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Posts Tagged ‘White Ash’

1. Deformed Alder Cone

I saw this deformed speckled alder cone (Alnus incana) and took a couple of photos of it.  I can’t tell you what it says but it speaks to me and I like it, so here it is.

2. Apple Moss

Some of our mosses have started producing spores, like the apple moss (Bartramia pomiformis) pictured here. Reproduction begins in the late fall for this moss and immature spore capsules (sporophytes) appear by late winter. When the warm rains of spring arrive the straight, toothpick like sporophytes swell at their tips and form tiny globes that always look like pearls to me, but someone thought they looked like apples and the name stuck.  Sometimes the capsules do turn red as they age, so I guess the name is appropriate.  When there are no sporophytes showing this moss is easily confused with broom moss (Dicranum scoparium.) I know how easy it is to do, because I confuse the two all the time. The leaves look almost identical, but those of broom moss are not as shiny.

3. Star Moss aka Mnium cuspidatum spore capsules

Star moss (Mnium cuspidatum) is also not wasting any time in spore production. I wanted to show you it’s leaves but they were so small and curled because of dryness, I couldn’t get a good shot of them. Like the apple moss we saw previously this moss makes immature toothpick like sporophytes in late fall, and then they swell to form capsules when the warm spring rains arrive. The capsules droop at the tip as seen in the photo. You can tell that they haven’t fully matured by the tiny, whitish stocking cap like structure, called a calyptra, which covers the end of the spore case. It stays in place until the spores are ready to be released. This moss is very short and grows just about anywhere, including in lawns. I found this example on the wet rocks along a rail trail.

4. Downy Rattlesnake Plantain Orchids

I went looking for my old friend the downy rattlesnake plantain orchid (Goodyera pubescens) and even though I know where it lives I walked by it several times before I found it. You would think the color would stand out against the brown leaves but I can look right at it and not see it sometimes. Maybe colorblindness has something to do with it. In any event I went looking for it because I love the color and netting on its leaves and I just wanted to see it again. It’s another one of those plants that I can sit beside and just admire.

 5. Downy Woodpecker

While I was walking back and forth searching for the downy rattlesnake plantain a downy woodpecker said maybe I’ll do instead and flew down onto the path a few feet away. He didn’t stay long though, and by the time I had finished fumbling around with my camera he had found a tree just out of the comfortable range of the lens. He stayed relatively close for quite a while though, letting me snap away. I think he knew he was too far away for my camera and that all of the photos would be soft and fuzzy.

Note: A reader has pointed out that this is a female hairy woodpecker. It’s a good thing I don’t get many bird photos!

 6. Woodpecker Hole

I wondered if he was the woodpecker that excavated this cavity in an old dead pine. It was close to where we were when I saw him.

7. Beard Lichen

Near the woodpecker tree a beard lichen hung from the end of a fallen branch. I have a hard time passing a beard lichen as big as this one was without taking a photo. I think it might be boreal oak moss (Evernia mesomorpha.) The forest I was exploring when I found all of these things is a strange place with plants that you rarely see anywhere else, like larch, spruce, and striped wintergreen. It has a very boreal feel to it, like it really belongs up in Canada.

8. Ice in the Woods

The calendar might say spring but winter is hanging on for dear life this year and doesn’t want to let go. In shady places in the deep woods there is still snow and ice to be found.

 9. Horsetail

Last year I found a place where hundreds of field horsetails (Equisetum arvense) grew, but this year there were just three shoots. If any of you have had horsetails in your garden you know that they don’t give up easily, so I couldn’t imagine how hundreds became three. It turned out that the cold was holding them back I think, because there are more coming along now.

10. Horsetail

One of them was far enough along to start producing spores. The fertile spore bearing stem of a common or field horsetail ends in a light brown, cone shaped structure called a strobilus. Since it doesn’t photosynthesize at this point in its development the plant has no need for chlorophyll, so most of it is a pale, whitish color. When it’s ready to release its spores the cone opens to reveal tiny, mushroom shaped sporangiophores. The whitish “ruffles” at the base of each brown sporangiophore are the spore producing sporangia. When the horsetail looks like the one in the photo it has released its spores and will soon die and be replaced by the gritty green infertile stems that most of us are probably familiar with. Horsetails were used as medicine by the ancient Romans and Greeks to treat a variety of ailments.

