A Keen Eye for the Wonders at Our Feet

As beautiful as the trees are right now with their autumnal display in full force, if you walk slowly in the woods and on the bald faces of our local granite, I think you might find yourself amazed. I know a friend and I always are and this afternoon was no different. We didn’t journey far; we didn’t need to journey far. We just needed to be present in the moment.

1-bird's nest fungi

Our first find was actually a discovery she’d made the other day. In her front yard, mixed in with the acorn caps, were teeny tiny examples of Cyathus striatus or Splash Cup Fungi.

2-bird's nest

Only two weeks ago, she’d shown me a larger version of this Bird’s Nest Fungi in the form of Fluted Bird’s Nest, but today she had this miniature version to share. They really do resemble their common name.

3-beads of slime mold

Because our eyes were focused on the minute, it was no surprise that Wolf’s Milk Slime Mold, all beady in structure, should attract our attention.

4-stink horn

Our next great find discovered by my friend with the eagle eyes was a Common Stinkhorn (Phallus ravenelii). She said it stunk. I didn’t notice, but the flies loved it. Love, in fact, seemed to be a common theme, for on the stalk, which is typically white, appeared a heart, with arms/hands wrapped around below. Even though it’s “common,” I don’t often encounter any form of a Phallus fungus, so I’m not sure if the two-toned stalk is a common feature.

6-green stain fungi

The next discovery–the fruiting form of Green Stain Fungi (Chlorociboria aeruginascens). The turquoise fruiting body was only about a third of an inch in diameter and so it’s another one that’s easy to overlook. But . . . our movement was intentionally slow as we moved without expectation and were constantly excited by our discoveries.

7-onto the granite

At last, we stepped out of the forest and onto a bit of a bald spot where granite greets sky, with lots of life layered between the two.

8-liliputian world

And onto our knees we knelt for life on the granite was lilliputian in nature.

9-candy lichen

And varied, but it was the lichens that really pulled me into the fold. Some, like the Candy Lichen, a blue-gray crustose lichen with orange to salmon colored fruits, grew so abundantly that we practically ignored it.

9a-pixie cups

Then there were the delightful pixie cup goblets scattered throughout awaiting a visit from the wee folk.

10-British soldiers

And British Soldiers (Cladonia cristatella) standing tall yet branched as they watched over all, their crimson red caps bespeaking their ancestral heritage.

11-lipstick powderhorn

Beside them were a few Lipstick Powderhorns (Cladonia macilenta) with bright red caps above single stalks, rather like the lipstick I’ve never worn.

12-red-fruited pixie cups

And rounding out the red-cap series were the Red-fruited Pixie Cups (Cladonia pleurota), with their multiple red fruiting bodies outlining the cups.

13-red-fruited lichens

Pixie cups would have been enough. But pixie cups with bright red caps–and we were wowed. The other cool thing–like the Bird’s Nest Fungi with its splash cup form, these lichens offered something similar. The Bird’s Nest depends on droplets of water (think rain) to release its spores from the tiny “eggs” situated within each cup. For the Red-fruited Pixie Cups, it’s the same idea–the splash cup goblets allow the lichen to disperse its reproductive materials.

14-red-fruited brown

We found a few with the red caps turned brown and assumed they’d done their duty.

15- Ladder Lichen Cladonia verticillata

Just when we were about to move on my friend made another exciting discovery. Ladder Lichen (Cladonia verticillata) with its brown fruits reminded me more of fountains containing chocolate treats at the outer edge of each level.

16- Ladder Lichen Cladonia verticillata

Or perhaps a way for Jack to ascend from the world of the minute to the giants in the sky.

17-milkweed seeds

And with that, our eyes moved upwards–to the milkweed seeds that awaited their turn for release and a chance to find their own place in the world.

18-large milkweed bug

A Large Milkweed Bug reached the end of one pod, but the future possibilities seemed endless for it–as long as the spider web didn’t hinder any progress.

19-ash leaves

With upturned attention, we noted a young ash tree presenting its fall colors ranging from golden green to magenta all on the same trunk.

20-oak leaves

And even higher up, a Red Oak already showing off its carotenoid chemistry with yellows and oranges overtaking the green pigment.

21-colors

While fall foliage is at or near peak in western Maine and causing all of us to stop in our tracks to note the beauty of the live paintings that surround and embrace us in their ever changing way, its the color and variety and wonders at our feet that drew the attention of my friend and me today. And I’m forever grateful for her keen eye.

