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Posts Tagged ‘Virgin’s Bower’

1. Split Gill Underside

I loved the look of the underside of this split gill mushroom (Schizophyllum commune.) I’ve heard that the underside of this fungus could be reddish but until I saw this one I had only seen them in white. The gills split lengthwise as it dries out and that’s where its common name comes from. These are “winter mushrooms” and I often find them very late in the year, even when there is snow on the ground.

 2. Cobalt Crust Fungus

The cobalt crust fungus (Terana caerulea) is very beautiful and some say very rare, but I wondered if its rarity was because it grew on the underside of fallen oak limbs where they touch the soil surface. Unless the limb was disturbed it would never be seen, so since seeing this one I have peeked under several old rotting limbs to see if I could find another one. I haven’t seen one so maybe it really is rare. Another name for it is velvet blue spread. It can also come in lavender but since I’m colorblind it will always be blue to me.

3. Burning Bushes

Along the Ashuelot River in Swanzey there is quite a wide swath of invasive burning bushes (Euonymus alatus,) also called winged euonymus. They are protected by the trees overhead so they don’t begin to turn color until quite late. In this photo they are in their dark orangey-pink phase, but before too long they’ll all be pale pastel pink

4. Burning Bush Berries

This is why there are so many burning bushes along that section of river. The birds seem to love their berries. The bushes are beautiful at this time of year but they shade out native plants and create a monoculture, much like purple loosestrife and Japanese knotweed.

5. Virgin's Bower Foliage

Virgin’s bower leaves (Clematis virginiana) have taken on their fall plum purple shade.

 6. Royal Fern

In the fall royal ferns (Osmunda regalis) go from green to yellow, and then to orange brown. They grow in low swampy places along the sides of streams and ponds and are one of our most beautiful fern.

 7. Blackberry Gall

Blackberry seed gall is caused by the blackberry seed gall wasp (Diastrophus cuscutaeformis.) These very small round hollow galls look like seeds and form in clusters around blackberry stems. Each tiny gall has a stiff, hair like spine and together they form a hairy mass like that in the photo.  I showed this same mass here last spring and it was bright yellow-green and I wondered why it was described as brownish red. Now I know that it just needs time to age.

8. Grapes

The many smells of a New England autumn are as pleasing as the foliage colors. One of those smells is that of fermenting grapes, and I have a feeling that the woods will smell like grape jelly for a while this year.

9. Asparagus Berry

Asparagus plants come in male and female, meaning they are dioecious. If you see a small red berry on your asparagus then you have a female plant, but there has to be a male nearby. You also have asparagus seeds, which can be stored in a cool dry place and planted in the spring.  You’ll wait a while for an edible harvest though.

10. Juniper Berries

Some of the junipers are loaded with berries this year. Actually, though they’re called berries, botanically speaking they are fleshy seed cones. Unripe green berries are used to flavor gin and the ripe, deep purple-black berries are the only part of a conifer known to be used as a spice.

 11. Velvet Shank Mushrooms

Velvet shank mushrooms (Flammulina velutipes) are another “winter mushroom” that typically fruits in late fall. I’ve found them with snow on the ground during warm spells in winter, and they can and do survive freezing temperatures. Their stems feel like velvet and, though it can’t be seen well in this photo, are darker at the base and lighten as they get nearer the cap.

12. Fuzzy Foots

I thought these were chanterelle wax cap mushrooms (Hygrocybe cantharellus) but the dark stems didn’t quite match the descriptions. After searching my mushroom books again I realized that they are fuzzy foot mushrooms (Xeromphalina campanella,) so called because of the dense tuft of orange brown hairs at the base of each stem. I found them growing on the side of a mossy log. Each cap is about the same diameter as a nickel. They are one of the most photogenic of all the mushrooms, in my opinion.

13. Blue Crust Fungus

While I was looking for more cobalt crust fungi I found this light blue one instead. Like cobalt crust fungus it grew on a limb where it made contact with the soil. It’s a beautiful thing but I haven’t been able to identify it through books or online. If you’re reading this and happen to know what it is I’d love to hear from you.

 14. Forked Blue Curl Seed Pods

The seeds and seed pods of forked blue curls (Trichostema dichotomum) are so small that I can barely see them, but a macro lens reveals all of the hidden details, including the surprising colors and hairiness of the plant. Each pod carries two tiny seeds and since these plants are annuals those seeds will make sure that a new generation comes along next year.

15. Washed Up Leaves

The object of this post was to show that not all of the beauty is up in the trees at this time of year. We look to the sky and dream of paradise, forgetting that it is all around us, all of the time.

