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Posts Tagged ‘Virginia Creeper’

1. Beaver Pond

Our fall colors are just about at peak right now, with some trees already dropping their leaves and others like the oaks yet to turn. The show stealers at the moment are beech, which are bright yellow, and maples, which can be red, orange, yellow, and sometimes even pink. I think I saw them all at this beaver pond.

2. Red Maple

This maple was quite red. Oaks are an even deeper red and can sometimes border on purple. When some oak leaves dry they turn pink.

3. Ashuelot North

North of Keene on the Ashuelot River the foliage was yellow and green but it seemed like every nuance of each color was represented.

4. Bittersweet

The tree with red leaves in this shot has the bright yellow leaves of a bittersweet vine nearly at its uppermost branches. Invasive oriental bittersweet vines (Celastrus orbiculatus) are as strong as wire and they strangle many native trees by wrapping themselves around the tree’s trunk like a boa constrictor. I’ve seen vines as big as my arm wrapped tightly around trees so as the trees grew they had no room to expand and slowly died. If you want to rid your yard of bittersweet vines this is the perfect time to do so because they’re more visible right now than at any other time of year.

5. Bittersweet Berries

The spread of Oriental bittersweet vines is helped along by humans. At this time of year people use bittersweet vines that have fruit on them to make wreaths and table decorations for Halloween and Thanksgiving. The berries are green for most of the summer but slowly turn yellow as fall approaches. Finally the yellow outer membrane splits into three and reveals a single, tomato red fruit. At the end of the season people throw the used vines onto the compost heap or out in the woods and the fruits grow to become new vines. Birds love the berries too, and also help the spread of the plant.

6. Pond View

Many people think bright sunshine is the only way to go when viewing fall colors but from a photography standpoint I think the colors are at their best on a slightly overcast day. In this photo the colors seem almost bleached out by the sun.

7. Hillside Colors

Keene sits in a kind of bowl surrounded on all sides by hills, and this is one of them.

8. Shack

This is another hillside view, with a favorite shack included for a sense of scale.

9. Virginia Creeper

The Virginia creepers (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) are beautiful this year. This one had a bit of purple on it and reminded me why my mother loved it enough to plant it on our house.

10. Maple Leaf Viburnum

In my opinion one of the most beautiful shrubs in the fall forest is the maple leaf viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium.) Its leaves can be red, orange, purple, pink, or even a combination of all of them all before turning to a pale, almost white pastel pink before dropping. You can see both purple and orange on this example.

11. Sensitive Fern

Sensitive fern (Onoclea sensibilis) gets its common name from our early colonists, who noticed that it was very sensitive to frost. Usually by this time of year these ferns would be brown and crisp from frost but since we haven’t had a real frost yet this year this example is slowly turning white. In my experience it’s unusual to see this particular fern doing this. Lady ferns (Athyrium filix-femina) do the same each fall and are usually the only white fern that we see.

12. Rail Trail

If you want to get really close to the colorful foliage rail trails are the perfect place to do it.

13. Beech

Beech leaves glow in the sunshine. If you’ve ever wondered what being inside a kaleidoscope would be like, just walk down a wooded New England trail on a sunny fall day.

14. Monadnock

Once again this year I missed most of the foliage at Perkins Pond near Mount Monadnock, but seeing the mountain itself was worth the drive.  Last fall a Japanese couple, through mostly sign language and broken English, asked me to take their photo in this very spot with the mountain behind them. It was the only time I’ve ever had my hands on an Ipad and I didn’t know what I was doing, but they seemed very happy with the photo.  This year I met another Japanese couple here and they had a Nikon DSLR but they didn’t ask me to take their photo. As I was leaving I wondered if I stood here long enough if I’d have a chance to try out every kind of camera made.

15. Peat Moss

I was surprised to see large mats of orange sphagnum moss growing just off shore in Perkins Pond. There wouldn’t be anything unusual about seeing peat moss at a pond’s edge except that these weren’t here the last time I was, and I was surprised by how fast they had appeared.  This one even had cranberries growing already on it.

16. Fallen Leaves

I found this scene last fall and it reminded me so much of scuffling through the dried leaves as a boy in grade school that I had to go back and revisit it. The sight, sound and smell that comes from wading through freshly fallen leaves crisping in the sun are things I’ll never forget.

17. Maple Leaf

You might not have the colorful fall foliage that we have here in New England but don’t despair; I can guarantee that nature has something every bit as beautiful for you to see right where you are.  The only condition is, it won’t come to you-you have to go outside and find it. Today might be the perfect day to do so.