(And help searching for a needle in a haystack a little while later–thanks J.M.)

Postcards from Sweden

Sometimes I forget when traveling that I should share my surroundings with those back home. A photograph of a local scene and a quick note are enough to say that though I was away, you were on my mind.

1-splash cup

And so dear readers, these are for you. The weather is great, I wish you were here. For if you were, your jaw would drop as mine did at the sight of these little morsels that so look like candy wrappers. Of course, the right thing to do would be for me to purchase a few to share with you.

2-splash cup

But, looks can be deceiving, and really, these are a fungi called Cyathus striatus, or Fluted Bird’s Nest. While they remind me of marshmallows covered with burnt coconut, they are really the young fruit bodies of the species. The lids, known as epiphragms, cover the structure and prevent rain drops from entering until the eggs within are ripe, for it’s the drips of the drops that release the spores of this fungi.

3-splash cup fungi

More mature structures, those that look like chocolate cups also coated in coconut, contained the “eggs” or lens-shaped structures known as peridioles.

4-eggs in splash cup fungi

This fungi is difficult to spy because it is teeny and inconspicuous and prefers a dark, moist habitat, but my hostess had her eye on these for a while and couldn’t wait to share them with me. And now, I’m excited to share them with you. The flute darkens with age, and that pale lid falls away or collapses inside the structure which does resemble a bird’s nest. Within each nest there are typically four or five silvery flattened “eggs.”

5-turkey tail fungi

We moved along and our next destination made me think of home. Back home, it seems the wild turkeys are taking over the world as we spy them in the yard, field, forest, and beside many a road. In the forest my hostess knows best, it was a turkey of a different kind that she shared. Trametes versicolor or more commonly, turkey tail fungi, grow prolifically in her woods. And their tail feathers are just as colorful and neatly arranged as the ones I know so well.

10-slime mold

Our next stop on the tour found her sharing a parlor trick with me. She poked a fruiting body of Lycogala epidendrum, or Wolf’s Milk Slime Mold, with a stick. Out oozed some goo, which had the fungi been mature would have been a more powdery spore mass.

10a-slime mold being slimy, parlor trick

You might say, “YUCK.” But it’s almost magical. The salmon-colored balls deflate instantly when poked and as the goo leaks we smile and think about sharing such a finding with others. When next I wander with you, we’ll have to look for slime molds.

11-Aleuria aurantia--orange peel funit

Because we’d been walking for a bit, you might think that my hostess offered a snack. The fun thing about exploring a place she knows so well is that sometimes there are surprises and such was the Aleuria aurantia or Orange Peel Fungi. We were looking at something else in the vicinity when suddenly we both spied the bright orange color and then realized there was a colony of it all about our feet.

14-earth tongue forest

In a different habitat, one where the sphagnum moss grows, we encounter a different fungi that I know, but had never seen in such an abundance: Trichoglossum farlowii is also known as Black Earth Tongue. I had never visited an Earth Tongue garden before but in a foreign land it apparently reigns.

15-singular tongue

Most of the structures are singular fruits, but . . .

15-forked earth tongue

we found one forked tongue.

16-green-headed jelly baby fungi

Nearby, on a rock covered in Bazzania, a liverwort, we found a small colony of Leotia viscosa or Green-headed Jelly Babies. Much like the Fluted Bird’s Nest, it looks like a another candy I should bring home to share, but I left the souvenirs behind and took only photographs.

17-green stain fungi fruiting

Our forest journey wasn’t over, but our fungi finds were complete when she showed me the fruiting bodies of Chlorosplenium aeruginascens, or Green Stain Fungi. Really, it should be called turquoise-stained, but I didn’t come up with the name. It’s difficult to photograph these beauties for so petite are they, and always a thrill to see.

18-Sweden forest

Many of our finds were located in the vicinity of a forest bog where cinnamon ferns grow tall and wild and add texture and color to the scene, making it look rather pre-historic.

6-beaver pond

Not only did my hostess share her woodland habitat, which is so different from my own, but she also took me to a beaver pond. Our intention was to say hello, but by the depth we noted that the beavers aren’t currently home. We’ll have to call on them another day during my stay.

8-green frog

What we did find were green frogs that squeaked as we approached and then leaped into the water to hide.

