Today I was putzing around in my woods looking at some of the blueberry plants when the thought occurred to me that some of the early blueberries might be ripe by now. So I went to a small patch that always blooms early.

Ripe blueberry

Ripe blueberry


Yup! Ate that one and two others. This little patch is at the base of a tree at the edge of the yard. It gets more sun than the ones growing in the woods, and I imagine that’s why it blooms and ripens earlier than its sylvan counterparts.

So that’s a plant.

Not far from the early blueberries I spotted a grasshopper of some sort.

Animal

Animal


I don’t know the species or the genus. I could look up the order I’m sure, but I just don’t have it in me tonight.

As I walked through the yard, I caught some movement out of the corner of my eye. It was this pickerel frog (Rana palustris).

Pickerel frog (Rana palustris)

Pickerel frog (Rana palustris)


This guy didn’t want anything to do with me, but I continued to chase him down anyhow. I suppose that makes me a paparazzi. For frogs. As I persisted in my efforts to capture his (or her) likeness, I would move the long grass out of the way, and as my hand approached, the frog would jump away. I finally approached with my camera instead of with my hand, and the frog didn’t seem to care about that. It’s as if it were saying, “Oh! You’re a photographer! You should have said so!”

I usually see one or two of these each year, so I’ve met my quota now. I will report this sighting on a site run by Fish & Game (they are interested in that sort of thing).

So now that I have given you a plant and two animals, we shall shoot for the middle ground – slime mold!

Slime mold!

Slime mold!


This is a weird life form. Scientists used to classify it as a fungi, but unlike a fungi, it moves. It also seems to exhibit simple brainlike functions. For example, if you divide this stuff into multiple clumps (much as this one is divided into three already), the clumps will find one another again and recombine. And get this quote from Wikipedia:

Studies on Physarum have even shown an ability to learn and predict periodic unfavorable conditions in laboratory experiments.

Awesome!

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Yesterday I went back to Devil’s Den for a short hike. All three of my kids came with me (as did Penny). I don’t know when this last happened, but I am very thankful for it yesterday.

I took the GPS with me too so I could add the trails to OpenStreetMaps, but I haven’t done that yet. I’ve been so busy lately I’m not sure when I will get to it.

Here is the first plant I saw that caught my interest:

Canada mayflower (Maianthemum canadense)

Canada mayflower (Maianthemum canadense)


Yesterday was the first time I had seen any this year. Pretty soon they shoot out a spray of flowers and blanket the woods.

While we walked, we threw sticks for Penny, and she was so intent on that, that she missed this pair of mallards.

A pair of mallards

A pair of mallards


The mallards were clearly not comfortable with our presence there, but they never got agitated enough to fly away. By that I assume they had an active nest nearby. I made sure the boys kept Penny occupied with sticks while I too this photo, and then we moved on. Good for you Penny. Keep bringing us sticks.

A second mission (other than mapping trails) was to look for some ostrich ferns in the fiddlehead stage. I found some fertile fronds still hanging around from last year, but no fiddleheads. At least I know they are here though, so I can come back and gather some in the near future.

Instead of fiddleheads, I found a lot of this:

False hellebore (Veratrum viride)

False hellebore (Veratrum viride)


This is false hellebore (Veratrum viride). I had the hardest time identifying this a couple of years back. Some was growing along the banks of Sandogardy Pond, and I monitor it for months waiting for it to bloom. Most of my field guides are ordered by the color of the blossom, and without ever having seen the blossom, I had no idea which section to look in. I looked in all of them, but never managed to narrow it down. Until I finally did catch it in bloom (it has green flowers).

Armed with that information, I was able to get an id and then I was able to read all kinds of cool stuff about the plant. It looks absolutely mouth-watering, but it is fairly toxic. If ingested, the body will react with an overwhelming desire to expel it via emesis – which is a fancy, scientific way of saying it’ll make you want to puke. It’s best to give in to that urge, or the results could well be fatal.

Native Americans used to employ this plant as a way to choose between multiple candidates for chief. The candidates would eat a prescribed amount, and the last one to puke was the new chief! Not all candidates survived the ordeal, and I imagine they lost a lot of well qualified men this way.

Our hike led us along the banks of the Winnipesaukee, and I went down to the edge to check out some red maple blossoms that had fallen off the trees and washed up in the mud. I found this while I was there.

