Tuesday, June 30, 2009


Until today, the weather's been holding me back from a decent shooting session.

Yesterday I photographed Catalpa flower buds from a little tree growing on the yard's edge to the swamp. Already today the buds popped open.

From With the Trees:

"The catalpa blooms at about the same time as the mountain maple. This tree may be readily known, even in winter, by the long, slender pods dangling from the tips of the stout and somewhat clumsy branches. When youth was less guileful than it is now, and the deleterious cigarette was not so plentiful and cheap, these were furtively smoked by small boys, and the tree which bore them was called "smoking bean."

Long after the boughs of other trees are half hidden by the fluttering and shimmer of young leaves, the catalpa looks as if its days were done, but when it at last puts forth, its semi- tropical beauty compensates for its tardiness.

The large heart-shaped leaves are full grown by time the flowers appear.

Like the linden leaves they secrete nectar; it oozes out of groups of tiny glands, situated at the angles where the large side veins part from the mid-rib."

Going, Maud. With the Trees. New York, 1908. 232. Web. Google Book Search. 29 Jun 2009.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Wild Carrot

Here's the Wild Carrot, Daucus carota, also known as Queen Anne's lace. My neighbor mentioned that the flowers can be book pressed and coated with sparkles to make Christmas tree ornaments. Pretty cool, eh?

From Wikipedia:

"Like the cultivated carrot, the wild carrot root is edible while young, but quickly becomes too woody to consume. A teaspoon of crushed seeds has long been used as a form of natural birth control; its use for this purpose was first described by Hippocrates over 2,000 years ago. Research conducted on mice has offered a degree of confirmation for this use—it was found that wild carrot disrupts the implantation process, which reinforces its reputation as a contraceptive. Chinese studies have also indicated that the seeds block progesterone synthesis, which could explain this effect."

"Wild carrot was introduced and naturalised in North America, where it is often known as "Queen Anne's lace". It is so called because the flower resembles lace; the red flower in the center represents a blood droplet where Queen Anne pricked herself with a needle when she was making the lace. The function of the tiny red flower, coloured by anthocyanin, is to attract insects."

From Wild Flowers Worth Knowing:

"A pest to farmers, a joy to the flower-lover, and a welcome signal for refreshment to hosts of flies, beetles, bees, and wasps, especially to the paper-nest builders, the sprangly wild carrot lifts its fringy foliage and exquisite lacy blossoms above the dry soil of three continents. From Europe it has come to spread its delicate wheels over our summer landscape, until whole fields are whitened by them east of the Mississippi. Having proved fittest in the struggle for survival in the fiercer competition of plants in the over-cultivated Old World, it takes its course of empire westward year by year, finding most favorable conditions for colonizing in our vast, uncultivated area; and the less aggressive, native occupants of our soil are only too readily crowded out. Would that the advocates of unrestricted immigration of foreign peasants studied the parallel examples among floral invaders!

Still another fiction is that the cultivated carrot, introduced to England by the Dutch in Queen Elizabeth's reign, was derived from this wild species. Miller, the celebrated English botanist and gardener, among many others, has disproved this statement by utterly failing again and again to produce an edible vegetable from this wild root. When cultivation of the garden carrot lapses for a few generations, it reverts to the ancestral type—a species quite distinct from Daucus Carota."

"Daucus carota." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 17 Jun 2009, 15:11 UTC. 28 Jun 2009 <http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Daucus_carota&oldid=296968184>.

Blanchan, Neltje. Wild Flowers Worth Knowing. New York, 1917. 142-3. Web. Google Book Search. 28 Jun 2009.

Sunday, June 28, 2009


Chicory, Cichorium intybus, is such a wonderful little plant. Its blanched leaves go well in salad; its roots make a decaffeinated coffee substitute; its flowers have this cool light sensitivity--they will close in afternoons or cloudy days.

