Oxeye Daisy

Oxeye Daisy

He loves me. He loves me not.

He loves me. He loves me not. He loves me. He loves me not.

As children, we used the Oxeye Daisy as a predictor of true love. As each “petal” was plucked we would chant hoping that the very last would be, “He loves me!”

Technically, those white bits aren’t really petals.  Daisies are a part of  the Asteraceae family which includes asters, goldenrod, and dandelions.  All of the blooms in this family are made up of many flowers.  The yellow ones in the middle of the daisy are called disk flowers, and the white ones are ray flowers.  The disk flowers are arranged in a particular pattern once described by mathematician Fibonacci.  (Click here for more information on that!)

Oxeye Daisy

The Oxeye Daisy is native to Europe, but has naturalized here in North America. In some states, it is considered a pest and there are recommendations for how to eradicate and what native plants to substitute.

I have snacked on the leaves; they taste rather lettuce-y. Some sources also list medicinal uses for the plant.


I just think it’s pretty.

Learn more:

Way Down Yonder in the Pawpaw Patch

The Ted Grisez Arboretum at Jamestown Audubon has a Pawpaw Patch!  I’ve written about it before – the year I learned what a Pawpaw is and actually tasted one.  Yesterday I took a stroll through the arboretum and found it blooming.  I was surprised by the flower whose petals remind me of Red Trillium.

It was late September when Sarah and I found the fruit…



…which we ate.

Pawpaws are Yummy and have cool Seeds


It is absolutely delicious with a smooth texture and flavors that make you think of banana and kiwi and mango.  It is described in some articles as the only “temperate tropical fruit” – a native to North America.

Range Map:
Pawpaw Range Map


We are at the northern-most part of its range.  It seems to be doing well in the arboretum.  It spreads by underground roots which is how a tree becomes a patch!

Uncle Rick’s Maple Sugar Shack

Starting Saturday afternoon and lasting through Tuesday evening, I took a bit of time all for me.  I planned to do only things that would make me happy and to worry about no one else.  Stop number one on my itinerary was to visit “Uncle Rick’s” sugar shack.  I’ve known for some time that Rick boils sap every year, but I had never been able to fit it into my schedule to visit his operation.  Saturday would be the last day he planned to boil – and the first day of my vacation!  Perfect timing.

Rick collects sap from trees on his property and on properties within a mile of his house.  Katie and I rode along and helped empty the buckets.  The sap was flowing fast.





Lots of critters enjoy the sap, including moths and beetles.  We rescued a couple.



Rick also stopped the truck to rescue a wooly bear.


Back at the shack, Rick filters the sap to remove insects and chunks of bark and who knows what that may have fallen into the buckets despite the lids.

The bit that looks like a metal bucket tapers in and has a paper filter in the bottom.

The wood stove provides heat under two giant rectangular tubs.


As he pours sap into the larger of the two, he moves rubber bands along a series of nails to help him remember how many gallons he started with.

(The “Anderson” sign comes from Gordon Anderson from whom Rick acquired most of his equipment.)


Before moving the sap from the large tub to the smaller for the final boil, he filters it again.


The resulting syrup is liquid gold.  Katie and I enjoyed testing it.




Thanks, Rick, for an educational and fun afternoon!


Wolf Run Road

There was a time when you could drive Wolf Run Road to the place where the Finger Lakes Trail crosses it. Not any more. You can drive to the bridge which is now closed. So we did. And then we walked.

This is a beautiful trail with lots of great views. And in June, there are lots of wildflowers.

Deptford Pinks
Deptford Pinks

Canada Thistle
Canada Thistle

Day Lily
Day Lily

Common Milkweed w/ Pollinator
Common Milkweed (with Pollinator)

Rough-fruited Cinquefoil
Rough-fruited Cinquefoil


Bird's Foot Trefoil
Bird’s Foot Trefoil

Oxeye Daisy
Oxeye Daisy

Red Clover
Red Clover

Small Sundrops
Small Sundrops (this native flower is the size of my pinkie fingernail)

Cow Vetch
Cow Vetch

Yellow Clover
Yellow Clover

Oxeye Daisy
(another) Oxeye Daisy


There were also several delicious nibbles along the way. We ate Allegany Service Berries, mint leaves, Day Lily buds, and blueberries!

