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Posts Tagged ‘Turkey Tails’

Everywhere I go these days I run into water. Sometimes literally-like absentmindedly finding myself ankle deep in a puddle-but usually I see it rushing down hillsides and across trails, as if its very existence depended on it finding the lowest point in the valley as quickly as possible.

Sm. Waterfall Blurred

Since the days of film cameras I’ve had the opinion that blurred water in a photo simply showed the photographer’s skill in manipulating the camera’s controls, but otherwise served no useful purpose.  I’ve had to revise that opinion recently because in photos of little rivulets like this one the water was so clear that it became almost invisible if it wasn’t blurred.  My opinion has therefore been upgraded to useful, but easily overdone.

 Tree Fungi

These mushrooms grew on a fallen tree near a stream and were as soft as velvet and wiggled like Jell-O, and they reminded me of cookies. (I hadn’t had lunch yet.)

 Tree Fungus Underside

Many bracket fungi are polypores and have pores on their undersides. These had gills and a short, off-center stalk, so they aren’t true bracket fungi and they aren’t polypores. Now I know a few things about what they aren’t, but I haven’t been able to identify them to discover what they are.

Spring Runoff

Way up in the hills small rivulets join forces and become bigger streams that fall down the hillsides. These streams might run for a week, a month, or a few months but few of them run year-round. The water in this photo wasn’t blurred. At least, not intentionally.

 Male Red Maple Blossoms

All along the streams and rivers red maples (Acer rubrum) are blooming. Here the male blossoms are showing pollen. Even though I became an allergy sufferer at age 50 I still love seeing the trees bloom in spring.

 Female Red Maple Flowers

The female flowers of red maple (Acer rubrum) are just opening-waiting for the wind to bring pollen from the male blossoms.

Brook

All the water running off the hillsides has to go somewhere, and in this case it causes this small brook to swell and fill its banks. In high summer you can walk across this brook in places while barely wetting your ankles. This is called Beaver Brook after the many beavers that once lived here.

Log

Sometimes when I walk through these forests it is easy to imagine the immense wilderness that faced the first colonists. I wonder how they felt when they first realized that, as far as they knew, this forest stretched on indefinitely.  If I think back even farther I can imagine Native Americans living in a true paradise so alluring that many early colonists “rescued from the savages” didn’t want to return to what their race called civilization.

Beaver Brook Falls

The brook tumbles through a small gorge before spilling over Beaver Brook Falls with a roar. The falls are fairly impressive at this time of year, but they look quite different in July and August.

Turkey Tails

I haven’t seen many turkey tail fungi (Trametes versicolor) over the past winter. I saw a lot of dried out ones with washed out colors, but very few with color like those in the photo. As I’ve said before, these fungi have a lot of secrets and they don’t give them up easily. Every time I see them I’m reminded of how little I really know about them.

Ashuelot River Waves

With all of the water from all of the surrounding hills spilling into it, the Ashuelot River is feeling pretty powerful these days, and it is. The eerie booming sounds coming from the boulders and debris that it rolls along its bottom can be felt as well as heard. Almost like thunder, it rolls through you.

Ashuelot on 4-14

So far this year the Ashuelot has held all of the thousands of gallons of runoff water within its banks. From here it will travel to the Connecticut River and then to the Long Island Sound where it will spill into the Atlantic Ocean. Once it evaporates into the atmosphere it might return and give us some welcome summer rain.

Study how water flows in a valley stream, smoothly and freely between the rocks. Also learn from holy books and wise people. Everything – even mountains, rivers, plants and trees – should be your teacher. ~Morihei Ueshiba

Thanks for coming by.

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Here in the southwest corner of New Hampshire we’re getting into three straight weeks of cloudy weather. When the sun peeks out from behind the clouds everyone seems to stop-as if they need a moment to remember what it is.

1. Red Winged Blackbird Tree

One day while I was out walking the clouds parted long enough to get a teasing glimpse of blue sky and sunshine. This tree is a favorite perch for red winged blackbirds. I didn’t see any in the tree but I could hear several, so that’s a good sign.

 2. Black Witch's Butter

I saw some black jelly fungi nearby (Exidia glandulosa.) With its matte finish and pillow like shapes it doesn’t look like other jelly fungi, but that’s what it is. I find it on alders and oaks in this area. It’s called black witch’s butter or black jelly roll.

 3. Orange Jelly Fungus

Orange jelly fungus (Dacrymyces palmatus) seems to seep out from beneath tree bark, which makes sense since jelly fungi are actually parasites that grow on the mycelium of other fungi. Jelly fungi can be found throughout the winter. This one grew on a fallen hemlock limb.

4. Scilla Shoot

The scilla I planted 2 years ago has come up already, but I was even more surprised to see roots already coming from acorns that the squirrels buried last fall. Scilla is also called Siberian squill (Scilla siberica.) The small blue flowers will be a welcome sight.

 5. Beard Lichen on Birch

Bristly beard lichen (Usnea hirta) is common and can be seen on birch limbs or growing directly on the trunk of pine trees in this area. It likes the high humidity found near ponds and streams.