9-sundews, both round-leaved and spatula-leaved

As a gift for her hospitality, I was able to share something with my hostess–in the form of round-leaf and spatula-leaf sundews that grow at the water’s edge. Both are carnivorous and so she can now add another parlor trick to entertain her guests–feed insects to the plants.

7-solitary sandpiper

One final scene to share because she and I shared the same view: a Solitary Sandpiper on the hunt. We watched for a few minutes before it flew off.

And now it’s time for me to fly home. But the airmail has been stamped and if you have read this then you are on the receiving end of postcards from Sweden. Sweden, Maine, that is.

Thank you to my hostess, J.M., for your kindness and willingness to share so many special scenes with me. I can’t wait to return to your neck of the woods.

 

 

Detecting the Nature of Wilson Wing

Before heading onto the trail beside Sucker Brook at the Greater Lovell Land Trust’s Wilson Wing Moose Pond Bog Preserve on Horseshoe Pond Road in Lovell, today, a friend and I walked down the road to the pond where we hunted for dragonflies and frogs.

1-Horseshoe Pond

There wasn’t a cloud in the sky on this first day of fall and a crisp day it was, bringing smiles to our faces and adding sweatshirts to our attire.

3-green frog

Though we saw a few darner dragonflies and even a meadowhawk, it was the green frogs that we spent the most time trying to spy for they blended in well with their grassy surroundings at the water’s edge.

2-bobber

A bit further out, and unfortunately beyond our reach, we spotted a bobber and fishing line. While it offered a picture filled with color and curves, the reality wasn’t so pleasant.

4-Common Loon

Nearby, this loon and a youngster swam and fishing line left behind is bad news for them as they could get tangled in it. Please, please, please, if you are near the Horseshoe Pond boat launch, and have the means to retrieve the bobber, do so. And if you are anywhere else in this world, do the same–for the sake of all birds everywhere.

7-Sucker Brook

At last, we pulled ourselves away from the pond and followed the brook that flows from it–Sucker Brook.

5-Jack in the Pulpit

Right away, we were in awe of the Jack-in-the-Pulpit plants with fruits still intact. Jack is actually a curious plant and sometimes channels its feminine side. While the plant starts life as a male, if the soil is poor, it turns female, flowers and bears seed. It could turn male again. In the case of what we saw today, meet Jill.

6-thin maze polypore

As our journey continued, we noted fungi everywhere. Some had rotted and added to the earthy smell of the woods. Others displayed their unique structures, colors, and lines, including the Thin-mazed Polypore.

11a-earth tongue

We also found at least one Black Earth Tongue, its common name reflecting its tongue-like appearance as it stuck up from the ground.

11-Dead Man's Finger

And in keeping with human body parts, we noticed a singular Dead Man’s Finger. But . . . its presentation offered questions we couldn’t answer. It was our understanding that on Xylaria longipes the young fruiting bodies would be covered with a whitish or gray powder in the spring. The powder isn’t really a powder, but rather the asexual spores of the species. So, did we find a confused youngster? Or was it an oldster parasitized by a mold?

10-Choclolate Tube slime

Speaking of molds, we stumbled upon a log featuring a feathery appearance reminiscent of antennae on a moth or butterfly. Well, maybe a collection of antennae. A huge collection.

10a-chocolate tube slime

Turns out it was Chocolate Tube Slime, a new discovery for me. In his book, Fascinating Fungi of New England, author Lawrence Millman describes it as “dozens of erect, brown tubes mounted on thin, seemingly polished black stems.” Bingo.

9-green frogin sucker Brook

Also appearing a bit chocolate in color was another green frog. And being the first full day of autumn, I began to realize that my time spent admiring amphibians and dragonflies will soon draw to an end. But . . . on the horizon . . . tracks and scat 😉

8-Conocephalum salebrosum

Because we were beside the brook, and we’d seen this species before, we searched each and every rock and weren’t disappointed. Conocephalum salebrosum showed off its snakeskin-like leaves.

8b-cono

The conspicuous grooves of the thalli on this liverwort defined the surface and gave it that snakeskin appearance.

12-Moose Pond Bog

Continuing on, we finally reached the platform and climbed up to look out toward Moose Pond Bog. Of course, we hoped to see a moose. No such luck. We did spy one dog named Bella and her owner, Meg Dyer, the Lovell Rec Director, out for a Sunday walk in the woods. But they were on the trail below us and not in the bog. One of these days . . . maybe we’ll see a moose. When we least expect it, that is.