There are some places so beautiful they can make a grown man break down and weep. ~Edward Abbey

Thanks for stopping in.

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1. Clouded Sulfur

I saw a clouded sulfur butterfly (Colias philodice) on an aster recently. It moved from flower to flower but was willing to sit still long enough for a couple of photos. I like the color combination.

2. Painted Turtle

Painted turtles are still lazing in the sun along the Ashuelot River. Soon they will burrow into the mud on the river bottom. As the water cools their internal temperature will drop to nearly match the water temperature and their metabolism will slow. They will take up enough oxygen to stay alive through their skin and hibernate until the weather warms in spring.

3. American Dagger Moth Caterpillar

The American dagger moth caterpillar (Acronicta americana) feeds on the leaves of deciduous trees like birch, elm, ash, hickory, maple, and oak. This one had someplace to be and was moving about as fast as I’ve ever seen a caterpillar move. It had a black head but it wouldn’t let me get a shot of it. American dagger moth caterpillars aren’t poisonous but some people do get a rash when they handle them.

4. Moose Antler

A coworker found a moose antler in the woods and I asked if I could get a photo of it for those who have never seen one. This was from a young moose and wasn’t that big, but some can get very big indeed. One recent trophy moose had antlers that spanned over 6 feet (75 5/8 inches) from tip to tip. Shed antlers aren’t a common site in these woods even though moose wander through every town in the region. Since they are relatively rare large moose antlers can be valuable when found in good condition. The trick is to find them before the mice, birds, coyotes and other critters chew them up.

5. Virginia Creeper

Fall always seems to start at the forest floor and slowly work its way up to the trees. At present it has reached the understory, as this Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) shows. I grew up with this plant; my mother loved it so much that she planted it to grow up the side of the porch. I watched it turn red each fall when I was a boy and now I look for it every year at this time.

6. Burning Bush

Burning bushes (Euonymus alatus) are also showing signs of fall, with more pink leaves coming every day. This shrub is much loved for its fall color but it is extremely invasive so its sale and cultivation are banned in New Hampshire. Our native highbush blueberry bushes (Vaccinium corymbosum) are quite colorful in the fall and are good alternatives for burning bush. Plant breeders have developed cultivars that are even more colorful than the natives. The American cranberry bush (Viburnum opulus var. americanum) is another native shrub that breeders have been working on and some cultivars display amazing color.

7. Burning Bush

They may be invasive but it’s hard to deny the beauty of burning bushes. Along the Ashuelot River in Swanzey there is a narrow strip of woodland where nearly the entire understory is made up of hundreds of these shrubs. It’s a great example of how invasive plants choke out the natives and create a monoculture. I’m not happy about the monoculture but when all of these shrubs turn the color of the leaves shown in the photo it’s an astoundingly beautiful sight. Though I can understand and even agree with every argument that says they should be destroyed, I have to admit that I’d be sorry to see them go.

8. Birches

Birch trees are among the first to turn in the fall but these examples are still showing more green than gold. We’ve had a very dry summer and I’m curious to see what the colors will be like this year; muted or more intense? So far the shrub colors don’t seem to be affected.

9. Lion's Mane Mushroom

Bear’s head or lion’s mane mushroom (Hericlum americanum) is a beautiful toothed fungus that looks like a fungal waterfall. Soft spines hang from branches that reach out from a thick central stalk. As it ages it will change from white to cream to brown. I didn’t think I was going to see one this year but I found this naval orange size example growing from the cut end of a felled tree just yesterday. I took its photo with my cellphone because that’s all I had with me. I haven’t had much luck taking close-ups with that phone so I was surprised when I saw that this shot was useable.

10. Coral Fungus

I think this white coral fungus might be cockscomb or crested coral (Clavulina coralloides.) Crested corals have branches that end in sharp tips which often turn brown. I don’t see these as often as I do other types of coral fungi. They are supposed to like growing under conifers and that’s just where I found it.

11. Golden Pholiota (Pholiota limonella) Mushrooms

Golden pholiota (Pholiota limonella) mushrooms grew on a beech log. The gilled, lemon yellow caps with reddish scales are slimy to the touch on these inedible mushrooms. An oak kindly dropped an acorn beside them for me so I could give you a sense of their size.

12. Pear Shaped Puffballs

Pear shaped puffballs (Lycoperdon pyriforme) grow in clusters on stumps and logs but these examples were growing on a rotted part of a living, standing tree. That’s not good and the tree will eventually have to go. Their common name comes from their upside down pear shape which can’t really be seen in this photo. As they age pores open in the top of each one so its spores can be released.

