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Posts Tagged ‘Winterberry’

 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

Thanks for coming by.

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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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