If you are lost inside the beauties of nature, do not try to be found. ~Mehmet Muratildan

Thanks for coming by.

 

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1. Forked Blue Curls

One of my favorite wildflowers is the tiny eastern forked blue curls (Trichostema dichotomum) and it has just started blooming. The plant barely reaches 6 inches tall and the flowers might make a half inch across on a good day, so it’s a challenging plant to photograph. One unusual thing about the flower, other than its unique beauty, is its four long, arching stamens that dust bees with pollen when they land on its lower lip. This plant is an annual that grows from seed each year. It seems to like sandy soil and I find it growing along river banks.

 2. Rosebay Willowherb

Nature must have been in a secret revealing mood as I drove down an old dirt road recently. This very beautiful rosebay willowherb (Chamerion angustifolium) grew just off the side of the road at the edge of a swamp. At least, I think it is rosebay willowherb; I’ve never seen it before and there seems to be some confusion among sources about the regions it grows in. According to the USDA it doesn’t grow in New England, but the University of Maine lists it in its database. Another name for the plant is fireweed and Henry David Thoreau mentions seeing great stands of it in 1857, so I’m wondering if the USDA map is be incorrect. If you live in New Hampshire and have seen this plant I’d love to hear from you.

 3. Bull Thistle

Just look at those thorns. They felt the need to remind me how sharp they were when I was trying to take this photo. Bull thistle (Cirsium vulgare) originally hails from Europe. It is thought to have been introduced in the colonial era and has spread throughout the United States, much to the dismay of farmers and cattle ranchers. It is also called spear thistle, with good reason. I wonder if it was imported intentionally or accidentally.

 4. Broad Leaved Helleborine aka Epipactis helleborine

Another European import is the broad leaved helleborine orchid (Epipactis helleborine.) Imported as an ornamental in the 1800s, it escaped cultivation and found a new home. It could hardly be called invasive in this area though; I know of only two places where it grows and in one of those places there is just a single plant. It grows to about knee high in deep shade, making it a challenge to photograph.

5. Broad Leaved Helleborine aka Epipactis helleborine

The pencil eraser size flowers of broad leaved helleborine resemble our pink ladies slipper in shape but are mostly green with hints of purple. Some plants have flowers that are much more purple than others. Its leaves closely resemble those of false hellebore (Veratrum viride) but are much smaller.

 6. Burdock Flower

Burdock (Arctium lappa) is a good example of a biennial plant. In the first year of life it grows leaves and in the second year it flowers, sets seeds, and dies. This is what biennials do, so we know that its tubular flowers with purple stamens and white styles signal that it is close to finishing its journey. There is no reason to grieve though, because the germination rate of its seeds is high and there will surely be burdocks for many years to come.

Burdock is said to have been introduced from Europe because it was noted in 1672 by self-styled naturalist John Josselyn, who wrote that it had “sprung up since the English Planted and kept Cattle in New-England.” He said the same thing about the dandelion, but fossil evidence proved him wrong. Native American tribes across the country had many uses for burdock, both as a medicine and food, so some form of the plant had to have been here long before European settlers arrived.

7. Flowering Raspberry

Many plants have had an extended bloom period this year and purple flowering raspberry (Rubus odoratus) is no exception. I’m still seeing its flowers here and there, even though the plant usually stops blooming a month after it starts in mid-June. I’ve always liked its two inch, rose like blossoms. If you’re looking for a shade tolerant flowering shrub this one is a good choice.

8. Flowering Raspberry Fruit

Purple flowering raspberry is closely related to thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus) and gets its common name from its large, raspberry like fruit. I’ve never eaten one but some say that they’re close to tasteless and others say they taste like dried raspberries. The plant is unreliable as a source of berries though; I’ve seen many clusters with no fruit at all and others that had 5 or 6 flowers bearing only a single berry.

 9. Purple Loosestrife

Goldenrod and Queen Anne’s lace line the shores of a sea of purple loosestrife. This is a good example of how invasive purple loosestrife chokes out native plants and creates a monoculture. Not that long ago this area was full of native wildflowers but soon purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) is all that will be seen here.

10. Purple Coneflower

Though eastern purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) is a native wildflower I don’t often find it growing outside of gardens. Native American plains tribes used this plant to treat toothaches, coughs, colds, sore throats, and snake bite. Something interesting that I read recently said that Native Americans got the idea that coneflower could be used medicinally by watching sick and injured elk eat the plants. I’ve always wondered how natives came to know if a plant was poisonous or not and thought that they must have simply used trial and error. Pity the one who had to try an unknown plant for the first time.

