What’s Your Favorite Word?

I have lots of favorite words.  In the tree world, my favorite word is dioecious.  If a tree species is dioecious, there are boy individuals and girl individuals.  Long before I knew about this phenomenon, I remember hiking with a friend and finding Staghorn Sumac with branch tips that were all bare and curled.  It wasn’t until years later that I learned why:  These were the boy trees.  Their flowers shrivel up after the pollination job is done.  The girl flowers become the dark red fuzzy berries.

Boy Sumac   Girl Sumac
Staghorn Sumac – left male, right female

Dioecious.  Die-AY-shus.  It’s just fun to say it.  It’s fun to say deciduous, too.  My favorite deciduous tree is one that is sort of an anomaly.  It’s a conifer, but it isn’t an evergreen.  It actually loses it’s needles each winter and grows new ones the following spring.  Have you guessed yet?

American Tamarack-Last Year's Cones
American Tamarack

Another all-time favorite word of mine is actually a two-word phrase:  Autumnal Recrudesence.  Naturalists use this phrase to describe the behaviors of animals in fall that normally take place only in spring.  For example, today while walking the dog at College Park, I heard the Spring Peepers singing their mating songs.  Last week at camp, the chickadees were singing their “fee-bee mating song.  These are both examples of autumnal recrudescence.  Scientists thing the behavior may be triggered by the balance of light and dark in autumn – which is not unlike the balance in spring.

Black-capped Chickadee
Black-capped Chickadee

Spring Peeper by Jeremy Martin
Spring Peeper – by Jeremy Martin

OK, so there are a few of my favorite words.  Now tell me one of yours!


Beaver Pond Near Titus RoadWhat an incredibly beautiful day it was yesterday.  I hiked a 4.5 mile stretch of the Westside Overland Trail – and back…  I’ve really improved my time.  You may recall that the 6-hour Beehunter Trail in Allegany State Park took me 8 hours to hike.  This 9-mile jaunt took me about 9 hours.  Speedy!

The section I hiked takes you through Mount Pleasant State Forest between Route 430 just outside of Mayville New York to Titus Road in Sherman.   Most of the trail is cool and somewhat dark – so I didn’t take a whole lot of photos.  In the spots that did open up to sunlight, I got rather distracted by the raspberries and blackberries that were deliciously ripe.   When I reached the Beaver Pond which is very near Titus Road, I took the following shots:

Dogwood Berries   Cardinal Flower

Mint   Sneezeweed

Ooh.  I wish you could smell that mint.  Or better yet – taste it!  Delicious!

What a Birthday!

Monarch Butterfly CaterpillarJacob got to spend his birthday at Audubon Day Camp.  What a lucky kid!  AND, it was insect day!  In addition to dragonflies, crickets, grasshoppers, and more, we hit the jackpot on the Orange Milkweed in the Herb and Butterfly Garden:  Monarch Butterfly and Milkweed Tussock Moth Caterpillars… plus some Milkweed Bugs – which got away before I could photograph them.
Milkweed Tussock Moth Caterpillar

Monarch Mama has been hanging out at Audubon quite a bit this summer helping us with gardens, displays for our next exhibit, and raising Monarchs for our annual Butterfly House on August 18th.  She brought us the cutest Chrysalis Tree.  The Day Camp kids have been enjoying watching one Monarch after another emerge as adults.  Here’s Jacob, watching his birthday present:

Jacob   Monarch Butterfly

It’s my Emily’s birthday today, too.  We celebrated last night.  Happy Birthday, Jacob!  And Happy Birthday to my very own Emily.

Season Straddlers

Blue Vervain with Goldenrod Bokeh

I have photographed several flowers that I have refused to post.  They signal fall to me, and I’m not quite ready to give up summer.  Here’s a hint at one.  What do you suppose is causing that golden bokeh behind this midsummer Blue Vervain?

Silly, I suppose.  I have, after all, posted plenty of berries and seed heads…  early indicators of a season coming to a close.  Still, to post Goldenrod would be to say, “Autumn is here.”  And I won’t do it…  not just yet… even though I’ve been seeing it in the fields since July*.


Spotted JewelweedIt has been a joy to walk the fields and woods and munch on berries while discovering a host of plants that seem to straddle two seasons – beginning in mid-summer and ending in late summer or early fall… the July-September crowd.  Blue Vervain is one.  So is Spotted Jewelweed.


