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Posts Tagged ‘Watercress’

1. Stream

Spring is coming slowly this year, mostly because of a temperature roller coaster that can have near zero wind chills one day and 50 degree warmth the next. Still, spring is happening, as the ice free stream in the above photo shows. It’s a stream I know well and it looked so inviting that I decided to follow it one sunny day. There was a lot of snow still in the woods but luckily it had formed a good crust and I could walk along on top of it.

2. Stream Ice

The stream wasn’t completely ice free though. In fact in shady places it still had a thin skim of ice bank to bank. Last fall I saw a brook trout here that was so big it made me gasp with surprise, but I didn’t see any this day.

3. Stream Bottom Growths

I did see some green something on the bed of the stream. I think it might be filamentous algae, but I don’t know for sure.

4. One-rowed water-cress aka Nasturtium microphyllum

Also growing on the stream bed was what I think is one-rowed watercress (Nasturtium microphyllum,) which is originally from Europe and Asia and which, as the all too familiar story goes, has escaped cultivation and found a home in the wild.  The plant is called one-rowed because the seed pods have their seeds in one row instead of the usual two rows found in common watercress (Nasturtium officinale.) I’ve read that it is an aquatic plant but I can’t seem to find out if it will actually grow under water as these do. I think the yellow color of its leaves comes from being under the ice of the stream all winter, which would have cut off light and effectively blanched them.

5. Indian Pipe Seed Pods

It looked like someone had carved tiny wooden flowers and stuck them in the snow for me to find, but of course they were just the seed pods of Indian pipes. Personally I find them much more beautiful in this state than when they’re flowering. They are one of those things that I could lose myself in, and sit and look at for hours.

6. Horsetails

I went to see what horsetails (Equisetum hyemale) looked like in the winter and found that they looked much the same as they do in summer, except that the snow had broken a few. They grow to about knee high here on the stream bank.

7. Horsetail

Horsetails produce spores in their cone shaped tips, but the examples in this spot rarely grow them. Another name for this plant is scouring rush because of all the silica they contain in their tissues. They make great pot scrubbers in a pinch when you’re camping and in Japan they are boiled and dried and then used to smooth wood. They are said to produce a finish superior to any sandpaper. The green, black and tan stripes always remind me of socks.

8. Horsetail

Horsetail stems are hollow and this example was dripping water like a faucet.

9. Droppings

You don’t realize how much stuff falls from evergreen trees until you walk through an evergreen forest in winter. There must be tons of it and I’m so glad that I don’t have to rake it all up.

 10. Alder Tongue Gall

Instead of being caused by an insect like many galls, alder (Alnus incana) tongue gall is caused by a fungus (Taphrina alni). The fungus chemically deforms parts of the ovarian tissue of the female cone-like catkins (strobiles) and causes long, tongue shaped galls known as languets to grow from them. These galls seem to like high humidity so are usually found on alders that grow near swamps, ponds and streams.  These galls have a bright red phase in spring so I’ve got to remember to look for them this year. They blacken over time and the ones pictured are last year’s galls.

11. Grape Tendril

There are many wild grapes growing along this stream and most have reached considerable age. Few people ever come here so they are left to grow on their own. They produce an abundant crop almost every year and on warm days in the fall the woods smell just like grape jelly.

12. European Barberry

European barberry (Berberis vulgaris) and American barberry (Berberis canadensis) both have clusters of 3 or more thorns but since American barberry doesn’t grow in New England this one has to be European barberry. Its red berries were once used medicinally and are rich in vitamin C. They were also used in cooking in much the same way that lemon peel is used today, and the bright yellow inner bark was used to make yellow dye. With so many uses it’s no wonder that early settlers brought it from home, but of course it immediately escaped cultivation and was found growing wild in New England as early as 1671. It’s still here but is nowhere near as invasive as Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii) and in fact can be hard to find. I know of only two plants.

13. Bootstrap Fungus

There are a few dead trees along the stream and this might have something to do with it. Bootstrap fungus is caused by honey mushrooms (Armillaria mellea), which are parasitic on live wood and send out long root like structures called rhizomorphs between the wood of a tree and its bark. When fresh the rhizomorphs are cream colored but darken to brown or black as they age. The fungus is also called armillaria root rot or shoestring root rot. It causes a white pulpy rot in the wood and kills many species of both soft and hardwood trees.

14. Woodpecker Hole

Woodpeckers seem to like it here along the stream, because there was plenty of evidence that they had been here. This hole was quite deep into the tree and I wondered if it was a nesting hole. I saw a pileated woodpecker land on a tree right outside my window one day but I don’t see a lot of their rectangular holes, so he might have been just passing through.