11. Slender Fragrant Goldenrod

I usually stay away from goldenrod identification because there are so many of them that even botanists get confused, but slender fragrant goldenrod (Solidago tenuifolia) is easy because of its long, slender leaves and its fragrance. The only other similar goldenrod is the lance leaved goldenrod (Solidago graminifolia) but its leaves are wider and have 3 to 5 veins as opposed to the single vein in a slender fragrant goldenrod leaf.  Still, I always smell them just to be sure.

12. Rabbit's Foot Clover

Invasive rabbit’s foot clover (Trifolium arvense) is short enough to be forced to grow right at the edge of the road if it wants to get any sunshine, so the roads look like they have been festooned with fuzzy pink ribbons for a while each summer. It’s an annual that grows new from seed each year and the seedlings must be tough, because they don’t seem to mind being occasionally run over, or the poor dry soil found along the road side. In fact they seem to thrive in it. I see more plants each year.

13. Virgin's Bower

Virgin’s bower (Clematis virginiana) has draped itself over the shrubs alongside our roads and its small white flowers are another reminder that fall is near. Another name for this vine is traveler’s joy, which it is. Native American used it medicinally but it is toxic and can cause severe mouth pain if any parts of it are eaten.

 14. Bottle Gentians

Twenty five years ago or so I was hiking along an old forgotten dirt road through a Massachusetts forest and came upon a single fringed gentian plant (Gentianopsis crinita.) That was the only gentian I had ever seen in my lifetime until just the other day, when I saw these bottle gentians (Gentiana andrewsii) growing alongside the same road that the rosebay willowherbs were on. It’s a good thing there was no traffic because I jammed on my brakes and jumped out to admire them. They are extremely rare in these parts and I was as excited to see them as I would have been to have seen a field full of orchids.

NOTE: I’ve just discovered that these are narrow leaved gentians (Gentiana linearis.) I’m sorry about the confusion.

 

15. Bottle Gentian

Bottle gentians are often called closed bottle gentians because the flowers stay closed just as they are in the photo, even when they are ready to be pollinated. Few insects are strong enough to pry the flower parts open to get at the nectar and pollen, but bumblebees are usually successful. Their selective method of pollination and the fact that most of their seedlings die off before flowering might account for this plant’s rarity. Since its seeds are too small to interest birds and its foliage too bitter to interest herbivores, it is said that bottle gentians have very little ecological value. It’s almost as if they’re here simply to be admired by humans.

He who is born with a silver spoon in his mouth is generally considered a fortunate person, but his good fortune is small compared to that of the happy mortal who enters this world with a passion for flowers in his soul.  ~Celia Thaxter

Thanks for coming by.

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 1. Rail Trail

Last weekend really felt like spring with warm sunshine and warm southwesterly breezes blowing, so I decided to walk an old rail trail that runs right behind the house I grew up in. When I was a boy there were railroad tracks here and I spent many hours walking along them. Now snowmobiles get the most use out of the area. I appreciate them packing the snow down so you don’t need snowshoes, but it means that there is far less solitude here than there used to be.

 2. Wild Cucumber

There are many things along this old rail bed that take me back to my childhood, including the wild cucumbers (Echinocystis lobata) that we all used to throw at each other. This is one of the plants that made me want to know more about why and how plants grew the way they did. I had lots of questions and since nobody I knew could answer them, when I got a little older I turned to books like Asa Gray’s Manual of Botany.

 3. Black Raspberry First Year Cane 

By reading Gray’s Manual and other botany books I was able to answer many questions, like why do some plants have this bluish white coating on them? I learned that, in botanical terms, a plant part that looks like this is said to be glaucous, which describes the color. The coating is called bloom and is a wax which can protect the plant from sunburn, prevent moisture loss, or help shed excess water from the leaves.  I see it mostly on plums and blueberries.

In the case of the plant in the above photo the bloom on the cane (along with the prickles) taught me that it was a black raspberry, rather than a red raspberry or a blackberry. I also learned that bloom on canes means that they are first year vegetative canes (primocanes) that would bear no fruit until their second year. There were plenty of others that did bear fruit though, and I used to eat bellyfuls of them.

 4. Winter Woods

At one time there were large fields of corn growing along the rail bed but now some of the land has started reverting back to forest.  Most of the trees seen here can’t be more than 40-45 years old. Knowing that I’m older than the trees brings on kind of an odd feeling.

