Monday, May 24, 2010

Horse Nettle (Solanum carolinense), Saw Greenbrier (Smilax bona-nox), and more

A damp breeze from the east kept me cool this morning as I headed straight into it on the way down the pipeline. Heavy clouds swung past overhead with occasional thinning to show brighter splotches of white instead of gray, and occasional spits of rain forced me to hide my journal under the sweatshirt I carried. I also had my pack, binoculars to scare the birds away (that's what seems to happen when I remember to take them - no birds), and my rolled up sit-upon cut from an old yoga mat (handy, comfortable, lightweight). Daisy bounced along beside me. Butterflies wobbled past as they flew west with the damp wind - Great Spangled Fritillaries, Spring Azures, a Silver Spotted Skipper, and a Checkerspot - and here and there a cricket buzzed in the trees. Tracks showed deep and clear in the rainwet red clay, displaying the various sized deer that roam around Middlewood in the night. Fox scat and some unknown scat proved that other critters roam, as well.

From trees all around, Indigo Buntings were singing their hearts out. Thank goodness for my binoculars! Since Indigo Buntings like to sit on top of dead wood, it was easy to guess where to find one of the beautiful songsters - he was perched on the highest limb of a dead pine tree that fell onto the pipeline during winter. I was very close to this indigo bunting. His song was beautiful! (listen)

When we came to a section of the trail filled with Pasture Roses, I stopped and closed my eyes and let the scent waft over me. Oh, so rich and sweet! The soft pink petals held drops of rainwater that glistened, even under gray skies. Last Friday I saw the season's first few roses blooming and had cut two for the tiny bouquet I put in my guest room for my brother-in-law's visit. Just two had been enough to scent the room, and today there is a whole field of them! You can imagine it smelled divine. Think of standing in a Cotswold rose garden in mid-June...

There's more! Coreopsis are still blooming, and Daisy Fleabane, Spotted Cat's Ear, Butterfly Weed, and Green and Gold. Just opened: New Jersey Tea, tiny Flowering Spurge, distinctive round pink flowers of Sensitive Brier, and white Wild Quinine.

At the base of many plants were the tell-tale sign of Spittlebug nymphs... white frothy "spit" that they cover themselves with for protection. The nymphs hide in the spittle while sucking plant juices. Sound gross? It looks kind of gross too. Adult spittlebugs look like and hop around like tiny leaf hoppers.

After moving twice to get away from gnats, my drawing location today was chosen specifically to stay in the wind, which kept the gnats at bay. Once settled on top of the far hill on a fairly clear spot, I drew what was around me (and that which stayed un-mashed by curious Daisy). The clouds spit on me occasionally, but no serious rain fell.

I know I have forgotten to write about everything, so here's the list I made of flowers I saw while hiking:

New Jersey Tea
Wild Quinine
Flowering Spurge
Spotted Cat's Ear
Sensitive Brier
Self Heal
Daisy Fleabane (white and purple)
Horse Nettle
Green & Gold
Pasture Rose
Crown Beard
Milkweed about to open
Butterfly Weed

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Carolina Cranesbill (Cranesbill caroliniana), Spotted Cat's Ear (Hypochoeris radicata), Venus' Looking Glass (Triodanis perfoliata)

We had a great walk this morning! A fresh breeze left over from yesterday's storms blew in from the west and made the shady side of the pipeline feel cool. One step into the sun and I felt hot, and just right for butterflies. Silver-spotted Skippers, Tiger Swallowtails, Azures, and a Great Spangled Fritillary fluttered around me as we headed down hill. Lots of plants are flowering now, including Pasture Rose, Coreopsis, Honeysuckle, Crimson Clover (left by the pipeline workers), Ragwort, as well as others. The bright red leaves of the Carolina Cranesbill attracted my attention and at closer inspection, its seeds fascinated me, so I sat to draw in a patch of thick, glossy grass. The blades towered over my head once I settled, so that my view of the world reminded me of what it would be like to be a deer, curled up for the night in a similar nest. Birds sang in the trees around me - most exciting was a Yellow-billed Cuckoo's distinctive call - Ku-ku-ku-ku-ku-ku-ku-ku KALP KALP KALP!

The Venus' Looking Glass and Spotted Cat's Ears (both non-natives) were growing near the native Cranesbill, so I drew them too. The VLG had been nibbled and was missing its usual top spire.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Wild Licorice (Galium circaezans) and Bulbous Buttercup (Ranunculus bulbosus)

A quick post from a cool spring day. While I was out in the chilly overcast day, the breeze made it difficult to remember (or believe) that today is the 11th of May. Brrr...

The center plant (above) is growing in our dry, rich woods close to the Galium - Wild Licorice (one of the Bedstraws) and also near Solomon's Seal and False Solomon's Seal. I don't know its name but plan to keep an eye on it to see when it blooms - the easiest way to identify a plant.

My busy days will be over after this week, and I'll be back in my world... check back soon!