Raccoon (Procyon lotor) tracks

Raccoon (Procyon lotor) tracks

We continued the hike and soon came to Devil’s Den.

David was not impressed

David was not impressed


David was not impressed with the size of the “cave.” I think his exact words were “I’ve seen cardboard boxes bigger than this.” Still, I think it’s a pretty cool place. I expect it would have been more impressive had it not been for the prodigious amount of cans and bottles scattered all over the area. Even if that wouldn’t make the cave any bigger.

All three of my kids climbed up on the boulders, as did Penny. After all, that’s where the stick throwers were, and she had found even more sticks!

Boulder scrambling

Boulder scrambling

Beth posed for me:

Beth strikes a pose

Beth strikes a pose


Not the greatest photo, but the woods were a bit dark and the sky was prett bright. I opted to blow out the sky rather than silhouette my model.

Soon, we rounded the end of the loop and were headed back. We crossed a small stream, and I found what I think is some liverwort:

Liverwort

Liverwort


I still do not have a good book on liverworts. I have one in mind to buy, but it’s a tad on the pricey side, so it will wait a little longer. But since this doesn’t look like a lichen, moss, or fern, I’m going to go with liverwort.

We finished our hike and returned home, where I disposed of two ticks that had hitched a ride with me. After that I kept feeling phantom ticks, so I finally broke down and took a shower, just to be sure I had washed them all off. Then Va, Beth, Jonathan, and I headed to the church. We are having a series of seminars there, and Va and Beth are running the childcare, I was helping with registration, and Jonathan was running the PA system. That was night two. We had also been there Friday for the first night, and tonight (Sunday) for the third. Those make for some long days, especially when other things are going on too.

When I got up this morning it was bright and sunny outside. I took Penny out for a walk after breakfast and saw a brilliant stand of lowbush blueberries. So I went over to have a look. To my astonishment, some of them had bloomed already:

Wild blueberry blossoms!

Wild blueberry blossoms!


I guess I shouldn’t have been too surprised. According to my records from last year, I observed the first blueberry blooms in 2011 on April 15 as well. Huh.

We had a Pathfinder meeting from 1:00-4:00 today. The big thing that happened during that was more cardboard boat building. I forgot my camera, so I don’t have a single photo of that. I was a bad director today. I looked at my watch and noted that it was 3:30 and thought “Good, we have another 15 minutes.” The next thing I knew, Va was pulling in and it was 4:00. Quitting time! We had cardboard strewn all over the place, glue pots everywhere, and half a dozen paint brushes sitting in them. But it was time to go, so I had to dismiss the kids. That left me to deal with the mess. Because the time sneaked up on me, I was not able to give the kids final instructions before our campout next week or pass out the packing list, or tell them to bring $20 to cover food. Of course I thought of all that while I cleaned up the mess. Sigh.

I sent Va, Jonathan, and David to go on and eat without me. I kept Beth with me, because one of my Pathfinder staff asked me to watch his daughter between the meeting and the seminars. He gave me some money to feed her. I asked her where she wanted to eat, and she said “Wendy’s” but I heard “Friendly’s” – so we went to Friendly’s.

Then we came back to the church. I changed clothes and manned the registration table. And now I’m home again and pretty tired! The rest of the week promises to be just as busy, so I need to shuffle off to bed soon.

This evening we Jonathan and I got home, we saw Beth and two of the neighbor kids (Haylee and her little brother) standing at the end of their driveway holding a sign. I couldn’t read it, so I figured I’d walk over there after we parked the car.

But there was no need. Beth came immediately to share her excitement. They had set up a lemonade stand, and had raked in nine dollars. From two customers. On our unpaved, low-traffic road. I don’t know if they sold any lemonade or not. They were also offering bottled water which they got from the Haylee’s mom, and I think some orange juice. They also had some ice cream, but the staff ended up eating that before it melted.

The first customer was our neighbor from across the street. He and his wife each bought something and paid two bucks each for whatever it was they got. (I’m counting them as one customer). The second customer was the UPS delivery guy who paid them five. Nice people! The kids were over the moon.

After dinner I invited Beth to come and look at my dewdrop patch. A new one had opened, and Beth took this photo of it, which is very decent!