11. Solomon's Seal Shoot

The two toned buds of Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum biflorum) are poking up everywhere now. This is a fast growing plant once it gets started and it won’t be long before it blooms. Native Americans sprinkled dried powdered roots of this plant on hot stones and inhaled the smoke to alleviate headaches. All parts of the plant except the roots and young shoots are poisonous, but that’s assuming you know how to prepare the roots and young shoots correctly. Sometimes the preparation method is what makes a plant useable.

12. Striped Maple Buds

The pinkish leaf buds of striped maple (Acer pensylvanicum) are growing quickly now. They often show hints of orange too and are quite beautiful at this stage; in my opinion one of the most beautiful things in the forest at this time of year. It’s interesting how the bud scales on the two smaller lateral buds open perpendicular to those on the terminal bud. I’ve never noticed that before.

 13. Striped Maple Bark

This is how striped maple comes by its common name. Striped maple bark is often dark enough to be almost black, especially on its branches. This tree never seems to get very big so it isn’t used much for lumber like other maples. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one bigger than my wrist, and even that might be stretching it. It could be that it stays small because it usually gets very little direct sunlight. The green stripes on its bark allow it to photosynthesize in early spring before other trees leaf out but it’s still the most shade tolerant of all the maples, and that’s usually where it’s found. It is said that Native Americans made arrow shafts from its straight grained wood.

14. White Ash Buds aka Fraxinus americana

The male flower buds of American white ash (Fraxinus americana) appear before the leaves do and look like little blackberries from a distance. According to the U.S. Forest Service one of the earliest reported uses of white ash was as a snake bite preventive. Ash leaves in a hunter’s pocket or boots were “proved” to be offensive to rattlesnakes and thereby provided protection from them. It is said that we have timber rattlers here but since I’ve never seen one I don’t think I’ll put ash leaves in my boots just yet.

15. Box Elder Flowers

Box elder (Acer negundo) was the first tree I ever planted. The tree’s male flowers appear here but my grandmother had a big female one in her front yard that dropped about a billion seeds each year. She knew that if they all grew their roots would destroy the brick foundation, so every few years she would pay me a quarter to go around the house and pull all the seedlings. One day I found a nice tall one that I liked so I pulled it up, took it home, and planted it. That tree took off like I had given it super strength fertilizer and last I knew was still growing strong. It was another one of those times that a plant spoke to me and told me that they and I just might get along.  When you really love them they can tell, of that I’m convinced.

16. Tree Moss

Somehow this post ended up being a little tree heavy but sometimes that’s just the way it works out. The subject of the above photo isn’t a tree but it is called tree moss (Climacium dendroides) because of its resemblance. This tough little moss loves wet places that flood occasionally so I always look for it when I’m near water. It always seems to glow from within, happy to simply be alive.

I meant to do my work today, but a brown bird sang in the apple tree, and a butterfly flitted across the field, and all the leaves were calling. ~Richard le Gallienn

Thanks for coming by.