I learned how badly corn plants can make you itch can be by running through the cornfields that were once here. Each corn leaf has tiny, saw tooth serrations on its edges that can cause quite a rash on exposed skin. Of course I could have prevented it by wearing a long sleeved shirt, but you would have had to have hog tied me to get long sleeves on me in the summer.

 5. Virgin's Bower Seeds

My grandmother taught me about the wind blowing pollen from one corn plant to another, but here on the tracks is where I learned how other plants use the wind. Virgin’s bower (Clematis virginiana) for instance, grows long feathery filaments called styles on its seeds (fruits) so the wind can carry them long distances. Botanically speaking these “seeds” are achenes, which are fruits with one seed. This is a common plant seen draped over shrubs and climbing into trees all along these tracks.

 6. Feathers-2

Every time I see a feather stuck in a bush I wonder what bird left it there. I usually come away scratching my head and this time was no different.  It’s odd that the wind can send clematis seeds flying, but feathers seem to stay stuck fast to whatever they land on.

 7. Ash Swamp Brook in Winter

Ash Swamp brook meanders lazily through Keene before finally meeting the Ashuelot River here.  I spent many happy hours exploring this place as a boy. Coming this far south down the tracks was quite an excursion but it was always worth it. Very near here the banks of the river are high and sandy and bank swallows used to nest there. Watching them come and go was always good for an afternoon’s entertainment.

 8. Willow Branches

Spring never came by the calendar here. I learned early on that plants could tell you more than the calendar ever could. Willows for example, take on a golden hue when they feel spring coming on.

 9. Pinecone Gall on Willow 

The coming of spring wasn’t the only thing willows taught me to see.  Willows often have pine cone galls on them, caused by a gall midge (Rhabdophaga strobiloides). The midge lays an egg in the terminal leaf bud of a willow in early spring and the larva releases a chemical that tricks the willow into creating this gall instead of leaves. The midge spends winter inside the gall and emerges in the following spring, so the entire cycle takes a full year. It is fascinating things like this, found all along these railroad tracks, which let nature get its hooks into me early on.

10. American Hazelnut Catkins

This is where I also started paying attention to things like catkins; though half a century later I still struggle with the identity of some of the shrubs and trees I find them on. American hazelnut (Corylus Americana) catkins are easy because of the hairy young twigs they often hang from. These hairs are called stipitate glands. Botanically speaking a stipitate gland is a gland on the end of a stalk (stipe).  If you find a hazelnut that doesn’t have hairy young twigs and leaf petioles, it is a beaked hazelnut (Corylus cornuta).

11. Elderberry Buds

We used to make small “pipes” by hollowing out an acorn, putting a hole through the side of it, and then inserting a pipe stem. The choice for the pipe stem was always elderberry because it has soft pith that is easily pushed out of the stem with a hardwood twig.  American elderberry (Sambucus Canadensis) pith is white and spongy, so when you pinch its twigs between your thumb and forefinger they will deform. If it doesn’t deform it isn’t elderberry.  It’s a good thing that we kids never smoked anything in these pipes because elderberry is toxic, especially to kids who make whistles and pipe stems from its parts.

12. Puddle Ice 3

Nothing takes me back to my boyhood at this time of year like the white ice on mud puddles. I remember, once the snow melted off the roads, riding my bike to school through the ice covered puddles that froze at night and melted during the day. I can remember how my spirit soared knowing that once the white ice appeared on the puddles it wouldn’t be long until summer because these were special puddles, not caused by rain but by snow melt. Soon the red sox would once again play at Fenway Park, school would be over until fall, and everything would be right with the world. There was as much joy in the anticipation of the event as there was in the event itself. Lately I’ve been feeling that same joy anticipating the arrival of spring.

I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in tune once more.  ~ John Burroughs

Thanks for coming by.

 

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Here are a few more examples of what’s blooming in southwestern New Hampshire right now.

 1. Buttonbush

Native button bush (Cephalanthus occidentalis) is blooming along rivers and ponds now, but it isn’t real common. This plant is a shrub that can reach 12 feet tall. The flowers are unusual-the spiky pistils stick out quite far above the petals, giving the round flower head the look of a pincushion. Native Americans used the roots and bark of these shrubs medicinally but modern science has found that the plant contains a compound called cephalanthin, which destroys red blood cells.

 2. American Burr Reed aka Sparganium americanum

American bur reed (Sparganium americanum) looks almost like a miniature version of the button bush in the previous photo. Since they both like water they are often found growing together on the same stretch of shoreline. The round, spiky female flowers of burr reed grow at the bottom of the stem and the male flowers with yellow stamens above them. Ducks and other waterfowl love the seeds.