I ate the blue one…

Here’s where we parked:

An Escape…

Fire Tower Trail

Fire Tower Trail, Allegany State Park

Sometimes when the world is weighing down heavily on your shoulders, the only thing that helps is a little escape… a chance to walk, explore, breathe crisp Autumn air.  A chance to surround yourself with the familiar, yet be open to the novel.

The Art Roscoe Ski area at Allegany State Park is a wonderful place for cross-country skiing in winter.  Turns out, it is also a wonderful place for hiking when there is no snow.

Fire Tower

Fire Tower at the Art Roscoe Ski Area, Allegany State Park

A side trail runs parallel to the main trail and takes you to a Fire Tower.  I pushed my fear deep down into my boots and climbed the stairs, hoping for a glorious vista from the top.  There were hand rails and the stairs were sturdy.  Still, my heart pounded hard and my breath came in short, shallow fits.

It was indeed worth it!  The view from the top was spectacular and very much justified the climb.

The Allegany “Mountains” are really a big old ocean bed that was carved out over time by melting glacier water and various other forms of erosion.  When you climb up for a view from the top, you can see that all the “peaks” are the same height.

View from the Top

View from the Top

It was helpful to have my hiking buddy in front of me on the descent… much easier looking at his backpack than at the steep stairs that went on and on.  Back on the ground, it took a while before the adrenaline left my muscles and I could relax again… and turn my attention from big sweeping views to the forest’s minutiae.


A tiny moth kept trying to hide from me under the leaves...

Most of the Sweetwater trail is wide and in winter two trails for skiing are groomed making for fast, easy skiing. Along the way we found a narrower trail that crossed Sweetwater. Always favoring the road less travelled, we took a right hand turn.

Peeling Bark

Loose and peeling bark is back-lit by the Autumn rays.

It was late afternoon and the long, slanting rays of the sun were golden, creating vibrant, colorful mini-landscapes.

Icicle Fungus - Teeth you can Eat

The log we chose to rest on was decorated with a familiar "Icicle Fungus"

A bit further down the trail, there was an opening and the combination of “plant” life was simply delightful… Some I recognized and knew the names of… Others I recognized, but have no names for…  And one brand new!  (I put the word plant in quotes… because back when I studied biology the first time, there were only two kingdoms:  Plants and Animals.  And under that scheme… all these things would have been classified as plants…)

Lichens and Mosses

Lichens and Mosses

The first thing I noticed was a thick carpet of lichens – some 6 or 8 inches tall, punctuated with mosses competing for space.  Tucked in here and there were mushrooms… so bitty it would have been easy to miss them altogether…


A tiny mushroom manages to pop up through the thick mat of moss and lichen.

A little trail nibble was provided by a patch of Wintergreen that was sharing the soil with the others.


Wintergreen... not the juiciest of berries... but a very pleasant flavor.

Very near the bushy-shrubby type lichens were stalks that resembled small cups on stems, decorated with a bit of red.  I’m not sure if they are a structure of the the shrubby type, or a whole separate species…

Cup Lichen

This seems to match other photos I have found labeled "Lesser Sulpher Cup Lichen."

And then there were the Lycopodium…

Ground Pine

These little "club mosses" or "ground pines" are considered "exploitatively vulnerable" in New York State. They have been over-harvested for wreath-making.

If I have seen the next one before, it was never in such abundance and so easy to investigate… It warrants several pictures…

Running Club Moss

Running Club Moss

Oh dear… this post is getting very long and there is still so much more to tell… I guess I’ll click “publish” and tell you more later…

So Many Species!

Zigzag Goldenrod

Zigzag Goldenrod

The year I got my Canon Rebel XT, I also got several days of vacation in September. I decided I would teach myself to identify all the goldenrods and asters that grow in our region. Ha ha ha… It was a ridiculous goal.  In my Newcomb’s guide alone there are 34 species of goldenrod and 43 of aster… I never even got close.

