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.

 

Christmas in July Mondate

We did celebrate Christmas in December as has long been the tradition, but for one of his presents my guy received a box with a photo and a set of oar locks. It made absolutely no sense to him. Why oar locks? And why a photo of a boat that needed some work and was sitting in someone’s barn. By now, you know where I’m going with this. As did he, once he gave it a moment’s thought.

The back story is that it was a selfish gift for we do have a fleet of boats already, including a 12-foot aluminum that has seen its own set of better days. The rest of our boats are man/woman-powered, from canoe and kayaks to sailfish and rowing shell. But a boat with a motor–other than the aluminum that has been a piece of yard art since our youngest went off to college so many years ago–had not been in our possession for three or four years. And even then, we only enjoyed it sporadically for it always seemed to have an engine issue of one sort or another. Finally, we sold it as is. And thankfully haven’t heard since if it isn’t.

But . . . our trips beyond the northern basin of Moose Pond had been more limited, and I like going for the occasional tour. So when our Wiser friends (Marita and Bob), said they were planning to sell their circa 1988 Maine Guide Boat last fall, I jumped on the opportunity and turned it into a Christmas present. First, however, they intended to sand and stain the woodwork and paint the interior. All the better for us, I figured. And I didn’t care when the job would be completed for it wasn’t like we’d be boating in January.

c1-SS Christmas

They kindly dropped the refurbished boat off last week and again it sat. Until today, when my guy had a chance to make a couple of minor adjustments, like adding the registration stickers and some epoxy to a couple of spots on the stern.

c4-trimming a branch

While the epoxy dried, there was a branch dangling over the side of the dock that needed to be trimmed. We love hiding behind the trees, and so haven’t done what most have–cut the bottom third of the branches off view-blocking trees. Even making this minor adjustment didn’t feel quite right, but we did need a place to dock the boat. And it wasn’t the first time we’d made such a cut in the same spot. I guess we were just surprised at how much the tree had grown since we last docked a boat there.

c2-Canada geese at neighbors

Of course, while he sawed the lower part of the branch off, I looked around and spied Canada geese visiting the neighbor’s well-groomed property. There were at least 25 geese in all, each leaving a multitude of gifts as thanks for the neighbor’s hospitality.

c5-boat launched

And then the boat was launched without much fanfare.

c6-lancet clubtail dragonfly

Unless you consider the fact that a Lancet Clubtail Dragonfly stopped by frequently to check on the happenings.

c7-variable dancer damselfly

A Variable Dancer Damselfly also kept taking a look, and even checked out the boat’s seats.

c3-bryozoan mass

Meanwhile, as I was exclaiming over the clarity of the water, I noticed a Bryozoan mass, a most definite gift for the tiny colonial aquatic creatures that connect their tubes together and form the jelly-like blob, effectively filter particles from the water. The animals live in the tubes and extend their tentacles that capture even smaller microscopic organisms for food. The gelatinous species, also known as moss animals, is native to North America.

c5-motor added

Ah, but it was a boat we were there to focus on and a four-stroke motor that’s been sitting dormant in the basement was attached to the stern. Fresh gas and a quick pull of the cord and we were in business.

c9-onto the northern basin

Off we headed onto our section of the pond.

c10-Shawnee Peak Ski Area

A turn to the left and the slopes of Shawnee Peak Ski Area at Pleasant Mountain appeared before us.

c11-under Route 302 Causeway

Another turn to the left and then to the right and we passed under the Route 302 Causeway into the much larger middle basin.

c12-Loon and chick

It was there that more gifts were to be presented.

c12-loon chick

Momma or Poppa Loon, for one can’t tell the difference from this angle, with a chick snuggled on its back.

c14-momma or poppa and chick

Always a favorite sight.

c15-Camp Winona

We had stopped the engine by the loons and drifted for a bit. But then it was time to move on toward Camp Winona, where not a camper or counselor was to be seen by the platform tents or any of the waterfront. We thought of stopping to visit our friend, Camp Nurse Rosemary, but weren’t sure if she was working today and so on we chugged at our ever so slow speed, which was much to my liking.

c18-unicorn

Thankfully, it was fast enough to keep away from the pond monster, Moosey the Unicorn. We sure do share this water body with a variety of creatures.

c16-Pleasant Mountain and East Ski Area

Across the way, most of the ridge line of Pleasant Mountain came into view and we made a discovery.

c16-East Ski Area-lobster

It looked like a lobster! Or maybe it was a crayfish, since we were on Moose Pond.

c19-home captain

Eventually we turned around, saving the southern basin for another day.

c20-backing into the dock spot

Our maiden voyage in our new/old boat came to an end as my guy successfully backed it into its resting spot at the dock. And Sam Adams helped us toast the adventure as we christened the boat: S.S. Christmas.