12-winterberry fruits buried

Back on the trail ourselves, our next great find–winterberries in a recently dug hole about four inches deep. Who done it? We poked the hole with a stick and determined that it didn’t go any deeper or have any turns, such as a chipmunk might make. Nor did it have a clean dooryard, which they prefer. Turkey? Perhaps. Squirrel?

13-winterberries among midden

We think we answered the question for on top of a tall hemlock stump that has long served as a red squirrel diner, some red winterberries appeared among the pine scales left behind.

14-liverwort?

Almost back to the road, we crossed the final bridge and then backtracked. We knew our destination was up the streambed it crossed over and were thankful that it held not much water. That meant we could climb up and take a closer look at the large boulders in the middle. And it was there that we made a new discovery.

14a-Peltigera aphthosa

You see, in the past we’ve not been able to get too close to the boulders and from a bit of a distance we were sure we had looked at more snakeskin liverwort. But our ability to get up close and personal today made us question our previous assumption. Suddenly, the gray-green leafy structure took on a more lichen-like appearance. Though its color wasn’t the same, it very much reminded me of rock tripe.

14c-Peltigera aphthosa

We studied its lobes and structure, including the tiny warts and questioned ourselves as we continued to examine it. I kept thinking it was an umbilicate based on the way it adhered to the rock substrate.

14b-Peltigera aphthosa

A little research and I think I’ve identified it correctly, but know some will alert me if I’ve assumed too much–Peltigera aphthosa, aka Freckled Pelt Lichen, also called Spotted Dog Lichen. The bright green center indicated it was wet. From borealforest.org, I learned that the little warts contain tiny colonies of cyanobacteria, which supply the lichen with nitrogen.

15-Racomitrium aciculare?

And right beside the lichen, we found a moss that also reminded us of a liverwort for it resembled Bazzania. But . . . if I identified this correctly, it’s Racomitrium aciculare. Some know it as Yellow-fringe Moss.

15a-Racomitrium

In his book, Mosses, Liverworts, and Hornworts, Ralph Pope described it as “common on wet rocks along streams and under waterfalls.” In watery seasons for this particular stream, that would be its exact location–under a waterfall.

16-dry stream bed

Today, the stream bed leading down to Moose Pond Bog and Sucker Brook was just about dry. But . . . because of that we were able to take a closer look.

In fact, it took us almost four hours to follow the mile or so trail, but it was all about taking a closer look through our 10X lenses and cameras, slowing down our brains,  and channeling our inner Nancy Drew as we paid attention to clues and tried to decipher the scene around us–all the while detecting the nature of Wilson Wing.

 

Long Speck-tacular

I suggested two hikes today to my guy and rather than choose one, he thought both sounded perfect. And so our journey began about noon as we ascended the 2.5 mile trail that twists and turns beside Mill Brook. Our destination: Long Mountain Ledges off Vernon Street in Albany, Maine, a property owned by Mary McFadden and Larry Stifler. Through their generosity, many trails in the area are open to the public. And through the work of their employee, Bruce Barrett, those trails are well maintained.

1-Long Mtn Trail

And well marked.

2-through the bog

At the start, a long series of boardwalks passes through a wettish area where so many ferns, and mosses, and wildflowers grow.

3-blue cohosh

Some, such as the Blue Cohosh, have matured to their fruiting stage–and their leaves hinted that another season is in the near offing.

4-red-belted polypore appearing to sweat

Once we began to climb, the natural community changed and so did the residents. One in particular reminded me that I have yet to understand its behavior. Why does the Red-belted Polypore weep, I wondered. It’s not a case of morning dew for nothing else appeared to have droplets of water. In searching for an answer, I learned a new word: gut·ta·tion–/ɡəˈtāSHən/, noun: the secretion of droplets of water from the pores of plants. On gardeningknowhow.com, I found this explanation: “The plant doesn’t always need the same amount of moisture. At night, when temperatures are cool or when the air is humid, less moisture evaporates from the leaves. However, the same amount of moisture is still drawn up from the roots. The pressure of this new moisture pushes out the moisture that is already in the leaves, resulting in those little beads of water.” If this is correct, I’m assuming the same is true for fungi.