New York Aster

New York Aster

According to botanist Thomas Elpel, there are over 100 species of goldenrod worldwide, over 90 of which can be found in North America.  For asters, the numbers are 500 and 150.

Numbers like these speak to the success of the reproductive and adaptive strategies of these genera… producing huge numbers of seeds, and also regenerating year after year from continuously spreading root stock.  Clever little plants…


Violets have 5 petals.

For a Ridiculous Springtime Challenge check out the violets – another long list of species under a single genus.  Violaceae – The Violet Family – boasts sixteen genera and 850 species worldwide. In my Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide (northeastern and north-central North America), 31 species are listed and there are 39 in my Peterson guide for the same region.

Generally speaking, violets have 5 petals that are not all shaped the same.  Think of them as a top pair, a side (lateral) pair, and the larger, single bottom petal.  Leaves are most often basal, but on some species they alternate.

While most species are some shade of the color of their namesake, you will find other colors.  It seems the earliest ones I find in spring are yellow:

Round-leaved Violet by Jennifer Schlick

Round-leaved Violet

Shortly after the snow melts, the little, yellow dots of Round-leaved Violet (Viola rotundifolia) push their way up through the leaf litter along with tiny leaves.  Together, the blooms and leaves expand in size until by summer the leaves might be 2-4 inches long.

Northern White Violet

Northern White Violet

The Northern White Violet (Viola pallens) has streaks of purple on its lower petal.

There is another lovely white violet that won’t bloom until later in May.  The plants get quite a bit taller and the flower petals are a little more “regularly” shaped.

Canada Violet

Canada Violet

Back of Canada Violet Flower

Back of Canada Violet Flower

The Canada Violet (Viola canadensis) flower is interesting because it is white on the front, but violet on the back.  It is also distinctive because whereas many of the violet species have flowers each on a stalk that comes up from the ground, this plant is more bush-like – with flowers on branching stalks from a main stem.

When a flower has a unique feature, and is named for that unique feature, it is easy to remember the name.  Such is the case with the Long-spurred Violet (Viola rostrata).  I first found these along a creek in a very moist, rich woods and found them to be just delightful, both for their shape and for their delicate light-purple color.

Long-spurred Violet

Long-spurred Violet

When it comes to the purple ones, i fear I have not been attentive enough to identify to the species level…  I have not paid attention to the shape of the leaves and whether they are smooth or fuzzy…  I have not paid attention to whether the veined markings are on all petals, or just the lower, or lower and lateral…  I have not paid attention to which of the petals are bearded and which are not…   So much to notice.


One of the purple ones...

As you know, there is always something new to learn… This year, I learned that violets form a 3-valved exploding capsule of seeds!  When I did an image search for such a thing, I found that one of my Flickr friends had one:

Violet Seeds

Seed pod of Viola sororia - by Fleur-Ange Lamothe

I think I’ll keep my eyes open for such a thing this year!

All violets are edible.  You can throw the blooms right on your salad or dry them to make tea.  They are reported to be high in vitamins C and A, and as a medicinal tea to work well as a laxative or expectorant.

The domesticated plants “Johnny Jump Up” and pansies are in the same family as the wild violets.

Teeth You Can Eat

I just love it when the experts say that something is widespread and common, yet I have just encountered it for the first time in my half-century-plus lifetime.  Such is the case with a couple of fungi I encountered over the weekend.

Another Bizzare Fungus
According to Michael Kuo, “Hericium americanum is North America’s only Hericium species with long spines and a branched fruiting body.”

As I surfed around looking for more information about this one I discovered that it has many common names including Bear’s Head Tooth Fungus, Monkey Head, Lion’s Mane, Pom pon Blanc, and Icicle Mushroom.  I also discovered that the scientific name has changed recently and you might find it listed as Hericium coralloides, a name that has now officially been given to a different species – a coral fungus that used to be called Hericium ramosum.  Yikes, I think I’m glad I’m NOT a mycologist!  (Click here for an interestng article about how and why names change.  It’s not related to this fungus, but the story is illustrative!)