Beth's dewdrop (Dalibarda repens)

Beth's dewdrop (Dalibarda repens)


So now she’s one flower closer to earning the honor we started on Saturday. I think Haylee must have come back out about then, and Beth lost all interest in flowers and in old Dad.

I went out again later, just before sunset. By then Beth was in the living room playing a video game, and Penny was so intent on herding Beth, that she did not hear me put on my shoes (she usually does, and comes running). I slipped out of the house unnoticed.

I checked on a patch of lowbush blueberries, and found a handful that were ripe already:

Lowbush blueberries (Vaccinium angustifolium)

Lowbush blueberries (Vaccinium angustifolium)


I picked pretty much all of these that were ripe and ate them on the spot. They were fantastic. Then I headed into the woods.

I didn’t stick to my trail this time. Every now and then I like to walk through the middle of the woods, because there’s a chance I’ll see something I don’t see every day. I was walking very quietly when the neighbor’s dog started barking. I wasn’t sure if it was barking at me or not, so I froze in place. Then I heard something crashing through the woods. It was a whitetail deer!

That would not have been exciting when I lived in Virginia. It was an unusual day back then when I did not see one. I see maybe three a year here in NH.

I remained frozen and slowly turned my head to follow her. She stopped. My camera was still in its bag slung over my shoulder. I slowly went for it. I managed to get it out and get it turned on, but by then she had moved into some thick brush, and I couldn’t get a decent shot. I don’t think she noticed me, but she well may have. Her life literally depends on her ability to do that.

Had Penny been out there with me, the doe would have continued her high-speed escape, and I’d have hardly gotten a glance.

I moved to the front woods after a bit and found an old piece of rope that the kids had abandoned out there. I decided to use it to mark a couple of maple trees I had found earlier this summer. I thought I had only one maple big enough to tap, but I’ve found three more now (quadrupling my potential syrup production).

I also found a couple of nut-bearing beaked hazels on my place. I’ll keep an eye on them too. I’d like to get a couple handfuls of nuts off them this summer. Actually, I’d be happy to get even two or three nuts, much less a whole handful. I am not that hard to please!

Cinquefoil (Potentilla, spp)

Cinquefoil (Potentilla, spp)


The Cinquefoil (Potentilla, spp) has been blooming for a while, but I don’t think I’ve posted it yet. I haven’t taken the time to drill down to the species level for an id on this one either. There are several members of the Potentilla genus growing around here. Last year I had them sorted out, but that knowledge didn’t survive the winter! Now I’ll have to figure it out all over again.

Speedwell (Veronica spp)

Speedwell (Veronica spp)


This is another that I went actively looking for today. I almost missed it too, because these flowers are only about an eighth of an inch across. I only saw two specimens, but they were growing where I remember seeing them last year. I don’t know why anyone would call it “speedwell” when its Latin name is so nice – Veronica. It is purported to have medicinal qualities, so I guess that’s where the common name comes from. This is another plant that I was too lazy to id down to the species level today. There are only a couple species of Veronica on my property, so it wouldn’t be that hard to do.

Green blueberries

Green blueberries


Here are some unripe blueberries growing at the edge of my yard. Some plants are still sporting flowers, but these have progressed well beyond that now. I might be able to get a quart of berries this summer, but we’ll see. Not bad for wild berries.

Groundnut (Apios americana)

Groundnut (Apios americana)


This is one I was not expecting to see again, at least not here. I discovered this groundnut (Apios americana) a couple of years ago, and then accidentally hit it with the mower last summer when I was taking out the brambles around the swing set. It didn’t come back from that until now. It has an edible root (thus the name groundnut) that I’ve been wanting to try, but since I’ve only got one or two plants growing here, I’m not about to uproot it. Hopefully it can establish itself to the point of nibble-ability. Might take a couple more years, but I can be patient. All I have to do is not mow it down.

This afternoon Beth and I took Penny down to Sandogardy Pond. Beth rode her bike, and I held Penny’s leash. I kept my eyes to the sides of the road most of the way there looking for flowers, and such.

Here is some “such”

Unknown Fungus

Unknown Fungus


I took a stab at identifying this little fungus, but came up empty-handed. There were three clumps of it growing in the ditch beside the road. Whatever it is, I like it!