At some point, I can envision Chicory becoming the subject of an in depth article. For now, let's just enjoy a wonderful excerpt from The Philosophy of Common Life:

"During the wars consequent on the French Revolution, when the commerce of our present allies was crippled, and France could with difficulty obtain colonial products, various substitutes for coffee were produced. Amongst these, the only one which attained celebrity, and became generally adopted, was the roasted and powdered root of the endive or chicory. So far as its sanitary merits go, the qualities of chicory are unobjectionable; notwithstanding various statements made to the contrary. Whether its mixture with coffee produces a beverage more or less agreeable than pure coffee to the taste, is altogether a matter of opinion; therefore, opinion ought to rule.

There appears no reason to interdict the use of chicory to chicory drinkers; even though the root should be employed unmixed with coffee, as is the practice in the neighbourhood of Manchester, and certain other parts of England. All who know what pure coffee is, and can appreciate the delicate flavour of that substance, need only whisper to himself a Spanish proverb—to the effect that "some tastes deserve whippings "—and let the chicory drinker, and the chicory dealer alone. There is every reason, however, wherefore a person who asks for coffee should obtain what he asks for. To violate this rule is to enact a falsehood. There are many reasons too for objecting to the practice, now legalised, of permitting the grocer to vend a mixture of chicory and coffee, in any relative proportion, at his pleasure. It would appear from the testimony of Mr. Phillips (the chemist, attached to the excise department of the inland revenue), given before Mr. Scholefield's committee—that it is legal for the grocer to sell a mixture of coffee and chicory, even though coffee be asked for; except the purchaser indicate his desires by some such specific formula as " pure coffee," or " coffee without chicory." I believe that the delicacy of palate necessary for appreciating the flavour of pure coffee is comparatively rare; and that the high-coloured, harsh-flavoured beverage resulting from chicory and coffee mixed, finds most general approval. Considering, then, the difference in price between chicory and coffue, the former being only worth some fourpence per pound, the introduction of chicory is a boon, provided the consumer be allowed to reap the benefit of the profit which accrues on the difference. Grocers and coffee-dealers have frequently been actuated by more expansive motives. Not content with allowing the chicory-loving part of the community to drink their chicory, they have endeavoured, by more than one device, to increase its sale. One ingenious person took out a patent for metamorphosing powdered chicory into the form of coffee berries. Others discovered that tin plate canisters retained the aroma of powdered coffee far better than paper. Attached to the discovery in question were certain collateral peculiarities. People could not break open a canister for the purpose of trying the quality of coffee within. Moreover, the canisters might be packed according to a sliding scale, chicory nearly pure at the bottom, coffee nearly unmixed with chicory at the top, on the principle, one may suppose, of gradually accustoming the palate to the transition from coffee to chicory. As to the detection of chicory, there are numerous methods. The most unfailing testimony of its existence is the microscope, of course; but nearly as certain, is the test of cold water, -which chicory powder immediately tinges of a ruddy colour; though coffee powder similarly treated scarcely imparts a perceptible shade of tint. However, he who cannot detect the presence of chicory by the taste alone may continue to drink it; thus increasing the amount of pure coffee to be drunk by those who know how to appreciate it."

Scofforn, John. The Philosophy of Common Life. London, 1857. 95-7. Web. Google Book Search. 26 June 2009.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Cow Vetch

The flowers and even the leaves on this plant remind me of wisteria. What's different is that the flowers hang on upward spikes with Cow Vetch, Vicia cracca, rather than cascading downward.

From A Manual of Weeds:

"The most widely distributed of the Vetches, being very common in both Europe and Asia. Like nearly all of the Legume Family it has root tubercles which cause it to enrich the soil where it grows; it furnishes good forage and good hay, but its tough, creeping rootstocks make it so difficult of removal from places where it is not wanted that it must often be rated as a bad weed.

Stems tufted, slender, angled, branching, two to four feet long, climbing by means of tendrils at the tips of the pinnately compound leaves and forming dense mats, smothering grass or other plants that grow beneath, and entangling and pulling down the crop when growing in a grain field. Leaves sessile or nearly so, composed of eighteen to twenty- four thin, narrowly oblong, entire bristle-tipped leaflets. The whole plant is covered with fine, close- pressed hairs and is a soft olive green in color. Flowers numerous, on slender, one-sided axillary racemes about as long as the leaves, the standard and wings of the corollas being narrower than in the preceding species; each blossom is about a half-inch long, violet-blue in color, and hangs reflexed on its stalk. Pods smooth, about an inch in length, and contain five to eight small, dark brown, globular seeds. They are frequently an impurity of grass and clover seeds and are somewhat troublesome to remove."

