Here are some flowers that are in bloom for Mother’s Day:

Wild oats (Uvularia sessifolia)

Wild oats (Uvularia sessifolia)

Dwarf Ginseng (Panax trifolius)

Dwarf Ginseng (Panax trifolius)

Colt's foot (Tussilago farfara)

Colt’s foot (Tussilago farfara)

Trailing arbutus (Epigaea repens)

Trailing arbutus (Epigaea repens)

Wild strawberry (Fragaria spp)

Wild strawberry (Fragaria spp)

Violet (Viola spp)

Violet (Viola spp)

Another violet (Viola spp)

Another violet (Viola spp)

Periwinkle (Vinca minor)

Periwinkle (Vinca minor)

Goldthread (Coptis trifolia)

Goldthread (Coptis trifolia)


Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!

Penny is such a funny dog. When Jonathan and I got home from work, she dashed out to greet me. I threw her a stick and headed to the front door. She fetched the stick and got to the door before I did, frantically pawing at the door to get in so that I could let her out the back door where I might throw sticks for her. Silly dog! We’re already outside! But no, she wanted to go outside, not just be outside.

I indulged her (and myself). Camera in hand, I did a lap around the woods looking for blooms. The trailing arbutus is still about the only thing in bloom, but there are others that will be in bloom very soon. Here’s one:

Canada Maylily (Maianthemum canadense)

Canada Maylily (Maianthemum canadense)


Another name for this is false lily-of-the-valley, but I have never been enamored with the idea of a plant being “false.” Yeah, it’s not lily-of-the-valley, but it is a Canada lily, so why not just go with that name?

I was looking for some goldthread, when I found this instead:

Dwarf Ginseng (Panax trifolius)

Dwarf Ginseng (Panax trifolius)


Cool. This is another I had been looking for ,and truth be told, there is a little goldthread leaf there in the lower center “photo-bombing” my dwarf ginseng shot (as well as another Canada may-lily right behind it).

But there we also a few goldthread plants here and there – none in bloom yet though.

Goldthread (Coptis trifolia)

Goldthread (Coptis trifolia)

And the whole time I was looking for blooms, Penny was looking for sticks. She found a few:

Penny (Canis lupus domesticus)

Penny (Canis lupus domesticus)


Which I dutifully threw for her. It wasn’t long after this that she found a vernal pool and plopped down in it to cool off. I guess gathering and chasing sticks is hot work even on a cool day.

Even though this blog is mostly about nature, I sometimes take a tangent. Sometimes for a while. It has been a little while since I’ve done any nature posts, so today I hope to set things right.

I took a lap around my property today and was surprised to see so many plants in bloom.

First up was goldthread.

Goldthread (Coptis trifolia)

Goldthread (Coptis trifolia)


This plant is also called canker root because it was reputedly a cure for mouth sores. I don’t know how efficacious it was, but that didn’t stop the colonials. The rhizome is a bright gold color, which is where its other name comes from. The white “petals” are really sepals. The actual
petals are those yellow-orange club-shaped things in the center.

I turned off my trail to look for some ferns, but instead found this:

Lowbush blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium)

Lowbush blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium)


Blueberries! This was the only plant (out of hundreds) on my property that I found to be in bloom. It borders the neighbor’s land where he cleared all the trees in preparation for building a house. Maybe the added sunlight made them bloom sooner.

I went looking for this one too:

Pink Ladyslipper (Cypripedium acaule)

Pink Ladyslipper (Cypripedium acaule)


It’s not in bloom yet, but I wasn’t expecting it to be. I looked for these last week (in this very spot) and didn’t find even a hint of it. I conclude therefore, that this is one week’s work for Lady Slipper.

I was in the middle of my woods looking for some trillium when I found this.

Sessile bellwort, or wild oats (Uvularia sessilifolia)

Sessile bellwort, or wild oats (Uvularia sessilifolia)


I did not sow them. They grew here by themselves. I didn’t find any trilliums either, but I’ll be camping with the Pathfinders this weekend, so maybe I’ll see some then.

This is one of my very favorites (though I say that about several plants).

Gaywings (Polygala paucifolia)

Gaywings (Polygala paucifolia)


This morning I found a batch of them just exposing their petals, but the petals had not opened. This evening I found another batch with petals unfurled. This is such a fascinating looking flower. I know of nothing else even remotely similar.

Finally, there’s the dwarf ginseng.

Dwarf ginseng (Panax trifolius)

Dwarf ginseng (Panax trifolius)


This plant has edible tubers, but it’s best to dig them after it goes to seed (because then the plant diverts its energy into the tuber for next year). The only problem is that the above-ground parts of the plant completely vanish, making these a lot more difficult to find. I have eaten them before, but not in quantity. I never harvest more than a plant colony can sustain, which in the case of this plant on my property is about four tubers per year. Not enough for a meal, but enough for a taste.

Saturday afternoon I took a walk around my woods to look for (and photograph) wildflowers. I found some.

