Got Chlorophyll?

Indian PipesIn school you learn:  plants need sun, water, soil, and air.  Plants have chlorophyll and photosynthesize… that is, make their own food.  You have to learn that, because it will be on the standardized science tests.  And you should learn that, because it’s mostly true.  It’s not true of all plants, though, and they never seem to teach you about the exceptions – the weird and wonderful plants that break the rules…

Like the ones that lack chlorophyll and don’t make their own food…   Indian Pipes, for example.

They grow from the forest floor and have an intriguing relationship with fungus and the tree roots from which they get their nutrients.  They are flowering plants and they do produce seeds.  I took the above flower picture in July and the following seed picture last September.

Indian Pipe Seedheads

In early August, Nina wrote about Indian Pipes.  You should click on over there to read what she wrote, and check her links to more information on this plant.  Very interesting…

DodderDodder is another flower lacking chlorophyll and it’s a favorite of mine.  Orange, vine-like stems wrap around plants that do have chlorophyll.  Tiny suckers sip nutrients directly from the stems of the host plants.  The structures are technically called “haustoria” – a special kind of root structure that apparently can penetrate the tissue of the host without penetrating cell membranes…  Fungi have this type of structure, too.

One of the first photos I took with my Canon Rebel XT was a dodder vine wrapped tightly around a burgandy-colored stem.  Don’t the colors look good together?


Beech DropsBeech Drops is another plant that sports haustoria.  As you may have already guessed, the host for this parasitic plant is the beech tree.  I was very disappointed with this photograph.  I’ll have to try again next time I’m out.

Or, better yet:  let me issue this challenge:  Let’s see which of us can post the best Beech Drops photo before the end of the blooming season which is August through October.  Just look under beech trees for a brownish-pinkish flower on a plant that has no leaves and that is so inconspicuous you might just think it’s something dried up and left over from last year!

Why are you still reading this?  Grab your camera and get to the woods!

Happy (Belated) Cameraversary to Me

MooseAs I walked the woods today, I realized that I’ve had my Canon Rebel XT for just over a year.  I posted my first Canon shots on Flickr on August 15, 2006.

My first shots were of my cat… then later up at the park of my dog… of course…


Anyway… the reason the anniversary notion popped into my head today is that many of the flowers that I photographed last year… and learned the names of last year… are coming into bloom again this year.  When I see them, I get excited because I remember learning them last year!

Zigzag Goldenrod Zigzag Goldenrod
Zigzag Goldenrod:  2006 and 2007

It’s fun to find them again this year.  Last year I concentrated on photographing them well enough that I could look them up in the field guide when I got home.  This year I already know their names, so I look for good lighting, or unusual angles.  Also, this year I have 2 new toys:  the 10X macro attachment and a polarizing filter.

Asters Aster Wannabe
Asters:  2006 and 2007

It’s not all same-old, same-old, though.  Look at this cool berry I never noticed before!  I’ve seen the plant, never noticed a flower on it in the spring, and then today – Pow!  There it was along the side of the trail where I have walked so many, many times.  How could I have missed it all these years?  Yellow Mandarin BerryIt’s called “Yellow Mandarin.”  At least I’m pretty sure that’s what it’s called.  The puzzle is – according the USDA and eFloras websites, it isn’t supposed to be here.  However, according to the Peterson Guide to Wildflowers of Northeastern and North-central North America, it is found in “Western New York and south.”

Anyway… happy cameraversary to me!

What Were We Thinking?

Waterway Trail - the way it looks just before a really scary thunderstorm...My friend Sue and I had quite the adventure today.  I checked the weather forecast in the morning.  Honest I did.  It said possible thunderstorms late in the afternoon or early evening…  Well…  unless 11am is now considered late afternoon/early evening…  Anyway, we’re still alive, did not get struck by lightning (though one crashed so nearby there was no time to count even a single second between flash and noise!), and didn’t suffer hypothermia.

The whole idea was to explore a part of the Marden Cobb Waterway Trail for my Hike Chautauqua blog.  I wanted to get some pictures along the way, experiment with my new polarizing filter, etc.  My camera spent most of the time inside the dry bag, so I don’t have many pictures to share.

We got a bit of a false start trying to decide where to put in and which direction to paddle.  We finally put in at the Levant launch and paddled upstream a little ways toward Ross Mills, then swung around and returned to Levant.