5-pancake fungi

There were plenty of other mushrooms to see, including the pancake fungi my guy pointed out. He’s such a mushroom guru (NOT) that I instantly believed his identification. After all, they were plate-size and did resemble pancakes. All they needed were some blueberries, butter, and maple syrup.

6-Long Mountain Trail Ledges

Because the trail was so well created, it hardly felt like a climb and in just over an hour we had reached the ledges where the view included Round Mountain to the immediate left, also owned by the Stiflers, and the Whites in western Maine and eastern New Hampshire beyond. Suffice it to say, this was lunch rock.

7-crown-tipped coral

We descended via the same trail and I love doing that because there’s always something different to see. Today, it was a purple coral fungi. Did it begin life as a different color and the purple was a sign of maturity, I wondered. It didn’t matter. What mattered was that I couldn’t recall ever seeing that color before and it seemed rather royal.

8-hobblebush berries

There were also hobblebushes to admire, they’re green leaves and red berries adding a bit of Christmas joy to the scene. OK, so I’m rushing seasons, but I am a winter gal.

9-heading out

Five miles and 2.5 miles later, we walked back across the board walk, hopped into the truck, and drove south.

10-Speck Ponds Trail

For all of ten minutes, for our next destination was another property owned by the Stiflers. This time, we followed Hunts Corner Road to Hutchinson Pond Road and looked for the trailhead to the Speck Ponds Trail. If you go, know this, drive until you think you are almost there, and then drive some more. It’s located on the right, along the dirt portion of the road, just after the mailbox tucked into a canoe! Huh? You’ll have to take a look for yourself to understand what I mean.

11-the chair

I’d heard that some trail improvements had been made since I’d last ventured there. Indeed, they had, including new red trail blazes and an Adirondack chair by the trail map. The significance of the chair, however, wouldn’t be revealed to us until we finished. Onward we journeyed.

12-Crossing the line

And crossed from Albany to Norway, Maine, via the woodland trail.

13-home of many beaver homes

First, we circled halfway around Upper Speck Pond, noting signs everywhere that beavers had lived there in the past.

14-if this canoe could talk

And an old canoe that had its own stories of yore to tell. Somewhere, a family or group of friends know the history of this sunken artifact.

15-beaver dam on Lower Speck Pond

About halfway around, and really, directly behind the sunken canoe, another trail connects to the Lower Speck Loop. We followed it and eventually came to more beaver sign, including a dam with some new wood atop.

15a-beaverworks

Downed trees with freshly chopped chips also graced the area.

15b-beaver lodge

And another lodge. I lost count of how many we saw today, but suspected the one on Lower Speck was active.

16-Lower Speck Pond

We moved quickly as we circled round both ponds for my guy had visions of tonight’s pizza dinner on his mind. And maybe a Red Sox game that he was missing as well.

17-comorant

Despite our speed, we did pause to admire one of the pond residents–a cormorant.

A total of nine miles later, we’d climbed and circled and oohed and aahed and wondered along the way. Oh, and that chair, we considered sitting in it for we were hot and tired by the time we finished, but had we done so, we’d still be there–snoring away!

A Long Mountain-Speck Ponds Spectacular.

 

 

The Perks of Perky’s Path

It’s such a sweet trail and so named for Juanita Perkins, a local photographer and naturalist who was an avid member of the Greater Lovell Land Trust. To follow in her footsteps is not an easy task, but today I journeyed along the path trying to see what Juanita might have seen.

1-lancet clubtail

Immediately upon stepping down the trail, a clubtail dragonfly landed in front of me. Identifying dragonflies has become one of my passions of late, but still I struggle. And go back and forth. Lancet Clubtail or Pronghorn? I lean toward Lancet only because I’m not sure Pronghorns are a Maine species. But it’s to Dragonflies of the North Woods that I turn, and the abdomen that I try to zone in on. The abdomen consists of ten segments. Lancet: segment 8 has a smaller top spot and segment 9 is all yellow on top, (except for the female’s top spot which is narrower). Pronghorn: segment 8 has a smaller top spot and segment 9 is all yellow on top. Segment 10 has a narrow stripe. The Maine Odonata survey does not include the Pronghorn and so I find myself deciding on the Lancet. Suffice it to say, this is a clubtail.

2-ebony jewelwing damselfly

A much easier species for me to ID is the ebony jewelwing damselfly. Several danced and posed by the brook leading from the wetland the path encircles to Heald Pond. I trust that when Juanita traveled this path, she too saw the jewelwings dance, their bodies as bejeweled as their wings–maybe more so. A female’s wings are smokier in color than the males and each is dotted with one white spot at the tip.

