trees require plenty of light and warmth to begin producing the chlorophyll that makes them green.  When there is a cloudy, cool spring trees will not be able to produce chlorophyll and their leaves will stay red (or orange, yellow or another color) until the weather turns sunny and warmer. Oak leaves are among the last to appear in spring, so it hasn’t enjoyed the last two weeks of warm, sunny weather.

 12. Poplar Leaves

These new poplar leaves are also fuzzy, and almost completely without color. It is the only tree I know of that has white leaves in spring. Trees keep a weather history in their rings and I wonder if someone in the future will read our history and see that we’ve had very strange weather over the past three years.

13. Shagbark Hicory Bud Unfurling

The new leaves of shagbark hickory (Carya ovate) are green from the start, but the insides of the bud scales that enclosed and protected the new growth are fantastic shades of orange, pink, and yellow. They are so colorful and unusual that they are sometimes mistaken for flowers.  It seems like in spring every plant wants to show how beautiful it can be.

 14. Ashuelot on 5-10-13-2

As soon as I started writing this post telling you how sunny and dry it was, clouds rolled in and we’ve had scattered showers for the last two days. Who says Mother Nature doesn’t have a sense of humor?

To look at any thing,
If you would know that thing,
You must look at it long.

~ John Moffitt

Thanks for coming by. Happy mother’s day to all of you moms!

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Last fall I climbed a local mountain named Mount Caesar, which was named for Caesar Freeman, a freed slave who farmed this land in the 1700s. Last Saturday I had the urge to climb it again so, in spite of several inches of snow, up I went.

1. Mt. Caesar Lower Trail

You can read about last fall’s hike and learn more about the history of this mountain by clicking here. This time the trail was more like a stream-very wet in several places. But at least it wasn’t icy!

 2. Lesser Plait Moss aka Hypnum pallescens

In several places along the trail the sun had melted the snow and lesser plait moss (Hypnum pallescens) grew on the stones in the weak, early spring sunshine. Like the brocade moss I showed in the last post, this moss looks like its leaves were braided along each stem.  The light green, curling leaf tips help to identify this one.

 3. Lichen 3 on Tree

The green shield lichens growing in the shape of a 3 are still on this tree, and I’m still not sure what it is they’re saying.

4. Beech Leaf on Snow

By far the worst part of this climb was the wind, which was bending the tops of the smaller trees and making the stoutest ones groan and creak. It was also stripping all of last year’s beech leaves from those trees, and I wouldn’t have taken this hike if the weatherman had warned of it. Instead he said that we would have a “breeze.’”  At what point, I have to wonder, is a breeze considered a wind-anything more than 50 miles per hour?

5. Mt. Caesar Upper Trail

But I had reached the point where the tree tops thin out and start to give way to blue sky. If I had made it this far without a tree falling on me I reasoned, I might as well go all the way.

 6. Bleeding Woodpecker Hole in Maple

This maple tree bleeding sap told me that a woodpecker had been here not too long ago. I didn’t hear his tapping over the crunch of the snow as I was climbing, so I don’t think he left because of me.

7. Log

This log lying on its side along the path is huge and always reminds me of the giant redwoods I have read about in books like The Wild Trees, by Richard Preston. I always wonder if this hole in it was made by a woodpecker 200 or so years ago.

8. Sidewalk Firedot Lichen aka Caloplaca feracissima

I found this orange sidewalk fire dot lichen (Caloplaca feracissima) growing on a boulder where it would get afternoon sun. I should have taken a much closer look at the stone this was growing on because this lichen likes alkaline stones like limestone, which is rare in this area. It gets its common name from the way it grows on mortar and concrete, which of course have lime in them. This lichen is the reason why very old concrete walks sometimes look yellow.

9. View From Mt. Caesar 3

One object of climbing mountains is of course the view from the summit, but so far every time I have climbed up here the sun has been shining directly at me when I look to the southwest. This makes for challenging photographic conditions, but what I saw is what I got. I’ll have to climb very early in the morning next time so the sun is at my back.

10. Mt. Monadnock from Mt. Caesar

Off to the east, Mount Monadnock looms much higher still than where you stand. It is said that Native Americans controlled Mount Caesar when Swanzey, New Hampshire was just a handful of crude cabins, and I can understand why they wouldn’t want to give up such glorious views. Mount Monadnock is famous for being the second most climbed mountain on earth after Mount Fuji in Japan.  It is also said to be the most written about, painted, and photographed mountain. I’ve taken many hundreds, and I have to say that I’m least pleased with those taken from this spot.