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I think it’s time for another post full of all of those things I see that don’t seem to fit in with the flowers. I never saw a pine tree with blue (purple?) cones until I saw this one at a local park.  I’ve searched books and online extensively and the only other tree that I can find that even remotely resembles this one is called a Bosnian Pine (Pinus heldreichii var. Leucodermis or Mint Truffle.) Several cultivars of that plant have cones very similar to these.Indian pipes (Monotropa uniflora) are just starting to come up in our area. Indian pipe has no chlorophyll so it can’t make its own food. Instead it feeds off the roots of a fungus. Russula and Lactarius mushrooms are two that are known hosts. This plant doesn’t benefit its host plant, so it is considered a parasite. Because it lacks chlorophyll it doesn’t need light to grow-these plants were found quite deep in a pine forest where only dappled sunlight could be seen. Native Americans used the sap for medicinal purposes, which most likely explains the common name of Indian pipe. Each stalk holds one nodding flower. Indian pipes are related to blueberries and rhododendrons. Puffballs have started appearing as well. This one was as big as a quarter and is the first I’ve seen this year.  It was growing in some dry pine woods. New milkweed pods are just beginning to form. Very small, new pods are edible and some say they taste like okra. Others say that the plant is mildly toxic and shouldn’t be eaten, so it’s all in who you choose to believe when it comes to eating wild plants. If milkweed is grown in the garden to attract butterflies these pods should be picked off before they go to seed. This will stop the plant from spreading to other parts of the garden. This pearly crescent spot butterfly (Phyciodes tharos ) stopped by and sat on a milkweed leaf long enough for me to get a few pictures.  The crescent shaped spot on the underside of its wing gives this butterfly its name. Though it is said to be very common this wasn’t the easiest insect to identify, so if I’m wrong I hope someone will let me know. Goldenrod stem galls are very easily identified. They are caused by the Goldenrod Gall Fly (Eurosta solidaginis,) which is a parasite. The female injects eggs into the goldenrod stem. Once they hatch the larvae begin to eat inside the stem of the plant. Their saliva contains a chemical which causes the plant to deform and create a gall around the larvae. The larvae live in the gall for a full year, leaving the gall the following spring.  Downy Woodpeckers and Carolina Chickadees sometimes break into the galls to eat the larvae. If the stem gall is elliptical rather than round it is caused by a gall moth (Gnorimoschema gallaesolidaginis.Another gall regularly seen on goldenrod is called bunch gall. Bunch galls are caused by a gall midge (Rhopalomyla solidaginis) which lays its egg in a leaf bud. When the larva hatches the plant stops growing taller but continues to produce leave and the new leaves bunch all together at the top of the plant, forming the type of gall seen in the picture. This midge does plant hunters a favor because it likes only Canada goldenrod (Solidago Canadensis.) It was so dark in the woods because of the leaf canopy that I had to use the flash to get a picture of this large shelf fungus growing on an American hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana) tree. If this were round it would be as big as a basketball. I’m not sure of the species, but it was pure white underneath. This white ash tree (Fraxinus Americana) had an alarming number of seed pods on it this year. Often when a tree produces more seeds than normal it is because it is under stress and is compensating for its coming death by making sure there will be plenty of seedlings to carry on the species. Unfortunately white ash trees are very susceptible to damage from insects and disease. The wood of the white ash is the first choice for baseball bats and tool handles because it is so tough. American Burr reed (Sparganium americanum) is an odd looking plant that can be found growing in or near slow moving water. This plant has both male and female flowers. The male flowers are the smaller round clusters at the top of the zig zag stem and the female are the larger clusters lower down. Burr reed is a wind pollinated plant and once the male flowers have released their pollen they wither away while the female flowers develop into fruit. This plant was growing near a stream at the water’s edge. Burr reed has leaves that resemble those on cattails and it often grows with them, making it hard to find unless it is flowering or fruiting. Burr reed fruit. Burr reed seeds are an important food for waterfowl. Muskrats will eat the whole plant. The flower that this spider is crawling on was smaller than a pencil eraser and the spider was tiny. I think it’s a crab spider, but I’m not 100% sure. The native red osier dogwood (Cornus sericea) berries are ripe. Birds don’t seem to be thrilled by these white berries and leave them alone until mid to late winter when other foods are scarce. Some Native Americans used to eat the berries to treat sore throats and colds, and others smoked the inner bark of the shrub like tobacco.This year’s crop of broadleaf cattails (Typha latifolia) is flowering.  We also have narrow leaf cattails (Typha angustifolia.) On narrow leaved cattails the male and female flowers have a gap between them and on broadleaf cattails they touch, as the picture shows. The tiny male flowers always appear at the top of the stalk and the female flowers make up the brown “club.” Once the female flowers have been pollinated the male flowers will disappear. Both species intermingle and hybridize so it can be difficult to tell them apart at times. Cattail roots can be dried, ground and used as flour but they act as filters and filter contaminates out of the soil, so I’d want to know the conditions of both the water and soil before eating them. Many of the pictures in today’s post were taken near this stream. As far as I know it has no name, but a large number of unusual plants grow in and around it and many animals visit it regularly.

As you sit on the hillside, or lie prone under the trees of the forest, or sprawl wet-legged by a mountain stream, the great door that does not look like a door opens.~ Stephen Graham

Thanks for stopping by.

Update note: I realized that there was a picture missing so I just inserted it. It is the large bracket fungus. The text was there but the picture had disappeared!

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