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Posts Tagged ‘Winterberry’

1. Winterberries

The weather has been terrible here since last Sunday with pouring rain almost every day, so I’ve had to break open my hoard of nut, berry and seed photos for this post.  As the above photo shows the winterberry bushes (Ilex verticillata) are heavily laden with fruit this year, and that comes after a barren winter last year when they hardly showed a single berry. Many trees and shrubs will have a barren year after exhausting themselves with a year of heavy production and some, like certain species of oak, can take several years to recover from a heavy fruiting.

2. Winterberries

If you are trying to attract wildlife to your yard and have a pond or a swampy area on your land then winterberry is an excellent choice of native shrub. They like very wet soil and, like other hollies, need male and female plants to produce berries. Because the berries have a low fat content birds and animals eat them quite late in the season, so the berries will color the landscape for most of the winter.

3. Grapes

Wild grapes are a favorite of everything from blue jays to black bears but the wildlife doesn’t seem to be in too much of a hurry to eat them this year. This was a great year for all types of fruit, nuts and seeds and I suppose they know what they’re doing better than I do.

4. Pokeweed Berries

Pokeberries (Phytolacca americana) are also withering on the frost killed plants. I found out last fall that birds usually snap these up just as soon as they ripen. I wanted to get a photo of the ripe berries but every time I went to take one the birds had eaten every one. I’ve read that birds can get quite drunk from fermented pokeweed berries so maybe that’s why they’re avoiding them. I ran into a drunken cedar waxwing one day and I’ve never forgotten how it flew right at my face and then pulled up at the last second. It seemed to be a bit of a lush because it did this over and over until I moved away from the berries it wanted.

5. Hemlock Cone

The seeds of eastern hemlocks (Tsuga canadensis) are eaten by small birds like black capped chickadees and pine siskins, and several species of warblers like to nest in the dense foliage. Bigger birds like turkeys, owls and grouse will often roost in the branches. Hemlocks are very good at shedding rain because of the way their branches grow. I’ve stood under them in quite heavy rains and barely felt a drop. That’s a good thing to keep in mind if you’re out with a camera and it starts raining.

6. Aster Seed Heads

Aster seeds get eaten quickly, it seems. Goldfinches and other small birds will land on the plants and in the process of eating their fill will knock enough seeds to the ground to take care of the bigger ground feeders.

Though we have been conditioned by seed and feeder salesmen to believe that birds won’t make it through winter without our help, nature takes care of her own. There is nothing wrong with feeding birds but unless we have an unusually harsh winter they will do just fine without our help.

7. Milkweed Seeds

Milkweed seeds apparently aren’t eaten by anything, which seems odd. Or if they are we don’t know much about it because I’ve searched and searched and haven’t found a single reference to these seeds being used as food by anything. It must be because of the toxins in the plant. Though I don’t know how much toxin is in the seeds I do know that the seeds in some poisonous plants carry some of the highest concentrations.

8. Thistle

Bull thistle seed (Cirsium vulgare) is another favorite of birds like goldfinches, but how they get them without being stabbed by all of those spines is a mystery to me. In Europe part of the Latin name of the European goldfinch Carduelis means “eats seeds of thistle.”

9. Burdock Seed Heads

We all know how burdocks (Arctium) get their barbs into our clothes, but what we might not think much about is how those same barbs can also catch on the feathers of small birds when they land on the plants to eat the seeds.

10. Bittersweet

The orange berries and yellow bracts of oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus) are pleasing to see, but when birds, mice, voles, rabbits, squirrels, and an army of other berry eaters eat the fruit, they help it spread. These berries seem to be loved by all including humans, and that’s why it has become so invasive. This vine is so tough it can choke trees to death and I’ve seen it do just that numerous times.

11. Twisted Beech

Here’s an example of what oriental bittersweet can do to a young beech tree.

 12. Hickory Nut

I haven’t seen many beechnuts this year but we have plenty of acorns, hazel, and hickory nuts like the one in the above photo. Nuts are important foods for many birds and animals including wood ducks, woodpeckers, foxes, squirrels, beavers, cottontails, chipmunks, turkeys, white-tailed deer, black bears, mice, and raccoons.  The name hickory comes from the word pohickery which, according to Captain John Smith of Jamestown, is from the Algonquin Indian word pawcohiccora, a drink that the Native Americans made from the crushed nutmeat.

If you seek the kernel, then you must break the shell. And likewise, if you would know the reality of Nature, you must destroy the appearance, and the farther you go beyond the appearance, the nearer you will be to the essence. ~Meister Eckhart

Thanks for stopping in.

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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. In the Woods

I found myself in a pocket of beech trees one day and took a few photos. Beech and oak and a few shrubs are all we have for colorful foliage now. 