 3. Partridge Pea

In New Hampshire native partridge pea (Chamaecrista fasciculate) is a quiet little plant that grows in the tall grass at the edge of the woods and you really don’t hear much about it. In other areas it is often grown for honey production.  This annual plant is a legume in the pea family and is a great addition to a wildflower garden because it attracts a large variety of insects and wild life.

 4. Showy Tick Trefoil

Showy tick trefoil (Desmodium canadense) is another legume in the bean family but it is a perennial. I like it because it blooms in late summer along with goldenrod and I think that the colors go well together. This plant gets its name from the little barbed hairs that cover the seed pods and stick to clothing like ticks. Deer, rabbits, woodchucks and even cows love to eat this plant. Books and websites say its flower is pink but my color finding software sees purple in this photo, and so do I.

5. Hedge Bindweed

I see a lot of white hedge bindweed (Calystegia sepium) but not many bi-color flowers like this one. It’s a beauty.

6. Yellow Toadflax aka Linaria vulgaris

Yellow toadflax was introduced from Europe and Asia as an ornamental but as the old, familiar story goes; it escaped cultivation and is now found on roadsides and in pastures of every state in the country except Hawaii. Called butter and eggs, this plant is hated by cattlemen because it can take over large areas of pasture. Cattle know it is toxic and don’t touch it.

 7. Virgin's Bower

Virgin’s bower (Clematis virginiana) is a late summer blooming native clematis vine that drapes itself over shrubs so it can get all of the sunshine that it wants. I’ve also seen it climbing into trees.

 8. Virgin's Bower

The flowers of virgin’s bower resemble those of sweet autumn clematis (Clematis paniculata), which is a nonnative garden climber that has escaped. The plant is also called old man’s beard and devils’ darning needles. An extract made from it is hallucinogenic and was used by Native Americans to induce dreams. Mixed with other plants like milkweed, it was also used medicinally. It is a very toxic plant that can cause painful sores in the mouth, so it no part of it should ever be eaten.

 9. Wild Cucumber

Native wild cucumber (Echinocystis lobata) is another late summer blooming vine that climbs on shrubs and trees. It likes to grow in sandy soil and prefers shade over full sun. The flower spikes (Racemes) grow to 6 inches or more all along the main stem. These plants are annuals and grow from seed each year. The spiny, 2 inch long fruits have a watermelon shape and boys have been throwing them at each other for as long as I’ve been around. The fruit is not edible.

 10. Wild Cucumber

The greenish white, star shaped male flowers of wild cucumber have 6 petals that are twisted slightly. The female flowers are yellowish green and not at all showy. They grow at the base of the male flower stems. There is usually only one female flower for every 5 or 6 male flowers, which is why there are so few fruits seen on each vine.

11. Black Swallowort aka Cynanchum louiseae

Plant breeders have been trying for centuries to breed a plant with black flowers but nature beat them to it with black swallow-wort (Cynanchum louiseae). The flowers can be black to dark purple and look like tiny stars. This plant is native to Italy, France, Portugal, and Spain and in 1854 it escaped from a botanical garden here in the U.S. and has been trying to take over since. It grows long, wire-like vines that are strong enough to trip you up without breaking. It is for that reason its other common name, dog strangler, came about.

 12. Mad Dog Skullcap

The seed pods of native mad dog skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora) might look like an old fashioned skullcap, but the only thing the plant has to do with mad dogs is the erroneous belief that the it cured rabies. Mad-Dog Skullcap has the smallest flowers among the various skullcaps and they always grow in pairs in the leaf axils. These plants are quite small to begin with but many plants that grow on river banks where the river floods regularly can be stunted and quite smaller than usual, and I think that is what happened to these plants. These flowers were very small-no more than 1/8 of an inch long.

13. Dwarf St. Johnswort aka Hypericum mutilum

Dwarf St. Johnswort  (Hypericum mutilum) grows on the riverbank with the mad dog skullcap but it grows small naturally instead of being stunted. These flowers were about the same diameter as a pencil eraser. Like its bigger cousins the leaves of this plant contain a compound called hypericin, which can make light skinned people more susceptible to sunburn by way of a photosensitive reaction.

14. Forked Blue Curls

Another small flower I find on the upper gravel part of the riverbank is the forked blue curl (Trichostema dichotomum.) These are annual plants that grow from seed each year and I was afraid that all the seeds would have washed away in last spring’s flooding, but here they are. They are very small and you have to get down on your hands and knees for a view like this but it’s worth it because they are beautiful. This native plant grows as far west as Texas.