6. Hazel Nut Husks

The husks of hazel nuts (Corylus) make good, dry homes for spiders, apparently. A large, shallow pit full of the remains of hundreds of thousands of burned hazelnut shells, estimated to be 9,000 years old, was found in Scotland in 1995. Man has been enjoying eating these nuts for a very long time.

7. Cushion Moss aka Leucobryum

 In cushion mosses (Leucobryum) each cushion shaped group is made up of thousands of individual plants. The leaves of these plants have outer layers of cells that are dead and which fill with water. This water filled outer coating helps protect the living cells by slowing dehydration. When the cushion does dry out it turns a much lighter green and can even look white.

8. Turkey Tails

Turkey tail fungi (Trametes versicolor) have been peeking out from under the snow for weeks now-the snow is melting very slowly.

9. Frosted Grain-Spored Lichen

This frosted grain-spored lichen (Sarcogyne regularis) has reddish brown discs that have waxy, reflective crystals dusted (or frosted) over their surfaces. The crystals are called pruina and make the discs appear bluish gray. At a glance they appear to be Smokey Eye Boulder Lichen (Porpidia albocaerulescens) but there are differences.

10. Thistle in Winter

Its sharp thorns couldn’t protect this thistle from winter’s wrath, but it wasn’t eaten.

11. Sunset Through Pines

Glimpses, that’s all we’ve see of the sun-just long enough to feel a little of its warmth and then it’s gone again. The weather people have been promising all week that we will see sunshine all weekend. It’s too early right now to tell what today will bring, but I hope their prediction is accurate.

It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold:  when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade. ~Charles Dickens.

Thanks for coming by.

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It has been cold here this week with below zero nights and below zero wind chills during the day. My days of being outside “enjoying” that kind of weather are over for the most part, so these pictures were taken just before this latest cold snap.

1. Bog in January

Our days are still dim, with feeble sunshine even at noon when this was taken.  We’ve had more snow but barley more than dustings compared to what we’ve seen in years past. One snowfall seems to melt before we get more, so there haven’t been more than 5 or 6 inches on the ground at any one time. Certainly not snowshoe weather!

2. Witch Hazel Leaf

Any spot of color is welcome at this time of year and this orange witch hazel leaf (Hamamelis virginiana) really caught my eye.

 3. Goldenrod Gall

A tiny hole at the base of this goldenrod gall means that the goldenrod gall fly that once lived here has moved on. It is thought that the insect’s saliva causes the plant stem to grow into a gall. A larger hole at the top of the gall can mean that a bird has pecked its way in to eat the fly larva, which can survive being frozen almost completely solid in the winter.

 4. Winter Moss

I’ve ordered a moss identification book but it hasn’t come in yet so I’m not sure what kind this is, but its green color seemed cheery against the white snow. I think it might be one of the sphagnums. The moss book, if you’re interested, has a tedious title: Outstanding Mosses and Liverworts of Pennsylvania and Nearby States by Susan Munch. Readers of this blog often ask me what books I use for identification and I don’t look forward to answering that question for mosses and liverworts!

5. Foliose Lichen on Pine

I think this might be hooded tube lichen (Hypogymnia physodes) but I’m not 100 percent certain because I can’t find it in my lichen book. I found it growing on a white pine branch (Pinus strobus.) It looked plump and happy but lichens can and do change color as they dry out.

6. Dried Carrion Flower Fruit

I’m fairly certain that these are the mummified berries of the carrion flower vine (Smilax herbacea.) These blue berries are a favorite of birds, so I was surprised to see them in this state. This plant is easy to identify even in winter because it is a vine. It gets its name from the strong odor of its flowers.

7. Ice Covered Pebbles

We had some freezing rain one day so it was a good idea to wear the Yaktrax. I’ve already taken several minor spills this winter.

 8. January Turkey Tails

These turkey tails (Trametes versicolor) have been covered by light snow several times, and when the snow melts they always look the same. I’m not sure my theory that cold intensifies their color is going to hold water.

9. Toothed Fungi with Lichen and Moss

This tree had a virtual garden full of mosses, fungi and lichens on it, even though this was taken after our first blast of below zero weather. The small bracket fungi were toothed on the underside. I’ve seen these before but couldn’t identify them then, and still haven’t been able to now. I think the lichen is called Parmotrema tinctorum. I can’t find a common name for it.

 10 Sycamore Leaf

This sycamore leaf (Platanus occidentalis ) was almost as big as a dinner plate. I put a quarter on it so you would have something to compare it to.

11. Icy Brook

We’ve had snow, cold, and even below zero nights but also enough warmth to keep our lakes, rivers and streams from freezing over. Open water at the end of January makes this an unusual winter.

It is not easy to walk alone in the country without musing upon something. ~Charles Dickens

Thanks for coming by.

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I’m talking about turkey tail mushrooms, of course. The scientific name of these mushrooms is Trametes versicolor and they are a type of polypore mushroom. They are also said to be the most common mushroom in North American woods. They are found mostly on rotting hardwood logs, but I’ve also found them on hemlock stumps.                       

