Saturday, October 31, 2009


From the preface of a wonderful book of older times, The Fern Lover's Companion:

"A lover of nature feels the fascination of the ferns though he may know little of their names and habits. Beholding them in their native haunts, adorning the rugged cliffs, gracefully fringing the water-courses, or waving their stately fronds on the borders of woodlands, he feels their call to a closer acquaintance. Happy would he be to receive instruction from a living teacher: His next preference would be the companionship of a good fern book. Such a help we aim to give him in this manual. If he will con it diligently, consulting its glossary for the meaning of terms while he quickens his powers of observation by studying real specimens, he may hope to learn the names and chief qualities of our most common ferns in a single season."

Oh, I almost forgot...

BOO!!! :-)

Happy Halloween!

Tilton, George Henry. The Fern Lover's Companion, A Guide for the Northeastern States and Canada. Melrose, MA 1922. 15. Web. Google Book Search. 31 Oct 2009.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Burning Bush

In yesterday's post I mentioned Euonymus alata, Burning Bush, a species that grows in my yard. Here it is! Alas, it's within the Massachusetts noxious list. I am harboring a criminal! :-)

From Addisonia:

"This, one of the best of all our decorative shrubs, grows native in Japan, Manchuria, the Amur region, and in north and central China. It is one of the shrubs easy to grow, accommodating itself readily to its surroundings, and is a thing of beauty in summer and winter. Its crisp fresh foliage gives it a dainty appearance in the month of May, when its flowers usually appear. As the season advances the leaves become of a grayer hue, and in the autumn turn to a rich crimson, which, with the bright orange-red of the exposed arils, makes it one of the most conspicuous shrubs of that season. As the leaves fall the bright red fruit appears even more conspicuous, and the corky wings, of a brown color, become more evident, adding a curious as well as attractive touch not seen in other shrubs. It may be readily propagated from seeds."

The New York Botanical Garder. Addisonia: Colored Illustrations and Popular Descriptions of Plants Volume 3. Lancaster, PA 1918. 7-8. Web. Google Book Search. 29 Oct 2009.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Eastern Wahoo

Eastern Wahoo, Euonymus atropurpureus, is also sometimes known as Burning Bush, although at times E. alata shares that common name. Our species here lacks the winged, corky bark of E. alata. (I happen to have one of those in my yard so we can see that one too sometime.) Coincidentally, today's Botany Photo of the Day is of the latter mentioned species.

The fruit shots are a bit rough--I was having a bad flash day... :-)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Here's a last peek at the Sassafras trees before the leaves start dropping. Below are a few snippets from Pharmacographia, A History of the Principal Drugs of Vegetable Origin.

"Monardes relates that the French during their expedition to Florida, about the year 1562, cured their sick with the wood and root of a tree called Sassafras, the use of which they had learnt from the Indians. Laudonnière, who diligently set forth the wonders of Florida, observes that among forest trees, the most remarkable for its timber and especially for its fragrant bark, is that called by the savages Pavame, and by the French Sassafras."

"In 1610, a paper of instructions from the Government of England to that of the new colony of Virginia, mentions among commodities to be sent home, " Small Sassafras Rootes," which are " to be drawen in the winter and dryed and none to be medled with in the somer;—and yet is worthe £50 and better per tonne." The shipments were afterwards much overdone, for in 1622, complaint is made that other things than tobacco and sassafras were neglected to be shipped."

"The sassafras tree had been introduced into England in the time of Gerarde (circa 1597), who speaks of a specimen growing at Bow. At that period, the wood and bark of the root were used chiefly in the treatment of ague."

Fluckiger, Freidrich H. ;Hanbury, Daniel. Pharmacographia. London, 1873. 483. Web. Google Book Search. 27 Oct 2009.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Arrow-wood, Viburnum dentatum, has been earlier captured through flower and fruit. Now the greens and blues are fading and some reds and browns are moving in.