Georgia, Ada E. A Manual of Weeds. New York, 1919. 248. Web. Google Book Search. 26 Jun, 2009.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Rough-fruited Cinquefoil

Aren't you wondering if it wasn't just the other day when we looked at cinquefoil? You are correct, my dear and astute reader. Only thing is that today it's the Rough-fruited Cinquefoil, Potentilla recta, making its debut. The leaves and flowers are similar but the stalk holds the uniqueness here--straight with subdued green coloring, not at all like the Common Cinquefoil's crimson vininess.

From a fine and familiar author:

"A similar stout plant with a characteristically rough horned seed vessel. The five rather narrow leaflets are deep green, very hairy beneath, and slightly so above. The flowers are pure yellow, and 3/4 inch broad; the petals are much larger than the lobes of the calyx(flower envelop ) which is the reverse of the case with the Norway cinquefoil. Erect 1-2 feet high. Adventive from Europe and in the vicinity of old gardens and waste grounds Me south to Va and west to Mich Found at Exeter Penobscot Co., Me."

Mathews, Ferdinand Schuyler. Field Book of American Wild Flowers. New York, 1902. 198. Web. Google Book Search. Web. 20 Jun 2009.

Thursday, June 25, 2009


These first two shots are from a couple of weeks ago when my little dirt road was well populated with baby birds. Often while walking by, catbird fledglings would pop out just two feet in front of me, having been perched well hidden.

Here's a youngster working on its new wings while mother looks on guardedly. The shot down below was from a few days ago while this catbird dodged in and out from the branches, but never leaving the scene. Simultaneously curious and cautious, it seemed.

From Florence Mirriam, an author who wrote for Audubon Magazine in 1886:

"High trees have an unsocial aspect, and so, as Lowell says, "The catbird croons in the lilac bush," in the alders, in a prickly ash copse, a barberry-bush, or by the side of the garden. In Northampton one of his favorite haunts is an old orchard that slopes down to the edge of Mill River. Here he is welcomed every year by his college girl friends; and in the open seclusion of an apple-tree proceeds to build his nest and raise his little family, singing through it all with keen enjoyment of the warm sunshine and his own company.

To the tyro the catbird is at once the most interesting and most exasperating of birds. Like some people, he seems to give up his time to the pleasure of hearing himself talk. A first cousin of the mocking-bird — whom he resembles in person much more than in voice — perhaps the relationship accounts for his overweening confidence in his vocal powers. As a matter of fact his jerky utterance is so harsh that it has been aptly termed asthmatic.

The catbird is unmistakably a Bohemian. He is exquisitely formed, and has a beautiful slate-gray coat, set off by his black head and tail. By nature he is peculiarly graceful, and when he chooses can pass for the most polished of the Philistine aristocracy. But he cares nothing for all this. With lazy self-indulgence he sits by the hour with relaxed muscles, and listlessly drooping wings and tail. If he were a man you feel confident that he would sit in shirt sleeves at home and go on the street without a collar.

And his occupation? His cousin is an artist, but he — is he a wag as well as a caricaturist, or is he in sober earnest when he tries to mimic the inimitable Wilson's thrush? If a wag he is a success, for he deceives the unguarded into believing him a robin, a cat, and — "a bird new to science! " How he must chuckle over the enthusiasm which hails his various notes and the bewilderment and chagrin that come to the diligent observer who finally catches a glimpse of the garrulous mimic!

The catbird builds his nest as he does everything else. The loose mass of coarse twigs patched up with pieces of newspaper or anything he happens to fancy, looks as if it would hardly bear his weight. He lines it, however, with fine bits of brown and black roots, and when the beautiful dark green eggs are laid in it, you feel sure that such an artistic looking bird must enjoy the contrasting colors."