3-male ebony jewelwing

The male’s wings are more ebony in color and body more metallic. This handsome fellow had three ladies in waiting so he couldn’t pause for long.

4-trail sign

Though I refer to the entire loop as Perky’s Path, in reality I hadn’t even reached it by the time I encountered the “You Are Here” sign. I’d actually been walking along a snowmobile trail that is part of Heald and Bradley Ponds Reserve.

5-perky's path

It was a couple of tenths of a mile later that I finally stepped onto the path blazed with orange.

6-bench

One of my favorite hangouts is the bench located along a short spur. Usually I spend moments on end, but today I was eager to move on.

7-Indian Cucumber Root

Along the spur trail, I did note one of my favorite fruits beginning to ripen–that of Indian Cucumber Root. And as it ripens, the base of the leaves turn red. All I could think of is that the red is a sign to birds–come dine at this table. You won’t regret it.

8-trillium fruit

Another red fruit stood upright above leaves of three–that of a painted trillium.

9-new stone bridge

It’s been six years since Juanita Perkins passed away and I don’t know when she last walked the path, but at that time, where the stream from Bradley Pond flows into a beaver wetland before continuing on toward Heald Pond, she probably crossed the water via a wooden bridge. Time and weather had taken their toll on the bridge and so at the beginning of this summer a group of volunteers and a couple of GLLT staff members pulled the wood out and placed flat rocks as stepping stones. It makes for a magical crossing, especially as it slows the wander and encourages one to notice the surroundings. Though we never officially met (I do remember her dropping off photographs at a local gift shop where I worked for several summers back in the late 1980s), I trust she would appreciate the change.

10-stream archs

Of course, I’ve always been one to enjoy water and all its variations. By the stepping stones (boulders), smaller rocks below the surface added to the overall arching effect, creating an interconnection. I felt a sense of Juanita’s time spent on the path woven into today.

13-jewelweed

By the water, there were a variety of flowers to note, including whorled asters and cardinal flowers, but it was the jewelweed that brought a smile to my face. I don’t understand why, but one of the sepals forms a pouch-like structure with a long spur. Jewelwings and jewelweed–indeed, a very special place.

11-Golden Spindle

Adding to the wonder right now due to recent and much appreciated rain are all the fruiting forms of mushrooms and this path has its fair share. I’m not great on my identification of boletes and others, but there are a few individuals that I remember from year to year. It’s the fact that their spores are everywhere and those spores form hyphae, that then forms mycelium, that then eats anything organic, that when mating is successful forms fruit, is wicked cool. We’re wowed by the fruit, but really, we need to honor the entire system. And so I honor the Golden Spindle,

12-white spindle fungi

White Spindle (which I don’t recall ever seeing before),

12b-scarlet waxy cap

Scarlet Waxy Caps,

12a-earth tongue fungi

and Earth Tongues.

14-into the wetland

And then I slip off the path and down to the wetland, wondering what else I might see.

15-cherry-faced meadowhawk

Instantly I am rewarded with numerous sightings of Cherry-faced Meadowhawks, their wings all aglow.

16-hobblebush leaves

They aren’t the only shade of red in the vicinity, for some of the hobblebush leaves have taken on their autumn hue already. (Say it isn’t so!)

16c-brook to wetland

I almost complete the loop and reach the bridge crossing just before the parking lot at the end of Heald Pond Road, when I decide to follow the stream bed back toward the wetland. I suppose I did so because I wanted to extend my journey and my time honoring Juanita.

16-green frog

Here and there, where pockets of water exist, green frogs either try to hide from me or make sudden leaps.

17-back to the wetland

I bushwhack back into the wetland, not wanting to let go, and forever thankful for Juanita. Every time I wander her way, I discover new perks along Perky’s Path.

 

 

 

A Rare and Exotic Mondate

When my guy and I began our journey this afternoon, he thought our mission was simple and two-fold. First, we’d double check road names and directions for a friend’s book that I’m editing. And then we’d hike the easy Ron’s Loop at the Greater Lovell Land Trust’s Back Pond Reserve in Stoneham, Maine.

