I thought I’d write a little bit about the best and worst aspects of spring in New Hampshire. I’ll start with the worst.
A sign of Mud Season
A synonym for spring here is “mud season.” This is really only a problem on unpaved roads, but since I live on one of those, it’s a reality I have to deal with if I want to go anywhere. Some places are worse than others, so during mud season, I do alter my normal route to maximize the pavement. Even if it minimizes the scenery.
The other unpleasant aspect of spring is this:
Black Fly, defender of the North Woods
They are not swarming yet, but I saw several dozen of these nasty boogers in my woods today. Pretty soon several dozen will become millions. Between the black flies and the mud, I’d just as soon that winter give spring a miss and go straight to summer.
But as I said, it’s not all bad. I went for a couple of short hikes today. On the way home from dropping Beth off at school, I stopped at the Quentin Forest. I saw several of these aerial roots suspended in midair.
I’ve never seen these before. I’m not 100% positive, but I think these are highbush blueberry. My first thought was that it was hobblebush, since that plant has the habit of growing new roots on branch tips (like this), lower the new roots to the ground, and then they take hold. This creates branches that are rooted at both ends forming a loop. Horse would sometimes trip on these, from whence the “hobblebush” name comes.
But hobblebush belongs to the viburnums, and viburnums have opposite branches. These were all alternate. Everything else about the plant said highbush blueberry. I really ought to look it up to see if they do this.
Update! This is apparently a manifestation of Witches’ broom (Pucciniastrum goeppertianum), a fungus that does indeed infect blueberries. The cure is to remove all the fir trees within 500 feet and kill the blueberries with an herbicide. Infected plants will not produce fruit, so I suppose that might be warranted in a cultivated blueberry patch.
On the way out of the forest, I spotted a pile:
My best guess is that this was left by a moose. It’s the right size and shape, and it was near a boggy area. Perfect moose habitat.
When I got home I took a lap around my own woods. The trailing arbutus is working on its flowers, but they’re not ready for delivery just yet.
Trailing Arbutus (Epigaea repens)
Then I decided to take Penny down to Sandogardy Pond. I haven’t been there for a couple of weeks, and as soon as I spoke the word “Sandogardy” Penny’s ears perked up and she was doing her little “Take me! Take me!” dance.
They were grading our road. The mud will be tolerable. Right in front of the dump truck, I found a small stand of coltsfoot.
Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara)
When I got to the pond, I found that the patch of garlic mustard I “wiped out” last month came back.
I was not surprised. I picked a bunch and ate one leaf. I left the ones I harvested on the ground. A little garlic mustard goes a long way.
I wandered along the creek looking for wet-loving plants. I knew that false hellebore and jack-in-the-pulpit grows here, but I was hoping to find some skunk cabbage. I didn’t find any skunk cabbage, and I didn’t find any jack-in-the-pulpit, but I did find some false hellebore coming in:
False Hellebore (Veratrum viride)
This stuff looks so luscious. Every time I see it, I just want to pop huge swaths of it into my mouth. But that would be a huge mistake. This stuff is incredibly poisonous. Luckily, the problem would pretty much take care of itself, as the result of eating it is an uncontrollable urge to purge. Success in controlling this urge will result in death. Native Americans would sometimes use this knowledge in selecting a new chief. Everyone who wanted the position would be required to eat some. Last one to barf is the new chief. Unless he died before assuming the new role. And some people think the Electoral College is a bad method of leader selection.
On the way back to the house I saw a patch of partridge berry (Mitchella repens). This one had an odd berry:
An odd partridge berry
Partridge berries produce two flowers which are joined at the base. The two flowers form a single berry, and a normal one has two “eyes” on it which are remnants of the dual-flower:
“Normal” partridge berry
I’ve never seen one that didn’t quite fuse properly. These berries were on the vine all through the winter. Wintergreen is another plant that will hold its fruit beneath the snow all winter and still be palatable in the spring. I did eat a few partridge berries. I really like them as the have a subtle flavor. I think I could eat a quart of them.
So as you can see, the good really does overpower the bad in a New Hampshire Spring. I should really not complain.
But sometimes complaining is fun.