There are also false turkey tail mushrooms. The easiest way to tell if a mushroom is a turkey tail is to look at the underside, which should be creamy white and have pores. If it has gills then it isn’t a true turkey tail.

A true turkey tail also has strongly contrasting zones of color. In fact, versicolor means “having many colors.” (Trametes means “one who is thin.”) If a mushroom lacks these contrasting zones of color or has more subtle shades then it is probably Trametes pubescens (above) or another look alike rather than Trametes versicolor.Nobody seems to know what causes the different colors in turkey tails-or at least, if they do they aren’t talking because I’ve been searching for the answer to that question for a long time. I wonder if the weather has anything to do with color variation. Last year I was finding many that were colored blue or purple and this year I’m seeing a lot of browns, pinks, and oranges. 

Turkey tail fungi cause white rot in trees, and when they grow in the wound of a living tree it means it isn’t long for this world. White rot occurs when fungi eat the brown ligin of plant cells and leave behind the white cellulose. The fungi are also saprophytic, which means that they produce enzymes which decompose dead matter.

Oops-how did he get in here? Trametes versicolor isn’t all bad though; in China, Japan, and parts of Europe compounds extracted from these fungi are being used to treat certain types of cancer. Here in the U.S., fueled by grants from the National Institute of Health, scientists are researching its usefulness in breast and bone cancer therapy.Squirrels, beetles, turtles and other critters eat turkey tails. Fungus gnats and the horned fungus beetle use them for shelter. They are very tough so even though they aren’t considered poisonous, they aren’t very appealing to humans. The part of the turkey tail fungus that we see can be compared to the cap and stem on a traditional mushroom-it is the fruiting body that releases the spores so more generations can follow.

What I like most about turkeys tails are the colors and the fact that they appear from May to December. They add a lot of color to the otherwise black, white, and brown winter landscape. This time of year, when the leaves have all fallen, is the easiest time to find them. I’d be willing to bet that you have some growing very near to where you are because they’ve been found in nearly every state in the country. What better way to walk off that big thanksgiving meal than hiking through the woods, looking for turkey tails? That’s where I’ll be.

In the end we will conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught ~ Baba Dioum

Have a great Thanksgiving, everyone. Thanks for stopping by.

The photo of the Tom Turkey is from Wikipedia.

 

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The city of Keene, New Hampshire sits on an ancient lake bed surrounded by hills. One of these is west hill, which I climbed recently. In the late 1800s the Colony family of Keene owned several large parcels of land on west hill. Today the land, called the Horatio Colony Preserve, is open to the public.

The road seen here was laid out in 1763, long before the Colony family owned the land. In the 1800s when they owned the land the road was still used by horse drawn carriages but now it slowly dwindles down to a narrow, very steep foot path. I read a posting on line that said the path “meandered” to the top, and I guess it does-if you call an almost vertical climb a meander.

This cabin was built in 1937 by Horatio’s grandson, also named Horatio, as a place to write. Horatio the younger wrote several books, including books of poetry and essays. 

This sign mentions the tip top house at the top of the hill, which was my goal on this day. 

I hadn’t traveled far past the cabin when I saw that this large white pine had blown down. This root ball was huge-probably 12 feet across-but was also very shallow. It didn’t leave much of a depression when it fell like you would expect.  That’s most likely due to the very moist soil found on this hill. When soil is constantly moist a plant doesn’t have to send its roots too deep to search for moisture. White Pine trees (Pinus strobus) often have a tap root like a dandelion that can extend as much as 12 feet into the soil, but this one didn’t. 

It doesn’t take long for mushrooms to start growing on fallen trees.  I think these were oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus.) 

This toothed mushroom (Hericium americanum) was quite high up on this standing tree. 

These wolf fart puffballs (Lycoperdon pyriforme ) were the last fungi I saw for a while because the forest changed from relatively open canopy hardwood to more dense hemlock. For a while it was so dark that very little grew there. Though we think of mushrooms as lovers of darkness even they seem to need some light to grow. The name ‘wolf fart’ is from the Greek “lyco” which means “wolf” and “perdon” which means “to break wind.” The person who named them had a strange sense of humor, apparently. 

Higher up the hill the gloom began to subside and I saw some dog lichen (Peltigera canina) growing on mossy tree trunks. Dog lichen is a foliose or leaf-like lichen. It is called dog lichen because its fruiting bodies look like dog’s teeth. It was used to treat rabies in the middle ages for the same reason.  This looks a lot like some liverworts, but doesn’t have a vein (nerve) in the center of each “leaf.”

Just to the right and quite out of focus is a beech drop plant (Epifagus americana .) I saw many of these on this hill but didn’t get a decent picture of any of them.  Beech drops are parasitic on the roots of beech trees. 

I came to a huge granite outcropping that was covered with rock tripe (Umbilicaria mammulata,) which is another large foliose lichen. I’ve never seen so much rock tripe in one spot. Usually it grows on boulders near lakes and ponds but in this case the constant drip of water down the rock face makes this spot a good home for it and mosses. 

A closer look at some rock tripe (Umbilicaria mammulata.) 