13. Wild Plums

The wild plums are ripening. I found a thicket of about 3 small trees under some power lines in Swanzey a few years ago and though I’ve taken photos of the flowers I never came back to take any of the fruit until this year. I thought they were American plums (Prunus americana) but I’m not positive about that. They could also be Canada plums (Prunus nigra.) I’m going to have to pay very close attention to the flowers next spring. The fruit is small at about half the size of a hen’s egg but is said to make delicious jelly, whether American or Canadian.

14. Indian Cucumber Root

Botanically speaking a whorl is an “arrangement of sepals, petals, leaves, stipules or branches that radiate from a single point and surround or wrap around the stem,” and nothing illustrates this better than Indian cucumber root (Medeola virginiana.) Its leaves wrap around the stem arranged in a single flat plane, so if you saw them from the side theoretically you would see an edge, much like looking at the edge of a dinner plate. If any leaf or leaves in the arrangement are above or below others it’s not a true whorl.

15. Little Bluestem

Native little bluestem grass (Schizachyrium scoparium) catches the light and glows in luminous ribbons along the roadsides. This grass is common, growing in every U.S. state except Nevada and Washington. According to the USDA its appearance can vary in height, color, length of leaves, flowering, and clump diameter from location to location. It’s a beautiful little 2-3 foot tall grass that lends a golden richness to life outdoors. After a frost it takes on a reddish purple hue, making it even more beautiful. The world would be a duller place without it.

16. Little Bluestem Seedhead

There is a lot going on in a light catching little bluestem seed head but I won’t try to explain it; I’ll just let you enjoy its unique beauty.

17. Hindu God Ganesh

I’ve been walking the banks of the Ashuelot River almost since I learned how to walk and I’ve seen some unusual things over the years, but by far the most unusual thing I’ve seen recently is this statue of the Hindu deity Ganesh that I found on its banks in Swanzey. Ganesh is said to be the lord of success and the remover of obstacles on one’s spiritual path. He is also thought to bring education, knowledge, wisdom and prosperity, so I’m wondering what it is the river is trying to tell me. It seems like whatever it is can only be good.

He who has experienced the mystery of nature is full of life, full of love, full of joy. Radiance emanates from the whole existence itself; it does not know the meaning of holding back. ~ Maitreya Rudrabhayananda

Thanks for coming by.

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1. Tall Meadow Rue

Here in the United States we celebrate our independence on this day and “bombs bursting in air” are part of that celebration. Right on schedule tall meadow rue (Thalictrum pubescens) blooms and add its own kind of fireworks to the festivities. This plant is also called king of the meadow, probably because it can reach 6 or 7 feet tall under perfect conditions. It likes wet feet and its head in the sun, and grows in places that never completely dry out. The example shown is a male plant which has petal-less, stamen only flowers that dangle in sparkly panicles.

2. Wood Sorrel

Years ago I found a small group of native wood sorrel (Oxalis montana) and have never seen any since until just recently. It’s a beautiful little thing which to me is like a spring beauty bonus that blooms in summer.  Unfortunately it’s very rare here, or at least I thought so. Now I’m not so sure; I found these plants growing in a spot that I have passed close to a hundred times, and that illustrates perfectly why I never hike a trail just once. You simply can’t see everything there is to see by hiking a trail once and since flowers bloom at different times, if you want to see them a trail should be hiked every couple of weeks. It’s the only way to see all of the plants that grow in a certain place.

3. Slender Nettle

Though slender nettle (Urtica gracilis) has fewer stinging hairs it is sometimes regarded as a variety of stinging nettle and is referred to as Urtica dioica gracilis. Its common name comes from the long, slender leaves. Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) has fatter, shorter, more heart shaped leaves. But grab ahold of either plant and you’ll find out why the Urtica part of the scientific name comes from the Latin uro, which means “I burn.” The hollow stinging hairs on the leaves and stems are called trichomes and act like hypodermic needles, injecting histamine and other chemicals that cause the stinging. If you’re lucky the nettle you run into will be growing next to some jewel weed (Impatiens capensis,) because the sap of that plant will stop the burning and stinging. People have been using nettles for food, medicine, fibers, and dyes since before recorded time.

4. Virginia Creeper

When I showed the Pathfinders around the old abandoned road near Beaver Brook we saw plenty of Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) and Jim, their leader, mentioned that he had never seen its flowers. The flowers won’t win any blue ribbons at flower shows but they are another interesting part of nature that many people never see, so here they are.

