Counting Orchids Mondate

We had a feeling we might be rushing things when we set out on one of our planned Lady’s Slipper hikes this morning. But this was one nature moment my guy was actually looking forward to–oh, he loves to hike, it’s just the stopping for hours on end to look at all the idiosyncrasies of a flower or insect that doesn’t appeal to him.

And so it was that not long after we left the trailhead, we met the first lady of our intentions. She was classic–her pink slipper-like pouch inflated and darkly veined (in a manner that reminded me of a pitcher plant’s veins), her sepals and upper petals purply-bronze, stem hairy, and the set of basal leaves well ribbed. With that, we got excited, announced her as number one, and couldn’t wait to continue the count.

As luck would have it, by the time we reached the beaver dam crossing, we’d seen only four.

But at the dam we did pause, at which point several large tadpoles disappeared and a frog jumped into the muck to hide from us. Do you see him? By his dark angular spots, rather than dark rounded spots surrounded by a light ring did I know his name to be Pickerel.

Once the trail began to actually ascend the mountain, we continued to search left and right–and in the process discovered Indian Cucumber-root suddenly in flower. This is one of my favorites, perhaps because of the unique and quite subtle flower that nods below the upper leaf whorl. Except for once that I know of, typically Indian Cucumber root needs a second tier of leaves to help supply more energy so it can flower and fruit. One might easily pass by these plants, but they’re worth a stop to notice the six recurved, yellowish-green tepals (petal-like parts), six stamens, and those three stunning dark red styles.

Still no more lady’s to delight us, but flower clusters of Clintonia added bright cheer beside the trail. And actually, when not in flower, it’s quite easy to confuse their leaves with that of Lady’s Slippers. While both are basal, green, and oval in shape, Clintonias have several smooth leaves featuring a central vein and you can easily fold them in half, while Lady’s Slipper leaves of two are deeply pleated.

As we climbed higher, we spotted more and more Painted Trillium, the flower appearing above its three leaves. The flower has three green sepals and six pink-tipped stamens. Two of the features I love about these flowers: its wavy-edged petals; and the inverted pink V at the base of each. And I’m proud of my guy because he can name a trillium and seems to find pleasure in pointing them out to me. Of course, then he moves on, while I stop to honor the plants with a photograph. Every time 😉

My heart cheered at the sight of this little one, a Bunchberry. While the plant seems to sport a single flower, it’s “flower” is a series of four large petal-like bracts, surrounding the actual flowers, which are tiny and greenish, with four minute petals. Like the Indian Cucumber-root, this plant needs more leaves when it’s ready to flower, so instead of the usual leaves of four, flowering Bunchberries have two extra large leaves to help the cause.

It wasn’t just flowers that were worth noticing for upon a tree leaf that was being consumed after only recently breaking bud, two May Beetles, quite possibly Dichelonyx elongatula, prepared to canoodle.

As we approached the top, where the naturally community transitioned, so did the insects. Here and there fluttered several Eastern Tiger Swallowtails. I’m never quite certain of my ID for these versus Canadian Tiger Swallowtails, but the latter has a solid yellow band on the trailing edge of the forewings and the yellow is broken by black for Eastern. Also, on the hind wings, if I’m correct, the blue on the Eastern is outlined in black arcs or curves, while the black line is straight for a Canadian Tiger.

And what to its dining delight should be offering nectar on this fine day–Rhodora.

A Hummingbird Clearwing Moth was equally pleased with the menu.

So what about the ladies of our quest. It was in this new community that we found the most. And not all were completely opened, which made us wonder if we’d jumped the gun and headed off on our search a week too early.

We had to look under trees and shrubs, and though we didn’t find as many as we’d anticipated, we were still pleased.

Our favorite was this cluster, which my guy was proud to discover.

By the time we reached lunch rock where our PB&J sandwiches were consumed as we took in the view, the final orchid count totaled 47. We may just have to return for another Mondate in a few weeks because we suspect there will be more in bloom.

Overset Bouquet Mondate

We’d hiked at least a mile and passed a few Trout Lily leaves but no flowers when I asked my guy to hunt for the little yellow beauties that delight me. And so he did.