2. Beech LeavesAmerican beeches (Fagus grandifolia) have great fall color that starts when maples, birches, and others are finishing.

 3. Beech Leaves Browning

Beech colors don’t last long though, and before you know it the leaves turn brown and curl. Like some oak leaves most beech leaves will stay on the younger trees through winter, rattling in the wind. Some believe that the beech hangs onto its dry leaves to hide its young buds from browsing animals.

 4. Burning Bushes

Some shrubs still have good color too, like these burning bushes (Euonymus alatus) that grow in great long swaths along the river. They’re beautiful, but also one of the most invasive shrubs in the state. They grow in such impenetrable thickets that native plants can’t get a start. Another name for this one is winged euonymus and you are not allowed to sell it, import it into, or plant it in New Hampshire.

5. Burning Bush Fruit

This is what makes the burning bush so invasive. Birds love its fruit and spread it far and wide. Introduced in the United States from Asia in 1860 as a garden ornamental, it is now present in 25 states and parts of Canada.

 6. Bittersweet Berries

Another invasive plant is Chinese Bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus.), It is a vine so tough that it can strangle young trees and topple older ones by growing in and adding a lot of weight to their crowns. Burning bushes and Chinese bittersweet are in the same family and both are very invasive. The bittersweet was introduced in 1879 and has made it as far west as the Rocky Mountains, as far south as Louisiana, and north to Maine. There is an American species of bittersweet (Celastrus scandens ) and the two plants hybridize naturally, making eradication close to impossible.

 7. Dried Jack in the Pulpit Berries

Usually deer will come along and chomp the entire head of berries from a Jack in the pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum ) stem, but in this case it looks like both the deer and birds have shunned these examples. They look a little deformed so maybe the birds and animals know something about them that I don’t. A similar plant, also in the arum family, is called lords and ladies in the U.K.

8. Winterberry

Our native holly that is called winterberry (Ilex verticillata) looks nothing like the evergreen hollies we grow in our gardens. In fact for most of the year it is unremarkable and if you weren’t looking for it you wouldn’t pay any attention to it. Even its tiny flowers are hard to see, but in autumn after the leaves have fallen this plant announces its presence with a loud, red berried shout.  Birds don’t eat these berries until very late in winter because they have a low fat content, so many people cut the branches and bring them inside for the holidays. I like to see them against the snowy background.

 9. Frosty Windshield

We’ve had both frosts and freezes here now so I took my camera out one icy morning to gather the evidence.

10. Frost Bitten Fern

Actually, the evidence of frosts and freezes is everywhere you look, as this contorted fern frond shows.

11. Frosted Helianthus

This helianthus didn’t even have time to drop its petals before being flash frozen.

Frosty River

One frosty morning even though the Ashuelot River was steaming it still looked dark and cold. It won’t be long before ice forms along its shores and slowly creeps toward its middle.

If months were marked by colors, November in New England would be colored gray. ~Madeleine M. Kunin

Thanks for coming by.

 

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1. Bailey Brook Lower Falls

Recently over the course of a week or so I had 3 or 4 people ask me if I had ever explored the woods in Nelson, which is a small town that lies northeast of Keene. I hadn’t, but I took the sudden interest in my exploring the woods around the town as a good sign that I should. This waterfall on Bailey brook was one of the first things I saw.

2. Bailey Brook Lower Falls

These falls can be seen quite easily from road, so you don’t even need to get out of your car. Here I had been bushwhacking my way through the woods looking for waterfalls and there was one right here beside a road the whole time.

 3. Bailey Brook

Bailey brook isn’t very large but it has upper and lower waterfalls that are about a mile apart. Following the brook upstream is an easy, gentle hike with plenty to see.

4. Winter Berry

After a season with almost no berries last year, this year the winterberries (Ilex verticillata) are covered with them. This native holly holds its berries through the winter and they look great against the white snow. These berries have a very low fat content and birds won’t eat them until other fruits with higher fat contents have been eaten. Other plants that fruit in the fall like maple leaf viburnum, high bush cranberry, and stag horn sumac also produce fruit that is low in fat content. That’s why you often see these plants with the previous season’s berries still on them in the spring.

 5. Pale New York Fern

Some ferns, like this New York Fern (Parathelypteris noveboracensis) turn ghostly pale in the fall. If you like the look of this fern, plant breeders have developed a fern called “Athyrium Ghost” that is a cross between our native lady fern and the Japanese painted fern (Athyrium niponicum var. pictum and Athyrium filix-femina). It’s a kind of silvery white color.

 6. Stone Wall

Stone walls line the path. These are great places to look for lichens and mosses. Chipmunks and other things live in stone walls, so you don’t want to go poking your fingers in any of the crevices between the stones. We have timber rattlesnakes here in New Hampshire, but they are rarely seen. Even so, they love rocky places that get plenty of sun so I leave old walls alone.