If you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it’s your world for a moment. ~Georgia O’Keefe

Thanks for coming by.

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On the day after Christmas, we had a 4 or 5 inch snowfall and then, with a day or so in between, we had another storm just like the first. This is the first real snow we’ve had since the Halloween storm of 2011. These pictures were taken during shoveling breaks.

1. Snowy Road

The snowy roads make us drive slower, which means we have more time to admire the landscape.

 2. Snowy Path

The snow on the trails isn’t deep enough to warrant snow shoes, which means I huff and puff a little more, which might mean that I’ll burn more calories, and that’s always a good thing.

3. Snowy Weed

Light, fluffy snow covers everything.

4. Snowy Oak Leaf

5. Virgin's Bower

6. Sedum Seed Head

7. Snowflakes

I decided to see what would happen if I took pictures of the snow at night with a flash. Even though they were shot in macro mode these photos have to be cropped to about 1/10-1/20th of their original size to show any real detail.

 8. Snow Crystals 2

In this one you can see what looks like the geometric shape of a single snowflake in the middle/lower right corner. An average snowflake is made up of 180 billion drops of water vapor.

9. Blue Sky

 The snow seems to deepen the blue of the sky and the morning after the storm it was beautiful. The color finding software I use to cheat color blindness tells me it is cornflower blue.

To appreciate the beauty of a snow flake it is necessary to stand out in the cold ~Anonymous

I hope everyone had a safe and happy New Year’s celebration. Thanks for stopping in.

 

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This is another post full of all of those pictures that don’t seem to fit in other posts.

 Well, leave it to beavers. I found a spot where they had dammed up a small stream so close to the road that the road was in danger of flooding. The town will destroy the dam and let the water drain, and then the beavers will dam it back up. This goes on a lot around here and if the beavers persist they will eventually be trapped and relocated.

Beavers can sense when the water level is dropping, even from inside their lodge.

This flock of turkeys wasn’t much better behaved-they were scratching up a golf course.

I tried to puff one of these puff balls but instead of puffing it dribbled a pinkish brown liquid.  That’s because it was a wolf’s milk slime mold (Lycogala epidendrum) and not a puffball.

Eastern larch trees, also called tamarack larch or just tamarack, (Larix laricina) turn brilliant golden yellow in the fall and are one of the few conifers that shed their needles in winter. This tree, for some reason, decided to turn orange this year, which is something I’ve never seen. It could be a Japanese or European larch, which I’ve heard sometimes turn yellow-orange. They also have longer needles and larger cones than our native trees.

I wanted to get as close as I could to these common burdock (Arctium minus) seed heads so we could see what made them stick to everything so readily. As the photo shows, each bract is barbed at the tip like a fish hook. This plant is very dangerous to small birds like goldfinches and hummingbirds that can get caught in its burr clusters. If they can’t break free they will die of starvation. This grasshopper sat in the sun on a post and let me click away as much as I wanted. I thought he might yawn from boredom.

Thousands of virgin’s bower (Clematis virginiana) seed heads can be seen on vines draped over trees and shrubs along roadsides. I like the way they resemble feathers.

Pinesap plants (Hypopitys hypopitys) have also gone to seed. You can tell that they’re pinesaps and not Indian pipes (Monotropa uniflora) by the multiple spent flowers along the stem.  Indian pipes have a single flower at the end of a stalk. Pinesaps are also yellowish to reddish and Indian pipes are usually white. Oriental Bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus) berries are ripe when the orange outer husks open to reveal the dark red berry. Oriental bittersweet is a very invasive vine that smothers shrubs and chokes out trees. One way to tell it from the much less invasive American bittersweet is by the berry cluster locations. American bittersweet (Celastrus scandens) fruits at the tips of its stems and oriental bittersweet fruits all along the stem.

Even though it is also very invasive-so much so that it is now banned from being sold-it’s hard to think of anything quite as beautiful as a grove of burning bush (Euonymus alatus) in the fall woods. This shrub is also called winged euonymus. 

I wondered who had been eating all the mushrooms in the forest before I could get pictures of them, and now I know. I’m surprised that this gray squirrel was snacking while sitting on the ground though, because I usually find mushroom stems and pieces up on logs or flat stones that have been used as tables. 

This part of New Hampshire has an abundant black bear population and I’ve even had them in my yard a few times. I’ve been wondering when I would meet up with one in the woods though, and have been hoping that he or she will have read the same literature that I have and will magically run away when I clap my hands and yell “Hey Bear!!”  Of course, that plan hinges on whether I can still speak and move when we meet. Anyhow, this cave looked like a likely place for a bear to hang out, but I didn’t see one in or around it. 

