Winter Weeds

The first chapter of Donald Stokes’ Nature in Winter is entitled “Winter Weeds”. The chapter is full of beautifully drawn, minimalistic images of what our wildflowers look like in winter. Someday, I hope to be able to draw like that. In the meantime, I have my camera. And, after I took the goldenrod and burdock pictures the other day during the snow, I finally got the concept for how I could recreate those types of images!

Repeating those two…

Goldenrod
Goldenrod
I love how you can see both ball and bunch galls in this little stand. (Hmm… I guess I’ve never written about bunch galls… that’s odd.)

Burdock
Burdock
I can’t think of burdock without thinking of Ryan’s Birthday Party.

And here are some new ones…

Queen Anne's Lace
Queen Anne’s Lace
I have rather an obsession with this flower.

Black-eyed Susan
Black-eyed Susan
I love this flower in late summer and fall… It ain’t bad in winter, either!… here’s a closeup:

Black-eyed Susan

Wildflowers Worth Knowing

Wildflowers Worth Knowing is the title of a book by Neltje Blanchan.  Emily found a copy in the camp library and brought it home to show me.  The original copyright appears to be 1917.  This edition was adapted by Asa Don Dickinson and published by Doubleday, Page & Company in 1925.  I searched the Internet to see if it is still in print and found that there is no longer a copyright for the book in the US and that you can download it from several sites.  (Here, for example.)

With that in mind, I simply must share with you a passage from the book that just makes me giggle.

Indian Pipe; Ice-plant; Ghost-flower; Corpse-plant

Monotropa uniflora

Flowers:  Solitary, smooth, waxy, white (rarely pink), oblong bell-shaped, nodding from the tip of a fleshy, white, scaly scape 4 to 10 in. tall. Calyx of 2 to 4 early-falling white sepals; 4 or 5 oblong, scale-like petals; 8 or 10 tawny, hairy stamens; a 5-celled, egg-shaped ovary, narrowed into the short, thick style.

Leaves:  None.

Roots:  A mass of brittle fibres, from which usually a cluster of several white scapes arises.

Fruit:  A 5-valved, many-seeded, erect capsule.

Preferred Habitat:  Heavily shaded, moist, rich woods, especially under oak and pine trees.

Flowering Season:  June-August.

Distribution:  Almost throughout temperate North America.

Indian PipesColorless in every part, waxy, cold, and clammy, Indian pipes rise like a company of wraiths in the dim forest that suits them well. Ghoulish parasites, uncanny saprophytes, for their matted roots prey either on the juices of living plants or on the decaying matter of dead ones, how weirdly beautiful and decorative they are! The strange plant grows also in Japan, and one can readily imagine how fascinated the native artists must be by its chaste charms.

Yet to one who can read the faces of flowers, as it were, it stands a branded sinner. Doubtless its ancestors were industrious, honest creatures, seeking their food in the soil, and digesting it with the help of leaves filled with good green matter (chlorophyll) on which virtuous Indian Pipevegetable life depends; but some ancestral knave elected to live by piracy, to drain the already digested food of its neighbors; so the Indian Pipe gradually lost the use of parts for which it has need no longer, until we find it to-day without color and its leaves degenerated into mere scaly bracts. Nature had manifold ways of illustrating the parable of the ten pieces of money. Spiritual law is natural law: “From him that hath not, even that he hath shall be taken away.” Among plants as among souls, there are all degrees of backsliders. The foxglove, which is guilty of only sly, petty larceny, wears not the equivalent of the striped suit and the shaved head; nor does the mistletoe, which steals crude food from the tree, but still digests it itself, and is therefore only a dingy yellowish green. Such plants, however, as the broom-rape, Pine Sap, beech-drops, the Indian Pipe, and the dodder–which marks the lowest stage of degradation of them all–appear among their race branded with the mark of crime as surely as was Cain.

No wonder this degenerate hangs its head; no wonder it grows black with shame on being picked, as if its wickedness were only just then discovered! To think that a plant related on one side to many of the loveliest flowers in Nature’s garden–the azaleas, laurels, rhododendrons, and the bonny heather–and on the other side to the modest but no less charming wintergreen tribe, should have fallen from grace to such a depth! Indian Pipe SeedheadsIts scientific name, meaning a flower once turned, describes it during only a part of its career. When the minute, innumerable seeds begin to form, it proudly raises its head erect, as if conscious that it had performed the one righteous act of its life.