I was looking specifically for some wild oats (Uvularia sessilifolia), so I went to the places where I have found it in previous years. Yup. Found some in bloom.

Wild oats (Uvularia sessilifolia)

Wild oats (Uvularia sessilifolia)

This is another one I went looking specifically for.

Pink lady Slipper (Cypripedium acuale)

Pink lady Slipper (Cypripedium acuale)


This is not the same one I posted last week. I looked for that one too, but couldn’t find any sign of it. I have no idea what happened to it, but I guess that’s the way nature goes sometimes.

When I go out looking for blossoms, I look everywhere for surprises too. This was one of those:

Wild Sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis)

Wild Sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis)


This will become a Wild Sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis) flower. I don’t know that I’ve ever caught one in this stage before. I have dug up the roots of this plant and brewed it into a tea. I don’t think it was worth the effort though, so it’s not something I am likely to repeat.

This is one I was looking for. I saw a few when we went camping last week, and they do grow on my property too. So I looked in the usual places and found a few. I suspect I will find even more this week. I was fairly pleased with this photo, so bonus!

Goldthread (Coptis trifolia)

Goldthread (Coptis trifolia)

Here’s another three-leaf plant (trifolius) but with a different Latin conjugation. If I knew Latin, I would probably understand the difference between trifolia and trifolius.

Dwarf ginseng (Panax trifolius)

Dwarf ginseng (Panax trifolius)


I posted an image of one of these last week too, but liked this one enough to repeat it. I do that sometimes.

Here’s another repeat. I set out to get a really nice photo of this one, and it turned out OK – not stunning, but OK. I suppose the light was a bit too harsh. It was mid-afternoon when I took the shot, and this one wasn’t in as shady an area as most of the others.

Gaywings (Polygala paucifolia)

Gaywings (Polygala paucifolia)

Right after shooting the gaywings, this fly alighted on my thumb. I haven’t tried to identify it yet, but I did think the photo came out pretty well. Better than the gaywings anyhow (even if it’s not as nice a subject).

Unidentified fly

Unidentified fly

The wild strawberries are still going gang busters.

Wild strawberry (Fragaria spp)

Wild strawberry (Fragaria spp)


It’s another repeat, but I think it’s worth repeating.

I still don’t have any bluets on my place, but I have seen vast swaths of them in fields from the car this week (and last). I might have to stop and get some photos soon. I’ve also been looking for wood anemones and hobblebush from the car, but no luck so far. I have yet to see a trillium this year either, and I know those are almost finished now. Maybe I’ll find some in Maine this weekend. I know I will be looking for them anyhow!

Close to the end of the workday today, Va dropped Beth off at my office. She wanted to load some songs on her iPod, and I have been storing those on my desk computer there. We took care of that, and then set out for the Haggett Farm where we camped last week. You might recall that I decided to leave the tents pitched so they’d have a chance to dry. Well, it was time to check them. I figured if any were dry, I could put them away, and if any were not, I could move them into our kitchen shelter where they would stand a fighting chance (the forecast is for showers every day for the next umpteen days).

Wet tents and a dry one

Wet tents and a dry one


The results were mixed. The tent in the foreground was dry, but the ones behind it were wet. As it turns out, they were the only wet ones of the lot, and their wetness was confined to the inside. You might be saying, “But I only see one tent in the background!” and I could not blame you for that. It was a big part of the problem (if not the sole cause). The girls who used these tents decided to join them together, which is something they were not designed to do. That prevented the flies from being pulled tight, which is a requirement for keeping the rain out. And since they were improperly pitched, they let the rain in, and that’s where it still was when I got there today.

I unstaked them and poured about a cup of water out of each one. Then I moved them into the kitchen. I’ll try again perhaps on Friday.

When we got home, I took Penny out for a lap around our wood lot. Our neighbor has been doing some work.

Change, it is a comin'

Change, it is a comin'


He is getting ready to build a house back here. The one on his lot is sort of a shack, and he is anxious to get into some better digs. His parents will be building a second house back there too. Unfortunately for me, this is going to let a lot of light into my woods and completely change its character. The flora I have along this edge of the property is completely different from the flora along the northern border. Down here, I have dewdrops (Dalibarda pratense), dwarf ginseng (Panax trifolius), goldthread (Coptis trifolia), and a couple of others that I can’t think of right now. This is the only place I know where these plants grow, and I believe them to be shade lovers. With the neighbor’s woods opening up, I will no longer have the shade they need, so I expect I won’t be enjoying them much longer.

The dwarf ginseng was blooming today though.

Dwarf ginseng (Panax trifolius)

Dwarf ginseng (Panax trifolius)


I will enjoy it while I can.

Farther up the trail (where the woods are more open), I found a pink lady slipper (Cypripedium acuale) shoot. This should bloom in another two or three weeks.

Pink lady slipper (Cypripedium acaule)

Pink lady slipper (Cypripedium acaule)

Then I made my way around to the front of the house. Va’s phlox has bloomed.