Every time I see this black cormorant the sun is behind him and he is too far away for a flash to have any effect. This makes for some very challenging photography and I’m beginning to wonder if this bird isn’t smart enough to want it that way. He seems to be getting used to people though, and let me walk right out into the open on shore to get his picture. I’ve read that this spread wing posture is common among these birds but this was the first time I saw him do it. Black cormorants are quite large with wingspans of 5 or 6 feet.

The farther one gets into the wilderness, the greater is the attraction of its lonely freedom~ Theodore Roosevelt

Special note: I have finally gotten around to updating my favorite links, found on the far right side of this page. The blog names that I’ve added are indeed favorites and I read each one daily. If you would like to learn more about nature in other parts of the country and the world, I hope you’ll take a look at each one.

Thanks for stopping by.

 

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It is still very dry here and some small ponds and streams have dried up completely just over the past week. There are shady woods and moist places near the larger ponds and rivers where plants still bloom though. Here are some tough plants that are more used to adverse conditions. Our native rhododendron (Rhododendron Maximum) blooms much later than cultivated varieties-usually about mid-July. A 16 acre grove in Rhododendron State Park in Fitzwilliam, New Hampshire is the northern limit of these plants. The grove is the largest in northern New England and was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1982. There are also wildflower trails through the park, but there is little to be seen in the deep woods at this time of year.Whorled Wood Asters (Oclemena acuminate) have also just started blooming. The aster family is very large and many asters can be hard to identify but the strange, fly away petals on this one make it a little easier than most. Other common names for this native plant include Mountain Aster and Sharp-leaved Aster. The name “whorled aster” comes from the leaves appearing to grow in a whorl even though it isn’t a true whorl. Another common name for all asters is “goodbye summer.”  I found them growing at the edge of the woods.Another plant that says goodbye summer is goldenrod. The plant pictured is gray stemmed goldenrod (Solidago nemoralis.) Goldenrod is a family with 125 or more species that are often hard for even botanists to identify, but this one is easy because of the way the flower grows mostly on one side of the stem, like they’ve been in a strong wind. The grayish stem usually arches slightly as well and the plant has small leaflets in the leaf axils. Goldenrod is usually blamed for people’s hay fever but goldenrod pollen is so heavy and sticky that you couldn’t get it to go up your nose if you buried your head in a stand of it and sniffed as hard as you could. The real cause of allergic reactions is ragweed, which blooms at the same time and has fine, dust like pollen grains that are carried on the wind. This is my favorite goldenrod because it is very fragrant. I found this slender fragrant goldenrod (Solidago tenuifolia) growing in a crack in a sidewalk. This plant is similar to lance leaved goldenrod, but the two can be told apart by leaf veining; slender fragrant goldenrod has only one vein running down the center of each leaf and lance leaved goldenrod has several veins. Other common names are Sweet goldenrod, wound weed, Blue Mountain tea, sweet-scented goldenrod, anise-scented goldenrod, and true goldenrod. Goldenrods like dry, sunny places and don’t mind sandy soil. This native grows much shorter than most-usually about knee high.Native smooth sumac (Rhus glabra) flowers look much like those on stag horn sumac, but that’s really the only thing about this plant that looks like it. The leaves are very shiny and leathery feeling on smooth sumac and are a kind of dull, matte finish and thin on stag horn sumac. The main difference though, is the lack of “velvet” on smooth sumac stems and leaves. Stag horn sumac stems and leaves are covered in fine hairs, but you won’t find any on this plant. Smooth sumac stems are also apt to be crooked and somewhat shorter. This butter and eggs (Linaria vulgaris) plant was growing happily beside a sidewalk. This is a beautiful plant that is in the toadflax family with flowers much larger and showier than blue toadflax. It was introduced from the Mediterranean region of Europe and quickly escaped and began colonizing its new home. I can think of worse plants to have as weeds-at least this one is showy with its snap dragon like blooms. This plant is also called Yellow Toadflax. Creeping Bellflower (Campanula rapunculoides) is a familiar sight around these parts, but we usually expect to see it later in the year. Like many of the plants in this post, it is blooming nearly a full month early. This one is easy to identify because of the strange way all the flowers line up on one side of the stem and all point in almost the same direction. The bracts at the base of the flower that fold back away from it are also good identifiers. This plant is another European native that has escaped garden borders and become an invasive pest. But it’s a pretty one. It looks like it’s going to be a good berry year for American Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens) and