This view is one reason to climb to the top of the hill. This looks to the north with Surry Mountain in the distance. Surry Mountain is known for its quartz crystals and once had a gold mine on its summit. West hill had a lead mine. 

Goldenrod grows in what’s left of Horatio the elder’s Tip Top House. The stone foundation and some cast iron pieces are about all that is left. 

Heather is the last thing I expected to see at the top of this hill, but it was in full bloom and was beautiful. I don’t know what variety this is but I know it is heather because heather blooms in the fall. Heaths bloom in the late winter or early spring. Heather is not native so someone must have carried this plant here.

Two kinds of reindeer lichen grow over the boulders in quite large colonies. I think this might be gray reindeer lichen (Cladonia rangiferina.

I think this one is called woodland reindeer lichen (Cladonia arbuscula.) Its growth habit isn’t as tight and rounded as the previous lichen and it is much lighter in color. 

In my experience in the New Hampshire woods, this fern is rarely seen, though it is supposed to be abundant. I think this is Polypodium virginianum, called rock polypody. The polypody fern family includes about 1000 species but only two of them are native to the northeast-rock polypody and Appalachian polypody (Polypodium appalachianum.) This fern is evergreen and looks and feels much like the evergreen Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides,)  but the odd way that the leaflets are aligned on either side of the stem quickly shows that it isn’t that fern.  There were very large colonies of this fern scattered here and there, mostly growing on boulders. Thoreau liked them and said that “Fresh and cheerful communities of the polypody form a lustrous mantle over rocky surfaces in the early spring.” 

Of course there were turkey tails (Trametes versicolor) because I see them wherever I go. Now that the underbrush is thinning again these are becoming much easier to see. Last year they were more blue / purple and this year they are mostly shades of brown. I want to watch them closely this fall and see if cold affects their color.

That’s it for this half day trip up one side of West Hill and down the other. I can’t wait to return next spring-I have a feeling that many hard to find wildflowers might grow here. Thanks for stopping in.

Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves ~John Muir

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There are days when I’m searching for wildflowers when I can go for hours without finding any, but those are also the days when I often see many other interesting things. It is those things “other than flowers” that will be found in this post. I found this Clymene Moth (Haploa clymene) hanging out on a wilted bee balm leaf. This one was quite easy to identify because of the upside down cross on its wings. (Some see a dagger) According to what I’ve read the larva feed on several different tree species including oak and willow. Clymene means “renowned one” in Greek. Apparently this moth is only found in the eastern part of the country.From a distance I thought this was another moth or a butterfly, but was a feather.I found these pinesap plants (Monotropa hypopithys ) growing in a very dark, dry forest and was surprised to see them. They are a relative of Indian pipes (Monotropa uniflora) and like Indian pipes have no chlorophyll. They are also thought to be parasitic like Indian pipes. Pinesap plants have several flower buds on each stem and Indian pipes have only one. If these plants come up in the summer they are a yellow color like that in the photo, and if they come up in the fall they are usually a reddish color. I’ve been waiting a week or more for this group to stand up, but they haven’t yet.  It’s almost as if they’re frozen in the position seen in the picture, because they haven’t moved. This pine root was in the middle of a trail I was following.  How many shoe bottoms did it take to wear it away like this, I wondered. I love the way these worn roots look as if they have been carved, sanded and stained. I realized, while admiring this one that it would be an impossible to duplicate this by carving because the bark trying to cover over the wound is a large part of the whole.I thought this was a caterpillar on this willow tree but it turned out to be an Elm Sawfly Larva (Cimbex Americana.) These come in other colors like pink, white, green and gray, and like to hang out in willow trees. The elm sawfly is the largest species of sawfly in North America. In addition to the black stripe down their body they also have a row of black dots on each side of their body which can just barely be seen in this photo. The black dots are spiracles, or breathing tubes. These larvae also feed on elm, maple, cottonwood and birch but their favorites are willow and elm.Turkey tails (Trametes versicolor) are a lot harder to see in the summer than they are in winter because of the undergrowth, but I still see them now and then. These were quite large and grew on a tree that had fallen across a trail.I sat down on a stone to take a break and turned and saw what I thought were red capped mushrooms growing on a moss covered stone. Each tiny cap was probably about half the diameter of a pencil eraser. Now that I see the detail in the picture though, I wonder if they aren’t young lipstick powder horns (Cladonia macilenta.) Since I’ve never seen lipstick powder horns I can’t be 100% sure but the description in the book Lichens of the North Woods comes very close to matching these. I wish I had checked them for gills but I didn’t want to destroy them just to satisfy my curiosity. I like to leave things as I find them so the next person can feel the same sense of discovery that I felt.This one I do know without having to look it up. It is a yellow amanita muscaria, or fly agaric. The amanita family contains some of the most poisonous mushrooms known. Amanita muscaria with a red cap is supposed to be more common than yellow, but the yellow ones are all I ever see.Like turkey tails, beard lichens are also harder to find in summer because of all the leaves on the trees but this one grew on a branch that was overhanging a beaver pond, making it easier to spot. This might also be Boreal Oak moss (Evernia mesomorpha) according to the book Lichens of the North WoodsI know where several large colonies of blue bead lily (Clintonia borealis) grow and in the spring I saw hundreds of flowers. Not all flowers become fruit though; out of hundreds of blooms I’ve seen only two berries. It has taken a few weeks of searching to find them, but I’m glad that I did so I could show why the plant is called the blue bead lily. The fruit is certainly blue and is also said to be mildly toxic. It is supposed to have a terrible taste as well. Native Americans used the plant to treat bruises and burns and the root was used in a medicinal tea. The freshly dug root is said to attract bears. Indian pipe (Monotropa uniflora,) is a wildflower in the wintergreen family which is common enough but is usually seen with its flower nodding and pointing downward. When the flowers start bearing seeds they begin to dry out and slowly turn upright to the sky. The flower then becomes a fruit capsule before the plant finally turns brown and dries out completely. The Monotropa part of the scientific name means “one turn” for the way the flower turns once, from nodding to upright. Uniflora means one stem, because there is only one flower per stem. These seed heads of the yellow hop clover (Trifolium aureum ) look bright red to me but all of the books say that they’re brown so I’ll go with that for a color since I’m somewhat color blind. These seed heads are how the plant got its common name because someone, somewhere once thought they looked like hops. And they do-sort of. Each of the rounded parts that look like scales was a flower, and each holds one small seed.I saw this gall on a willow branch one day and thought it looked a lot like the apple galls found on oak trees. The only difference is that it looks as if it has been pasted onto the branch with mud. I’ve spent many hours trying to identify this with no luck, so if anyone knows what it is I (we) would love to hear from you.