And felt quite pleased when he pointed one out to me. Well, um, how should I tell him it’s a False Hellebore and not the lily I sought. But, it is a member of the lily family, so it was a win, and I can’t resist photographing the hellebore’s spiral stalks of pleated leaves so it was actually a win/win for both of us. We never did find a flowering Trout Lily.

That was okay, because there were so many other flowers to honor and today marked the first day of this year that I spotted a Painted Trillium. Leaves of three (actually bracts), sepals of three, petals of three, but the best is the pinkish-reddish-purplish splotch at the base of the petals that acts as a pollinator guide.

Another pleasant surprise a few minutes later: American Fly Honeysuckle, its funnel-shaped yellow flowers tinged with a hint of purple dangling like a set of twins.

Also pale yellow in hue, but with petals that curve out slightly at the tip: Sessile-leaf Bellwort (aka Wild Oat). While most bell-shaped flowers are fused, these are not. And they are most subtle in appearance so you really have to focus to locate one. But chances are that once you find the first, your eyes will cue in on others.

No gathering of flowers is complete without a touch of red, and though we found only one Red Trillium (aka Stinking Benjamin), it was enough for its rose-colored flower was well accented with egg-yolk yellow anthers.

Of course, we continued to find more Painted Trillium and no hike at this time of year is finished without my guy commenting on the trillion Trillium that I insist upon photographing. I assured him that I wouldn’t take pictures of each one today, but I surely would honor all of them and so as we continued and he somehow managed to walk by without noticing, I obnoxiously drew his attention to all.

The one flower whose name he did learn today was Hobblebush. I swear I’ve introduced them before, and surely I have, but today the name and the floral display clicked–perhaps because they decorated so much of the trail we traveled, and truly, I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen so many in flower in one place.

The flat-topped clusters of flowers have a lacy effect and contrast well with the accordian-veined leaves. The outer ring of sterile flowers are said to attract pollinators who will then focus on the tiny fertile watermelon tourmaline flowers in the center. My wonder is this: do the sterile flowers have a second use–perhaps to keep others away because they find no nectar or pollen and think the plant isn’t worth a further exploration?

As I explained to my guy, the reason for the common name is its straggly branches that often bend and take root, tripping or “hobbling” passers-by.

To not include Trailing Arbutus would be remiss on my part, for so many were still blooming along the trail. And after I paused to photograph this one and then caught up with my guy and explained my focus moment, he was quick to quip that I was the one trailing! Always . . . in his hiking book.

By water’s edge, where we sat upon an overturned canoe to dine on our sandwiches, I found a few examples of Leather-leaf in flower, its tiny nodding, urn-shaped, pearly white bells with crisp rolled upper lips, on a short stalk hanging all in a row rather like a line of laundry on the clothesline.

At the summit, it was Serviceberry, aka Shadbush, that announced its presence. Notice how the flowers have emerged before the leaves. Right now, mini-leaves are bronze-tinged, folded and half or less their mature size; eventually the leaves will become green and flat, with the upper surface smooth and the lower hairy just along the midrib but retaining a few hairs on the surface. Nothing like a bit of variation.

If you look closely, you’ll find at least one pollinator taking a pause as it was raining by this point in our hike, but another close gander may reveal a few others.

Again at the summit, and therefore closer to the sunlight that didn’t shine today, several urn-shaped white flowers with pinkish stripes, the petals fused and tips turned back, shouting that blueberry season is in the offing.

All of these we gathered in photographs as a bouquet to mark this Mondate.

There were a few other finds worth noting–like last year’s Lady’s Slipper capsule, the source of thousands of tiny seeds.

And the discovery of a few Morel mushrooms at the base of Northern Red Oak trees. That was another first find for me. I’m sure for my guy as well, though he hardly saw them 😉

Our journey today found us hiking beside Sanborn River . . .

lunching on top of one of many overturned canoes beside Overset Pond . . .

enjoying the mirror image of the pond from a false summit on the mountain . . .

and taking in the entire scenario from the granite we stood upon to pond below, mountains beyond, and sky that reflected the ledge under our feet.