Y7-RON'S LOOP KIOSK

No sooner had I parked the truck and we hopped out, when I announced that we had a detour to make. Always one for adventure, he followed along. And when I told him our quest, he began to search the forest floor. I have to admit time and again that though he pretends not to care about so much that naturally distracts me, he has a keen eye. Or maybe its just that he likes a challenge. Perhaps, too, he just wanted to make the find and move on for the mosquitoes were robust and hungry.

y1-yellow lady's slipper

What mattered most was that he channeled his Prince Charming and was the first to find Cinderella’s golden slipper.

Y4-ALL THE PARTS

Members of the Orchid family, lady’s slippers feature the typical three petals in an atypical fashion. The pouch (or slipper or moccasin), called the labellum, is actually one petal–inflated and veined.

Y3-TENDRILS

With a purplish tint, the petals and sepals twisted and turned offering their own take on a ballroom dance. From every angle, they were simply elegant rising as they did from their stem with leaves forming a royal staircase.

lady's slipper

Though we didn’t see any pink lady’s slippers on today’s hike, it’s interesting to note their differences, with the sac of the pink dangling down like a high-heeled shoe, while the yellow is more ballet-like in its presentation. And the pink features two basal leaves, in contrast to the alternate steps of the yellow’s leaves.

Both, however, are in the genus Cypripedium in the Orchidaceae family. The genus name Cypripedium is derived from the Greek words “Cypris,” an early reference in Greek myth to Aphrodite, and “pedilon” for sandal, so named for the fused petals that form the pouch and their resemblance to a slipper or shoe.

Y2--LOOKING WITHIN

All lines on this orchid led to . . . well, not exactly Rome, but certainly the labellum, or sac-like structure. With the rim turned inward, the pollinators found it easy to enter, but much more difficult to exit, the better to rub against the stigma and anthers, thus collecting pollen. Some bees find it difficult to simply fly away from the lady’s charm, but by chewing their way out, they are able to move on to the next and leave a message from the princess in the form of a pollen deposit.

Y7-BEECH COTYLEDON

We finally moved on with the not-so-sweet drone of those larger-than-life mosquitoes buzzing in our ears. And then we stumbled upon one American beech cotyledon after another and were reminded of last year’s mast crop of beech nuts.

Y8-BEECH COTYLEDON

I was again reminded that it’s my duty to bring attention to these structures, the seedling form of beech trees. The lower set of leathery embyronic leaves that remind me of a butterfly, appear before the tree’s true leaves make themselves known. Part of what intrigues me about these seed leaves that appear before the tree’s true leaves is that they contain stored food. Some of these food stores wither and fall off, but in the case of the many we saw today, the cotyledons had turned green and photosynthesized. I also love how the word cotyledon (cot·y·le·don \ ˌkä-tə-ˈlē-dᵊn \) flows off my tongue, much like marcescent, which describes the leaves of this same tree that cling, wither and rattle all winter long.

Y8A-BEECH GROVE TO COME

Though I’ve read that seeing beech cotyledons is a rare event and could attest to that fact  in the past, thrilling with each siting, today we noted their ubiquitous nature.

Y9-RED MAPLE COTYLEDON

Red maple cotyledons also decorated the trail. If the plant has two seed leaves, such as these, it is a dicot (dicotyledon), and if only one it is a monocot (monocotyledon).

Y10-MAGIC ALONG THE TRAIL

Onward we moved, stopping occasionally as my guy did some trail work because its part of his nature to make a path clear for those who follow. Being a one-armed bandit, my help was still limited, but it won’t be long and I’ll be able to offer two capable hands.

Y11-BUNCHBERRIES

Further along the trail, bunchberries were beginning to bloom. Normally, a bunchberry plant has two sets of opposite leaves. But . . . when one is mature enough to grow a third set, typically larger leaves (perhaps to capture more energy) than the first two sets, it produces four white bracts that we think of as petals. In reality, the bracts were modified leaves. The flowers were in the center–tiny as they were.

Y12-1ST BRIDGE CROSSING

In what seemed like no time, for we moved so quickly, we reached the first bridge. It was at this point that we began the loop back toward the trailhead. And smiles crossed my face as I recalled memories of explorations along the way with so many others.

Y8B-CANKERED BEECH

On the way back, we noted so many beech trees that dealt with nectria and we could only hope that within some of those cotyledons there might be some trees resistant to the beech scale insect that delivers such devastation to these trees.