Christmas in July was certainly celebrated on this Mondate.

 

 

 

 

What the Bobcat Knows

As I drove down Heald Pond Road in Lovell today I wasn’t sure what awaited me. But isn’t that the point? Every venture into the great outdoors should begin as a clean slate and it’s best not to arrive at the trailhead with expectations.

f1-Heald Pond Road barn

And so I didn’t. Well, sorta. I really wanted to see a porcupine. And maybe an otter. And definitely an owl. But I knew better and so I passed the last barn on the road and then backed up and stepped out, captivated by the colors in the scene before me.

f2-trail signs

A few minutes later, I strapped on my snowshoes and headed up the trail. My plan–to climb to the summit of Flat Hill at the Greater Lovell Land Trust’s Heald and Bradley Ponds Reserve and then circle around Perky’s Path upon my return.

f3-trail up flat hill

Breaking trail was my job in the rather deep snow given recent storms, but easy to move upon and so I sashayed up. What surprised me, however, was the lack of tracks left behind by the mammals that I know live in these woods.

f4-pine cone bird feeders

I did stop at the balsam firs decorated by a local 4-H club in December as part of the Maine Christmas Tree Hunt. The dangling pinecones once sported peanut butter and birdseed, but today that was all a memory so I knew birds and deer had stopped by in the last few months.

f5-bobcat 1

And then, as I neared the flat summit, I found tracks of a mammal that had checked out the base of every tree and under every downed limb. In fact, as I soon realized, it was more than one mammal that I followed as I went off trail. Bobcats. Indeed. Though typically solitary, these two traveled together. It is mating season and males and females will travel together during courtship.

f11-bobcat print

Though the prints were difficult to photograph given the glare, by the toes, ridge and overall shape, I knew them.

f12-bobcat scat and print

And scat! Filled with white hair. I have close-up views should you choose a closer look, but chose to give those who find scat to be rather disgusting a break. 😉

f6-porcupine and bobcat

And then I found another set of tracks and knew that besides squirrels and little brown things, the bobcats were also searching for a bigger dinner. On the left–a porcupine trough, and on the right, the bobcat trail.

f8-porky work

Ever since I’ve traveled this trail, I’ve seen the work of the porcupines at the summit. And sometimes I even get to see the creator. In winter, porcupines eat needles and the bark of trees, including hemlocks, birch, beech, aspen, oak, willow, spruce, fir and pine. And they leave behind a variety of patterns.

f7-porky work

If I didn’t know better, I could have been convinced that this ragged work was left behind by a chiseling woodpecker, but it, too, was porcupine work.

f9-porky work

All about the summit, recent chews were easily identified for the inner bark was brighter than the rest of the landscape. And below these trees–no bark chips such as a beaver would leave, for the porcupine consumed all the wood.

f10-flat hill view

While snow flurries fluttered around me, the summit view was limited and it looked like the mountains were receiving more of the white stuff. (Never fear–we’ll get more as our third Nor’easter in two weeks or so is expected in two more days. Such is March in Maine.)

f13-script lichen between pine lines

From the summit, rather than follow the trail down, I tracked the bobcats for a while, first to the north and then to the south. I had hoped to find a kill site, but no such luck. Instead, the writing on the page was found upon the pines where script lichen, a crustose, was located between the lines of bark scales.

f14-ulota moss and frullania

I also found plenty of Frullania, that reddish brown liverwort that graced so many trees. And among it, a moss I’ll simply call an Ulota. As I looked in Ralph Pope’s book, Mosses, Liverworts, and Hornworts , upon arriving home, I realized I should have paid attention to capsules for that would have helped me determine whether what I saw was Ulota crispa or Ulota coarctata. Another lesson for another day.