11. Common Toadskin Lichen aka Lasillia papulosa

As you sit on the ledges looking out over the hill tops, directly behind you, just a few feet away, is a rocky outcrop with this common toad skin lichen growing (Lasallia papulosa) on it. Though at first glance it may look like rock tripe lichen, its warty projections identify this one as common toad skin lichen. They are called pustules and if you look at the back of this lichen there will be a corresponding pit for every pustule. When wet the greenish color of the algae that is present comes through. Each one of these large, flat bodies is attached to the rock at a single point.

12. Common Toadskin Lichen aka Lasillia papulosa Dry

This is what common toad skin lichen looks like when it is dry, and I’ve included this photo so you could see the dramatic color changes that many lichens go through when they dry out. Because of this it’s much easier to identify them after it has rained if they aren’t near a source of moisture. Touch is also a good way to tell if they have dried out; when dry this lichen is as crisp as a potato chip and when wet it is as pliable as a piece of cloth. The same is true with many lichens. The many black dots on this one are its fruiting bodies (Apothecia) where its spores are produced.

This is only the second time I’ve gone mountain climbing in the snow, and it will probably be the last. It is much easier and safer on dry ground!

Somewhere between the bottom of the climb and the summit is the answer to the mystery why we climb. ~ Greg Child

Thanks for stopping in.

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This post contains some of the things I’ve seen that haven’t fit into other posts for whatever reason.

 1. Holes in Snow

I wonder what caused these evenly spaced, rectangular holes in the snow. It must have been the wind. After a warm day and very warm, rainy night all of this snow is gone now.

 2. Frullania Liverwort

I’ve wondered for a long time whether these growths on the bark of trees were mosses or lichens. It turns out they are neither; according to the book Outstanding Mosses and Liverworts of Pennsylvania and Nearby States they are liverworts.  The book says that fall through spring, when rain is plentiful, is the best time to find liverworts.

 3. Frullania Liverwort

A closer look at this liverwort. There are mosses that resemble the Frullania liverwort, but this plant is easily identified by its small scaly leaves.  This is the only liverwort that thrives in dry locations. A few others can survive in very sheltered parts of dry areas, but most grow in damp forests or on stream side rocks. Like mosses and lichens, liverworts are found on rocks, trees, rotting logs, and bare soil.

 4. Fringed Wrinkle Lichen

There is no doubt that this is the fringed wrinkle lichen (Tuckermanopsis Americana.) It grows near my house and is one of my favorites. I visit it often and the changes I see it go through are amazing. One day it can be completely dried out and drab looking and then, after a rain, plump right back up again and look more colorful. I think that watching this lichen has taught me more about lichens than my lichen book.

 5. Beard Lichen

This beard lichen grows near the fringed wrinkle lichen but after watching it for almost 2 years I can see that its changes are far more subtle. Unlike its neighbor it doesn’t change color or shape when it dries out. It does become brittle though, so it takes a light touch to tell when this one needs rain. By paying attention to where I find them I’ve learned that many lichens prefer places that are high in humidity or are near a source of water, like a lake or stream. These two are no different-there is a wetland nearby. I’m still not sure exactly what this one is, but I think it might be a bristly beard lichen (Usnea hirta ) because it grows on a birch tree.

 6. British Soldier Lichens

I was very happy to see the bright red caps of these British soldier lichens (Cladonia cristatella) poking up out of the snow near my house recently. Certain lichens prefer certain substrates and many will only grow on their favorite type of stone, wood or earth.  I always find these tiny lichens growing on rotting logs.

7. Foamflower Leaves

Heart-leaf foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia) is a native plant that grows in great abundance on an embankment under some maples near here. The leaves of foamflower are evergreen and hold their fall color all winter long. In May these plants will be covered in 6 inch tall spikes of tiny white flowers that some say resemble foam-hence their common name.

 8. Birch Polypore

Birch polypore fungi (Piptoporus betulinus ) seem to be everywhere this year, but it’s probably just because it’s so much easier to see them with no leaves on the underbrush.

 9. Bracket Fungus

This dried out bracket fungus reminded me of stained glass.

 10. Bird's Nest

I was surprised to see this small bird’s nest for the first time-right next to a trail I’ve followed hundreds of times. It was built only a foot or so off the ground and must have been very well camouflaged. I know that I’ve looked at this very spot countless times and never saw it or the birds that used it.