that’s a good thing as far as I’m concerned, because I like to eat them. My grandmother always called this plant checkerberry but I have always called it teaberry because the berries taste just like teaberry gum. A handful of berries from these native plants are quite refreshing on a hot autumn hike. Many birds, small animals and even not so small animals like black bears like the minty, bright red berries so you have to be quick. Wild Canada Lettuce (Lactuca canadensis) has sent up its tall spikes and is just starting to blossom. Every time I see this plant I wonder why it needs a 7 or 8 foot tall flower stalk to support tiny flowers that aren’t as big as a dime. This plant grows in every state except Arizona and Nevada, so it might look familiar. Anyone who has had their garden lettuce bolt and go to seed knows how bitter it can be afterwards. Wild lettuce has the same bitterness virtually all the time, so even though it is edible not many will eat it. Native Americans used the white sap to cure warts. Some native lettuce species have blue flowers, and I’m hoping to find them.Tall milkweed (Asclepias exaltata) is a native plant that I don’t see very often. I found a few plants growing at the edge of a forest under some pine trees where they couldn’t have gotten very much sun or rain. I have read that tall milkweed grows as tall as swamp and common milkweeds, but these plants were so short that at first I wasn’t sure that they were tall milkweed. The drooping, bicolored flowers finally convinced me that I had the correct plant. This is also called poke milkweed. Unless it is flowering it could be easily confused with swamp milkweed. I found this spotted knapweed growing along the very edge of a busy road. There were so many cars going by that the plant acted like it was caught in a strong wind storm, swaying this way and that constantly. Finally there was a gap in the traffic and I was able to snap a few pictures. If I’d had my wits about me and wasn’t wondering when I’d be run over I would have taken a closer shot of the bracts under the flower head.  A while ago I posted a picture of a brown knapweed which looks nearly identical to the spotted. The best way to tell them apart is by the color of the tips of the bracts, but unfortunately I didn’t get a picture of them. Spotted knapweed has very obvious vertical veins under the black triangular spots on the tips of the bracts. This plant is considered a noxious weed and some people find it toxic, breaking out in a rash if they touch it. Virgin’s bower (Clematis virginiana) is a plant that seems to go to seed overnight so I felt lucky to catch this one still blooming. It is also another fall plant that is blooming a month or so early. I found it draped over some viburnums at the edge of the forest. Virgin’s bower is also called Devil’s darning needles and Old Man’s Beard because of the feathery, twisted seed heads that appear after the female blossoms. If you can stand seeing another goldenrod I’d like to show you this rough stemmed goldenrod (Solidago rugosa) because it is one of the few species of goldenrod that is easily identified. What makes it so easy is its branching habit that gives the flower head the look of an elm tree. An elm has a straight, tall trunk that suddenly branches out in all directions to form a vase shaped crown, and that is exactly what this goldenrod does. It is one of the few that I recognize because of its shape.Bouncing bet (Saponaria officinalis) gets her common name from the way the strangely curved petals bounce in a breeze. This plant has 5 petals and 10 stamens. Those two things along with the backward bending petals make this one easy to identify. The flowers will be pink or lavender in full sun and whiter in shade. They open toward evening, which is a habit directly opposite of plants like blue eyed grass and evening primrose. Another common name for this plant is soapwort, and that is because its leaves contain a natural soap called sapronin. When the leaves are crushed and scrubbed together in water a soapy lather will appear. In the past this plant was used for washing clothes and making soap. Bouncing bet hails from Europe and is considered toxic. Some people have violent toxic reactions to it. The flowers of enchanter’s nightshade (Circaea lutetiana) are quite small but easily identified by the two stamens that protrude from the flower, the two pink, curved sepals behind the 2 petals, and the round calyx that is covered in fine white hairs. If you don’t notice this plant in the moist, shady woods where it grows, you might notice it when you get home because the small round seed pods will readily stick to your clothes. Enchanter’s nightshade isn’t a nightshade at all, but is related to evening primroses.

In Homer’s Odyssey Circe the enchantress drugged Odysseus’ crew and turned them into swine. Circe, “the dread goddess who walks with mortals,” who was the daughter of the sun and granddaughter of the oceans, gives enchanter’s nightshade its scientific name Circaea, and some say the plant was included in the potion she gave to Odysseus’ crew.

Nature will bear the closest inspection.  She invites us to lay our eye level with her smallest leaf, and take an insect view of its plain.  ~Henry David Thoreau

As always, I appreciate you 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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