15. Engraver Beetle Damage

Bark beetles sometimes create such beautiful patterns in wood that it looks as if a calligrapher has taken up a chisel instead of a pen. When I think of things like this, created under the bark of a limb and never meant for me to see, that’s when I feel an almost overwhelming sense of gratitude, just for being alive and able to see beauty like this every day.

Go out, go out I beg of you
And taste the beauty of the wild.
Behold the miracle of the earth
With all the wonder of a child.
~Edna Jaques

Thanks for stopping in.

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This post isn’t about any special place or thing-it’s more me rambling around the countryside taking pictures of things that I thought were beautiful, for one reason or another. I hope you’ll think so too.One of the places I visited was a forest near my daughter’s house. This forest is mostly white pine with some spruce, red pine, larch and hardwoods. I saw some interesting things there. This ancient log caught my eye.

I saw large stands of Pipsissewa, Foamflower, and Trailing Arbutus there. Pipsissewa (Chimaphila umbellate) hangs onto its woody seed heads from last year, which aids in identification. It’s a low growing evergreen also known as Prince’s pine and Bitter Wintergreen. Pipsissewa is a Native Cree name meaning “It-breaks-into-small-pieces.” This is because it was used as a treatment for kidney stones and was thought to break them into pieces.

 I thought this aged hemlock root was beautiful. It looked like an artist had carved it and then sanded it smooth and stained part of it. I worked as a gardener for an artist who did similar things with odd pieces of wood. I still have some of them today and consider them beautiful art objects. I wanted the hemlock root to come home and join them but it was still attached to the living tree.

The fuzzy, maple like leaves of foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia) make it easy to identify even without flowers.  Before too long there will be foot long spikes of small, white, star shaped flowers. Nurserymen have developed many new hybrids from this native flower. They spread by underground stems and are excellent for shady spots in the garden.

Vinca has escaped gardens and is doing just what it wants to do, but nobody seems to care. That’s what invasive plants count on-apathy.  The plant is a native of Europe, Asia, and Africa. The Latin vincire which the name comes from means “to bind,” and the long, wiry stems seem like they would be good for that purpose. In gardens either Vinca major or Vinca minor are seen. Vinca major is just a larger, more robust version of Vinca minor, and there are few noticeable differences. These low growing evergreens make excellent groundcovers in shady spots. Even though flowers are blooming I can’t stop looking for lichens. I bought the book Lichens of the North Woods but still don’t feel confident enough to try to positively identify many lichens.  The book has taught me that this is most likely one of the beard lichens, and one way to identify which one is by the color of the lichen at the point where it attaches to the branch. Unfortunately, I didn’t pay any attention when I took this picture. The book points to this one I found growing on a larch limb being fringed wrinkle lichen. Though descriptions say it is brown I always see pink in these.Turkey tail bracket fungi (Trametes versicolor) are so colorful that I can’t pass up a chance to take pictures of them. I see a lot of pink in these too.

This bracket fungus had little color but it and the sunbeam that fell on it seemed to have been posed, ready for picture taking at just that moment.Bluets (Houstonia caerulea) bloomed in patches of afternoon sunlight. Though they are called bluets, these are often white or very pale blue. They can also be shades of purple and pink. They always have a yellow center and 4 petals, no matter the color. Each flower may be only one inch tall and 1/4 inch across, but their habit of growing in colonies improves their chances of being seen. These are common in lawns everywhere and I always mow around them when they grow in mine because they tell me spring is really here. Watercress (Nasturtium officinale) can grow under water in the winter, and in this photo we are looking through 4 or 5 inches of creek water to see it on the creek bed. This is an introduced species from Eurasia that likes to grow in slow running water. It is an edible herb in the mustard family and has a peppery bite to it. False Hellebore (Veratrum viride) grows in wet places just like skunk cabbage. One way to tell it from skunk cabbage is by the deep ribs on the leaves that skunk cabbage doesn’t have. Foragers should beware of this one because the plant is extremely toxic and can kill. Trout lily grows among the hellebore; these are the smaller spotted leaves in the photo which some say look like a brook trout. I’m anxious to see if the flowers are white or yellow and hoping they are yellow (Erythronium americanum).  It is said that undisturbed trout lily colonies can be hundreds of years old. I’d guess that the same is probably true for false hellebore.

Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) bloomed happily in the wet soil beside a drainage ditch. The easiest way to tell this plant from a dandelion is by the red scales along the stem. Dandelion stems are smooth. The old original Latin name translated to “Sons before fathers” because the flowers appear before the leaves. With dandelion the leaves always appear before the flowers. Colts foot isn’t native; it is supposed to have come over from Europe with early New England settlers.

Part of today is going to be spent plant hunting in some different areas. Thanks for stopping in.

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