I took a lap around my woods this evening. This was the most interesting find:

Dog vomit slime mold (Fuligo septica)

Dog vomit slime mold (Fuligo septica)


The identification is, of course, conjectural. It was the closest match I could find via a cursory Internet search.

I was also very pleased to find my painted trilliums (Trillium undulatum). There are a few growing in my woods, and I have not been able to find them for the past couple of years. I went off-trail this evening and stumbled upon them. They were far past the blooming stage, and the forest was pretty dark to begin with, so I didn’t bother trying to take their picture. But I did make some mental notes to their location – about half way between my tapping maple, and the fallen log where the trail bends in the southwest corner of our plot – but off the trail another 40 feet to the north.

If I forget again, maybe you can remind me…

Yeah, I know.  I haven’t posted anything here since September.  I don’t know when I’ll post again, as I have been tremendously busy of late, and that promises to continue through at least the end of the summer.  Don’t hold your breath for another – I don’t know when that will be.

Yesterday I took a lap around my woods trail and saw that the Sheep Laurel (Kalmia angustifolia) and partridge berry (Mitchella repens) were in bloom.  I took some photos, and returned this morning for a few more.  Here’s what I got.

Sheep laurel (Kalmia angustifolia)

Sheep laurel (Kalmia angustifolia)


These haven’t bloomed on my property in quite some time, and this is a new patch of them that I have never seen in bloom. I really like them!

Patridge berry (Mitchella repens)

Patridge berry (Mitchella repens)


I thought this shot of the partrige berry was pretty OK! Patridge berries generally have two flowers with four petals each, and fused at the base. They combine to make a single berry with two “eyes”. I was a bit surprise to see an unusual pair of them, one of which had five petals. I don’t recall having ever seen one that didn’t have four petals, so I had to document…

5-petaled partidge berry (Mitchella repens)

5-petaled partidge berry (Mitchella repens)

When I finished documenting that one, I saw another – this one had a pair sporting three-petals on one, and five on the other:

3-petaled and 5-petaled patridge berry (Mitchella repens)

3-petaled and 5-petaled patridge berry (Mitchella repens)


It was not a particularly good looking specimen, but I had never seen one with three petals either. So here’s the proof.

Word has it that we might see an aurora tonight, so I’ve been keeping an eye on the sky since sunset. That’s hard to do at my house since we live in the woods. Luckily, Sandogardy Pond’s beach is on its south shore giving a decent tree-free view of the northern horizon. So I drove over (it was dark!) to take a look there:

Sandogardy Pond

Sandogardy Pond

This was a 15 second exposure. You can see most of the Big Dipper there towards the left. But no aurora.

Sigh.

Here are two plants in bloom right now whose common name begin with “ground.” First, the ground nut (Apios americana)

Ground Nut (Apios americana)

Ground Nut (Apios americana)

This is a plant I searched for back when that’s how I tried to find edible wild plants. I would identify the plant from a book, and then go out looking for it. I never found it that way. Later, I switched to identifying what I had found, and this turned up in the backyard at the edge of the woods. It has an edible tuber, and I have eaten them on a few occasions. This is the only stand of ground nut that I know of, so I have been going easy on them. Over the past five years, they have spread by an order of magnitude, and I think that in a couple of years, I should be able to harvest them less conservatively.

The second “ground” plant is the ground bean:

Ground Bean (Amphicarpaea bracteata)

Ground Bean (Amphicarpaea bracteata)

The “amphicarpaea” portion of its binomial name means something like “two kinds of flowers”. These are the open flowers. The other type are closed, which may be above ground, or below ground. The closed flowers self-pollinate.

A lot of source call these “hog peanuts”, but I don’t call them that any more, as Samuel Thayer (an edible wild plant author) says it’s a racial slur against Native Americans. They used this plant as a food source, and the Europeans refused to eat them, insisting they were only fit for hogs. And by extension, by Native Americans. They were missing out on a good thing, as these beans are quite good. However, they are difficult to collect. The Native Americans let small rodents collect them on their behalf. The critters would squirrel them away in underground storage holes, and when the people found these caches, they would take half, leaving the rest for the hard-working rodents.

I have not had the fortune of finding a rodent cache of these, so the only way I can get them is by digging. The edible “beans” come from the underground flowers, and are therefore located underground. They are worth the effort though.

Beth and I took Penny to Sandogardy Pond today. I wanted to look for the late summer aquatics, and though we were able to find quite a few, I didn’t find all the ones I was looking for.

Before we got to the pond we found some Indian tobacco.

Indian Tobacco (Lobelia inflata)

Indian Tobacco (Lobelia inflata)


This is also called “puke weed” and I think that’s what I’m going to call it from now on. I suspect that “Indian tobacco” is a racial slur, as many plants with “Indian” in the name are. As in, “tobacco only good enough for Indians.”

Not far from the puke weed, we came across some hazel cuttings.