Phlox

Phlox


It has not yet reached its full glory, but I expect it will by this weekend.

I also found some white violets.

Violets are white

Violets are white


I do not pretend to know which species this is, but the genus is almost certainly Viola. And the leaves are quite tasty.

At the edge of the yard I have several chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa) bushes. This is one that I had misidentified initially, but had enough doubt that I sent a photo of it off to Mr Smarty Plants. They came back with A. melanocarpa.

Chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa)

Chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa)


Samuel Thayer has lots of good things to say about this plant, and he stresses over and over again that it is chokeberry, not chokecherry. My bushes don’t produce enough for me to really get more than a taste of their berries.

As I continued my walk, I noticed a gaywing in bloom.

Gaywings (Polygala paucifolia)

Gaywings (Polygala paucifolia)


I had seen several unopened blooms in the west woods, and took several shots of them. But hey! this one is open. So I chose to post a photo of it, rather than the others. By this time the light was failing. I put the camera on my little tripod (even though the mount is still stripped – guess I need to get a helicoil), backed the F-stop down to the minimum, and took this shot. It’s a little dark, and I don’t like the depth of field too much, but it’s still not too shabby.

Wild strawberry (Fragaria spp)

Wild strawberry (Fragaria spp)


As I emerged from my little forest and came out onto the driveway, I saw the strawberries in bloom. I have no idea which species of strawberry this is – probably F. virginiana. It is nearly indistinguishable from dewberries, which are in the same genus as blackberries and raspberries. For a long time I thought the dewberries were strawberries, until I found that they produced blackberry drupes instead of strwaberries. They both grow along the edge of the driveway. Dad taught me to tell them apart – dewberries have thorns (little tiny ones) and strawberries do not.

I headed back to the house and checked out the “turn-around” spot in the driveway. There at the edge of that was another violet.

Violets are also blue

Violets are also blue


Nice.

Dwarf Ginseng (Panax trifolius), including the tuber

Dwarf Ginseng (Panax trifolius), including the tuber


A little more than a year ago, I happened to notice that dwarf ginseng (Panax trifolius) had a listing in Peterson’s Field Guides, Edible Wild Plants. Since that stuff grows in abundance in my wood lot, I went out to find some and try it out. But I was too late! This plant dies back pretty quickly after it flowers, and I couldn’t find any trace of it when I went looking. But there’s always next year, right?

Well that would be now. They are finished flowering now, and many have gone to seed, so I figured if I wanted to try this edible wild food, I’d better strike while the iron was hot. I dug up these six tubers after about five minutes worth of effort.

Six P. trifolius tubers

Six P. trifolius tubers


The first one I pulled up didn’t seem to have a bulbous tuber, so I went to the next one and dug a little more carefully. I wasn’t sure if it was too early for the plant to put its energy into the tuber, or if I had just lost it in the dirt. I struck gold with the second plant, and after digging up the third, I went back to the first and probed around in the soil – and found the tuber.

The part of an edible plant that you eat, depends on where the plant is storing its energy. In late fall through early spring, the food energy is stored in the roots. Then as the plant sprouts, the energy goes from the root to the shoot, then to the flower, and then to the seeds. Finally, the energy returns to the roots (for perennials, anyhow).

I brought my catch into the house, washed it off, and then got out my copy of Peterson to make sure I remembered how to prepare these for consumption. There are two options – eat them raw (as a nibble), or boil them for 5-10 minutes. Half a dozen tiny tubers hardly seemed to justify the energy necessary to bring even a cup of water to a boil, so I opted for the former.

I thought they were pretty good! They have the texture of radish, and are quite reminiscent of that domestic tuber – but with a hint of carrot. I don’t think I’ll plow up my woods in search of a bushel, but I will take another nibble next spring for sure.

I took some flower pictures today.

Wood anemone (Anemone quinquefolia)

Wood anemone (Anemone quinquefolia)


On the way home from work, I had David pull the car to the side of the road so I could get out and photograph these. I knew what they were from the car, because I found them in this same spot a couple of years ago.

Violet (Viola spp)

Violet (Viola spp)


On the way back to the car, I found some more violets. I didn’t see them from the car at all. Purple is harder to see from a moving vehicle than white is, so these are bonus blooms.

Dwarf ginseng (Panax trifolius)

Dwarf ginseng (Panax trifolius)


I already posted a photo of one of these, but this gives a more rounded view of the flower for a different perspective. I have tons of these in bloom right now.

Gaywings (Polygala paucifolia)

Gaywings (Polygala paucifolia)


These are just barely opened. I found several that were still closed tightly before I stumbled over these. I think gaywings are one of my favorite springtime forest flowers.

Painted trillium (Trillium undulatum)

Painted trillium (Trillium undulatum)


I went looking for this one because I knew they should be in bloom by now, and I found a few in this spot last year. I guess it paid off!