 11. January 19th Witch Hazel

On January 19th the witch hazel near the Ashuelot river still bloomed in spite of a few nights of below zero temperatures. Since the river water is warmer than the air, it must have some effect on this plant for it to be blooming so late in the year.

 12. January 26th 2013 Full Moon

A clear cold night and the full wolf moon marked the last weekend of January. I can’t say that I’m sorry to see it go.

The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness ~John Muir

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These photos are of what nature has shown me over the last week or so.

1. Hornet's Nest

Piece of a hornet’s nest blew down onto the snow, so I had to get a picture of it. It looks very abstract and I wonder if I would guess that it was a picture of part of a hornet’s nest if I didn’t already know.

2. Hornet's Nest

When I took pictures of it with the new Panasonic macro master camera, it was even more abstract, but also more interesting and beautiful.

3. Goldspeck LichenCommon gold speck lichen (Candelariella vitellina) grows on granite rock in full sun. This crustose lichen grows in small patches in this area so I always need a macro lens for it. The fruit bearing bodies of this lichen are tiny, flat discs-so small that I’m not even sure that I could get a picture of them.

4. Turtlehead Seed Pods

I took a picture of turtlehead blossoms (Chelone glabra) last fall and wrote that I didn’t really see any resemblance to a real turtle’s head. A friend said just the opposite-he thought the blossoms looked just like turtle heads. Now, on the other side of the solstice, the seed pods do remind me of turtle heads- a bunch of hungry, snapping turtle heads. According to the U.S. Forest Service this native plant is also called balmony, bitter herb, codhead, fish mouth, shellflower, snakehead, snake mouth, and turtle bloom.

5. Hawthorn

The hawthorn (Crataegus species) is a tree that doesn’t mess around and is not about to be used as browse for moose and deer. Its 1-1/2 inch long thorns are every bit as sharp as they look, and they keep the browsers away. The unlucky person who finds themselves tangled in a hawthorn thicket will most likely need some new clothes. And maybe some time to heal.

6. Lowbush Blueberry in Snow

I like the way the branching structure of shrubs and trees is so visible in the winter .This is a low bush blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium) no more than 8 inches tall.

7. Oak Leaf on Snow

Something about this oak leaf on top of the snow grabbed me, but I’m not sure what it was. Maybe that it seemed so alone.

8. Rose Hips

Rose hips are the fruit of a rose. In this case the plant is a multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora,) which is considered an invasive species. Its small red hips are one of the most colorful things in the winter landscape. Unfortunately, birds like them and spread them everywhere. I think I could have worked on the depth of field a little more in this picture, but you get the idea.

 9. Intermediate Woodfern

Intermediate woodfern (Dryopteris spinulosa var. intermedia) doesn’t let a little snow slow it down. This is one of our native evergreen ferns and is also called American shield fern, evergreen woodfern, or fancy fern. This clump I saw growing on a boulder was smaller than my hand.

10. Tall Grass I drive by this clump of tall grass quite often and have admired not only its 4 foot height, but also its resilience. It’s been through two snow storms and still stands proud as the tallest weed in the field. 

11. Oak Leaves Close Up

I took a couple of pictures of a cluster of oak leaves that interested me because of the way they hung-they seemed to all be clasping each other, trying to stay warm. When I got home and looked at the photo though, I didn’t like it. Then I cropped it just to see what would happen, and it became an entirely different picture that I do like.

The tree which moves some to tears of joy is, in the eyes of others, only a green thing that stands in the way ~William Blake

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For this post science has bet set aside in favor of the beauty of things we might not think of as beautiful. Spring is certainly the time for wildflowers but there are many other things happening in the forest as well. One of those is bud break, when leaves of every kind begin to unfurl. Sometimes emerging leaves can be every bit as beautiful as spring flowers and sometimes not, but beautiful or not, it is always interesting to see plants at this stage.

Eastern White Pine (Pinus strobus), Buds. These are often called candles in the nursery trade. New Norway maple (Acer platanoides) leaves. More new maple leaves. I think the contrast between the leaves of the red maple (Acer rubrum ) shown here and those of the Norway maple in the previous photo is amazing.

Japanese knotweed is an invasive species, but I thought its unfurling buds were very beautiful. Unfortunately this plant spreads rapidly and chokes out native species. It was imported as an ornamental in the 1800s from Japan. Maybe the side of it seen here was the reason why. New Witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) leaves and flower bracts from last fall’s blooms. It takes a full year for witch hazel flowers to become fruit.

