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

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The eastern phoebes we found in that canoe a couple of weeks ago aren’t there any more. I don’t know if they met an ill end or if they have fledged and gone, but in their place we found these today:

Another Eastern Phoebe clutch

Another Eastern Phoebe clutch

I took a lap around my woods to see if the dewdrops had bloomed yet. A few had!

Dewdrop (Dalibarda repens)

Dewdrop (Dalibarda repens)

The wintergreen is still bearing last year’s berries. They seem to get bigger just before they drop. This one was about 50% larger (in diameter) than they are in the fall.

Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens)

Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens)

I also found that the partridge berry was in bloom…

Partridge berry (Mitchella repens)

Partridge berry (Mitchella repens)

…as was the whorled loosestrife…

Whorled loosestrife (Lysimachia quadrifolia)

Whorled loosestrife (Lysimachia quadrifolia)

…and the cow wheat.

Cow wheat (Melampyrum lineare)

Cow wheat (Melampyrum lineare)

David and I took Penny down to Sandogardy Pond. I wanted to see if the sheep laurel was in bloom. It was. This might be the best shot I’ve ever gotten of it.

Sheep laurel (Kalmia angustifolia)

Sheep laurel (Kalmia angustifolia)

The beach at the pond was covered with these guys:

Pickerel frog  (Rana palustris)

Pickerel frog (Rana palustris)


I think they are pickerel frogs, but it could also be some other species. They were so small that David thought they were insects at first glance. I knew better because I’ve seen them here before. They were only about a quarter inch long, and as we walked along the beach they were jumping out of the way. There were thousands of them.

I had the day off today, so I slept in a little (but not too much). We got a little bit of snow, but not as much as was forecast, and not even close to as much as I wanted. But I will take what I can get.

I went for a short walk around my woods and took photos of several tiny evergreens. I would hazard to guess that when most people hear of a tiny evergreen, this is what they think of:

Eastern White Pine (Pinus strobus)

Eastern White Pine (Pinus strobus)


This is a tiny eastern white pine. If it survives, it will not remain tiny though. I think the tallest trees on my property belong to this species. But there are plenty of evergreens that stay tiny their entire lives. Here are a few of them.

Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens)

Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens)


Wintergreen is a tiny evergreen. The berries are delicious, and only moments passed between me taking this photo, and me eating my subject. Mmmm.

Goldthread (Coptis trifolia)

Goldthread (Coptis trifolia)


Goldthread is another tiny little evergreen. It’s roots are little gold threads. This one has two different binomial names: Coptis trifolia, and Coptis groenlandica. I learned it as C. groenlandica first, but I think C. trifolia is more commonly accepted.

Groundpine (Lycopodium)

Groundpine (Lycopodium)


Groundpine looks for all the world like a Christmas tree – except for its size. It is also called clubmoss. It is neither a pine, nor a moss, but rather, a flowerless plant belonging to its own eponymous class.

Trailing arbutus (Epigaea repens)

Trailing arbutus (Epigaea repens)


Trailing arbutus (Epigaea repens) is another evergreen. It has leathery leaves sporting sharpish hairs. It blooms early in the spring, and the blossoms are edible. I tried them for the first time last spring and found them to be quite tasty.

Sheep laurel (Kalmia angustifolia)

Sheep laurel (Kalmia angustifolia)


Sheep laurel (Kalmia angustifolia) is not edible. It’s other names attest to this: lamb-kill and sheep-poison. I suppose I’d have to tear it all out if I wanted to run sheep back here. But the flowers are among my favorites. Like the other plants listed in this post, it too is an evergreen.

Partridge berry (Mitchella repens)

Partridge berry (Mitchella repens)


The last evergreen in today’s post is partridge berry (Mitchella repens). I have had several kids tell me that its berries are poisonous, but this is absolutely not true. I eat them all the time, and I have found no literature indicating that it is toxic. It reminds me of a wee tiny apple; not as crunchy, and not as sweet, but it is something I would gladly eat in great quantities.

So there we have seven tiny evergreens that I found growing in my woods today.

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!

Our vacation has not ended yet. Va, Beth, and I are on our way to Mt Crawford, VA to buy some books at the Green Valley Book Fair. That is one of the things she misses the most about living in VA. We were going to try to work it in to our trip to KY, but they are only open for two weeks at a time, and none of those times overlapped a time when Jonathan could break away from school. So we’re making a special trip.

Right now we’re in Mechanicsburg, PA. Beth and I just finished a nice “swim”. The pool was frigid, but the spa was nice and hot, so we spent all our time in there. I did take a lap around the pool, but that was quite enough for me!

We were home long enough for me to find some new blooms at the house though. The pipsissewa (Chimaphila umbellata) bloomed, and that’s one I looked for and missed last year. I never found a single one in bloom. Friday I found two.

pipsissewa (Chimaphila umbellata)

pipsissewa (Chimaphila umbellata)

For some reason, I had it in my head that the wintergreen (which is closely related to the pipsissewa) had already bloomed. But I was very much mistaken in that notion. They were just starting to bloom Friday:

Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens)

Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens)

I was also a bit surprised to see that the goldenrod (Solidago spp.) was in bloom.