Nearby, I spotted some False Solomon’s Seal (Maianthemum racemosum) just beginning to bloom:

False Solomon's Seal (Maianthemum racemosum)

False Solomon's Seal (Maianthemum racemosum)


I have some of this on my own property, but it’s not as far along as this specimen. I guess I’ll be seeing more of it over the next couple of weeks.

We soon came to the Class VI road (meaning it is not maintained at all) that leads to the pond. About halfway down that road under a large white pine is the only place I know where I can find Lily-of-the-valley. I’ve been checking on it every time I go down there, and today I struck pay-dirt:

Lily-of-the-valley (Convallaria majalis)

Lily-of-the-valley (Convallaria majalis)


Too bad these flowers won’t last very long.

All along that road I saw plenty of pink lady’s slippers (Cypripedium acuale). Even though I’ve posted plenty of lady slippers in the past couple of weeks, I could not resist these triplets growing towards the end of that road.

Three pink lady's slippers (Cypripedium acuale)

Triplets!

When we arrived at the pond, I found a nice northern highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum) in bloom. I’ve got plenty of the lowbush variety at my place (and all along the road and trails to the pond), but there aren’t very many highbush:

Northern highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum)

Northern highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum)

Then I checked one of the bunchberry haunts.

Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis)

Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis)


These were spotted in Maine last week, so I knew I should find some here just any time now. Bunchberry is an interesting plant. It belongs to the same genus as the dogwood trees, but it sure seems pretty different to me. Also, those white petals are not petals at all, but rather, sepals. The petals are little tiny things in the center of the sepals.

I walked around the beach to the trail that follows the stream draining the pond. There, I found a large patch of indian cucumber root (Medeola virginiana) in bloom.

Indian cucumber root (Medeola virginiana)

Indian cucumber root (Medeola virginiana)

A little farther down I came to the patch of corn lily, aka blue bead lily, aka Clintonia borealis.

Clintonia borealis

Clintonia borealis


These flowers will turn into blue bead-like berries later this summer. They look delicious, but are not edible. The leaves are supposed to be, but they should be picked before they uncurl. I think they’re well beyond that stage now. Maybe next spring I’ll try them.

The trail along the creek ends when it hits the class IV road. At that point, the road is much more a trail than a road, and there’s a small wooden bridge used by snowmobiles and ATV’s. In the marshy spot along the creek right there by the bridge is a stand of false hellebore (Veratrum viride). That’s a plant I learned only recently. Last year I tried keeping an eye on it so I could get a shot of its flowers, but I never saw any. So I continue with that this year. I’m getting close:

False hellebore (Veratrum viride)

False hellebore (Veratrum viride)


I don’t know if I missed them again, or if they’re about to open. I’ll try to get back again as soon as I can to check them out.

On Saturday, I took a hike down to Sandogardy Pond with Beth, David, and Penny. I took photos along the way and while there, but haven’t gotten around to getting them off the camera until tonight. I also have been walking around in my woods snapping away over the past couple of days. Here’s what I’ve found:

Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara)

Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara)


Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) was once considered a premium cough remedy. It has not proven to be effective by modern science.

False Hellebore (Veratrum viride)

False Hellebore (Veratrum viride)


The photo above is False Hellebore (Veratrum viride). It looks like it would be really good to eat, with all those leafy lush greens. But that would be a mistake as it’s pretty toxic, causing the body to reject it almost immediately via emesis. Failure to purge is fatal. Some Native American tribes used this as a bravery test when selecting a new chief. The candidates would eat some, and then bravely try to keep it down. Last one to barf would be named the bravest, and thus, the new chief. But sometimes such bravery proved fatal, so they would have to go with the second-bravest-but-slightly-wiser candidate instead.
Violet (Viola spp)

Violet (Viola spp)


I’m not good a identifying violets down to the species level. There are a lot of them to choose from. This was in my backyard.
Lowbush Blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium)

Lowbush Blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium)


The blueberry blossoms are almost ready to open.
Butterwort (Pinguicula vulgaris)

Butterwort (Pinguicula vulgaris)


This little beast is carnivorous. The leaves exude a mucus that catches bugs. And here I thought all carnivorous plants were exotic and probably tropical. Never expected to find them in my backyard.
Dwarf Ginseng (Panax trifolius)