f15-beaver pond on Perky's Path

At last I reached Perky’s Path, which may not seem like a major feat if you’ve been there, but actually I’d explored off trail for quite a ways and it took me a while to get down to the wetland.

f16-maleberry

And because I was in the wetland, maleberry shrubs bordered the edge and showed off their bright red buds and woody, star-shaped seedpods.

f16a-bobcat across wetland

After focusing on them for a while, I looked down at the snow’s surface and the most subtle of prints appeared before my eyes. My two bobcats. The curious thing–at the summit the mammals had sunk into the snow and the prints were a bit difficult to decipher. I assumed those summit impressions had been made about two days ago. But on the wetland, the bobcats walked atop the snow–when conditions were firmer and I suspected they’d been created last night.

f17-brook toward Bradley Pond 1

I followed the edge of the wetland to the bridges that cross a brook that forms at the outlet of Bradley Pond, constantly on the lookout for the bobcat tracks again.

f18-more bobcat

And I found them! Beside the brook.

f19-beaver pond from bridge

What had they found on the wetland, I wondered?

f21a-beaver trail

Continuing on, I found that they’d checked on the woodwork left behind by another critter of these woods who had also moved about last night.

f20-beaver works

Beaver works. And their piles of woodchips. Unlike a porcupine, a beaver doesn’t eat the chips. Rather, it cuts down a tree for food or a building material. The chips are like a squirrel’s midden of cone scales–the garbage pile of sorts.

f22-beaver trail to water

I noted where the beaver had moved into the brook . . .

f23-beaver treats

And left some sticks behind. For future food? Future building? Stay tuned.

f27-brook to Bradley pond

Typically in other seasons I can’t move beside the edge of the brook, but today I could. The lighting kept changing and water reflected the sky’s mood.

f24-Diamesa sp. and snow flea

And because I was by the water, I kept noting small insects flying about–almost in a sideways manner. Then I found some on the snow–a member of the Diamesa species, a midge I believe. And do you see the small black speck below it–a snowflea, aka spring tail.

f25-Diamesa sp.:haltere

And do you see the two little nobs on the fly’s back, the red arrow pointing to one? Those are the haltere: the balancing organ of a two-winged fly; a pair of knobbed filaments that take the place of the hind wings.

f29-beaver pond wetland low

Eventually, I followed the eastern edge of the wetland back to my truck, wondering if there was any more action but found none. In fact, the water was low so I knew the beaver works weren’t to rebuild the dam. Yet. Nor did I find any more bobcat tracks. But I’d found enough. And I think I know some of what the bobcat knows.

 

 

Book of August: Mosses, Liverworts and Hornworts

Last winter when I scheduled a talk/walk on lichens and another on mosses for this summer, I wasn’t sure what the public response would be, and so it was a pleasant surprise that both were well received. While Maine Master Naturalist Jeff Pengel spoke to us and then led us down the trail taking a close-up look at lichens in July, Ralph Pope introduced many to mosses for the first time on August 1. And then he took us only part way down a trail on August 2, for there were samples everywhere–both at our feet and sometimes even eye level.

m-mosses book

Ralph is the author of Mosses, Liverworts and Hornworts: A Field Guide to Common Bryophytes of the Northeast. He began thinking about writing such a guide while teaching a course on bryophyte identification at Antioch University New England. “I realized that the available resources were not inviting for a beginning student,” says Ralph.

His book begins with a description of bryophyte biology, taxonomy and ecology for those who are interested. As he states on page 11, “Mosses, hornworts, and liverworts, the three groups making up the bryophytes, evolved from the aquatic ancestors of modern green algae and represent the beginnings of terrestrial plant life, eventually giving rise to our amazingly diverse array of vascular plants.” Beyond words. Beyond our world.

I’ve used another guide, but this one seems so much easier to follow for Pope has formatted it into divisions that make sense to my brain–Spagnaceae: peat mosses; Acrocarpous: (acro-high; carpous-fruit) upright-growing mosses with fruits on the top; Pleurocarpous: (pleuro-side; carpous-fruit) mat-forming mosses with fruits extended on side branches; Liverworts (body of plant flat-thalloid; leaves in two rows-leafy) and Hornworts (uncommon–in fact, I’ve yet to meet one). These are in color-coded sections, making the process even easier.