The flowers, the landscape, it was all worth the journey and we made plans to return in the near future. But the icing on the cake or pollen on the flowers was the pair of loons who entertained us from time to time in water so clear that we could see them swim underwater. Their re-emergence, however, was best and we enjoyed our time spent with them.

Overset Mountain and Sanborn River. A perennial favorite. A place to gather a bouquet without picking any flowers. A place to enjoy a variety of natural communities. A place to be native with the natives.

Thanks to Larry Stifler and Mary McFadden for allowing all of us to create an Overset Bouquet any day of the year.

Thrice the Blessings

My mother always said that things happen in threes. It’s a sentiment that has stuck with me and sometimes even haunted me. But when it is good, it is very, very good. And today was one of those days.

Though it was after noon by the time I stepped into Pondicherry Park in Bridgton, the bird song was on high pitch. The American Redstart’s sweet, yet explosive notes came amidst bursts of acrobatic energy as he flew quickly from one branch to the next and then back again a second later over Stevens Brook.

Twenty feet away, the delightful phrases of the Gray Catbird’s tunes filled the air, but it was his raspy mews that gave away his identity. And suddenly, there he was atop a tangle of shrubs and vines as is his habit. I suspected the nest he shares with his lady was located below.

“Wichety, wichety, wichety,” was the give-away song for the Common Yellowthroat, although I do have to say he was much easier to hear than to see.

While the redstart donned the colors of Halloween, the catbird appeared to be a cat in a bird costume, and the yellowthroat was equally disguised with a black mask.

For a few minutes, I stepped off the bridge and followed the Stevens Brook trail where I was met by a delightful surprise. I spied the mottled leaves before the flowers and my heart sang its own tunes with recognition of the species that I didn’t know grew there.

But the Trout Lily flowers were beautiful with a hint of bronze accenting their yellow petals. Do you see the formation? What may look like six petals is actually a configuration known as tepals for it’s difficult to differentiate between the three inner petals and their surrounding three sepals, which had previously enclosed the flower. Ahhh, language.

And within the center core, the pistil (she’s a pistol of a woman) surrounded by six stamen (Stay men), their anthers rusty red with pollen.

Also sometimes agreeing with the division of three were three tiny Goldthread flowers looking all fresh and perky. And their leaves of three parts that remind me of Cilantro.

And then another that knows the number being repeated time and time again: Jack-in-the-Pulpit or Arisaema triphyllum. The “pulpit” from which “Jack” (technically, the “spadix”) preaches stood between two long-stalked, three-parted leaves.

Further along the trail, I watched a female Hairy Woodpecker foraging for insects on stumps and logs.

A male I assumed was her guy did the same.

And then, though the colors don’t really show it in this photo, I heard another bird sing and by his white hanky in the pocket (a dash of white on his wings, right Molly?) I think I’ve identified him correctly: Black-throated Blue Warbler.

I was grateful not only for the two that I knew, but also the third that I’m just learning.

Other flowers showed off their structures, like those of the Norway Maple. OK, so the tree is invasive and grows prolifically in the park because it was originally planted as part of the streetscape above, but the fragrant yellow-green flowers blew delicately in the breeze. (As will their seeds soon, and thus the invasion).

Another that grows much less abundantly, but always makes me smile is the Striped Maple, an understory tree. And it too had flowers to share so there is hope for more of this species.

Flowering in a different way was the Woodland Horsetail, an equisetum. Its flower was in the form of a cone at the tip. Once its spores have been shed, the cone will collapse.

Insects also were part of the scene and tis the season of Mayflies, this one a subimago as indicated by the color of its wings. Cloudy wings indicated it was a teenager that had not gone through its final morph.

And then, a Great Black Wasp–its translucent blue wings giving it away in the duff. I tried to get closer, but it took off.

Such was the case also with a Mourning Cloak butterfly, which would have given me three insects to share. Do remember that insects have three pairs of legs–there’s that number again.

At last, several hours after I’d begun, it was time for me to leave Stevens and Willow Brooks behind.

But not until I had a chance to enjoy the beauty of Painted Trillium (Trillium undulatum), which was my initial reason for the journey. Trillium: Latin for tri, refers to the flower parts occurring in threes; llium: Latin for liliaceous, refers to the funnel-shaped flower; and undulatum: Latin reference for wavy, referring to the petals’ wavy margins.

