One might think that following the same loop through the woods in slow motion three times in one day would be boring. One would be wrong. My friend Joan and I can certainly attest this fact.
Round One: 9 am, Wildflower and Bird Walk with Lakes Environmental Association co-led by birder/naturalist Mary Jewett of LEA and the ever delightful botanist Ursula Duve.
In abundance here, the hobblebush bouquet–a snowy-white flower that is actually an inflorescence, or lacy cluster of tiny fertile flowers surrounded by a halo of showy, yet sterile bracts. Yeah, so I’ve showed you this before. And I’ll probably show it again. Each presentation is a wee bit different.
And then we spied something that I’ve suddenly seen almost every day this week.
The cotyledon or seed leaf of an American beech. Prior to Monday, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen this and yet, since then I’ve continued to discover them almost every day. Worth a wonder.
Think about it. The journey from seed to tree can be a dangerous one as the root is sent down through the leaf litter in search of moisture. Since the root system is shallow, lack of moisture can mean its demise. When conditions are right, a new seedling with a rather strange, yet beautiful appearance surfaces. The seed leaves of the beech, aka cotyledons, are leathery and wavy-margined. They contain stored food and will photosynthesize until the true leaves develop, providing a head start for the tree. I realize now that I’ve seen them all my life in other forms, including maple trees, oak trees and vegetables. But . . . the beech cotyledon captures my sense of wonder right now, especially as it reminds me of a luna moth, which I have yet to see this year.
Crossing the first boardwalk through the red maple swamp, a large male green frog tried to hide below us. Notice the large circular formation behind his eye. That’s the tympanum, his visible external ear. A male’s tympanum is much larger than his eye.
Other red maple swamp displays included the showy flowers of rhodora and their woody capsules.
Ralph Waldo Emerson knew the charm of this spring splendor:
On being asked, whence is the flower.
In May, when sea-winds pierced our solitudes,
I found the fresh Rhodora in the woods,
Spreading its leafless blooms in a damp nook,
To please the desert and the sluggish brook.
The purple petals fallen in the pool
Made the black water with their beauty gay;
Here might the red-bird come his plumes to cool,
And court the flower that cheapens his array.
Rhodora! if the sages ask thee why
This charm is wasted on the earth and sky,
Tell them, dear, that, if eyes were made for seeing,
Then beauty is its own excuse for Being;
Why thou wert there, O rival of the rose!
I never thought to ask; I never knew;
But in my simple ignorance suppose
The self-same power that brought me there, brought you.
To avoid getting our feet too wet, we spread out as we walked on the boardwalk through the quaking bog.
Morning light highlighted the layers from the pond and sphagnum pond up to Five Fields Farm and Bear Trap above.
And because it was ever present, I couldn’t resist pausing to admire the painted trillium once again (don’t tell my guy).
One plant that I will always associate with this place and Ursula, who first introduced me to it years ago, is the dwarf ginseng. I love its global spray of flowers and compound leaves. But maybe what I love most is its beauty in diminutive form–just like Ursula.
Round Two: Noon, Lunch and a walk with my dear friend Joan.
After returning to our vehicles following the morning walk, Joan and I grabbed our lunches. And I paused in the parking lot to enjoy the silvery fuzziness of big tooth aspen leaves. The quaking aspen in our yard leafed out a couple of weeks ago, but big tooth aspen leaves are just emerging. Like others, they begin life with a hairy approach–perhaps as a protective coating while they get a start on life?
We ate lunch beside Muddy River where the spring colors were reflected in the water.
And then we heard something jump in the water, so we moved silently like foxes as we tried to position ourselves and gain a better view. In the back of our minds, or perhaps the front, we wanted to see a turtle, beaver or especially an otter. Not to be. But we did see highbush blueberries in flower.
And the bees that pollinate them.
In their out-of-this universe form, we knelt down to honor the pitcher plant blossoms that grow along a couple of boardwalks.
We were wowed by the color of the red maple samaras,
prominent shoulder patch of the red-winged blackbird,
and cranberries floating on the quaking bog.
And then our eyes were drawn to the green–of the lone larch or tamarack tree
and the green frogs.
I spent some time getting to know one better.
She even climbed out to accommodate me–I’m sure that’s why she climbed up onto the boardwalk.
Or maybe she knew he was nearby. What a handsome prince.
Round Three: 2:30pm, Joan and I (co-coordinators of the Maine Master Naturalist Bridgton 2016 class) were joined by another MMNP grad, Pam Davis Green, who will lead our June field trip to explore natural communities at Holt Pond.
Cascading down from the striped maple leaves, we saw their flowers, which had alluded us on our first two passages.
The cottony white masses of wooly alder aphids decorated many of the speckled alders in the preserve. In a symbiotic relationship, ants stroke the aphid with their antennae, while the aphid releases a drop of honeydew, much like a cow being milked. It’s actually rather creepy.
Two Canada Geese squawked from another part of the pond, but Mrs. Mallard stood silently by.
Our final sight brought a smile to our faces–someone put his or her pants on upside down!
We hope that charms your fancy. Joan and I were certainly charmed by our three loops around and those we got to share the trail with today.
We also want to thank Ursula, Mary and Pam for their sharings. And we send good vibes and lots of prayers to my neighbor, Ky, and Pam’s brother-in-law.