5. Virginia Creeper

Each Virginia creeper flower is about 1/4 inch across and has 5 greenish, backward curving petals, 5 stamens with white filaments and large yellow anthers, and a conical pistil. If pollinated each flower becomes a bluish berry that many birds and animals love to eat. They are eaten by bluebirds, cardinals, chickadees, woodpeckers, and turkeys. Mice, skunks, chipmunks, squirrels, and deer eat them too and deer also eat the leaves and stems. My favorite part of the plant is its leaves, which turn bright scarlet, orange and purple in the fall.

6. Staghorn Sumac Flowers

Staghorn sumac (Rhus hirta) is another flower that most of us, myself included, pass by without a glance. This time I decided to stop and see what I had been missing. It’s another of those flowers that won’t win any prizes but insects must love them, judging by how each flower head becomes a cluster of bright red, fuzzy berries. Each greenish yellow flower is about 1/4 inch across and has 5 curved petals, a 5 lobed calyx, 5 stamens, and a central pistil, all of which are so tiny I can’t even see them by eye alone.

7. Black Swallowwort

Black Swallowwort (Cynanchum louiseae) has purplish-brown to nearly black star shaped flowers that are about 1/4 inch across. They have five-petals and are fragrant, but not in a good way. It has a hard to describe their odor but on a hot summer day this plant is a real stinker that can be smelled from quite a distance. It’s a vining plant native to Europe that twines over native shrubs and plants at the edges of forests and shades them out. Colonies of this plant have been found that covered several acres of land. It is nearly impossible to eradicate from a garden; I can think of one or two gardens where I tried for years.

8. Black Swallowwort

It is thought that black swallowwort was intentionally introduced to North America around 1900 as an ornamental. I’m guessing that it was more of a garden conversation piece because of its “black” flowers. Plant breeders have been trying to create a truly black flower for a very long time and this one comes very close to fulfilling that dream on its own.

9. Dogbane

Native spreading dogbane (Apocynum androsaemifolium) has pretty little fragrant, pink bell shaped flowers with darker pink stripes inside. They remind me of lily of the valley in shape. Many insects visit these flowers but the plant has a toxic, sticky white latex sap that means animals leave it alone. The plant doesn’t mind a little shade; I often find it growing along trails through the woods. The tough bark from the stems of dogbanes produces fibers that Native Americans made a strong thread from. It was used to make nets for hunting rabbits, among other things.

10. Indian Cucumber Root

Natives had uses for Indian cucumber root (Medeola virginiana) as well, and one of them was as food. Like its common name implies, this plant’s small root looks and tastes a lot like a mini cucumber.  It’s easy to identify because of its tiers of whorled leaves and unusual flowers. It likes to grow under trees in dappled light, probably getting no more than an hour or two of direct sunlight each day.

11. Indian Cucumber Root

The flowers of Indian cucumber root have 6 yellowish green tepals, 6 reddish stamens topped by greenish anthers, and 3 reddish purple to brown styles. These large styles are sometimes bright red- brown but I think they darken as they age. These appeared to be black under the camera’s flash. Each flower will become a shiny, inedible dark purplish black berry.

12. Ground Cherry

I don’t see ground cherry plants (Physalis heterophylla) very often. In fact I know of only two places where they grow, but it’s always worth going to visit them in June to see their unusual flowers. There is a bit of work involved though, because the nodding yellow and black flowers can be shy at times and hard to see. You can just see a bit of yellow in this photo at the rear of the plant.

13. Ground Cherry

I had to prop this ground cherry blossom up on a leaf to get this photo so we could see what it looks like. They look like someone put a drop of ink on each petal and then blew through a straw to make a feathery design. If pollination is successful each flower will become a bright yellow berry. This plant is called clammy ground cherry and there is another which looks quite different called smooth ground cherry (Physalis subglabrata.) That plant isn’t hairy and has orange or red berries. All parts of this plant are poisonous except the fruit, which can be eaten raw or cooked. It can be found in all of the lower 48 states except Nevada and California.

14. Bee Balm

Though I’ve seen signs advertising it for sale as bee bomb its common name is actually bee balm, which comes from the way the juice from its crushed leaves will soothe a bee sting. The native scarlet bee balm (Monarda didyma) is also called Oswego tea, because the leaves were used to make tea by the Native American Oswego tribe of New York. Early settlers also used the plant for tea when they ran out of the real thing. No matter what you choose to call it, it’s a beautiful thing that I’m always happy to see. Hummingbirds love it too and will come from all over to sip its nectar.