And while each section begins with a key, for those who don’t like such things, there is a description of preferred habitat, family characteristics and then the species presented in alphabetical order (think Latin, for as Ralph pointed out, we’ve been spoiled by common names for birds and think that everything should have such, but for some species there are several common names, thus making it difficult to know for sure across the globe that we are talking about the same species.–Guess I need to get my Latin on) and illustrated with fabulous photographs.

m-looking at samples

With a few slides, Ralph introduced the audience to bryophytes, which are the most primitive of plants having no roots, no flowers, and no woody structure. They are usually green (as opposed to the gray-green hues of lichens), translucent as they are only one cell thick, and often have spore capsules that last a long time.

m-studying examples

After the talk, he encouraged the audience to take a closer look at species gathered that day along the Westways Trail at the Greater Lovell Land Trust’s Heald and Bradley Ponds Reserve.

lm-checking out the field guide

Behind each species an enlarged poster of the related page from his book included a description, similar species, range and habitat, and meaning of names or tips for identification.

lm-large group

A crowd of 25 spanning ages 5 to 25 a few times over, stepped onto the Westways Trail with Ralph the next morning.

lm-listening to Ralph

His combined knowledge and humor kept us all enraptured with the world below our feet. To get a sense of Ralph’s voice is this sample from page 7, “Remember the old adage that if you happen to lose your compass, your iPhone, your GPS, your ability to see the sun, and your sense of direction, moss growth will show you the north side of a tree? Well, keep the compass handy, but the north side of a tree trunk does indeed get less desiccating sunlight than the rest of the tree trunk, so it just might have more moss growth. Score one for the Boy Scouts.”

m-big red stem 1

On moss-topped rocks, Ralph and his wife, Jean, had marked species to be sure to stop at for our edification. The number referred to the page in the book and for those who didn’t have their own copy, he had loaners. In this case, 255 is Pleurozium schreberi or Big Red Stem.

m-big red 2

He picked samples so we could each take a closer look and see the reason for the name–notice that red stem? Because most bryophytes cells are totipotent–thus they have the ability to grow into a new plant, trampling them or even breaking some off can lead to new growth, so he was happy to pass small samples around.

m-close up

We looked . . .

m1-Aidan

and looked . . .

m-another close up

and looked . . .

m-Caleb

some more.

m-Wes

Of course, sometimes we just had to take a break. Oh to be five again!

m-sphagnum

Our samples included Sphagnum pylaesii, with its pompom head,

m-cushion

an acrocarp–Leucobryum glaucum, or pincushion moss,

m-calliergon 221

the pleurocarp, Calliergon cordifloium, 

m-porella 343

and the liverwort, Porella platyphylloidea. 

m-do you see what I see?

For a couple of hours, we were all thoroughly enchanted . . .

m-Ralph

as we focused our intention on these miniature plants and this man–who opened our eyes.

m-weasel scat

Only once did our attention get diverted–for some weasel scat. Thanks to intern Kelley’s keen eyes, a few of us saw the weasel scampering about thirty feet ahead. Still . . . notice where the weasel chose to make its contribution–on a rock covered in moss in the middle of the trail.

This book was a Christmas present from my guy and I look forward to many more days spent sitting on a rock getting to know my surroundings better.

Mosses, Liverworts and Hornworts: A Field Guide to Common Bryophytes of the Northeast, Ralph Pope, Cornell University Press, 2016.

 

 

 

 

Book of June: Bogs and Fens

My wish was granted when I asked for a copy of Bogs and Fens: A Guide to the Peatland Plants of the Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada by Ronald B. Davis for Christmas.

b-bogs and fens cover

The idea for this book came from many years spent by Davis as a biology and Quaternary studies professor at the University of Maine and Colby College, plus his services as a docent at the Orono Bog Boardwalk in Orono, Maine.

Since I spend a lot of time tramping through a few favorite bogs and fens as well as visiting others, this seemed like the perfect guide to help me better understand the world of these special communities. And then I realized that on our own property grows some of the vegetation associated with these wetlands. With them right under my nose, what better way to learn?

Davis begins by describing the occurrence and indicator species of peatlands and then he goes on to give a lesson on the ecology of wetlands, including a description of peat, fens and bogs. A bibliography is provided for further reading and terms are defined.