I wish I could show you pictures:  A great blue heron, green herons, some sort of sand piper or yellow legs, some swallows or martins, and some LBBs (little brown birds) graced us with their presence.  (Sorry I’m not more specific on the species… I’m a Reluctant Birder, don’t forget!)  A couple of flocks of Canada Geese honked overhead.  Fish jumped and flashed their tails.  At least 4 different kinds of dragonflies went by – too far away to identify postively.  Flowers were plentiful, too:  several species of smartweeds, cardinal flower, blue vervain, jewelweed, arrowhead, some new yellow thing that I must learn…

We're going to have to paddle like h*#! to get back to the car before the storm!After we had been paddling for 45 minutes or so, we thought we heard thunder.  We turned back right away.  After a bit of paddling downstream, the temperature dropped noticably and the sky darkened.  Lightning flashed.  It began to sprinkle.  We thought it might be wise to pull the canoe close to shore, munch on some trail mix and wait a bit.  Let’s just say it got a LOT worse before it got better.  Now you know that I love rain and I don’t mind taking my camera out when it is a bit drizzly.  Yeah.  Not in this rain, though.  It came down HARD and fast and the lightning flashed all around us for some time.

When it seemed to be slowing down, we paddled a bit further… but the flashing started up again… so we found “cover” under a shrubby willow.  Sue laughed… She had just returned from a camping trip in the Adirondack’s yesterday.  Our Trusty Canoe... filling slowly with water...Out there, she had to sign waivers and release forms assuring everyone that she understood the danger of bears and knew the precautions one had to take to avoid an encounter.  Here we sat in our own backyards in more serious “mortal danger” than she had been amongst the bears…  “If a lightning strike doesn’t kill us, maybe hypothermia will…”  Hmmm… But what a way to go:  doing what you love – and snacking on chocolate at the same time!

I'm smiling.  But I'm thinking... Ball cap - in the car.  First aid kit - in the car.  Space blanket - in the car.  Raincoat - in the car.  Thank the Goddess the chocolate is here with us!

After we got back to the launch and wrestled the canoe back to the top of Sue’s car, I hopped in my car and turned the heat up all the way.  A nice hot shower and a nice hot cup of coffee later, and I felt I could type again…  Next time, we’ll be more prepared… We’ll bring twice as much chocolate and a thermos of coffee to go with it!

If you click here, you can read Sue’s “Canoeing Adventure”.

Polarizing Filter

OK, so don’t tell my family… (I sure ask you to keep a lot of secrets from my family, don’t I?) …but I purchased a polarizing filter for my camera.  It was under $30…  and I didn’t buy jeans.  So it’s OK, isn’t it?  (Maybe my students won’t think so when I wear stained jeans to class…  or maybe they’ll understand?)

Today was overcast, but bright.  I don’t know much about using such a filter and whether I would even need it for these conditions…  But here’s what I’ve learned so far…

In the past, I would edit just about EVERY photo I took by reducing the brightness, saturating the color, and adjusting the sharpness.  For these photos, I adjusted sharpness… that’s all.  OK, maybe I cropped one… but that doesn’t have anything to do with the color.

Polarizing Filter 06

Polarizing Filter 05

Polarizing Filter 01

I’m pretty excited with the results.  What do you think?  (There are a few more over at Flickr.)

P.S. Do you know the flowers?  (They were all in the Herb and Butterfly Garden at Audubon.)

A Little Bit Gross… But Interesting…

On July 24, 2007, I entered a post on my Camp Timbercrest blog about visiting the Gravel Pit.  You can read about that by clicking this sentence.  What I didn’t mention in that post is that while I was there, I found a dead bird that had a tag on its leg.

Dead Bird

The Band

I entered the tag number into this database:  The number was not in the database.  Apparently the bander has not yet made an intial entry for this tag.  I checked with bird bander Tom LeBlanc, but it wasn’t one of his tags.  He gave me the name of another bander and I checked with him… another dead end.

Do you know a bander?  Could you pass the link to this post on to help me solve this mystery?  The tag number was 2261 63326.  I found the bird here:

Where I found the Dead Bird

Thanks for your help!  (And please don’t tell anyone in my family that I put the dead bird on the kitchen table to photograph it, kay?)

White Flowers

Common ArrowheadI remember learning in science class that white, as a color, is actually all colors… that when we perceive something as white it is because all frequencies of the spectrum are being reflected back to us.  Now, I don’t know if that is accurate… but that is what I remember!