Beaked Hazels

Beaked Hazels


These are the shells from beaked hazels (Corylus cornuta) which were growing nearby. I have a lot of them on my property too, but have never really been able to harvest any. The squirrels and chipmunks tend to harvest them before they ripen. You have to be careful when gathering them too, because those husks are full of fine spines which have a tendency to stick in your skin and break off. Just imagine shelling one with your lips and teeth!

We got to the pond, and the first blooming plant I noticed was this spotted water hemlock.

Spotted Water Hemlock (Cicuta maculata)

Spotted Water Hemlock (Cicuta maculata)


It is important to be aware of this plant if you plan to eat wild carrots, because they are superficially similar, and spotted water hemlock is the most toxic plant in North America. One taste can kill.

Just offshore from the water hemlock, I could see the floating heart in bloom. I took off my shoes and waded out to it.

Floating Heart (Nymphoides cordata)

Floating Heart (Nymphoides cordata)


You have to be careful when photographing these, because the tiniest waves you make tend to wet the flowers, and when that happens, they turn from white to transparent. I have dozens of photos of transparent floating heart blossoms. I managed to avoid that this time.

Down the beach a little ways I found some Marsh St Johnswort.

Marsh St Johnswort (Triadenum virginicum)

Marsh St Johnswort (Triadenum virginicum)


I always have a hard time remembering the name of this one, because I keep wanting to put the “Virginia” part of the binominal name into the common name. Virginia St Johnswort? Nope. Virginia Swamp St Johnswort? Nope. Someday I might be able to remember without the aid of the Internet.

I had already put my shoes back on when I found some seven-angled pipewort. I didn’t want to take them off again, so I leaned way out and snapped this shot.

Pipewort (Eriocaulon aquaticum)

Pipewort (Eriocaulon aquaticum)


Leaning out doesn’t make the greatest photos, and we can see that here. I looked for these earlier this summer but could find no sign of them. But today, here they are.

A little farther down I found some square-stemmed monkey flower.

Square-temmed Monkey Flower (Mimulus ringens)

Square-temmed Monkey Flower (Mimulus ringens)


This plant got me into a little trouble once. A friend of mine breeds poodles and typically names them after flowers. Knowing that I was a plant-guy, she asked me to suggest a name for her next “keeper” dog. She was not pleased when I proposed square-stemmed monkey flower. I guess it just doesn’t roll off the tongue.

“Here, Square-stemmed Monkey Flower! Here girl!”

Nope.

Beth and I spent the holiday weekend on a backpacking trip along a small portion of the Appalachian Trail in Maine. The original plan was for us to leave the house Friday morning and start the hike. Then turn around early Saturday afternoon and head back, arriving back where we started on Sunday. Unfortunately, Hurricane Arthur had some input on that plan (it poured all day Friday), so we shortened the hike and left on Saturday morning instead.

This was a trail Beth chose, as she hiked it last fall during Outdoor School. Only then, it poured the whole time. Her teacher said it was the worst he had ever seen it during a backpacking trip, and he has many, many of those under his belt. She was miserable during that entire trip, and wanted to give it another shot during better weather.

Well, the weather was better, and according to Beth, the trail was in much better condition. But it was, I think, the muddiest trail I have ever hiked on.

The trail was a tad damp.

The trail was a tad damp.


When Beth did this last fall, very little of the trail was above water, which was mostly “six inches deep” (according to her). Maybe it was!

Parts of the trail were pretty steep:

And steep in places

And steep in places

This was about the only place there was a “view” (though all of the trail was beautiful). It never came above the treeline.

It never emerged from the treeline

It never emerged from the treeline

There was a huge colony of some kind of liverwort growing on this pine tree.

Liverwort!

Liverwort!


Nice!

At one point, she thought she recognized the Little Swift River Pond campground, and we diverged from the trail. Only it was not the Little Swift. It was South Pond. Beth remembered these boats:

At South Pond

At South Pond


Only it wasn’t “these” boats, it was some other boats. Then, since we had unknowingly taken a side trail, we had difficulty finding the trail again. Beth consulted the map (as did I), until we concluded that we were at South Pond, not at Little Swift. We backtracked until we found blaze markings again, and continued on. This shows the importance of not pressing on when you’ve lost the trail. It’s better to go back until you find the markings!

I just have to show more photos of muddy trail. An awful lot of the trail looked like this.

The mud was deep

The mud was deep

And a lot of the parts that didn’t, looked more like this:

And so was the water

And so was the water

In spite of the slogging, there were rewards. I saw some “Common” wood sorrel (Oxalis montana), which is not nearly as common as “regular” wood sorrel (O. stricta).

Common Wood Sorrel (Oxalis montana)

Common Wood Sorrel (Oxalis montana)


I think the only time I ever see this purple-veined sorrel is on backpacking trips! I suppose the “montana” part of its binomial name suggests a reason.

It was pretty common to see moose scat on the trail in the places that were not too muddy (or under water), so we were hoping to see a moose or two. This bog was an excellent place to find one, but we didn’t.

A nice bog

A nice bog


They probably saw us though.