Art is born of the observation and investigation of nature ~ Cicero

Thanks for visiting.

 

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Good Morning. I thought I’d steer us away from flowers again for a short time. I wouldn’t want anyone getting bored and there are many things in nature that are as beautiful as flowers. Sometimes, even more so-or at least in a different way-but that’s just my opinion. This time of year brings along the meadow flowers and that is where I’ve been spending a lot of my time. Grasses seem to be doing well this year-this stand was so tall that it was over my head.Many grasses are flowering now. This one is orchard grass (Dactylis glomerata) which is described as a fast growing, cool season grass that is shade tolerant and drought resistant. Legend has it that it was reported growing in this country before 1760, so it has been here awhile. I love seeing grasses with their pollen ready to fly on the wind. It is a moment that passes very quickly and isn’t often witnessed. These odd looking things are the fruit of the black willow (Salix nigra.) This tree is also called swamp willow and is often planted on river and stream banks to help control erosion. The cone shaped seed pods will only appear on female plants and, as the photo below shows, will split open to release cottony seeds that are carried on the wind. I found this tree on a river bank. A female black willow (Salix nigra) tree releases its seeds to the wind. If you have ever wondered what the world will look like when human beings are no longer here, this photo might help. This is part of a street called Washington Street, which is a major thoroughfare running north-south through Keene, NH.  The northernmost part of it, which was closed so a highway could be built, appears in the photo. If you look closely in the lower right corner you can just see the double yellow line that still runs down the center. Most of the low growth encroaching along each side is poison ivy. This street was originally laid out in 1736 so the town could have better access to a saw mill that stood near here. This part of it was closed in the early 1960s. I thought it might be a good place to find flowers. I followed the abandoned street looking for wildflowers but all I found was fungi, mosses and ferns. This yellow mushroom lit up a dark spot. A damselfly found a spot of sunlight and patiently sat still while I fumbled with my camera. I tried to identify this one but became overwhelmed by all the choices and colors. Turkey tails (Trametes versicolor) grew on a birch log, but these had colors much more subdued than those I usually see. I wonder if the tree species they grow on makes a difference in their color. Most of the very colorful ones seem to grow on conifers, I’ve noticed. I was reading recently about scientists studying these fungi as a possible cancer treatment.  They have already been shown to inhibit the human immunodeficiency virus type 1. It boggles the mind to think of all of the benefits to mankind that nature might hold. I found a honeysuckle doing its best to strangle an oak tree with its roots, but the oak was winning hands down.This elm tree was getting awfully cozy with this pine, but I wasn’t going to be the one to say anything. Times are going to be tough later on when the elm outgrows what little space it has left. I’ve never heard of one tree completely growing around and engulfing another, but loggers and arborists have found cannon balls, intact rifles, arrows, unopened bottles of beer and liquor, toys, tools, clothes, bicycles, and even car parts inside living trees after they had been cut down. False Solomon’s (Maianthemum racemosum) seal fruit is ripening. It won’t last long-I’m sure there are many critters that will be happy to see it. Ruffed grouse and many other birds also eat this fruit, but most animals won’t eat the bitter tasting leaves. Deer will occasionally browse on them if they are hungry enough. Another important food for wildlife is the hazelnut (Corylus americana,) also called filberts. This bush was absolutely loaded with immature nuts ripening in their strange looking husks. American hazelnut is native to the eastern United States. Unlike many nuts, hazelnuts don’t need to be roasted before being eaten. They can be eaten raw or dried and ground into flour. Native Americans used them to flavor soups. Hazelnuts have a much higher nutritional value than acorns or beech nuts so they are the first choice of many animals and birds. When I was admiring the hazelnuts it started raining so I snatched one of the nut clusters off the bush and brought it home. This is what it looked like-a cluster with 5 unripe nuts in it.   When they are near a water source royal ferns (Osmunda regalis) can grow quite large and appear to be a shrub. These in the photo were about chest high. The royal fern is found on every continent except Australia, making it one of the most widespread of all living species. They are also thought to be one of the oldest living things, with fossil records of the Osmundaceae family dating back over 300 million years. Individual plants are believed to be able to live for over 100 years. Cinnamon and interrupted ferns are also in the Osmundaceae family. It is thought that the genus might have been named after King Osmund, who ruled in the British Isles in the eighth century. Royal ferns are one of my favorites because they are so unlike any other fern. When I was a boy we called the frothy foam created by the spittlebug snake spit.  Of course, it has nothing to do with snakes because it is spittlebug nymphs and adults that create the foam while feeding on plant sap. Spittlebugs, both adults and immature nymphs, feed with their head pointed downward. As the sap flows through their body and then drips down their abdomen they mix it with air inside a chamber on their abdomen to make it frothy. This froth or foam is used to both hide the young spittlebug and to keep it cooler. I found this example on a goldenrod stem.