Mom was right. Good things do happen in threes. Along my journey I also had the blessing of chatting with three wonderful women, Becky, Sheila, and Lori.

Thrice the blessings worth a wonder indeed.

Lonesome Mondate

My guy has worked way too many hours in the last few weeks, including this past weekend, so today we ran away. Well, he went for a run early this morning while I dilly dallied around the house. And then we ran away.

plly 1

Our destination was our favorite breakfast place, though we went for lunch today–Polly’s Pancake Parlor in Sugar Hill, New Hampshire. As we walked toward the door, we noticed a family standing outside chatting and laughing. Hello neighbors! Yup, we were almost two hours from home and our neighbors from down the road had just finished breakfast. “We passed you on your run,” they said to my guy–equally surprised to see us there.

Lunch was the combo sampler–three small pancakes with sausage for him and thick, crispy bacon for me, followed by three more pancakes and full bellies. Good thing we only make this a once-a-year habit. I’d planned to only order the plain batter with blueberries because of all the choices that’s my favorite, but I have to say that the gingerbread and chocolate chip was also yummy.

ph-lupine fest 1 (1)

And then we moved on to the lupine fields. Actually, lupines bless the fields throughout town, but the Sugar Hill Sampler Lupine Fields feature trails with poetry along the way.

lupine sign

Such simple words of wisdom ring true

lupine 7

amid the beauty.

ph-lupines 4 (1)

The actual lupine festival occurred two weeks ago,

ph-lupines 2 (1)

but our timing wasn’t so off.

lupine 10

Color and structure wrote their own verses.

ph-tree1

A few more miles down the road, we started up a trail that appeared relatively flat in the land of giant yellow birch trees.

xylophone1

One of the brook crossings danced to the beat of its own song

xylo 2

interpreted by my guy who channeled his inner Tom Hanks as he moved across the xylophone to the beat of  “Heart and Soul” featured in the 1988 movie “Big.” So be it.

maple 2

A few months ago when I presented a workshop on tree bark, a colleague asked me about mountain maple, which I didn’t know existed. Since then, I’ve been paying attention–at least to the leaves, which I found today. Please don’t ask me what the bark looks like. That’s for a future lesson.

trill2

And though most have gone by, we found one painted trillium to add to my collection of a trillion trillium photos.

ph-mud (1)

After a steady climb among rocks and roots, we reached level land and bog walkways–thanks to the AMC employees and volunteers who worked on new passageways. Talk about getting into your work–check out the mud on this guy and he wasn’t the only one. We met others who had worked for the AMC 30 years ago and were volunteering their time and expertise to complete the trails that we all may enjoy. I hope there was a chilled beer at the end of their day because they were all muddy and sweaty, but smiled as they worked and suggested ways for us to bypass the mud.

salamander1

We slipped off the trail (not literally) and found today’s special find–Eastern newts in a couple of stages.

sally 1

Growing older, the eft began to resemble adults. Don’t we all! Eventually.

lake view 1

Cannon Mountain formed part of the backdrop. For me, Cannon has always evoked a childhood memory. About 50 or more years ago, as my family traveled up the tram to the summit we looked toward Canada and my parents mentioned that our next-door neighbors, the Mansfields, were on their way to Canada, which we could see. I saw the Mansfields’ station wagon. I swear. And every time I pass this way, that memory jumps to the forefront. Once I mentioned it today, my guy and I started sharing past memories as we made our own.

ph Lonesome Lake hut (1)

At last we reached the  Taj Mahal and paused to use the bathroom.

ph mts 4 (1)

We were beside Lonesome Lake and had a splendid view of Mt Lafayette and Franconia Ridge as spring came to a close for 2016.

bog trail

ph-bog (1)

Our journey continued around the lake before we headed back down the trail–for scent and sound think balsam pillows and the banjo plunks of green frogs.

We were hardly lonesome on this trail that is described as tranquil and heavily travelled. We will attest that it is both and loved the hike to Lonesome Lake on today’s Mondate.