15. Swamp Milkweed

If ever there was a flower that could stop me in my tracks and absorb me so fully that I lose all sense of time and place, it is swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata.) It is one of those flowers that take me out of myself, and I wait impatiently for its blossoms each summer. How can you not love life when you know there is beauty like this in your future?

16. Columbine

The back of a columbine flower resembled a flock of white swans, come together to discuss whatever it is that swans discuss. I never knew this until now but technically a group of swans is called a whiteness, which seems appropriate. Unless you happen to be a black swan, I suppose.

In every man’s heart there is a secret nerve that answers to the vibrations of beauty. ~Christopher Morley

Thanks for stopping in. I hope everyone has a safe and happy 4th!

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1. Jack in the Pulpit Fruit

Regular readers might be tired of hearing about my colorblindness but since new friends are always stopping in I’ll tell the story again as briefly as I can. In a nutshell, I have a very hard time seeing red in nature and it’s bad enough so a male cardinal disappears when he lands in a green tree. In spring when the trees are leafless and at this time of year when they’re falling I have an easier time of it, and right now I’m seeing red everywhere.

The above shot is of the ripe fruit of a Jack in the pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum,) a native plant in the arum family similar to the Lords and Ladies plant found in the U.K. Deer often come by and chomp off the top of the plant so I was happy to find this one. Each berry starts out green and contains 3-5 seeds.

2. Reddish Slime Mold

It’s hard to describe the size of things that I find and I’m sure people must have a hard time visualizing the tiny size of slime molds. As the photo shows, each tiny reddish dot on the log would fit into a space about a third of the size of the oak leaf. I think this slime mold is Trichia decipiens, which starts out white and then turns red or pink, yellow, green and finally brown.

3. Reddish Slime Mold Closeup

Each red-orange sphere stands on a tiny stalk (unseen.) When this slime mold is in its plasmodial stage as shown all of the fruiting bodies move together as one to a food source. Food for them means spores, protozoa, or decaying plants.

 4. Sumac

My color finding software sees brick red, Indian red, firebrick, crimson, tomato, pale violet, plum, and even hot pink in these staghorn sumac leaves (Rhus typhina.) Staghorn sumacs can be seen along the edges of many fields right now.

 5. Red Pouch Gall on Staghorn Sumac

Interestingly, the same colors are found on this pouch gall that grew under the leaves of a staghorn sumac. These galls start life looking like a peeled potato but turn red as they age. They are created by a wooly aphid called the sumac gall aphid (Melaphis rhois.) Female aphids lay an egg on a sumac leaf and the leaf forms the gall around the egg, and winged females leave the gall in late summer to complete the cycle. Science has found that this relationship between aphid and sumac has been going on for at least 48 million years, with no signs of stopping.

6. Sumac Berries

Staghorn sumac berries are also very red and very fuzzy. A drink that tastes just like lemonade can be made from these berries. It was a favorite of Native Americans.

7. Blueberry Leaves

Native highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum) leaves turn very red in the fall. Blueberries line the shores of many of our lakes and ponds and also grow on many of our treeless mountain and hill tops.

8. Virginia Creeper

A young Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) crept over a lichen garden and I couldn’t resist taking its photo.

 9. Boston Ivy

Boston ivy growing on the rear wall of a Keene building built in 1893 has turned very red. Generally vines grown on brick or stone don’t cause much damage, but the mortar used in buildings built before the 1930s might not contain Portland cement and may have weakened over the years. Boston ivy attaches itself using tiny circular pads that form at the ends of its tendrils and secretes calcium carbonate to “glue” the pads to the surface it wants to climb. The glue can to hold up to 260 times its own weight and if pulled off brick walls could pull the mortar along with it. Boston ivy has nothing to do with Boston; it’s really from eastern Asia, and it isn’t a true ivy.

 10. Red Stone

Stones with a high hematite content can be very red due to oxidation. Hematite is iron ore and it will rust, as this photo shows. It has even stained the surrounding stones. Red hematite powder was found scattered around the remains at a grave site in a Zhoukoudian cave complex, near Beijing, China. The site has evidence of habitation from as early as 700,000 years ago, so humanity has valued the color red for a long, long time.

11. Rose Hips

Rose hips always remind me of tomatoes for some reason. They contain higher amounts of vitamin C than oranges and are very nutritious, but their tiny seeds have silky hairs on them which have to be removed before they are used. The hairy seeds are used in itching powder, so you can imagine how irritating they’d be if you ate them.

12. Winterberry

Winterberry shrubs, a native holly (Ilex verticillata,) are outdoing themselves this year and are loaded with fruit. I almost wish it would snow so I could see the red and white together because they are especially beautiful after a snow storm. I think I can wait a month or two to see it, though.