Mirriam, Florence A. Birds Through an Opera Glass. Boston, 1986. 18-20. Google Book Search. Web. 24 Jun 2009.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Birdfoot Trefoil

I have found only one small patch of Birdfoot Trefoil, Lotus corniculatus, and that on a gravelly, sunny spot. I expect that in time I will uncover many more specimens around the lake. It is amazing how many times that has happened! I'll discover one small example of a new species and imagine that it must be some rare find and during the next few walks I'll see it all over the place.

Here is a wonderful description by a father and son team who describe themselves as "Seedsmen and Nurserymen to the Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland":

"Flowers eight or ten, in depressed heads, generally of a bright yellow, but sometimes orange-coloured, especially before being fully expanded ; stem decumbent, smooth ; root thick and fusiform ; perennial; flowers about the 20th of June, and continues till the end of August. Height from six inches to one foot- Grows abundantly on dry elevated pastures and heathy soils.

This plant is well deserving of cultivation on light dry and high elevated inferior soils, and on such will yield a greater bulk of herbage than any of the cultivated clovers. It is highly nutritious, and eaten with avidity by cattle. From the great depth to which its roots penetrate, it is not liable to be injured by drought, and is thereby enabled to retain its verdure after the grasses and other plants are burnt up."

Lawson, Peter & Son. The Agriculturist's Manual. Edinburgh, 1836. 162. Google Book Search. Web. 23 Jun 2009.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


Mullein is one of my favorite plants around the lake, I think because of its long-lasting presence. Even during the darkest of winter, one can find faded but living basal rosettes of leaves, waiting it out. During the first year of this biennial's life cycle, it spreads out a base of leaves, winters over, and come early summer throws out long-blossoming spikes. Notice how the flowers start from the base of the spike--they will work their way up over the summer. We'll take more looks at these as the season progresses.

Winthrop Packard expresses my sentiment all so well:

"Loveliest of all these now, and, indeed, the most germane to the spot, is the mullein. All winter long it has sat serene and self-sufficient, under the snow, armor-encased in pellucid ice, or in the bare, bitter nights when the stars of heaven were one solid coruscation of silver and the still cold bit very deep. Clad in kersey like the pioneer, its homespun clothing has defied the weather, holding the cold away from its thin leaf with all this padding of matted wool which makes the plant seem so rough and coarse. In the summer it will defy the fierce heat of the July sun with the same armor, sitting here with its feet in the burning sand and its tall spike tossing back the sunshine with a laugh from its golden efflorescence.

Like the pioneer, the mullein came from the Old World, well fitted to bear the rigors and defy the dangers of the New. Like him it took root, and its seed holds the land in the rough places, brave and beautiful, though rough-coated, tender at heart, and helpful always.

So, when the sun has gone over the western ridge and the north wind scouts have again mustered courage to invade the place, I leave the little hollow to the wilderness that still enfolds dreams of the one-time occupant. In its sheltered nooks some of the day's golden warmth will remain, even until the sun comes again. I cannot tell where my busy butterflies will spend the night, but if I were one of them I should flip back into the dooryard of the pioneer's homestead and cuddle down in the great heart of one of those rosettes of mullein leaves, there to slumber, warm and serene, wrapped to the eyes in its blankets of soft wool."

Packard, Winthrop. Woodland Paths. Boston, 1910. 150-2. Google Book Search. Web. 20 Jun 2009.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Musk Thistle

I came upon the Musk Thistle (aka Nodding Thistle), Carduus nutans, while investigating a field across from the lake that I don't often get to. This beautiful plant is considered invasive, primarily for crowding out beneficial forage species. There is lots of contemporary information on eradication but I prefer to present articles of appreciation. For those, I often must turn to earlier works within the ancient stacks of Google Books.

"The thistles are among the handsomest wildflowers of the northern hemisphere, and some of them rise up before us by every way-side. Those who are not botanists can always detect these plants from others whose flowers somewhat resemble them, by the prickly stems and leaves which always belong to the thistles; but some study of plants is requisite to distinguish the various species from each other. The Musk Thistle, however, may at once be known by its large drooping flower, and it has besides a musky odour, which becomes stronger when the dew of evening is on it. The colour of the blossom is a rich reddish purple, and it nods, from a stem two or three feet high, on many a dry or stony field, during the months of July and August.