 7. Wolf's Milk Slime Mold

Each pea sized, orangey brown fruiting body (aethalia) of wolf’s milk slime mold (Lycogala epidendrum), holds a protoplastic liquid called plasmodium when they are immature. As they age the plasmodium will turn into a mass of gray, dust like spores.

 8. Blue Bead Lily

I was surprised to see uneaten berries on this blue bead lily (Clintonia borealis ) . Deer, chipmunks and many other animals and birds love these berries. Native Americans used the plant medicinally to treat burns and infections, and bears are said to be attracted to its root.

 9. Bailey Brook Upper Falls 2

Before too long you get a glimpse of the upper falls that you’ve been able to hear for a while.

 10.. Bailey Brook Upper Falls

Though there was quite a bit of water flowing, I’d like to see them during spring runoff.

11.  Bailey Brook Mill Foundation

Stephen Osborn built a sawmill on Bailey Brook just above the upper falls sometime around 1815. The mill had reciprocating saws and used a 15 foot diameter overshot water wheel to power them. The stone piers that held the water wheel still stand, and are seen in the above photo.

12. Looking Down on Upper Bailey Brook Falls

This view is looking downstream from above the upper falls.

 13. Cushion Moss

White cushion moss (Leucobryum glaucum) soaks up water like a sponge and will only grow in soil that has a high moisture content, so I knew my knees would be wet after taking this photo.

 14. Bracket Fungus on Birch

Good examples of timber bracket fungus (Fomes fomentarius) grew on a fallen birch. This is also called hoof fungus and tinder fungus. The 5000 year old “ice man” found frozen in the alps carried 4 pieces of this mushroom to use for starting fires.

 15. Beaver Pond

Now why would a farmer build a stone wall in the middle of a pond? The answer of course is that there wasn’t a pond here when he built it-beavers have enlarged the original mill pond. People who know about such things say that the original mill pond was too small to power the mill year ‘round and probably would have dried up in high summer. This means that the sawmill was most likely seasonal.

 16. Beaver Tree

There was plenty of evidence of beavers, but none recent. It looked like they had moved on.

 17. Indian Cucumber Root

I think, of all the great things that I saw on this short hike, this Indian cucumber root (Medeola virginiana) losing its chlorophyll was my favorite.

I didn’t know this at the time but you can follow a trail from the mill ruins to the site of the house, shed, barn, and stone cattle path. There are stone walls, cellar holes, and old wells to see there.

It’s amazing how quickly nature consumes human places after we turn our backs on them. Life is a hungry thing. ~ Scott Westerfeld

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Since we’ve had the fourth least snowiest December of all time, I’ve had an easy time getting into the woods. It’s amazing how much variety and color can be found in winter.

 American winterberry, or native holly, (Ilex verticillata) is one of a handful of shrubs that will survive growing in standing water for part of the year. This one was in deep and I couldn’t get any closer to it without getting wet feet. I found it growing in a local cemetery where they have quite extensive wetlands that are being taken over by the invasive purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria.) Local college students have been digging out the loosestrife and encouraging natives like winterberry. This one attracted me from quite far off because it was ablaze with red berries. Since it takes both a male and female to produce berries I know that there is a male lurking somewhere nearby, but until he grows leaves he’ll be hard to find.

 

 In the early spring red wing blackbirds will return and perch on cattails (Typha) like this one. Females will use cattail leaves to weave their nests among the stalks. Once the cup shaped nest has been plastered with mud inside she will line it with soft, cottony cattail seeds and grasses. Red wing blackbirds eat a lot of harmful insects, so having plenty of marshland to attract them is a good thing. Muskrats use cattails to build their lodges, which look similar to a beaver’s, and other animals like deer and raccoons use them for cover. The inside of a cattail stalk contains a sticky juice that is an excellent emergency antiseptic, and the boiled roots can be dried, ground, and used as very nutritious flour. 

This dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) growing in a sunny spot didn’t seem to know or care that it was December 22nd. Is it any wonder they appear so early in spring? All parts of the dandelion are edible, and it is one of the most nutritious plants known. It is being grown in gardens more and more, and can now be found for sale in farmer’s markets and health food stores. Native Americans used dandelion to treat kidney disease, skin problems, heartburn, and upset stomach, and many herbalists still use it medicinally today.

  This mossy log also made this day seem more like spring than winter. I don’t have much experience identifying mosses, but I like the colors of these. It’s interesting to me that such delicate looking plants can stand up to the ravages of winter snow and cold. They are really much tougher than they look; moss can grow in temperatures just above zero degrees. Reindeer eat them because they contain a chemical that keeps their blood warm-much like the anti-freeze we use in our cars.

 

Winter can be found if one looks closely. See-there it is in the ice on this pond.

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