13. Cranberry

Cranberries (Vaccinium macrocarpon,) along with the Concord grape and blueberry are one of three fruits native to North America that are commercially grown. Because they float commercial growers flood their fields to make harvesting easier. This makes people think that cranberries grow in water, but they actually grow in very sandy and peaty, acidic soil. Commercial cultivation of cranberries began in 1816, and growers found that a well-tended plant can live for 150 years or more.

 14. British Soldier Lichen

British soldier lichens (Cladonia cristatella) are very small and are usually hard for me to see but in this case the light background made it easier. I found them growing on an old white pine stump. The bright red “caps” are where this lichen produces its spores.

 14. Spangled Fritilarry

I wanted to end this post with a red cardinal or a robin but I didn’t see either one, so the reddish splotch on the lower wing of this spangled fritillary will have to do. I found it getting everything it could out of this nearly gone-by zinnia one recent sunny afternoon.

I hope this excursion into the color red wasn’t too boring. Since I rarely see it in nature it’s always exciting when I find it. Maybe next time I do a post on colors it will be on blue and purple. I get those two confused all the time.

If one says ‘Red’ – the name of the color – and there are fifty people listening, it can be expected that there will be fifty reds in their minds. And one can be sure that all these reds will be very different.” ~Josef Albers

Thanks for coming by.

 

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1. Ashuelot North

The leaves are starting to turn in this part of New Hampshire so I thought I’d take a walk or two (or three) along my favorite river, the Ashuelot. I grew up on its banks and have been walking them since I was a small boy because there is so much to see.

The word Ashuelot is pronounced either ash-wee-lot or ash-will-ot, and is supposed to mean “place between” in Native American language. Between what, I don’t know; possibly between the hills that surround the Connecticut River valley that it flows through.

2. Ferns

In some places ferns are just starting to take on their fall color and in others they’ve all but gone by.

3. Goose Feather

Canada geese seem to use the river as a navigation aid and can often be seen following it in the spring and fall. They also have a few favorite places where they stop and rest.

 4. Cocklebur

Plants grow along the Ashuelot that I’ve never found growing anywhere else. This cocklebur (Xanthium strumarium) is a good example. The small oval burs aren’t quite as sticky as burdock burs but they will catch on clothing. Cocklebur leaves require long nights to trigger production of the chemicals needed to produce flowers, so they are considered “short day” plants. Their leaves are so sensitive that any light shining on them at night can keep the plant from flowering.

5. Virginia Creeper

Virginia creeper vines (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) climb high in the trees along the river bank to reach as much sunshine as they can. They aren’t noticed for most of the year but when their leaves start to turn they can’t be ignored.

6. Virginia Creeper Berries

Virginia creeper berries are poisonous to humans but many birds and small animals eat them.

7. Ashuelot on 9-24..jpg

This is one of my favorite views found along this particular stretch of river.

8. Heron on a Log

One late afternoon the wind was blowing hard enough to make the trees creek and groan, and this great blue heron decided to wait it out on a log rather than be blown out of the sky. It was too cloudy for anything but a soft shot of him across the river.

 9. Heron

A few days later he was in the shade so I took another soft shot. We haven’t had much rain throughout September and this photo shows how much riverbank has been exposed due to the dryness. The water level is a good three feet lower than it was at the end of August. It’s amazing how fast it can drop, but even more amazing to think that it can gain back what it lost with one good rain storm. .

 10. Water

At the spot where I often take photos of curling waves the flow has been reduced to little more than a trickle.

11. Mallards

The mallards don’t seem to mind the low water. I think it makes their finding food a little easier.

 12. Bee on Aster

Bumblebees have felt the cooler weather and their flights from aster to aster have slowed enough to make it seem like they will simply drop to the ground in mid flight.

13. Smartweed aka Polygonum hydropiperoides

Nodding smartweed (Persicaria lapathifolia) gets its common name from its drooping flower heads and the very sharp, peppery taste of the stems, which makes the tongue smart. It doesn’t seem to bother ducks, geese, and all of the other animals that eat it.

14. Witch Hazel

Witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) is the last native shrub to flower in our forests and it has just started blooming along the Ashuelot. The flowers are below the leaves so you have to look closely to find them if you are searching before the leaves fall.  There isn’t another flower that I can think of that is quite like them, so searching is worth the effort.

 15. River View

I love to come to this spot in the late afternoon at this time of year to just sit and watch what the setting sun does to the trees. They burn with a blaze of color that becomes more intense as the sun slowly sets, and it is an amazingly beautiful thing to see.