Thistles are arranged by botanists into several genera; that of Carduus contains four species, one of which, the Welted Thistle (Carduus acanthoides), is among the most common of the whole tribe; while another, the Milk Thistle (Carduus marianus), is as handsome as any one of this beautiful family of plants, but it is rare. It may easily be distinguished by the milky white veins which run through its dark green spiny leaf. The name of the genus is said to be from the Celtic Ard, a point; and our engraving will show that it was not ill bestowed. This thistle, however, has not, except on its cup, points so strong and sharp as those of the true Scotch thistle (Onopordum acanthium), which certainly well merits the motto which Scotsmen of old have affixed to their national emblem, "Nemo me impune lacessit" (No one touches me with impunity): or, as Baxter interprets it into the plain Scotch, " Ye maun't meddle wi' me.""

Pratt, Anne. Wild Flowers. London , 1853. 115-6. Google Book Search. Web. 20 Jun 2009.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Common Cinquefoil

On the earlier magenta route excursion, I came upon what I thought to be flowering Virginia Creeper. Although the leaves held similarity, the vines and flowers did not. A flower lookup in Petersons's Wildflowers quickly brought me to the Cinquefoils and the leaf description finished up the ID nicely as Common Cinquefoil, Potentilla simplex.

From A Guide to the Wild Flowers:

"One of our dearest little field blossoms whose cheery yellow head peeps out among the grass in early spring. We find it when we follow some stone wall to a place where we know a spreading patch of fraises des bois, as the French call the wild strawberries, is in bloom. The little plant is, in fact, often called wild strawberry. Perhaps we attempt to carry it away, but it is indignant at such treatment and its petals droop quickly after leaving their shady home."

Lounsberry, Alice. A Guide to the Wild Flowers. New York, 1899. Google Book Search. Web. 18 Jun 2009.

Happy Summer Solstice!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Painted Turtle

Not having been along the magenta route in nearly two months and looking for a change of scenery, I gave it a bit of a go--that is, until the mosquitoes nearly carried me off. I did make it to the beach area and just beyond down a pathway to find a painted turtle making her nest.

Within 72 to 80 days, hatchlings will emerge from their eggs as fully formed little reptiles ready to go about their businesses. During incubation, the eggs are given no attention.

The beach is within the Harry C. Darling Wildlife Management Area, which encompasses a portion of the lake's western shoreline. Sadly, I can uncover no detail on Mr. Darling.

Friday, June 19, 2009


I'd like you to meet my new friend, living under the front door steps. Seemingly arriving only recently, it's made itself right at home. This isn't the first--over the years woodchucks have dug their dens throughout the yard. Isn't it just the sweetest little critter?

A Drumlin Woochuck

One thing has a shelving bank,
Another a rotting plank,
To give it cozier skies
And make up for its lack of size.

My own strategic retreat
Is where two rocks almost meet,
And still more secure and snug,
A two-door burrow I dug.

With those in mind at my back
I can sit forth exposed to attack
As one who shrewdly pretends
That he and the world are friends.

All we who prefer to live
Have a little whistle we give,
And flash, at the least alarm
We dive down under the farm.

We allow some time for guile
And don't come out for a while
Either to eat or drink.
We take occasion to think.

And if after the hunt goes past
And the double-barreled blast
(Like war and pestilence
And the loss of common sense),

If I can with confidence say
That still for another day,
Or even another year,
I will be there for you, my dear,

It will be because, though small
As measured against the All,
I have been so instinctively thorough
About my crevice and burrow.

~Robert Frost

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Downy Woodpecker

I'm used to seeing Downy Woodpeckers searching through tree limbs for their meals of bugs. Here I recently found a few birds after something that eludes me. (It could be unripe fruit of the Black Cherry, subject of an upcoming post.) I had a terribly hard time getting off good photos--they were so active!