Dwarf Ginseng (Panax trifolius)


When I saw these on Saturday, I knew it was spring.
Goldthread (Coptis groenlandica)

Goldthread (Coptis groenlandica)


I think this is about the most stunning wildflower in bloom at my place right now. The white petals are actually sepals. The actual petals are those yellowish clubs hanging out between the stamens. This plant gets its name from its roots which look like little gold threads. Chewing on them is purported to be an effective treatment for mouth sores, which is where its alternate name – canker root – comes from. I took a lot of shots of these. Here’s another:
Goldthread (Coptis groenlandica)

Goldthread (Coptis groenlandica)


None of the leaves around this flower belong to this plant. I didn’t take any shots of the foliage today (shrug), but they usually show up as three wedge shaped forms joined at a central point with jagged edges on the opposite side. The leaves here are from the star flower (Trientalis borealis), but those aren’t in bloom yet.

Today I noticed several plants in bloom that I hadn’t seen yet this season. Some of them are kinda early too, so I was really not expecting to see them in bloom yet. The first one was Azure Bluet (Houstonia caerulea). I didn’t get a picture of this because I just barely caught it out of the corner of my eye while Jonathan and I were driving home. It was in a spot where I didn’t know it to grow too. I wasn’t 100% sure that’s what it was, but another mile or so up the road is a place where it has grown pretty thickly the past two years. I figured if that field looked the same, then that must be it. As we came upon it, there it was. I didn’t get a picture though. Moving car plus tiny flowers equals bad photography. Last year it didn’t bloom until April 27, so it’s 12 days early (as compared to then).

When I got home, I went walking around the property. I was astounded to find the blueberries in bloom:

Blueberry blossoms

Blueberry blossoms


I’ve not seen these bloom in April before. Last year I logged them as blooming on May 4. I noticed that the ones growing in the woods were nowhere near ready to bloom yet, as opposed to the ones growing around the base of the oaks at the edge of the yard.

I turned around and almost stepped on this specimen:

Butterwort (Pinguicula vulgaris)

Butterwort (Pinguicula vulgaris)


This is a carnivorous plant. It has hairs on its leaves and exudes a sticky goo that tends to render bugs (et al) immobile. This is another one that bloomed on May 4 last year. I had notice that these had sprouted an were making leaves, but wasn’t expecting them to bloom just yet.

I walked on and saw this:

Pussytoes (Antennaria parlinii )

Pussytoes (Antennaria parlinii )


This is a crappy photo too, and that’s too bad, because Wikipedia’s image repository doesn’t have a picture of this plant. I may try to get a decent one soon to rectify that, but it might snow here tonight, and it’s supposed to rain tomorrow, so I’m not likely to get a good shot of it until the weather clears up a bit.

I made my way into the woods then and took lotsa photos of trailing arbutus, but most of those have fading blossoms now (and I have already posted good pics of those in the past couple of weeks). But I was not expecting to see this:

Dwarf Ginseng (Panax trifolius)

Dwarf Ginseng (Panax trifolius)


This is the plant I wrote about yesterday. I found a couple of them with open blossoms. This one did bloom in April last year (on the 28th) so I wasn’t expecting to see any flowers two weeks early. But here they are!

Not far from the ginseng I started looking for some Goldthread. I had spotted its leaves here the other day (and indeed, I saw several before the snow was melted). Then I found one which had sent up a stem and had an unopened flower bud on it. I took some photos, and then not five feet away, I found one that had opened:

Goldthread (Coptis groenlandica)

Goldthread (Coptis groenlandica)


The earliest I found one of these in bloom last year was on April 30, so here we are with another one open two weeks early.

The last new bloom I spotted today was this one, and again, it wasn’t expected:

Wild oats (Uvularia sessilifolia)

Wild oats (Uvularia sessilifolia)


The earliest log I had for this one was May 5, so we’re looking at one that’s three weeks earlier. This photo didn’t turn out very well either because the wind was whipping it around in low-light conditions (necessitating a slow shutter speed).

I had also taken shots of birch, cherry, sugar maple, box elder (which is a type of maple) and crab apple in Concord today at lunchtime. Those have been in bloom for about a week I guess. But I have posted enough photos for one day!