It was my turn to write for the weekly newspaper column. It is in the Saturday Post-Journal on February 25, 2017. Our web guru only used two of the pictures as below. But the P-J used all the pictures I sent. Guess that’s because I didn’t write enough words. AND they put it on the page that prints in color. Hooray! Here’s how it appears on the Audubon website:

More than one person has asked about the picture on the front of Audubon’s March-April newsletter. “It’s not a crocus,” they say. Correct. It’s not a crocus, but it blooms equally early in spring. One of the questioners remarked that he had never seen this flower before. That surprised me since he is no stranger to the woods. In his defense, the bloom is small, only one half to one inch in diameter, and it has a very short blooming period of only a couple of weeks in early spring. Many of my photographs of this early bloomer were taken on days when there were still patches of snow on the ground.

Newsletter cover shot. The petal-like sepals can be blue, purple, pink, or white.

Hepatica is in the buttercup family. It produces extremely variable flowers. A green center with numerous white stamens is surrounded by five to twenty (usually six) petal-like sepals which can be white, pink, lavender, or blue. Each bloom rises from the forest floor on a leafless, hairy stem and behind the sepals are three hairy bracts. The three-lobed leaves that you find near the base of the flowers were formed last year. New leaves won’t be formed until the blossoms have given way to seed heads.

Back in the day when the Doctrine of Signatures prevailed, the shape or color of a plant was used as an indicator of its medicinal value. The liver is three-lobed as are Hepatica’s leaves, and the color of the aging leaves is similar to that of raw liver. So Hepatica was used to treat the liver. We now know that Hepatica does NOT treat liver ailments; it is, indeed, poisonous in large doses.

Hepatica is one of several springtime flowers whose seeds are dispersed by ants, a strategy known as myrmecochory. The seeds of flowers that employ this strategy are attached to a food reward called an elaiosome that is filled with proteins and lipids, irresistible to ants. An ant carries the entire seed with elaisome to its underground nest and eats the rich food or feeds it to larvae. The unharmed seed is carted off to the waste disposal area of the nest where, surrounded by frass, dead ants and various other nutrient-rich debris, it germinates and grows into a new plant. It is estimated that about 30% of early spring forest flowers disperse seeds in this way, including Trillium, Dutchman’s Breeches, Trout Lily, and Spring Beauties, to name a few.

If you are interested in hunting for Hepatica, a good strategy is to familiarize yourself with the leaves and watch for them on the forest floor noting their location. Whenever I see the leathery three-lobed leaves that start out shiny green in spring and darken to burgundy or brown just before winter, I try to memorize the location so I can return for a springtime visit. I checked my photo inventory and found that I have Hepatica pictures taken anywhere from March 23 through April 30, depending on the year. Accounts I have read report them blooming as early as January if the weather is mild, and into May if it isn’t. Sunny days are best for fully open flowers. The blooms are also pretty on rainy days with partially open drooping flowers. Rich deciduous woods are your best bet.

Hepatica leaves have three lobes.

Audubon Community Nature Center builds and nurtures connections between people and nature. Visit at 1600 Riverside Road, one-quarter mile east of Route 62 between Warren and Jamestown, or online at auduboncnc.org. The trails and Bald Eagle viewing are open dawn to dusk. The Nature Center’s winter hours are Sundays-Fridays from 1 to 4:30 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. On March 1, spring hours begin.

Jennifer Schlick is Program Director at ACNC and can probably be talked into helping you hunt for Hepatica.


P.S. After writing this last week, I went for a hike along a hemlock-lined creek in Allegany State Park. In between patches of snow, it was hard NOT to step on Hepatica leaves. I didn’t see any blooming though.

What is this Stuff?

I wrote on New Year’s Day about a hike to a spot in southwestern New York where there used to be an orphanage. Now, only the foundations of the buildings remain. There is a plant growing all around the site that I haven’t been able to identify. We took a few cuttings and I put them in water to force them. Here’s what came out:

Three compound leaves all came out from the end of one of the cuttings.

Here’s the leaf:

Be sure to click back to the New Year’s Day hike to see the thick twisting vines that grow up and completely engulf the trees. Every new shoot coming up through the snow was this plant.

The name that keeps popping into my head is wisteria. But is there a variety of wisteria that can withstand our western New York winters?

January 8, 2017

Why do we wake up some days in lethargy with little interest in or desire for the day’s unfolding? That was me this morning. And then the light began to reveal a perfect winter day fresh with powder. I knew I didn’t have the energy for a full day of hiking. I also knew I would regret it if I didn’t get out there.