A few days before the above, I found what I think is a fledgling Downie poking around on my little dirt road. This does seem to be baby bird season around here and soon we'll see another species in another upcoming post coming from the same area.

These birds are both females, as each is missing that red spot on the back of the head.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Daisy Fleabane

I searched all last evening to discover the identity of the Daisy Fleabane, Erigeron strigosus. It is always such a good feeling to finally make it! :-)

From The Wayside Flowers of Summer, A Study of the Conspicuous Herbaceous Plants Blooming Upon Our Northern Roadsides During the Months of July and August:

"The Daisy Fleabane when in full possession of the field rises gaunt and stiff on a simple, erect stalk, which branches at the top into a loose, long- stemmed cluster of small Aster-like flowers. In the Middle West these flowers are at their height of beauty in July, but in the uplands of New England they are beautiful and abundant in August, and often strike hands and meet the real Aster in September.

The flower-head of the Daisy Fleabane can be very easily distinguished from an Aster. The rays, white or pink, vary in number from fifty to eighty, and are so narrow that they look like fringe; the florets of the central disk bloom in circles from circumference to centre, and when all have opened the rays collapse. The Daisy Fleabane makes most of the family show in July but there may be, and probably are, in every Fleabane community others of the genus, especially the Philadelphia Fleabane, an earlier and more beautiful form, which in June sometimes takes possession of a field on its own account. The two are very similar in general appearance; the distinction between them lies chiefly in leaves and stems.

The ugly English name is due to the popular belief that the leaves will drive away fleas, which, of course, they will not do."

Keeler, Harriet L. The Wayside Flowers of Summer. New York, 1917. Google Book Search. Web. 16 Jun 2009.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Bug Time

I sometimes run across accommodating insects when I'm out with the macro lens. (Until I hook up with a good backpack, it's one lens per session.) Other than the ladybug, I have no idea... :-)

Monday, June 15, 2009


Due to commitments, yesterday's photos were all taken very close to home. I discovered species that I've blown right by as I make my usual trek around the lake. Today's showers kept me close to home once again, helping me to fill in shots and refine identification.

Yesterday a dear friend asked if I impose on myself a daily posting. Considering that I've not missed a day all day year, it'd be fair to answer affirmatively. I feel that I have a responsibility, and yet, it's never been a chore. Work or house upkeep, they are chores! This endeavor is a labor of love. Every aspect--interacting with my readers and making new and special friends, learning Adobe products, developing photography skills, practicing my writing, and performing research--is a distinct pleasure and passion.

A further question wondered how I came to daily species compared to open journaling. That's been on my mind for some time. I don't everyday have an opportunity to get out around the lake so I'd have to think about posting outside of that activity. See, with species, I can schedule ahead even up to a week and then research whenever free time comes up. I'd like to think that in years to come that I might move towards free journaling as well as spinning out detailed articles on species and their environmental relations.

Good questions! They stimulate me to think about what I'm doing and how that may change over time. And curiously, today's post seems to overlap between journaling and species specific reporting...

Arrow-wood, Viburnum dentatum, has been a fun ID. I first thought it was Elderberry but the leaves on this native bush just didn't fit. The egg-shape and heavy serrations helped. It took three outings to capture photos that worked--windy days and macro shots don't go well together.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Whorled Loosestrife

I discovered the native perennial Whorled Loosestrife, Lysimachia quadrifolia, during yesterday's late afternoon walk.

I found this interesting piece taken from a book written quite some time ago by Mrs. Dana:

"This slender pretty plant grows along the roadsides and attracts one's notice in June by its regular whorls of leaves and flowers. Linnaeus says that this genus is named after Lysimachus, King of Sicily. Loosestrife is the English for Lysimachus but whether the ancient superstition that the placing of these flowers upon the yokes of oxen rendered the beasts gentle and submissive arose from the peace suggestive title or from other causes I cannot discover."

Here's a view across the lake from the above photos a short time later.

Dana, Mrs. William Starr. How To Know The Wildflowers. New York, 1920. Google Book Search. Web. 13 Jun 2009.