My heart is tuned to the quietness that the stillness of nature inspires ~Hazrat Inayat Khan

I hope you enjoyed seeing those things that often go unseen. Thanks for visiting.

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Happy first day of summer! Our local weather forecast calls for temperatures in the md 90s with high humidity, so I’ll be staying in the shadier parts of the forest. What follows are a few things that can be found there. This eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly (Papilio glaucus) looked as if something had been taking bites out of its trailing wing edges. It was resting in the shade on a false Solomon’s seal plant and didn’t bat a wing while I was taking pictures. Do birds chase butterflies and take bites out of their wings? I thought these common split gill (Schizophyllum commune) mushrooms were bracket fungi because, even though they are one of the most common mushrooms, I hadn’t ever seen them. They are found on every continent except Antarctica and don’t grow there only because there is no wood for them to live on. Though they look like a bracket fungus they are mushrooms with torn and serrated gill-like folds that are split lengthwise. These mushrooms dry out and re-hydrate many times throughout the season and this splits the gill-like folds, giving them their common name. These ones looked like fuzzy scallop shells. I did see bracket fungi though. These turkey tails (Trametes versicolor) were surrounded by moss. I had to wonder if the moss was winning the battle. This eastern painted turtle (Chrysemys picta picta) was in the middle of the path I was on, quite far from water. He (she?) looked like he couldn’t decide whether to go into or come out of his shell.  After a few pictures I left him just the way I found him, thinking he would reach a decision quicker if I wasn’t there watching him. He was about the size of a soccer ball. I saw plenty of little brown mushrooms.  Even mushroom experts have trouble identifying these mushrooms and recommend that mushroom hunters stay away from any that are small to medium size and are brown, grayish brown or brownish yellow.  The deadly skullcap (Galerina autumnalis) is a little brown mushroom, and it wouldn’t be a good day if it were accidentally eaten. Many cherry trees have nipple or pouch gall on their leaves this year. These are small finger like nubs on the leaf surface caused by tiny eriophyid mites laying eggs on the leaf.  The mites secrete a chemical substance that causes the leaf to expand over their eggs. When the eggs hatch the baby mites feed inside the finger shaped gall. The galls caused by these mites don’t hurt the trees and are seen as a natural curiosity. Over time the galls turn from green to red and when the leaves drop in the fall the galls drop with them. Thorns on a native black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) tree. These are nowhere near as dangerous looking as the thorns on a honey locust tree, but I still wouldn’t want to accidentally run into them.  Farmers have used black locust for fence posts for hundreds of years because it is dense, hard, and rot resistant. It is said to last over 100 years in the soil. Black locust is in the pea family and is considered toxic. This tree was growing at the edge of the forest. Several together would make an impenetrable thicket. Native Deer Tongue Grass (Panicum clandestinum or Dichanthelium clandestinum) seems to be thriving this year.  I like the way the leaves look as if they have been pierced by the stem. When they do this it is called clasping the stem. Many plants-the common fleabane for example-do this. This grass prefers moist soil and plenty of sun. Deer Tongue Grass is just starting to flower. Native Porcupine sedge (Carex hystericina ) is another plant that likes moist soil and full sun and I usually find it growing near ponds and streams. It is also called bottlebrush sedge. The green prickly looking flowers are called spikelets. Both male and female flowers are on each plant. Waterfowl, game birds and songbirds feed on sedges seeds. The Sedge Wren builds its nest and hunts for insects in wetlands that are dominated by sedges. The color of these new maple leaves was beautiful enough to deserve a photo, I thought. It is amazing how many plants have new leaves that start out red or maroon before turning green. Since chlorophyll is what makes leave green, this tells me that the emerging foliage doesn’t have much of it. The pussytoes (Antennaria) in my yard have all gone to seed. The yellow hawkweed (Hieracium caespitosum) is also going to seed. Each plant can produce as many as 500 seeds in a single flower head. This plant is native to Europe and is considered a noxious weed.Way down at the bottom of the spathe, or pulpit, at the base of the spadix called Jack, the fruits of Jack in the pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum ) have been forming. Soon these immature green berries will begin to swell and will turn bright red. The seeds in the berries are more often than not infertile. Those in the photo are at a stage that most people never see because the wilted spadix is usually covering the immature fruit. I peeled parts of it away to get this picture. Doing so won’t harm the plant. These tiny green flowers of the wild grape (Vitis species) don’t look like much but they are very fragrant. I smelled these long before I saw them and followed their fragrance to the vine. The flowers are so small that I can’t imagine what insect pollinates them.