Here’s one that grows on my property, but which rarely blooms there:

Sheep laurel (Kalmia angustifolia)

Sheep laurel (Kalmia angustifolia)


You can Kalmia angustifolia, just don’t call me late for dinner!

This one was perhaps the highlight of the trip for me:

A white "pink" lady's slipper (Cypripedium acaule var. alba)

A white “pink” lady’s slipper (Cypripedium acaule var. alba)


This is a pink lady’s slipper (Cypripedium acaule var. alba), even though it’s white. I had never seen one. There are white lady’s slippers that are pretty rare, and belonging to a different species, and I have never seen any of those either. But this one can be identified as a member of the “pink” species, because it has a slit running down the front of the flower. The other species in the genus have little round openings at the top of the flower – more like a slipper vs a shoe without its laces.

Here’s a shot of the pair where I tried to get the entire plant(s) in the shot:

The whole plant

The whole plant


Nice!

We stopped for “lunch” around 3:00pm, or maybe later. It was chilly outside, and once we quit moving, Beth was getting chilly. I had my sleeping bag stuffed (very snugly) into my backpack, making it nearly impossible to get anything else out of it without removing the bag. So I tossed it to her while I prepared some pasta.

It was chilly!

It was chilly!

Neither one of us remembered to bring a spoon or a fork, which made eating the pasta something of a challenge. Not as hard as eating the soup would be later that evening! So as the sun was setting, I started carving a make-shift spoon out of a small sapling someone had cut (and conveniently for me, left 12″ or so sticking up out of the ground). It soon grew too dark for knife work though, so I laid it aside until morning. But once the sun came up, I made quick work of it, and we were able to eat our oatmeal with relative ease.

Beth models my hand-carved spoon

Beth models my hand-carved spoon

I think the most abundant plant along the trail was bunchberry (Cornus canadensis). When we started the hike I noticed that most of them had already dropped their sepals (which most people understandably mistake for petals). I suggested to Beth that if we had been there two weeks earlier, we would have been treated to a carpet of bunchberry blooms. But later in the hike, we transitioned into an area where they still held onto their sepals:

Lots of bunchberry (Cornus canadensis)

Lots of bunchberry (Cornus canadensis)

We stopped at “the view” again on the way back and rested up a bit. There was only a little more than a mile to go by then. I was admiring the mud stains on my pant legs:

Mud-stained pant legs & boots!

Mud-stained pant legs & boots!


Luckily, those pant legs zip off, so I was sure to do that before going into the tent.

One plant I was looking for was the Creeping Snowberry (Gaultheria hispudula), which belongs to the often-featured-on-this-blog, Wintergreen (G. procumbens).

Creeping Snowberry (Gaultheria hispidula)

Creeping Snowberry (Gaultheria hispidula)


I first saw this on a backpacking trip a couple of years ago, but didn’t know what it was then (I identified it from the photos I took when I got back). So this was the first time I was able to look at it and know what I was seeing.

As we descended the trail towards the car for that last mile, I decided to try my hand at dead reckoning. I would look ahead for a land mark, estimate the distance to it, and add that to the distance covered already as we approached it. Then find the next landmark and do the same. Eventually, I switched to estimating where the next 100-feet would be, because I was pretty tired, and that made the arithmetic easier. I was pleased that by the time I figured we had another 500 feet, we could hear the stream near the parking lot, and we could also hear the occasional car. I stopped dead reckoning at T-minus 200 feet, and we were pretty close to 200 feet from the parking lot then. This was my first attempt at that, and I rather liked the results!

We got to the car around 1:00pm and drove south to Dixfield. We stopped at a diner and had lunch, and then drove home (about three more hours).

I have to say I’m pretty sore now, but I think I’ll know a lot more about that tomorrow!

This morning I took a lap around the property with camera in hand. Here’s what I found.

Common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)

Common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)


The “regular” milkweed is in bloom now. I have a lot of this stuff on our land now. When we first moved here, there were only three or four plants, but I let it grow. This year there are about a hundred of them. I’ve been eating them too, and like them very much!

But not as much as these:

Blueberries! (Vaccinium angustifoilium)

Blueberries! (Vaccinium angustifoilium)


There are a lot of lowbush blueberry plants here, mostly in the woods (as were these). They do not produce a lot of fruit though, probably because they are in the woods where they don’t get a lot of sun.

The dewdrops are still blooming:

Dewdrop (Dalibarda repens)

Dewdrop (Dalibarda repens)

And the sarsaparilla’s are producing fruit:

Sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis) fruit

Sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis) fruit


The roots of sarsaparilla can be used to make a root beer, but the fruits are not edible.

The berries on the wintergreen plants that still have them are huge. They are about the size of a pencil eraser most of the year, but these two were the size of dimes.

Huge wintergreen berries

Huge wintergreen berries

The wintergreen is getting ready to bloom. This one was the farthest along of any I saw today. I expect that by the end of the holiday weekend, they will open.

Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens) ready to bloom

Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens) ready to bloom

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 70 other followers