I also remember a book I once had (maybe still have?) about perennial gardening.  There was a picture in there of somebody’s garden that featured all white flowers.  White flowers are very difficult (for me) to photograph.  It’s a challenge to get the exposure just right.  My best shots of white flowers happen on overcast days.  Indeed, a little rain often helps the composition, such as in the Common Arrowhead above.

Virgin's BowerWild Clematis or Virgin’s Bower is in bloom everywhere right now.  I captured these while on a walk at the Audubon.  I also noticed it draped over everything as we drove by at 65 miles per hour on our way to take Emily to college.  When this one goes to seed, we’ll call it by yet another name, for it will resemble an Old Man’s Beard.

Canadian BurnetThis picture of Canadian Burnett is from last year – earlier in August.  The specimens I was finding on my most recent walk were a little past their prime… turning brown already.

Buttonbush is out now, too.  This specimen was on the embankment of Big Pond and was beautful and healthy.  I should have taken a picture of the one on the Photo Blind Trail.  It was covered in some kind of gall, poor thing…Buttonbush Closeup

Finally, a mystery flower.  If you know it, please tell me!  It was about 2-3 feet tall and growing in a very wet and mucky location.  The picture isn’t that great.  I may have to go back and get another one of these days…  when it’s overcast… possibly raining…

Mystery Flower

Another New Flower

I probably would have walked right by if it hadn’t been for the bees.  They were buzzing and making quite a fuss around this flower.

Tall White Lettuce Flower   Tall White Lettuce Leaves
Tall White Lettuce

Once I looked it up, I realized I had “learned” it before.  I guess the name didn’t stick because I had to learn it again.  It was hard to photograph because the slightest breeze would send the blooms swaying.  I may have to go back on a still morning with a tripod and try again.  This plant has extremely variable leaves – some heart-shaped, others deeply lobed.  Even though it is called “lettuce” I didn’t find it in the Peterson Guide to wild edibles…

Red and Green

I’m drinking coffee out of a white mug that is decorated in patterns of red and green.  My house is dark green with a redwood porch.  My diningroom wallpaper is red and green, as is the upholstry on the dining room chairs.  Apparently I like red and green.  Or pink and green.  Or mauve and teal…  You get the idea!

TurtleheadI’ve had a hard time getting a nice photo of Turtlehead.  It seems I only find the white ones that have already turned brown – and those only on rainy days.  The last time I was at Camp Timbercrest, I got lucky!  This turtlehead blushed pink in the sun… just for me… just for you.

Indian Cucumber Root was blushing red and sporting a little green berry.  (If you click on the photo below, you’ll see this photo again – paired with the flower that produced the fruit.)
Indian Cucumber Root Fruit

Even though I’m in a slight state of denial about the coming autumn, I couldn’t resist this closeup of a Maple leaf starting to turn.  I’ll pair it with Marsh St Johnswort with unopened buds reminding me of spring…

Maple Leaf   Marsh St Johnswort

And just two more, even though they are repeats from recent posts.  Staghorn Sumac and Cardinal Flower:

Girl Sumac   Cardinal Flower

What is your favorite color pairing?

Staff Relaxation Day

Ruth Sails - Sarah RelaxesOne of the nicest things our boss did for us was heed our suggestion that we could really use a Staff Relaxation Day each summer when Day Camp was over and before the school season got underway.  Yesterday was our third or fourth (we can’t quite remember) annual.  At my suggestion, we went out to Camp Timbercrest where each could of us partake in whatever activity we found most relaxing.  Some brought books.  Some cameras.  We all brought food.  Some sat and soaked up the sun.  Others enjoyed the cool shade.  Some hiked.  Some went boating.  We had perfect weather and we all got the chance to relax.

JeffIf you haven’t figured it out, one of my favorite ways to relax is to hike with my camera.  After boating a bit in the morning and eating a delicious potluck lunch, I took a hike around the lake with Jeff who taught me a few new flowers and a fern.

I’ll start with the fern, because it was so little and cute.  It’s called Lance-leaved Grape Fern:

Lance-leaved Grape Fern

Nodding Smartweed
I knew it was a smartweed.  Now I know it is Nodding Smartweed.

White Snakeroot Closeup
White Snakeroot is a tall edge-of-the-woods plant.  It reminds you a little of Boneset.  Below is a picture of the whole plant, next to a small picture of Dewdrop.

White Snakeroot   Dewdrop

Dewdrop and moss and hemlock
Dewdrop – mixed in with moss and a little Hemlock sapling…

Yeah so, nothing new here:  Jennifer relaxes by hiking and taking pictures… and she’s always learning new flowers…

What do you do to relax?