Square-stemmed Monkey Flower CloseupHere’s another – a new one for me this year, though when I see it now, I can’t believe I never noticed it before.  It is tall and the flower is anything but inconspicuous.  How could I have walked by it and been oblivious?  And it has such a great name, too!  Square-stemmed Monkey Flower.  I tried to find out how the monkey flowers got their name…  there are several species.  I haven’t been able to find out.  Do you know?

Boneset Closeup

The fluffy white tufts of Boneset are coming on.  They’ll be with us a bit longer, blooming from July – October.  Boneset has traditionally been used to treat a wide variety of fever-producing illnesses and as an anti-inflammatory for arthritis.

Rough Avens Seed HeadRough Avens blooms June through August.  I did find a blossom yesterday in the woods, but mostly I’m seeing the seedheads.

What’s your favorite mid-summer flower?

* Actually… there are dozens of species of Goldenrod, and some of them have bloom times of July-September…. Here’s one… Reluctantly… I’m not sure of the species.  I didn’t look carefully enough at the leaves.


Brambly Trail

Brambly TrailThe trail I walk so easily in winter and spring is a tangle of brambles at this time of year.  Yesterday was hot and humid – what better day to walk a brambly trail?  I would be hot and sticky even if I just sat on the porch.  And after all, a cool shower would feel so good after a tramp through the woods.  So, even though my legs were begging for shorts and my feet for sandles, I donned long pants and hiking boots for the protection they would offer and headed up to the woods behind Bergman Park.

Click here to see a path in these woods from last winter. It’ll cool you off on a hot summer day!

It was quite fun to see what had happened over the last few months to the spring and early summer flowers.  Here’s a Mayapple blossom taken on May 13, and the fruit I found last night.

Mayapple Blossom - May 13     May Apple Fruit - August 6

There are so many fruits in these woods, I’m tempted to try making Mayapple jelly.  It makes me nervous, though, when I read in Peterson’s Guide to Edible Wild Plants that ONLY the RIPE fruit is edible – all other parts, including the seeds, are poisnous.  Have any of you tried eating the Mayapple fruit?

False Solomon’s Seal berries are apparently edible, too, though “mildly cathartic.”  These aren’t quite ripe, as they will get to be ruby red.

False Solomon's Seal - May 16   False Solomon's Seal Berries - August 6

White Baneberry is quite poisonous.  A few berries can cause dizziness and vomiting.

White Baneberry May 21   White Baneberry - August 6

The bulb of Wild Leeks or Ramps can be dug all year round.  It’s easier to find them when the plant is visible.  You’ll find leaves in spring.  At this time of year, the flowers are turning to seed heads.

The Leeks are Up - March 30   Leek Blossom Closeup - August 6

I’ve eaten wild leeks.  But some of these others, with their strange warnings or recommended methods of cooking kinda scare me off.  What wild edibles have you been daring enough to try?

Tired Pup

Lolli Carried this Log 1.75 milesMy dog is sacked out on the couch.  She had a busy day.  First she went to Timbercrest to help me drop off Maddie and some stuff for Emily.  Then she helped me with my research for my Hike Chautauqua blog.  She insisted on carrying this log for nearly 2 miles.  Is that called persistence?… or just plain stubborn?

It started sprinkling when I got part way in to the trail, so I put my camera away.  Darn… cuz there were some awesome looking flowers that I didn’t know the names of, and now I don’t remember enough of the features to look them up…

Oh well… we needed the rain.

Ann’s Garden

Ann BeebeTechnically, it’s called the Education Garden.  But Ann has taken it on as her favorite project.  She and a small crew of volunteers have been preparing and planting and weeding to make the garden at the entry to the Audubon Center Building a showcase of native plants.  I love coming out to look at the plants in this garden, some of which I have never seen in the wild.

Ann photographs her progress, as well as the individual plants and plans to make a booklet about the garden this winter.

Last Tuesday, as I waited for the day campers to arrive, I took my camera out to the garden, too.  (Ann and I have the same camera, but she has better lenses AND a tripod!  We’re trying to set her up with her own Flickr account, but so far she has only posted one picture.  Dial-up is a slow and painful thing when you are addicted to images!)

