After church today, Beth invited me to walk to Sandogardy Pond with her. I can’t resist an invitation like that, so I got my hat, boots, and camera, and put the leash on Penny.

While I was doing all that Beth popped outside. She came in with a report of a purple lady bug.

Gray-dy bug

Gray-dy bug


I thought it was more gray than purple. I haven’t tried to identify it, but for now, I will call this a “gray-dy bug”.

On the way to the pond, I spotted a tall flowering plant along the side of the road. I have never seen this species before, but I knew it was a milkweed of some sort.

Poke milkweed? (Asclepias exaltata)

Poke milkweed? (Asclepias exaltata)


I’m not 100% sure, but I think this one is a poke milkweed (Asclepias exaltata). I had been thinking that it’s cool to find new-to-me species in bloom, but when I went to tag this one, I see that I have already tagged that species. So it is one I have seen before, but forgot about!

Poke milkweed? (Asclepias exaltata)

Poke milkweed? (Asclepias exaltata)


None of these photos are that great, but hey – sometimes they aren’t.

Poke milkweed? (Asclepias exaltata)

Poke milkweed? (Asclepias exaltata)

Further along, I saw some wintergreen with absolutely huge berries.

Huge wintergreen berries (Gaultheria procumbens)

Huge wintergreen berries (Gaultheria procumbens)


I have notices that just before they bloom again, wintergreen berries swell. They are normally a quarter inch in diameter, but these were half an inch. Remember, volume increases with the cube of the diameter, so these have about 8 times the volume of an unswollen berry (though I expect they have roughly the same mass, as the density seems to decrease).

My theory is that the plant is making a last ditch effort to entice something to eat the berries and thus, spread the seeds. If that’s the strategy, it worked for this plant, because I ate these as soon as I snapped the photo.

When we got to Cross Brook (or as I call it, Little Kohas Creek) which drains Sandogardy Pond, Penny was in full throw-me-a-stick mode. She brought us one and dropped it on the bridge.

Penny brings a stick

Penny brings a stick

Except it fell between the planks and into the creek. She couldn’t figure out where it had gone, but it was floating downstream by then.

It drops between the boards and into the creek

It drops between the boards and into the creek


I pointed it out to her, and she went in after it.
She fetches it

She fetches it


She did this twice. The second time it had floated farther downstream than she could have imagined, so she didn’t find it. She did know that it had gone between the planks though, because she was looking through them into the creek trying to find it. But that wouldn’t help in this case, because there’s no way she could get it back between the planks.

Thank you Penny for entertaining me today! And thank you Beth for the walk!

Check out Va’s hydrangeas:

Hydrangea

Hydrangea


I don’t usually photograph cultivated plants, but these are so blue this year, I couldn’t resist.

After church today Beth and I stayed behind to help two of the girls in my Pathfinder Club. They had not finished all their classwork before the year ended, so I helped them finish it up. All they need to do now is memorize the books of the Old Testament, and they will have earned the Friend rank.

When Beth and I were almost home, we met David and Penny on the road. David recognized us, but Penny did not. I tried to be inconspicuous in case David did not want Penny to chase us excitedly down the road the the house. But I guess David did want her to do that, because he told her “It’s Dad!” and Penny knows exactly what that means. She practically dragged David down the road to the house.

Beth and I changed clothes, and we joined David and Penny for a walk to Sandogardy Pond. Beth swam. David threw sticks for Penny, and I went looking for blooms. I happened to notice a couple with a teenage boy walking along the beach and staring intently into the woods. The dad looked like he was taking notes. I kept an eye on them. Shortly, the mom and the teen ducked into the woods – right where I know a geocache to be located. I approached the Dad and asked, “Looking for a geocache?” He answered with a definite “Yup!”

I told him that the cache they were after was the first one I had ever found. Pretty soon the conversation turned to fish, and from there to plants. He said that plant identification is a new hobby for him, and that he was particularly interested in edible wild plants.

He also told me that he had been looking for wintergreen for an eternity, and when he finally found out what it was, he realized that it had been staring him in the face for a long time. It’s everywhere around here (and a few have begun to bloom this week).

Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbnes)

Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbnes)


Then he asked if I knew where to find Indian cucumber root. Indeed, I did! The biggest patch I know of was less than a hundred yards away, and they had just walked past it. We headed back into the woods and I showed it to him.

I dug one up and handed him the tuber. He broke a piece off for himself and for his son, and then handed me the remainder. It wasn’t very big at all – just a taste really. He asked for a small piece back again so he could give it to his wife (she did not follow us into the woods). They were very nice people!

After they left, I went back to the dock and saw some bullfrogs.

Bullfrog (Rana catesbeiana)

Bullfrog (Rana catesbeiana)


This was the biggest one of them, and it was not all that big. The others were probably less than a year old (and a lot harder to get close to).

On the way back to the house, I noticed an uncommon milkweed:

Tall milkweed (Asclepias exaltata)

Tall milkweed (Asclepias exaltata)


This species of milkweed is a new one to me, and the id is tentative. I believe there’s another like it growing next to my mailbox, and I was sure I had tagged it in my photo manager with its species name in the past – but the only milkweed in my list is the common milkweed.

So not only did I meet some fellow geocachers and another edible wild plant enthusiast, I got to see a new plant too!