Y13-SEATED TREE

One of my favorite trees along the way sat as it always does, taking a break upon a granite bench.

Y14-TINDER CONK

And a tinder conk showed off its form, which for me recalled a childhood spent along the Connecticut shoreline, for it surely resembled an oyster shell.

Y15-INDIAN CUCUMER ROOT

We were almost to the end of the loop when my heart and not my mouth sang with joy once again. While you might give thanks for small blessings like the fact that I’m a great lip sinker rather than the opera star my mind hears, I made my guy stop because the Indian Cucumber Root was in bloom.

Y16-INDIAN CUCUMBER ROOT

Like the bunchberries that need that third set of leaves in order to fruit, Indian Cucumber Root needs two levels to produce a flower. I’m of the belief that if the structure of this flower doesn’t make you wonder, nothing will. It strikes me as a northern version of a bird of paradise.

Y18-2ND BRIDGE

In what seemed like my shortest adventure along this trail because we didn’t want to overdo our offerings to the female mosquitoes who needed our blood in order to reproduce, we crossed the second bridge back toward the trailhead.

Y19-YELLOW LADY'S SLIPPER WITHOUT FLOWER

It was near that crossing that I checked on a couple of yellow lady’s slippers and as has been true since I first met them–they weren’t in flower. From what I’ve learned, it’s not so odd that the plants have yet to bloom. Apparently, it takes 10-17 years for a seed to mature into a plant capable of blooming. For this plant and the one beside it, perhaps the blossoms are on the horizon.

Y5-ALL PARTS 2

One day they’ll reach the status of their neighbor. For any lady’s slippers, the dance is rather intricate. The stage floor must be painted with an acidic soil and there needs to be a sashay with Rhizoctonia fungi. As the fungi digests the outer cells of the seeds, inner cells escape digestion and absorb some of the nutrients the fungus obtained from the soil–all in the name of a symbiotic dance.

Though our journey flew by on the wings of the world’s largest, loudest, and meanest mosquitoes, our finds on this Mondate afternoon extended from lady’s slippers to cotyledons, bunchberries and Indian Cucumber Root. All appeared rare and exotic.

 

 

Cozy Cabin

This afternoon Jinny Mae and I went in search of the perfect location to build a cabin. A tiny cabin. A one room cabin. With an outhouse of course. And an infinity pool.

p1-Old Beaver Pond

Deciding where to place it proved to be the most challenging part of the building process. We didn’t want to rush into the things and so we stood. For a long time. And absorbed the sun’s warmth. And reveled in the quiet. It was a contender, but decided we might have to return in another month or so when the song birds sing to decide if it was the right spot, for it was almost too quiet.

p4-brook

And so we continued our journey beside a stream where the ice had melted and water gurgled.

p5-water

In fact, it gurgled so much that it was irresistible and we began looking about because we felt drawn to the spot.

p3-hexagonal-pored polypore (Polyporus alveolaris)

The neighborhood also appealed to us because it had so many interesting landmarks including the hexagonal-pored polypores,

p11--tinder conk pore surface

tinder conks (aka hoof fungus) with their pore surfaces exposed,

p10-false hoof fungus

and even some false tinder conks.

p7-script lichen

One of the things that surprised us was all the writing on the bark for we found script lichen on many a tree trunk. It felt like we’d stumbled upon volumes of research about the construction process.

p12-hairy curtain crust fungus 2

When building, the old adage is location, location, location, but it helps when local resources are available–which we found in the form of curtains, aka hairy curtain crust fungus (or so I think).

p15-many fruited pelt lichen

We also spied multi-fruited pelt lichen that would be suitable to cover the floors.

p17-beaver 2

And then we began to notice the available lumber.

p19-beaver 4

It came in a variety of tree species.

p20-beaver 5

And was already de-barked.

p19-beaver 6

And pre-hewn.

p23-infinity pool

When we saw the infinity pool, we were certain that we’d found the prime location.

p24-lodge roof top

And then we spied a pre-built cabin with a new roof top and we imagined a chimney in the center of the structure.

p25-lodge and dinner raft below water

As it turned out, there was no need for us to build a tiny cabin after all, for we found one already constructed and it even included a refrigerator filled with a cache of branches. Fine dining was definitely in our future.

We were excited because we wouldn’t need to do the building ourselves and our dream was realized in a lodge that was well placed as it graced the landscape and took advantage of the local offerings. A cozy cabin indeed.