Butterfly-WeedAccording to Peterson’s guide, Butterfly-Weed is supposed to found from Minnesota to southern Ontario and southern Maine and south.  I’ve never seen it in the wild, but it is blooming quite nicely in this garden.  It’s in the milkweed family, but there are discrepancies:  Peterson’s says it is “not milky when broken” – but an on-line source I was reading said that it is.  I hate to break a leaf to find out for myself (but I probably will).  There were milkweed bugs on the plant, but none of my pictures came out all that well…

Cardinal Flower

Cardinal Flower is supposed to grow in damp places.  Indeed, I often find it right along the water’s edge at the Sanctuary and other places I hike.  For some unknown reason, it is doing very well in this dry and sunny spot!

(Aside:  I need to get out in a boat on the outlet of Chautauqua Lake.  There is a spot where the Cardinal Flower and the Purple Loosestrife are sharing the shore.  It is the most glorious combination of red and purple you can imagine!)


Speaking of purple, sometimes I refer to Spiderwort as my coffee-drinking flower.  The blooms tend to come out in the early morning when I’m sipping my coffee, then fade as the day gets hotter.  (I have some in my garden, too.)  There are always plenty of buds ready to produce more blooms by the next day.

I think this is a phlox, isn’t it?  There are so many species, and many have been cultivated.  I don’t know what variety this one is, if it can be found in the wild, or if it is cultivated.  It sure looked pretty covered with dew in the morning sun!

Turk's Cap Lily

If you scroll back up to the top and look at the picture of Ann, you will see to the right of the boulder a mass of orange blooms.  Those are Turk’s Cap Lilies.  They like wet meadows.  This is another I have yet to find in the wild.  (What’s with the orange ones?  They’re hiding from me!)

Wild Bleeding Heart

OK, I’ll end with a pink one I have never seen – Wild Bleeding Heart.  Hmm… they like rocky woods.  I wonder if I could find some on the trails at Allegany State Park?

Ann has plenty more flowers in the garden, some of which are very common out there on the trails, others that are quite unusual.  The garden changes from month to month, and is always beautiful.  It’s been home to baby bunnies, chipmunks, turtle eggs, and even duck eggs.  It’s a gorgeous collection and we are very grateful for the hard work of Ann and her crew.

After the Rain

Evening PrimroseLast Thursday, we had quite the rain.  On Friday morning, I decided to get up early and go out to the big field at Audubon to see what droplet-covered beauties I could find.  I was not disappointed… though I was wet up to my waist when I emerged from the tall grasses.

Common Evening Primrose is growing tall and conspicuously in dry open places – along roadsides, in meadows.  It’s a biennial, forming low-growing rosettes the first year and tall stalks – up to 5 feet – the second year.  According to Peterson’s, this is an edible plant, though the cooking technique of boiling the roots of the first year plant for 20 to 30 minutes in 2 or 3 changes of water sounds a little daunting to me.  Maybe I’m just spoiled at this time of year by lettuces and zucchinis you can just grab and eat.


The Dewberries in Western New York have had tons of flowers this year, more than I remember in any other year.  This plant looks like a shiny-leaved strawberry with its white, five-petaled flower, but the stems are prickly.  During my wet romp, I found a fruit.  I think it is the first Dewberry I have ever found.  I’m actually pretty surprised with myself that I didn’t eat it.  Hmm…  I wonder how it compares to its cousins, the blackberries and raspberries?

Black-eyed Susan

It’s hard for me to resist photographing certain flowers.  Black-eyed Susans just seem to beg to have their pictures taken.  This one caught my eye from the side and I loved the way the dew was clinging to the bristly greenery beneath.

And, speaking of bristles, it is hard for me to walk past Arrow-leaved Tearthumb and not try for a photo.  Small, delicate pink clusters on the ends of very interesting stems; it’s called tear-thumb for a reason!  Your finger travels smoothly down the stem.  Arrow-leaved TearthumbTry the return trip, however, and the downward facing prickles will tear your thumb!

Naturalists seem to love the Native-vs-Alien debate.  I find beauty in all the flowers, regardless of their heritage.  It seems this time, however, quite by accident… I have brought you four native plants.  Will the wonders never cease?