 New leaves of box elder (Acer negundo.)  The box elder is in the maple family and is the only maple with compound leaves. It isn’t hard to see why “stag horn” became part of this sumac’s name (Rhus typhina.) The fruit of staghorn sumac is an important winter emergency food for birds and other wildlife. I thought that these American beech (Fagus grandifolia) leaves were every bit as beautiful as a flower. They seemed to have a gray ‘aura’ along their outside edges, or maybe it was just the way the light was shining on them. These and many other plants are showing their leaves up to three weeks early. A hard freeze now would do a lot of damage, especially to fruit trees. Orchardists are anxiously waiting for mid-May when the danger will have passed. Emerging fiddleheads of Maidenhair fern. I think that these are the most beautiful and delicate of all the ferns, and are one of my favorites.  They grow in hardwood forests in soils with relatively high levels of moisture, nutrients, and high-quality organic matter, so they aren’t often seen in the wild. I have some growing in a shady spot here in the yard. At this stage they are a magical thing to see. What I think is cut leaved toothwort (Dentaria laciniata) seemed to be caught in a strong wind, even though there wasn’t even a gentle breeze blowing.  I was fascinated by the movement in these leaf buds as they opened and sat studying the plant for quite a little while, fully absorbed in its world and lost to my own.

“Now is the time of the illuminated woods … when every leaf glows like a tiny lamp.”  ~ J. Burroughs 

I hope that you have also had time to see the wonders of nature unfolding. Thanks for stopping in.

 

 

 

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I spent part of last weekend hunting for early spring wildflowers with no success. It’s still very early for this part of the country but because of the mild winter and early warmth I thought I might at least see some skunk cabbage.  If I was real lucky I thought, I might even see some emerging false hellebore or trout lily plants. Since all of these plants like wet soil I planned to visit places that I knew were boggy. One of them was the new Keene peat bog park I wrote about in my last post, and another was a section of the Ashuelot River in Swanzey, NH, which is south of Keene.

The river was running along at a pretty good clip but since there is no melting snow to raise the water level, it’s much lower than normal. In a normal spring with plenty of snow melt I wouldn’t have been able to stand where I did to take this picture. 

If there was rain on top of the usual snow melt large parts of this path would have been underwater. That’s what regularly happens in the spring-the river scrubs its banks clean.

But not everything gets washed down stream. This piece of rusty cast iron looked like it had been here for quite a while. It’s a fancy piece and if I had to guess I’d say it was some type of a motor cover. It didn’t look like it would fit on a stove.

 It’s a sad fact that our ancestors used rivers as dumping grounds. I can remember seeing people dump their trash on the river bank when I was a boy, so it went on for a long time. Thankfully that practice has now stopped but I don’t think it would be possible to ever remove all of the trash from our rivers.  I learned as a boy that it was wise to wear sneakers or some other type of footwear with thick soles when walking in or near this river.  I still have a 5 inch long scar on my ankle that I got from a broken bottle many years ago. 

Making sure tetanus shots are up to date is a good idea as well. This piece of rusty steel would be an awful thing to step on barefoot.

This was the strangest thing I saw. It’s an old army ammo box that was converted into a geocache box. It’s hard to see in the picture but it says geocache on it along with some other writing. The lid has been torn off, so there was nothing inside it. There is no way of knowing how many miles this thing tumbled down the river before coming to rest here. I have a feeling my fellow New Hampshire blogger Jomegat might be interested in this. 

I got tired of taking pictures of rusty metal and broken glass so I took one of this tree that twisted around itself as it grew. It can’t be seen in the picture but it managed to graft itself together at each point the two limbs crossed. This picture also shows the fine gray sand that the rivers deposits here and there along its banks.

I never did find any early wildflowers but it was an interesting weekend nevertheless. Usually college students and other local volunteers will spend a good deal of time cleaning up along the riverbanks each year, but I don’t know if they come this far south. I’m confident that the area will be cleaned up though, because we are a lot more conscious of the importance of clean waterways now than we used to be.

The mark of a successful man is one that has spent an entire day on the bank of a river without feeling guilty about it. ~Chinese proverb

I hope all of you Southerners and Midwesterners came through the recent severe weather outbreak unscathed. Thanks for taking the time to stop by.

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