In the woods we return to reason and faith~ Ralph Waldo Emerson  

I hope you enjoyed seeing what the woods here in New Hampshire have to offer. Thanks for stopping in.

 

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Here are a few more of those non flowery things I’ve seen that don’t seem to fit in other posts. Bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum,) which is sometimes called brake, is easily identified by its shiny triangular fronds. What makes identification easier still is the fact that it is the only fern that has side branches. No other fern in the country has these branches, so it’s almost impossible to confuse it with others. Though I usually find this fern about knee high, I’ve seen it reach chest height under optimum conditions.I wish lichens were as easy to identify as bracken fern. This beard lichen doesn’t seem to have grown a whit since last winter, but since I don’t know how fast lichens grow I can’t be sure. I just realized that I’m not even sure how to tell if they are still alive so clearly, I’m going to have to study lichens a bit more. Leaf lichens don’t seem to grow very fast either.  This one is on a trail I visit regularly, so I see it often. It doesn’t seem to change much. I visited this red (orange?) jelly fungus off and on for about two weeks and saw very little change going on, and then it was gone. I don’t know if a critter ate it or if it just dropped off the branch it was on. Maybe it’s the old “watched pot never boils” thing with lichens and fungi. If I ignore them for the summer and re-visit them in the fall maybe they will have noticeable growth. These turkey tails (Trametes versicolor) look the same as the last time I saw them too. This poplar (left) and white pine were getting quite friendly there in the woods. They had grown so close together that if they had been the same species they would have grafted themselves together. As they get bigger something is going to have to give. I’m betting on the pine because they grow faster. When a fallen tree begins to break down into compost and return to the soil quite often seeds will fall on it and grow. When this happens the dead tree is then called a nurse log, because it “nurses” the seedlings into adulthood. I’ve seen one or two but they were impossible to get a clear picture of, so instead I’ve got this picture of what I call a nurse stump. The stump has obviously rotted to the point where seeds can germinate. I didn’t bother identifying the new growth but the way they are growing in a tight cluster seems to point to a squirrel or chipmunk hiding a cheek full of seeds. There wasn’t anything but moss growing on this stump but I had to stop and wonder what catastrophe might have caused such tortured looking growth, and what kind of power it must have taken to split it open. I love the bronze / maroon color, the wrinkled texture, and shine of these new leaves of the Virgin’s bower (Clematis virginiana) vine.  When it becomes heavy with small, white, star shaped flowers it will be a sign that autumn is nearly upon us. New Stag horn sumac leaves are also bronze colored in the spring. Many plants have new leaves that are colored differently than their mature leaves. The female Gray’s sedge (Carex grayii) have grown their spiky, battle mace-like flowers. The male plant has a single spike rather than the cluster seen here. This plant is usually found near water and ducks and other waterfowl eat the seeds.Meadow foxtail grass (Alopecurus pratensis) will look ragged for just a short time while the flower stamens wait for the wind to blow their pollen to wherever. It is one of the earliest flowering grasses and is sometimes confused with timothy grass, which blooms in July and August. Grasses are wind pollinated and most have both male (stamens) and female (pistils) parts. When the wind blows the pollen from the stamens of one plant to the pistils of another, fertilization is complete and the plant will set seed. This grass was brought from Europe by early settlers to use as a hay crop, and it is still used that way today. This photo shows why you have to be careful where you put your hands. In the lower right corner, with three leaves to a stem, is poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans.) The rest of the picture is taken up by Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia,) which is a native vine that has 5 leaves per stem in this picture.  When it first comes up the leaves of Virginia creeper are red just like new poison ivy leaves. Each stem usually starts out with 3 leaves like poison ivy, but can have as many as seven when fully grown. Poison ivy can grow as a vine, just like Virginia creeper, so it can be difficult to tell them apart.  If the old saying “leaves of three, let it be” is paid attention to most people probably won’t get poison ivy. Still, if you spend much time in the woods it’s a good idea to study poison ivy until you know it well. I’ve seen more poison ivy this year than I ever have. This is the fruit of the sweet fern (Comptonia peregrine) plant, the flower of which I showed in a post on April 14 called Forest Beauties. The part that looks like a burr is actually a cluster of bracts. Inside these bracts are 4-6 small brown nuts (seeds) that are about 1/4 inch long and oval in shape. These seeds form in place of the female flower, which is red, small, and easily missed. Sweet fern foliage is very fragrant.These immature acorns were found on a red oak tree. It is estimated that a mature oak tree can produce as many as 5000 acorns.  From what I’ve seen oaks are going to have a bumper crop this year. An acorn can take 6 months in the case of white oaks, to 2 years for northern red oaks to fully develop. An acorn is “ripe” when the cap removes easily. Very heavy acorn production takes a lot of energy, and a tree might produce only a few acorns for 4 to 10 years after a season of heavy production. A tree called the Major Oak in the heart of Sherwood Forest; Nottinghamshire, England is between 800 to 1000 years old and has a circumference of 33 feet. Legend says that it was where Robin Hood’s and his merry men slept.

