Orchid-Maine-ia

m-bald eagle 2

I took it as a sign when I first heard and then spotted a bald eagle on a white pine towering over Moose Pond. It seemed apropos that it should serve as a token of good luck, or at least a push out the door to spend some time wandering and wondering. And so I made the instant decision to drive to Holt Pond, where tomorrow I’ll join Ursula Duve and Kathy McGreavy as we lead a guided walk.

p-grasspink2

Our focus will be on orchids, such as the grass pink, which seems such a common name for this blooming beauty.

p-grass pink 1

The magenta flowers or Calopogons I spotted today are a wee bit off the boardwalk in the quaking bog, but even still I could see their showy formation with knobbed hairs on the upper lip. It is thought that the yellow crest on that lip imitates pollen, to attract pollen-seeking bees. But the real deal for orchids is that a collected mass of pollen grains are gathered together in a pollinium or anther lobe and thus deposited onto the bee’s abdomen.

p-rose pogonia 1

Rose pogonias were also blooming abundantly. In a way, their formation is opposite that of the grass-pink, with the fringed lower lip providing an attraction for pollinators.

p-pitcher leaf

Also on display as the water receded a wee bit despite a beaver dam on Muddy River–my favorite carnivorous pitcher plants with their urn-like leaves that serve as pit traps appeared quite robust.

p-pitcher flower

Carnivorous plants are orchid companions as they both prefer the bog habitat, like to fool their pollinators and are otherworldly beautiful. There is one aspect in which they differ–the orchids like to attract insects for pollination and the pitcher plants for nutrients. But first, the pitchers may use the insect as pollinators, thus fooling them into a visitation. Pollinators beware!

p-sundew

Equally seductive are the spatula-leaved sundews visible at the end of the quaking bog boardwalk. Until now, they’d been under water and difficult to see. The scent of sugary liquid on the leaf tips attracts unsuspecting insects who get stuck to the tentacles, which then curl inward and thus digest the nutrients from their prey. Again–beware.

p-trail sign

Orchids and their bog companions weren’t the only thing on view today.

p-painted turtle by Muddy River

When I stepped onto the short boardwalk to the Muddy River intent on hunting for dragonflies, I discovered a painted turtle sunning at the edge.

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And then I found what I’d hoped–blue dashers dashed about, although occasionally one stopped so I could take a better look.

p-bluet love

And familiar bluets canoodled on a stem.

p-variable dancer

I discovered a female variable dancer damselfly on a small twig,

p-ebony jewelwing

a male ebony jewelwing fluttered and paused on red maple leaves,

p-flyby

and slaty blue dragonflies buzzed about Holt Pond in record-breaking speed.

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Finally, one stopped long enough for me to soak in its gray-blue color.

p-steeplebush

There were other flowers to enjoy as well, including the spirea,

p-swamp rose

swamp rose,

p-cranberry flowers

cranberry,

p-cowwheat

cow-wheat,

p-blue flag iris with hoverfly

and blue flag iris. If you look carefully, you may see a hoverfly following the runway on the left lobe.

p-blueberries ripening

I noticed blueberries beginning to turn blue,

p-cinnamon fern

cinnamon ferns with shriveled fertile fronds,

p-hobblebush leaves turning purple

and a few hobblebush leaves already taking on the fall shade of purple. Uh oh.

p-Holt Pond to the south

The wonders of Holt Pond . . .

p-Holt Pond west

never cease to amaze me.

p-quaking bog boardwalk

I hope that you can venture there yourself and discover your own Orchid-Maine-ia. Who knows what else you might notice along the way.

Toasting Chestnuts

“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire . . . ” So the traditional song goes.

Meanwhile, in Lovell, we’ve been toasting the American chestnut trees since The American Chestnut Foundation and the University of Maine recognized a tree on a local property as being the tallest in North America two weeks ago.

dr brian

Shane

 TV crews

tallest

The final measurement: 115 feet tall. The only tree that has been found to be taller is a 121-footer that apparently is growing in a Belgium arboretum.

Why all the fuss? The American Chestnut Foundation “estimates that over four billion American chestnuts, 1/4 of the hardwood tree population, grew  from Maine to Florida and from the Piedmont west to the Ohio Valley.”

These majestic trees were important to wildlife and man. Native Americans used the nuts to treat a variety of ailments. Deer, squirrels, birds and bears ate the nuts. Nuts were sold commercially and the wood was used to create furniture, fence posts and telephone poles.

All of that changed in the twentieth century.

blight 3

A bark fungus or blight accidentally introduced on imported Asiatic chestnut trees began to attack the American chestnuts in the early 1900s. Blight symptoms include bark swelling and sucker branches.

Where's Waldo

While North America’s tallest tree isn’t located on Greater Lovell Land Trust property, we know that there are several American chestnut trees just up the road at the Heald/Bradley Pond Reserve.

