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.

Spring In Slo-Mo

Spring is so fleeting in Maine. Oh, I know, it lasts the usual three months and the beginning and ending overlap with its seasonal partners, but really . . . one must take time to pause and watch or you’ll miss the most amazing action that occurs in slow motion right outside the window–and beyond.

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Jinny Mae and I drove beyond today to catch a glimpse of this most splendid season.

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Among the offerings, red trillium also known as stinking Benjamin. The Benjamin part is from benzoin, a mid-16th century word derived from the French benjoin, that refers to “a fragrant gum resin obtained from a tropical tree of eastern Asia, used in medicines, perfumes, and incense.”  It’s been tagged “stinking”  because its nodding flower has an unpleasant odor. We didn’t bother to sniff. We were too busy being wowed by the fact that it surrounded us in great number.

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That smell, however, is of extreme importance. Along with the flashy coloration, the odor helps to attract pollinators–green flesh-flies that prefer to lay their eggs on rotting meat. Though this isn’t the perfect nursery, the flies assist the plant on the procreative end. And in this spot, stinking Benjamin rules, but I prefer to think of it as red trillium.

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Even from the backside, its design is one to behold.

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Equally abundant were the leafy structures of false hellebore.

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I was mesmerized by its pattern.

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Unlike the trillium, wood anemones have little scent.

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Their graceful heads drooped, perhaps because the day threatened rain.

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The offerings included sessile-leaved bellwort (aka wild oats),

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Dutchman’s breeches with leaves as interesting as their flowers,

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the delicate white flowers of dwarf ginseng,

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and  zigzag pattern of clasping twisted stalk.

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Its key features are minutely-toothed leaf margins, stalkless leaves that clasp the stem, and flowers dangling below.

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The flowers hadn’t opened, but the closer we got, the more we appreciated its finer details.

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Ever so slowly, as is the case in all things, hobblebush flowers began to bloom.

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Outer sterile flowers form a ring around the delicate inner flowers that are fertile. Nature has a way of protecting its own.

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When we first spotted the fluff ball of seeds across the brook, we thought we were looking at dandelions. And then we saw the scaled stalks and lack of leaves. Coltsfoot it is.

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It wasn’t just the flowers that had us getting down on our hands and knees. There was the brownish wool covering of the cinnamon fern.

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And the hairless ostrich fern

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with its crook-shaped crosier, reminiscent of a bishop’s staff.

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But my favorite today was one I’d never noticed before.

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Oh, I know it’s a Christmas fern, but the tightly-wound, silvery-scaled crosiers were new to me. It was yet another chance for us to wonder how we could have missed something that’s been here all along.

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And then we looked up. Well, sort of up. Striped maple leaves slowly opened in the understory.

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And have you ever noticed that young red maples are a tad hairy along the margin?

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Even hairer, beech leaves.

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All winter long, bud scales enclosed leaves that are now slowly emerging.

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They’re absolutely beautiful in their plaited and hairy state.

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What leaves me wondering (ah, a pun), is the fact that these leaves are so hairy. It seems the hairs are intended to keep insects and others at bay.

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And yet, it won’t be long before the insects discover that beech leaves make a good meal and home.

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Speaking of insects, we found a ladybug presumably feeding on aphids–already. So why do ladybugs sport  bright orange or red color and distinctive spots? To make them unappealing to predators. They can secrete a foul-tasting fluid from their leg joints–the coloring is therefore intended to shout out,  “I taste awful.”

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And Jinny Mae sported her own insect–a Mayfly, known to be more fleeting than spring, landed on her jacket. Oh, and did I mention the black flies? They swarmed our faces, but we practiced mind over matter.

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We were in one of the most beautiful places on Earth,

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as evidenced by brook,  pond and mountains beyond.

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And then there was the gorge.

As we watched the water rush through, we gave thanks for a day spent moving in slo-mo to take in all that this fleeting season has to offer in its spring ephemerals.