I'm becoming more aware of developed buds. Before long, they will become a primary identifier. Besides, they are really beautiful in their own right. :-)


for Forrest Gander

southern viburnum amid the laurel
among the spruce and hemlock
on ridges stalked by the Cherokee
and did not the green stems offer
the trim and narrow the true wood
for shafts? wrens nesting in the forks
rendered feathers the color of bark
for fletching leaf shape arrowpoint
a bird's beating heart the roots
were perfect for lashing the flint
tight so its missile could sing in flight
and sometimes the hunter kept
to shadows used the blue berries
for lure and sometimes he killed
a partridge in the remnant limbs
and cut a spit and kindling but other
times the man in stealth heard
the wind's voice where it gathered
in the boughs and gave it heed
and matched his steps to the rhythm
and sped along the dampened path
under a sky as dark as bartered tea

- R.T. Smith

Smith, R.T., Arrowwood. From A Journal of the Built and Natural Environments. Web. Google Search. 26 Oct 2009.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Sweet Pepperbush Comes Full Circle

Here's Sweet Pepperbush, Clethra alnifolia, coming around its annual cycle.

From Nature's Garden:

"Like many another neglected native plant, the beautiful sweet pepperbush improves under cultivation ; and when the departed lilacs, syringa, snowball, and blossoming almond, found with almost monotonous frequency in every American garden, leave a blank in the shrubbery at midsummer, these fleecy white spikes should exhale their spicy breath about our homes. But wild flowers, like a prophet, may remain long without honor in their own country."

From The American Bee Journal:

"The sweet pepper grows wild here in the greatest abundance in the swamps, and wet places, and I never knew it to fail to bloom from any cause whatever. Dry seasons do not affect it, because its home is generally in wet places; and again no cold appears ever to harm it. The honey is about white, thick and of fine flavor."

(Bee photo on C. alnifolia from August; all others this weekend.)

Blanchan, Neltje. Nature's Garden. 230-1. New York, 1900. Web. Google Book Search. 25 Oct 2009.

Parsons, A. The American Bee Journal. Volume 15. 58. Chicag0, January 1879. Web. Google Book Search. 25 Oct 2009.

To my dear Feedburner email subscribers: Yesterday the embedded Google map did not present well within the email. A better view can be had on the blog's post for yesterday.

Sunday, October 25, 2009


I often head out around the lake covering the same territory, about a four mile hike. For this last session I stayed very close to home, hunching down under bushes and crawling through wet leaves. How much beauty and diversity can be found in the tiniest places? I'll try to work on that over the next few posts. :-)

In between Saturday's rainstorms I discovered the little Partridgeberry, Mitchella repens. It was the red berry that first attracted me; I then came upon many more plants, all without berries.

Partridgeberry (I love that name!) is an evergreen creeping (and not climbing) native vine that prefers forest floors, often close to hemlock.

The two dimples on the fruit are the result of two flower ovaries fusing, an interesting habit making for an effective ID property. Why only a few berries among so many vines? Was this a bad year for flowering? Have most fruit already been dined upon?

These Google maps are so cool! I never knew I could embed like this! :-) Okay, here's where I was poking around, from the A marker (that's my place) on up to Elm Street. Do check out the Sat view.

Saturday, October 24, 2009


Leaves are not only turning; now they're dropping. Soon the lake will be surrounded with bare trees. Then the stilled ice will set in. But for now, I celebrate the color and motion. All photos generally point northward, beginning from the southwest shore and circling over to the southeast.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Oriental Bittersweet

At this time of year, the profusion of Oriental Bittersweet becomes readily apparent when huge blankets of yellowing leaves hang from roadside trees. Pretty as it is, Celastrus orbiculatus can certainly overtake the landscape. As it climbs into trees, it smothers with its shading and can topple trees with excess weight and surface exposure during high winds or heavy snows.

Here are bittersweet vines girdling a Black Walnut. In contrast, the lovely lichens live peacefully, neither taking from nor giving to their support.

Birds feeding on the berries spread seed and frustrate control.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Botanical Terminology

When I started identifying species last year, I turned to Woody Plants in Winter by Earl L. Core and Nelle P. Ammons(who also illustrated the pen and ink drawings.) I had a hard time learning the identifying characteristics and then applying them to specimens.