There are several Hericium species in the northeast woods.  Kuo says that H. americanum is sometimes confused with H. erinaceus.  So I began to wonder about this one:Bizzare Fungus

H. americanum is branched, H. erinaceus derives from a single clump.  I dunno.  What do you think?  Is the one above a single clump or branched?  The spines (or teeth) are shorter, but I think it is younger, too.

Both are “toothed” fungi, meaning that spores are produced from elongated spines or teeth, rather than from gills or pores as in some other fungi.

All of the Hericium species in North America are edible, so They say, and several species in this genus are cultivated for consumption.  Indeed, the Hericium species are reported to be quite easy to cultivate.

Have any of you sunk your teeth into these teeth before?  How are they?

Learn more:

P.S.  Seabrooke blogged about fungi, too:  http://themarvelousinnature.wordpress.com/2008/09/29/fungal-growths/


Pawpaw Range MapEarlier this summer, Sarah got very excited when she noticed that the Pawpaw tree had fruits.  She has been waiting for months for them to ripen.  In the 10 years I have worked at Audubon, I don’t recall it ever having fruits.  In fact, I don’t recall paying much attention to the tree at all…  What a mistake, for it is a lovely tree.

Pawpaw (Asimina triloba) is a native tree of Eastern North America, though it tends to like inland, humid climes, more than the cooler seasides.  The USDA range map for North America is misleading, since entire states are colored even if only a single county holds a specimen.  Look at New York and Florida, for example:

Pawpaw Range Map NYSPawpaw Range Map FL

Also, the USDA only shows places where plants are native or naturalized.  Apparently it is grown in several states for the delicious fruit, which I tasted for the first time yesterday.

Sarah Searches for PawpawsWe headed out to the Arboretum and Sarah began searching for fruits that were just beginning to show a bit of brown on the otherwise green skin.



The Peterson Guide to Edible Plants says you should pick them when they are green, bring them inside and wait until they are brown to eat them.  We didn’t read the book before going out, so we did it our own way:

Sarah selected one that was nice and soft and began to peel it:Peeling a Pawpaw

She handed it to me so I could take a bite:
Eating a Pawpaw

The fruit is soft, like a cross between a banana and a mango:
Eating a Pawpaw

That was my first taste of Pawpaw and you can bet it won’t be my last!  (I wonder if any more of them will be ripe tomorrow?)

The seeds are large and disk-shaped:
Pawpaws are Yummy and have cool Seeds
Native Americans are credited with spreading the Pawpaw across “the eastern U.S. to eastern Kansas and Texas, and from the Great Lakes almost to the Gulf.” (source)

Pawpaws also produce root suckers a few feet from the tree.  If these are allowed to grow, you will have a Pawpaw patch like the one in the folksong!  Pawpaws are understory trees and don’t reestablish well after a clearcut.

Learn more:

Common Arrowhead

Common Arrowhead (Sagittaria latifolia) is doing very well this year around the ponds at Audubon as well as in other wet places I drive by.

Common Arrowhead

It’s a pretty, white, 3-petaled flower with arrow-shaped leaves that grows on the pond’s edge – or even right IN the water.  Newcomb’s description says: “The leaves vary from broadly to very narrowly arrow-shaped.”  That was very evident during a walk at Audubon this week.  Take a look at the variation we observed:

Broadly arrow-shaped:
Common Arrowhead 1 - fat leaves

Common Arrowhead 3 - Medium-sized Leaves

Common Arrowhead 2 - Skinny Leaves

There are lots of different kinds of Arrowheads.  The USDA Plant Database lists 28 species.

Peterson’s Guide to Edible Wild Plants calls the Arrowheads “Duck Potatoes” and describes how the tubers can be freed from the mud of the pond with a hoe or rake, then collected when they float to the surface.  The passage goes on, “Although slightly unpleasant when eaten raw, the tubers are delicious when cooked; prepare them as you would potatoes.”  Collection time:  Fall through early spring.

I keep telling myself I’m going to try some of these Wild Foods… but I never do… Hmm….