We do not see nature with our eyes, but with our understandings and our hearts ~ William Hazlitt

Next time we’ll see some more wildflowers, so I hope you can stop in. Thanks for coming by.

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Special Note: In case you haven’t heard today (Saturday) and tomorrow nights are nights of the “super moon,” when the moon is expected to appear 14 percent bigger and 30 percent brighter than at any other time this year. As if that weren’t enough, the Eta Aquarid meteor display also happens this weekend. Now back to our regularly scheduled blog post:

Every now and then I run across something that I think is really interesting so I take a picture of it. Then when I’m putting a blog post together quite often the interesting thing doesn’t really fit in, so it sits and waits for another post. This post contains all of those things that just wouldn’t fit in anywhere else. I hope you’ll think they are as interesting as I did. Opened cones of the Eastern white cedar or arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis.) I’ve seen many thousands of these but the color of these ones was simply amazing; a beautiful non-flower that looks like a flower. There was a big black slug beside these spring mushrooms, and I wondered if it had been eating them. From what I’ve read, this is most likely the slug called black arion (Arion ater,) also known as the European black slug, which is an invasive species. There is a catch all category of difficult to identify mushroom called LBMs, which stands for little brown mushrooms. Some are harmless and some, like those in the genus Galerina are deadly. They can grow in spring, summer or fall and are often found on logs. I wonder if they are toxic to slugs too. Oak marble gall. Galls can be caused by various insects laying their eggs on the twigs (usually a wasp.) The oak tries to protect itself by growing a gall around the insect eggs. Little does the oak know that this is exactly what the insect wants it to do; once the eggs hatch the larva eat their way out of the gall, leaving a tiny escape hole in the shell of an empty brown marble.  If you find one with no hole like those in the photo, an insect larva is still in residence. Iron sulfate mixed with tannic acid from oak galls made ink that was the standard writing and drawing ink from the 12th century until well into the 20th century. Some still use it today.

 This blue bottle fly was kind enough to hold still while I took its picture. I wish I could get a blue heron to do the same. Maybe I just have to start small and work my way up.

 This spent puffball caught my eye because it was bigger than a quarter. It wintered well. I don’t know what plant left these seed heads on all winter, but I like their furry, animal like appearance.

 I haven’t shown any lichens for a while, so here is a nice one. The rain we’ve had recently should plump most lichens up. Because this has a leafy look it is in the foliose lichen family. I haven’t shown any turkey tails (Trametes versicolor ) lately either. Here they are growing on a mossy tree trunk. I see them almost everywhere I go, but I’m still searching for a blue one. If I could find blue turkey tails and some blue lichens I’d be a mighty happy hiker.

These virgin’s bower (Clematis virginiana) seeds shining in the sun were an attention getter. Virgin’s bower is our native wild clematis vine that blooms anytime from July through September. It is usually found draped over shrubs or climbing up trees. Clusters of small white flowers cover the plant, and the hairy looking seeds that follow give it another common name: Old Man’s Beard. I have the cultivated variety that blooms in the fall growing on a trellis in my yard. The fragrance is unmatched. 

 The very top of a pine tree broke off and was lying on the ground in the middle of a trail. My grandmother had a cuckoo clock that used metal pine cones as weights to keep the clock running and those cones looked exactly like this one. I remember as a boy wanting those metal pine cones very badly, but I can’t remember why. Maybe it was because they tried to be as beautifully bronze-like as the real one shown here.

 This lone milkweed was the only one to escape the roadside mowing crew last year, and then it stood all through the winter. For perseverance alone, I thought it deserved having its picture taken. This is another tree root that I thought looked beautiful enough to have been carved by an artist. The smooth, sanded and polished look that comes to wood from weathering is amazing, and I always wonder how many years it took nature to create such a thing. I have a bookcase that holds several wooden art objects like this, and it’s very hard for me to leave these foundlings behind in the forest.  And that is precisely why I don’t carry a saw. 

This is the kind of weather we’ve seen here this week. I’m hoping for clearing so I can see the moon this weekend.

The human spirit needs places where nature has not been rearranged by the hand of man.  ~Author Unknown

I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing these things that I occasionally stumble upon in the fields and forests. Thanks for visiting. Be safe in the woods.

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