What really works for me though, is the species descriptions, which he’s taken the time to divide into their various layers–trees, tall shrubs, short and dwarf shrubs, prostrate shrubs, herbaceous plants and ferns. Within each section, a specific plant is described, including its Latin name, common names, family, characteristics such as how tall it grows, number of petals, fruit, if any, etc., and its occurrence–whether in a fen, bog, dry hummock or other. All in all, he features 98 species, but also mentions 34 comparative species and includes an annotated list of 23 additional trees, shrubs, herbs and ferns that may grow in one or more community. And finally, the book ends with a description of pathways and boardwalks worth visiting.

b-sphagnum moss

And so this morning, I walked out back to look at our wetland, where the sphagnum moss’s pompom heads were crisscrossed by spider webs donned with beads of water.

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It’s there that the round-leaved sundews grow, which I only discovered last year. Notice those bad-hair day “tentacles” or mucilaginous glands and the black spots upon the leaves. Dinner was served–in the form of Springtails or Collembola–their nutrients being absorbed by the plant to supplement the meager mineral supply of the sphagnum community.

b-sundew flower forming

And in the plant’s center, the flower stem begins to take shape. This summer, it will support tiny white flowers that will turn to light brown capsules by fall.

b-sheep laurel

Sheep laurel also grows in this place, its new buds forming in the axils below the newly emerged leaves. I can’t wait for its crimson flowers to blossom. Its flowers provide an explosion of beauty, and yet, danger lingers. This small shrub contains a chemical that is poisonous to wild animals, thus one of its common names is lambkill.

b-steeplebush leaves

Another short shrub is the rosy meadowsweet or steeplebush with its deeply toothed leaves.

b-steeplebush

Being only June 1st, it’s too early to flower, but last year’s steeple-like structure still stands tall in the landscape.

b-lowbush blueberries

Low-bush blueberries grow here as well and it’s only now that I realize I need to return and study these some more for Davis differentiates between velvet-leaved blueberries and common low-bush. I assumed these were the latter, but according to his description, the leaves will tell the difference. Apparently velvet-leaved, which I’ve never heard of before, feature “smooth-edged, alternate leaves, and bear fine, short hairs on the underside, edges and along veins of the upper side,” while low-bush leaves “have a finely serrate edge and a lack of pubescence, except rarely a sparse pubescence along the veins.” The next time I step out there, I will need to check the leaves to determine whether we have one or both species.

b-black chokeberry1

Of course, my favorite at the moment is the black chokeberry because the flowers provide a wow factor.

b-black chokeberry and ant

I’m not alone in my fascination.

b-water scavenger beetle larvae

Because I was nearby, I walked to the vernal pool, where a wee bit of sunlight highlighted another fascination of mine–my most recent discovery of water scavenger beetle larvae. Check out those heads and eyes.

b-tadpoles 1

Today, the tadpoles weren’t as shy as the other day and so they let me get up close and personal.

b-tadpoles 2

I’m holding out hope that the pool doesn’t dry up before they are able to hop away. Already, I can see their frog form beginning to take shape. This is a shout out to one of the Books of May: Vernal Pools–A Field Guide to Animals of Vernal Pools.

But back to the Book of June, and really the book of all summer months–Bogs and Fens by Ronald B. Davis. It’s heavy as field guides go and so I don’t always carry it with me, but it’s a great reference when I return to my truck or home. I appreciate its structure and information presented in a format even I get.

Bogs and Fens: A Guide to the Peatland Plants of the Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada, by Ronald B. Davis. University Press of New England, 2016.

My copy came from Bridgton Books, my local independent book store.

Falling Stars

The sight of falling snowflakes filled that spot in my soul that is devoted to wonder.

p-queen-annes-lace

Each tiny morsel unique.

p-aster

Many stacked high.

p-red-maple-leaf

Some precariously perched.

p-shelf-fungi

Others well supported.

p-milkweed

Foundations varied.

p-stairway

Stairways formed.

p-lea-mlsc-boardwalk-1

Boardwalks hid.

p-moss-monster

Moss Monsters smiled.

p-moose

Moose chuckled.

p-male-mallard

Mallards speculated.

p-red-fox

And the red fox paused.

Watching snowflakes gather reminded me of the impermanence of it all. They are exquisite and beautiful, yet temporary.  Here one moment, trampled and melted the next. Yet, I am forever awed by each tiny star that falls from the sky.