Our intention–to celebrate the trees. And to try to get to know them better. It’s actually a where’s Waldo moment upon each encounter. Being a member of the Fagaceae family, which includes Northern red oaks and beech trees, the similarities throw us off.

like red oak

Chestnut bark

The ridged bark is flat-topped and reminds me of the ski trails we see on Northern red oak. It takes a closer look to realize that chestnut has a wee bit different coloration and design.

bark 2

The bark characteristics also remind me of aspen trees, which have flattened ridges and horizontal lines that visible on the lower portion of the trunk.

chestnut husks

But the real clues are to be found on the ground.

fruit and stem

Large painfully prickly burrs house the delicious nuts. They mature in the fall and fall to the ground following the first frost.

home of viable seeds

Usually three nuts reside within each burr.

beech and chestnut 2

The other clue–the leaves, which are longer and narrower than beech. Beech on the left, chestnut on the right.

barbed leaf

The leaf’s margin is bristle-toothed and each hook curves inward. At the base, the blade tapers to the stem.

Chestnut #2

We paid homage to each tree before moving on.

grape fern

grape fern 2

Of course, we found other things of interest along the way–numerous grape ferns inhabit part of the trail. Their common name is reflective of the grape-like clusters of sporangia that grow on a separate stalk.

rattlesnake leaf

Downy rattlesnake plantain (Goodyera pubescens), though a common species of the orchid family, always stops us in our tracks. The striking leaves, with their network of silvery veins and a broad stripe down the center, resembles snake skin. They are covered in fine downy hairs, difficult to see from this photo.

rattlesnake pods

Each seedpod contains 200-400 seeds–rather teeny seeds.

checkered

We also found checkered rattlesnake plantain (Goodyera tessellate), with its much more subtle green markings. Equally beautiful.

labyrinth

Yesterday, the labyrinth structure of tubes and pores on a Gilled Polypore (Lenzites betulina) wowed us.

2nd pigskin

Today, my second Pigskin Poison Puffball (Scleroderma citrinum) ever. This one was quite broken down and slimy rather than rubbery/leathery. But still–I recognized it immediately. My mushroom guru, Parker, was part of the group, and he thinks I’m getting better at identifying fungi. I’m not so sure about that, but this one is distinctly different from any others.

#1 on hill

One final look at one of the mighty American chestnut trees on GLLT property.

While those chestnuts roasting over open fires are now European chestnuts, we toast the American chestnut trees of Lovell as we wonder about their future.

The Most Gifted of All

When I posted yesterday’s Book of July about Holt Pond, I didn’t give a thought to the fact that I’d be venturing there this morning. My friend, Ursula, had asked me to join her for a pre-hike to check on the orchids in bloom. Happy for an excuse to spend time with her, I accepted. And my oldest son’s girlfriend happens to be visiting, so I invited her along. Today is her birthday, so it was a pleasure to share in her celebration of life. Happy B’day, HH.

muddy river 1

Our first stop was the short trip out to the Muddy River. We actually saw one orchid in bloom at the end of the board walk, but I’m going to save it for a minute or two.

pitcher plant 1

No trip to the pond is complete without taking time to pause and wonder by the pitcher plants.

pp flower

The nodding flowers have gone by and the fruit is forming. The leathery sepals remain–turning red now. While the water-filled leaves trap flies and ants, I’m also lured in by the unusualness of this plant.

sundew aliens

My other favorite–the alien-looking sundews, all under water right now. Their feet are always damp in the spaghnum moss, but the water is quite high at the moment.

pond 2

The reflection of blue sky and clouds on the pond made me mindful of another dear friend in Connecticut who celebrates her birthday today–Happy Birthday to you, CMN!  We jumped on the boardwalk to make the bog quake, but mostly made the boardwalk sink. Had she been here, we probably would have fallen in laughing.

cranberries

The four-petaled, downward-pointing flowers of the bog cranberries remind some of the silhouette of a sand crane’s neck and head. I’m forever in awe of the uniqueness of each species.

rose 3

And finally, what we’d come to see. Wild orchids. In my former life, I always thought an orchid was a flower that you purchased from a florist and wore on your wrist or as a corsage.

rose 2

Lady’s slippers are members of the orchid family, which is defined by its three sepals and three petals. And so is this rose pogonia–with its fringed lower lip and bearded yellow bristles. Pogonia means beard.

rose 1

Though the flower isn’t on an endangered list, I still consider it a rare treat to see one–and today so many in bloom.

grass pink

Also blooming–the magenta flowers known as grass pink, another orchid. Grass pinks feature the lip on the top of the flower, opposite of the rose pogonia.

gp 2

Their delicate beauty reminds me of butterflies or perhaps birds of paradise.

gp white 2

On the opposite side of the board walk, we found an anomaly–grass pink white!

grass white

Maybe they are considered a light, light shade of pink. What caused this? Is the acidity level different on this side of the boardwalk?

pink and white

Pink on the left, white on the right. And the path home in the middle.

Three generations of wanderers on a beautiful summer morning blessed by time spent together. We all received gifts from this experience.