The first act of awe, when man was struck with the beauty or wonder of nature, was the first spiritual experience. ~Henryk Skolimowski

Thanks for coming by.

 

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1. Pennsylvania Sedge aka Carex pensylvanica

Along the river creamy yellow male staminate flowers bloom above the wispy, feather like, white female pistillate flowers of Pennsylvania sedge (Carex pensylvanica.) This is a very early bloomer that usually appears at just about the same time as spring beauties and trout lilies. As the plant ages the male flowers will turn light brown and the female flowers, if pollinated by the wind, will bear seed.

2. Pennsylvania Sedge Clump aka Carex pensylvanica

When it isn’t blooming Pennsylvania sedge is easily mistaken for a course grass. I find it along the river and also in the woods under trees. It doesn’t seem too fussy about where it grows and will tolerate shade.

3. Virginia Creeper

Tendrils of Virginia creeper first exude a sticky substance before expanding into a disc shaped pad that essentially glues itself to the object that the vine wants to climb-in this case, a dead tree limb.  Once the adhesive discs at the tendril ends are stuck in place the tendrils coil themselves tightly to hold the vine in place. Charles Darwin discovered that each adhesive pad can support two pounds. Just imagine how much weight a mature vine with many thousands of these sticky pads could support. It’s no wonder that Virginia creeper can pull the siding off a house.

4. Bittersweet on Grass

Invasive oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus) doesn’t have tendrils so it becomes a tendril over its entire length and winds its way up trees, wires, and even grass stems, as the photo shows. I’ve seen old bittersweet vines as big around as my leg.

5. Lady Fern Fiddleheads (2)

Lady fern (Athyrium filix-femina) fiddleheads are about 2 inches tall. The dark brown scales on their smooth lower stems help to identify this one. This fern doesn’t like windy places, so if you find a shaded dell where a grove of lady fern grows it’s safe to assume that it doesn’t ever get very windy there.

6. Red Maple Seeds Forming

The wind has brought plenty of pollen from the male flowers so now the pistillate female flowers of red maple (Acer rubrum) have begun turning into seeds, which are called samaras. These are one of the smallest seeds in the maple family. It is estimated that a single tree 12 inches in diameter can produce nearly a million seeds, and if the tree is fertilized for 2 years seed production can increase by 10 times. It’s no wonder that red maple is getting a reputation for being a weed tree.

7. Apple Moss

It’s easy to see how apple moss (Bartramia pomiformis) got its common name. This moss grows its almost spherical spore capsules (sporangia) very early in spring. As they age the capsules turn brown but it pays to watch closely because some spore capsules will turn red between their green and brown stages, and that’s when these tiny orbs really look like apples. It’s an event in nature that most people never get to see.

8. Black Oak Inner Bark aka Quercus velutina

The inner bark of the black oak (Quercus velutina) shows why this tree was once called yellow oak. Native Americans made yellow dye from this bark and also used it medicinally. The yellow pigment is called quercitron and was sold in a bright yellow dye in Europe as late as the 1940s. Black oak is a member of the red oak family and easily cross breeds with red oaks to form many natural hybrids.

9. Red Elderberry aka Sambucus racemosa

Elderberry flowers really aren’t much to look at (or to smell) but the flower buds of this red elderberry (Sambucus racemosa) are very beautiful. Since the flowers are white, plum purple is a very odd color for the buds. They remind me of lilac buds.

10. Lilac Buds Breaking

Of course, after comparing red elderberry buds to lilac buds I had to show those as well. This is a French hybrid, deep purple lilac that was given to me by a friend many years ago. Its bud scales have just broken to reveal the flower buds tucked inside. This is part of the magic that is spring, and something I love to watch happen.

11. Unknown Gall on Oak

This is the strangest gall I’ve seen. It looks (and feels) like a group of small deflated balloons. It was growing on an oak limb and I haven’t been able to identify it.

NOTE: Helpful readers have identified this gall as the oak fig gall, caused by the wasp Trigonaspis quercusforticorne. They are specific to the white oak family, apparently. Thank you to David and Charley for the identification. I learned a lot.

12. Rockfoam Lichen

Rock Foam (Stereocaulon saxatile) is a fragile looking lichen but it is really quite tough. As their common name suggests, they are found on rocks and boulders, usually in full sun. These lichens are often used as a prospecting tool because a simple lab test will show what type of rock they grow on and what minerals, like copper or magnesium, are present.

13. Rockfoam Lichen Closeup

A closer look at rock foam lichen. When it is dry it feels as rough as it looks.