Goldenrod (Solidago spp.)

Goldenrod (Solidago spp.)

Then at the foot of Mount Major yesterday, I spotted some jewel weed (Impatiens capensis):

Jewel weed (Impatiens capensis)

Jewel weed (Impatiens capensis)


This stuff is also called spotted touch-me-not, because when the seeds ripen, the slightest disturbance causes the seed pod to explode, flinging seeds out at a very high speed. I think I read it was one of the fastest plant motions on record.

A lot of people believe that the sap from this plant is an effective treatment for poison ivy, but science has shown this to not be the case. I was a little disheartened to be informed of its supposed healing powers yesterday by someone I had told about this last year. I guess she didn’t believe me.

Today I received a package in the mail from my uncle. He is a retired toolmaker, and a while back I had asked him if he would make something for me. I wanted a couple of extension rods for my camera’s tiny tripod.

I don’t know how many times I’ve been out taking photos of flowers and needed a tripod unlike any I have. I have two of them. A tall one, that can be set at heights anywhere between about 16 and 72 inches, and another really small one that can be set between 2 and 5 inches. Neither of those work for photographing 10 inch flowers.

So he made me two aluminum rods with 1/4-20 threads on each end (male on one end, female on the other). One of these rods is 3 inches long, and the other is six. That way I can add 3, 6, or 9 inches to the height of my 2-5 inch tripod.

So I went tramping through the woods looking for subjects to photograph. It’s too early for any flowers in my woods (the only thing in bloom right now as far as I know are the crocuses and silver maples). Instead, I took pictures of moss on stumps, and some wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens).

Wintergreen with a berry

Wintergreen (Galutheria procumbens) with a berry

It came out pretty OK! Note the berry. Wintergreen berries form on the plant in the summer and stay there until it makes new flowers the next year. So this one has been hanging there all winter. Also… it tasted pretty good. Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote about picking those in the snow in the book Farmer Boy, which covered a year in her husband’s childhood. He grew up in Upstate New York near the Canadian border, and we’re thinking of visiting his homestead this summer. They have a museum there now.

Anyhow… now I have another tool in my photography arsenal. It could still be improved if I could attach a ball-joint to the top so I could pivot the camera. I can still pivot it down at the head of the tripod, but not too much or the whole thing becomes tippy. But even with it tippy, I can just hold it down so it doesn’t tip and it’ll still hold the camera nice and still.

Here’s another shot of a balsam fir (Abies balamea) frond. I could not have taken this shot without that extension.

Balsam fir (Abies balsamea)

Balsam fir (Abies balsamea)


Nice.

Today when I got home from work I putzed around the yard, the front half acre, and the back acre and took some pictures. For some reason, things worked out pretty well picture-wise today, and I got some really nice shots (in my opinion). I uploaded several of these to the Wikimedia Commons. I may or may not nominate them as Quality Images. Anyhow, you should be able to click on these and it will take you to the Commons where you can see a full-resolution version.

Juvenile Wood Frog (Rana sylvatica)

Juvenile Wood Frog (Rana sylvatica)


This is a juvenile Wood Frog (Rana sylvaticus). They grow up to be about two inches long, but when they’re young like this, they’re tiny. I didn’t think I could convey their tinyness without a reference, so I dug the only coin I had out of my pocket and put it in a clearish spot on the ground. First I tried putting it next to the frog, but it was pretty intent on not staying near me and would hop away. So I corralled it near the coin, but before I could get a shot off, it would hop away again. Eventually I resorted to capturing it, and plunking it down on the coin. I regretted that later, as I remembered I was wearing a pretty thick coating of Off (frogs breathe through their skin, so it basically ingested a heavy dose of deet. I hope it lives).

Whorled Loosestrife (Lysimachia quadrifolia)

Whorled Loosestrife (Lysimachia quadrifolia)


As I walked along, I noticed that the Loosestrife flowers were mostly off the plant now. So I went looking for some that were still attached and found this one. The only reason I took the photo was so I would remember to log it at the Bloom Clock. It might be my last log of the year for this species. But instead of a quick snapshot, the photo came out like this. I call that a keeper!

Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens)

Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens)


The wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens) first bloomed a couple of weeks ago when we were in Kentucky. Ever since then, I’ve been looking for a picturesque specimen, and I think I found one here.

Starflower (Trientalis borealis) in fruit

Starflower (Trientalis borealis) in fruit


This is a Starflower (Trientalis borealis) showing its fruit. These bloomed back in May or so and had flowers for only about a month. But lately I’ve been noticing them around the woods with a little nubbin on the end of the flower stem. Today I looked closer, and that is what I found. It looks like an ultra-tiny blackberry or something. I guess that fruit is about a 16th of an inch across. It’s pretty tiny!

Anyhow, I really like today’s photos, and I hope you enjoy them too.