I recently picked up the book again and am now getting comfortable. Here are a few things I've been studying. I'll use the Tree of Heaven as an example.

This branch displays a leaf scar, bundle scars, and lenticels. The leaf scar follows the shape of the petiole (leaf stem) where it joins the branch. For comparison, we can see the attached petiole in the second photo. Within the leaf scar we find the bundle scars. These are the channels through which pass the vascular bundles carrying nutrients from the branch to the leaf. The lenticels, those little lightly colored dots on the branch, admit air to the living tissues beneath.

Sizez and shapes of leaf scars, bundle scar location and count, and lenticel presence, size and shape are very useful characteristics for making an identification when leaves, flowers, or fruit are not present.

There is one gotcha with this identification practice. We can see here that the Tree of Heaven has a compound leaf and will leave the same scars as a single leaf. Single versus compound leafing is a very usefual property in identification and is something we can't count on in winter.

There! That's a bit of what I'm digesting. :-)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Turkey Talk

I am away from work this week, kiddingly described as a test of my preparedness for retirement. The test results are already in: "I am so ready!". :-)

In the spirit of vacationing, today's post turns to something a bit different.

Neighbor Tim lives just up the road from me. This year he's raising chickens, ducks, and turkeys. The birds are usually penned in way back but on occasion are let loose within the larger fenced in yard.

As I stood by the fence, the turkeys started moving towards me. I've no idea if they considered me friend, food, or an agent for escape.

And they just kept getting closer. Each time Tim's white shepherd barked, they'd gobble!

And even closer with more barking and gobbling.

Neighbor Frank and the kids were passing by and had to stop the truck and watch the show. And once the kids put together the barking dog and the gobbling birds...

Turkey Talk from John Perry on Vimeo.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Yellow Garden Spider

I'm suspect this post is giving someone the heebie jeebies. I sure jumped when I came across these critters. I found a few female Yellow Garden Spiders, Argiope aurantia, members of the orb weavers (I just love that name!), working on their captured dragonflies. The males are about one third the size of the females.

In this closeup of an above shot is visible a spinneret with web strand coming out.

Monday, October 19, 2009


Temperatures in the 30's F, steady downpours (yes, even snow!), and a bit under the weather make for lay back times. Alas, that does affect species collection. But, one does not need to travel far to find worthy subjects--these shots came steps from my doorway.

Lichens seem to fit in with the mosses--I do recognize their existence but find it easy to gloss over them. I did get into moss a while back and feel good about that and I'd like to explore them in more detail this winter. Now the same goes for the lichens.

Poking through my library, I expected at least something on lichens. Nothing doing. Wonderful surprises for mosses though. (How do I not know what's in my library? Surprises are nice but really...) So for now, I will simply reference a wiki link and let it go at that. IDs and more species to come later.

Sunday, October 18, 2009


Beggarticks, Bidens frondosa, now going to seed, was the subject of some naming confusion while in flower back in early September. Below's an example of earlier naming confusion. :-)

From The Therapeutic Gazette:

In the February number, page 49, is a communication in relation to the "cockle-burr." The editor adds it is Xanthium Strumarium and "the use is a new one."

Permit me to suggest that the doctor may have referred to Bidens Frondosa, which is very commonly called as if spelled "kuckel," and is in some parts of Indiana and Illinois as well as in Maryland pronounced "kawkle" and the heads-are called "kawkle burrs."...

[Dr. King may be right in his conjecture that the plant alluded to by Dr. Barnard was Bidens frondosa, rather than Xanthium Strumarium. One of the popular names of the "bidens," applied perhaps indifferently to several species, is cuckold or cuckolds (Am. Dispensatory—Cf. "Hobbes").

This native annual is considered an invasive threat in Europe. Curiously, it is not within the Massachusetts Noxious Weed List. Other common names for this species include: Common Tickseed, Devil's Bootjack, Devil's Pitchfork, Pitchfork Weed, Bur Marigold, Sticktights, and Tickseed Sunflower.

Brodie, William ed. The Therapeutic Gazette, New Series Volume 3 No 11. Detroit, November 15, 1882. 413. Web. Google Book Search. 17 Oct 2009.