 14. Orange Oak Leaf

I’m seeing a lot of orange oak leaves this spring and I’m not sure what makes them turn this color. It must be some kind of bacteria or fungus.

15. Hairy Cap Moss aka Polytrichum commune

This hairy cap moss (Polytrichum commune) with its water droplet reminded me that flowers aren’t the only beautiful things to see in spring. There is plenty there for the seeing if only we take the time to look.

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new landscapes, but in having new eyes. ~ Marcel Proust

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Here are some more of those sometimes odd, often beautiful, and always interesting things that I see in the woods.

 1. Poplar Sunburst Lichen

It’s interesting how nature seems to use the same shapes over and over again in different ways. The round fruiting cups, called apothecia, of the Poplar Sunburst Lichen (Xanthoria hasseana) remind me of the suckers on an octopus or squid. Instead of latching onto things however, this lichen uses its cups for spore production. To give you a sense of scale-the largest of those in the photo is about an eighth of an inch across. The entire lichen might have been an inch and a half across.

 2. Many Forked cladonis Lichen

This lichen had me stumped for a while because I thought that beard lichens only grew on trees, and it was growing on stone. One bristly lichen that does grow on stones is called rock bushy lichen (Ramalina intermedia) but it has flattened branches that resemble noodles, and the one in the photo has round branches. I went back to re-visit it the other day and found that, though it was perched on a large boulder, there was soil on the boulder. That fact led me to discover a lichen new to me-the many forked cladonia (Cladonia furcata,) which grows on soil or stone. It is eaten by elk and reindeer in northern latitudes. This is the only example of it in this area that I know of.

 3. Common Liverwort aka Marchantia polymorpha

I went through most of my life ignoring liverworts, but after seeing one or two of them now I see them everywhere. The one in the photo is the common liverwort (Marchantia polymorpha.) It can often be found growing in nursery pots as a weed, but I found this one by a stream. This is also called the umbrella liverwort, because male plants have reproductive structures (Antheridiophores) that look like the ribs of an umbrella. They remind me of palm trees.

 4. Orange Mushroom Gills

Sometimes I like to take a photo of something I see just because I find it interesting or beautiful, without worrying about its name or how and why it grows the way that it does. That’s all that this photo of orange / brown mushroom gills is.

 5. Fallen Mushroom

Sometimes mushrooms are as interesting dead as they are alive. Sometimes even more so.

 6. Virginia Creeper Berries

Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) stems and berries add color to the landscape. I got to these before the birds did. A paper titled “The dissemination of Virginia Creeper Seeds by English Sparrows” by Bartle T. Harvey describes how the author found 70 Virginia creeper seedlings in fifty square feet of ground under a known English sparrow roost in Colorado.

 7. Possible Jack O Lantern Mushrooms

I think these mushrooms might be jack ‘o lantern mushrooms (Omphalotus illudens,) which are orange and fruit in late fall in clusters on wood. If I could see them at night I’d know for sure, because through bio-luminescence this mushroom’s gills glow in the dark. It is said that they glow an eerie green color and work in much the same way that fireflies do. They are also very toxic.

8. Jack O' Lantern Mushrooms

This photo of glowing jack o’ lantern mushrooms is from Wikipedia. Only the gills glow, even though it looks as if the entire mushroom does.

 9. Orange Jelly Fungus

More orange can be found in the forest in the form of orange jelly fungus (Dacrymyces palmatus.) These are very common but I see more of them at this time of year than I do in warmer months.

 10. Hobblebush Buds

Hobblebushes (Viburnum lantanoides) have already grown their spring leaves and they will remain this way, naked and unprotected, throughout the winter months. I got a good lesson on why they are called hobblebush recently when my feet got tangled in the ground hugging branches. They hobbled me and I went down fast and hard. Luckily there were no stones there to fall on-a miracle in the Granite State.

 11. Maaple Leave ViburnamAnother viburnum, maple leaf viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium), has leaves that turn to just about every fall color , including deep purple,  before they finally fade to an almost imperceptible pastel pink before falling to the ground.

 12. Marple Leaf Viburnum

This is an example of just some of the colors that can be found on maple leaf viburnums.

 13. Larch

The few larch trees (Larix) went out in a blaze of color. Larches lose their needles from the bottom up. It is our only conifer that loses all of its needles in the fall.

 14. River Reflections

The shrubs along the river have lost their leaves. The few yellow leaves that appear here and there are on bittersweet vines.

If you will stay close to nature, to its simplicity, to the small things hardly noticeable, those things can unexpectedly become great and immeasurable. ~Rainer Maria Rilke

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