Is that some wonderful writing, or what?  I can’t wait to read some of the other accounts!

McCrea Point Boat Landing

It’s not that far from my house and I drive by it frequently.  For some reason, I rarely stop…  Last Sunday, though, I had an itch to continue practicing with my new lens, so I decided to see if there were some gulls or ducks that I could reach with 400mm. I was not disappointed!

Mallards:

Two Ducks

Mallard w Reflection

I was also quite delighted to see gorgous Fragrant Water Lilies open in the morning sun:

Water Lily

Water Lily

And of course, Purple Loosestrife:

Purple Loosestrife 2

McCrea Point is an excellent place to launch a canoe or kayak… Head upstream toward Chautauqua Lake and you are apt to see all  manner of wildlife…  herons, dragonflies, turtles, frogs…  You’ll also see old, grown-over slips where the steamers used to dock… history and natural history abound.

Learn More:

Bladderwort

BladderwortBladderwort. What a weird name. What is it?

It’s a floating, carnivorous plant found in waterways throughout North America.

Come to Audubon in July and August and you may see our ponds be-speckled with the snapdragon-like yellow flowers produced by this plant.

Floating?  Yup.  It doesn’t put roots into soil.  Most of the plant is an underwater and stays near the bottom of the pond until summer when it floats up to the surface, produces a whorl of fleshy leaves and a bright yellow flower.

Carnivorous?  Yup.  The underwater network of leaf-like stems contain tiny bladders.  Here’s the best explanation I found for how the bladders work, from the US Forest Service site listed below:

Hairs at the opening of the bladder serve as triggers, and when contacted, mechanically cause the trap to spring open, drawing in water and organisms like a vacuum. Enzymes and /or bacteria inside the traps aid in digestion.

Ain’t nature cool?

Bladderwort and Duckweed

Learn more:

Summer Wildflowers

Blue Vervain      Blue Vervain
Blue Vervain (aka Swamp Vervain)
Verbena hastata

Canadian Burnet     Canadian Burnet
Canadian Burnet (aka Canada Burnet)
Sanguisorba canadensis

Bull Thistle     Canada Thistle
Left: Bull Thistle (aka Common Thistle), Cirsium vulgare
Right:  Canada Thistle, Cirsium arvense

Meadowsweet     Meadowsweet
Meadow-sweet, Spiraea latifolia

The Scarlet Pimpernel

When I think of the Scarlet Pimpernel, I think of the French Revolution.  I think of secret societies, and of intrigue.  I think of old movies and Leslie Howard.  Oh yeah, and there’s that flower… important in the story because the hero signs his notes not with a name, but with an image, a flower:  a Scarlet Pimpernel.

I never thought to look for the flower.  It never occurred to me that it might grow around here – or even on this continent.  Then, after seeing  tiny reddish-orange flowers in the paths at Reinstein Woods and discovering (via my Flickr friends) that they were Scarlet Pimpernels… and looking them up in my various field guides and reading how “widespread” they are and that they bloom from June through August along roadsides in sandy soil, in “wasteplaces” (like lots of our summer aliens)…  well, I just began to wonder how I could have lived to be more than a half-century old and never see this flower?

Scarlet Pimpernel 1

OK, in my defense… it is only 1/4″ wide.  And it grows in sunny places – and only opens on sunny days… (and if you know me at all you know that from June to August – you’ll find me in the shade… I only venture out on cloudy / rainy days!)

Still, now that I’ve seen them… I’ll be braving the sun to look for more.

Got Milk(weed)?

Today I was out early checking my bird boxes.  Some of them sit in a really lovely large patch of Common Milkweed.

Common Milkweed 2   Common Milkweed 1

Since I have been seeing Monarch Butterflies, I decided to check the plants for eggs or caterpillars.  I didn’t find any Monarchs at all.  But I found plenty of other stuff!  Take a look:

Milkweed Bugs
Milkweed Bug - Youngster   Milkweed Bug - adult

Harvestman
Harvestman on Milkweed

Bagworm
Bagworm

A Snail
Snail on Milkweed

Somebody Hiding in a Rolled Up Leaf
Milkweed Leaf Roll from back

and my favorite:  Virginia Ctenucha Moth!
Virginia Ctenucha Moth 4