Just under 1.5 miles with elevation change of around 100 feet, it was a good length and it refreshed my soul. We were only “lost” for a short distance. We’ve walked this trail dozens of times and know it well. Conversation and playing with the dog got us slightly offtrack.


Snowshoes were a must. In some spots the powder was quite deep. The return trip was by road without snowshoes.

1.4 miles
+ another 1 mile loop with Lolli after supper.


New Year’s Day 2017

Terry says my jaw dropped when he turned onto the unplowed Holt Run Road. “The road less traveled is seldom plowed,” he said. New snow tires and 4-wheel drive got us to the trail head – and back out again after the hike.

Last time we came out this way, we found the foundation of a building which we later learned had been a school / orphanage. We wanted to find it again, this time with a camera. I had forgotten to load the waypoints into the GPS, but we remembered the general area and found it.

The most perplexing thing to me is a vine that grows all over the area. Just about all the new growth coming up on the forest floor is this plant, and just about every tree near these old foundations is covered with the stuff.

I will HAVE to go back in spring to see what it looks like when it’s in bloom… if it blooms.

3.7 miles

I love Camp Timbercrest

This week, my daughter and I hiked at camp twice.  I was in search of the Pink Lady’s Slippers that bloom there.  On Tuesday, they were up, but still pale and ghostly.  On Saturday, the were glorious.  Along the way we took lots of other pictures, too.

Painted Trillium:

Rose Twisted Stalk:

Star Flower:

Wild Geranium:

Golden Ragwort:

May Apple:

A bench overlooking Jackman Bay:

Jackman Bay from the Peninsula:

Re-growth around beaver-chewed trees:

Red Eft:

Animal Tracks in the mud:

This Shinrin-yoku (forest bathing) was good for my soul! So grateful to be a Girl Scout and have access to such a gorgeous place for hiking.

A Spring (?) Walk

April 10, 2016.  25 degrees.  Snow lingers on the crunchy frozen earth.  I dress for a February hike.  I should be looking for spring wildflowers, not animal tracks in the snow.  Ah well…

IMG_7433-Coyote tracks

In addition to coyote tracks, we saw tracks of deer, rabbits, squirrels, mice, fox, turkey, and more. We also heard grouse and saw deer. We visited the beaver pond and watched a goose try to swim away making tinkling noises as he broke through the ice.

There were wildflowers, though. And domesticated ones.


IMG_7436-Skunk Cabbage

Skunk Cabbage




This in April. And in December I could have photographed violets and dandelions.

Weird Weather.


So, Kathleen and I jumped into her car for a little escapism. We had a lovey day driving round the Stedman/Clymer/Sherman area, stopping wherever we felt like it.

First stop, East Branch Books (etc) in Sherman, New York.

IMG_7220 Book Store Sign

That place is packed floor to ceiling and then some with used books, all nicely arranged into categories for easy browsing.

IMG_7224 Book Store Herb

IMG_7226 Book Store

IMG_7227 Book Store

IMG_7229 Book Store

Then it was off to the Reverie Creamery to buy artisan cheese, Stedman Corners for a delicious lunch, then we took the long way to Clymer for ice cream for dessert. Along the way, we stopped for photos, mostly at beaver ponds.

IMG_7251 Beaver Lodge

IMG_7261 Cattails

One of the ponds had me thinking about the exhibit I visited at the Albright Knox in Buffalo a couple of weeks ago, and the sign about Monet’s work and how over time the horizon line moved further and further up on his canvass until eventually it disappeared altogether…

IMG_7273 reflections

IMG_7276 Beaver Pond Reflection

IMG_7287 reflections

At the pond with the Swamp Monster in it (you’ll have to see if Kathleen has a good picture of it!) I was transfixed by a grouping of three trees. I’m not sure exactly why. They just caught and kept my eye for some reason.

IMG_7288 Three Trees

IMG_7296 Three Trees

It is hard to convey the size of this old remnant of a tree. It was enormous. Would have loved to have known her when she was whole.

IMG_7242 Once Great Tree

Finally, I really want to see the insides of these apartments just a stone’s throw from the business district of Clymer!

IMG_7298 Te Croney Dairy Apartments

— Update:
YAY! Kathleen did have a picture of the Swamp Monster! Here it is:

Swamp Monster by Kathleen Tenpas