Friday, May 31, 2019

And This is Human Happiness!

There is a gentler element, and man 
May breathe it with a calm unruffled soul,

 And drink its living waters till his heart 
Is pure.—And this is human happiness!

 Its secret and its evidence are writ
In the broad book of nature. 'Tis to have
Attentive and believing faculties; 

To go abroad rejoicing in the joy 
Of beautiful and well created things;

To love the voice of waters, and the sheen
Of silver fountains leaping to the sea;

 To thrill with the rich melody of birds 
Living their life of music; to be glad 
In the gay sunshine, reverent in the storm; 

To see a beauty in the stirring leaf
 And find calm thoughts beneath the whispering tree;

 To see, and hear, and breathe the evidence
 Of God's deep wisdom in the natural world!
                                             ~N. P. Willis

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Old and New Friends in the Maine Woods

"Massachusetts, Connecticut River, and Boston Bay, you think paltry places, and the ear loves names of foreign and classic topography. But here we are; and, if we will tarry a little, we may come to learn that here is best. See to it, only, that thyself is here;—and art and nature, hope and fate, friends, angels, and the Supreme Being, shall not be absent from the chamber where thou sittest. Epaminondas, brave and affectionate, does not seem to us to need Olympus to die upon, nor the Syrian sunshine. He lies very well where he is. The Jerseys were handsome ground enough for Washington to tread, and London streets for the feet of Milton. A great man makes his climate genial in the imagination of men, and its air the beloved element of all delicate spirits. That country is the fairest, which is inhabited by the noblest minds."

After seeing the glories of the woods in Pennsylvania, I'm afraid I came home feeling somewhat disenchanted with my own northern forest. There the woods were lush and green and all the trees in their full summer foliage. Here the trees were still mostly bare, which was unusually late even for us. It didn't help that we arrived home on a very wet day when the high temperature was only in the 40s! Well, I don't like feeling discontent, so I took myself in hand and went into the woods to see how the new life was progressing, and I wasn't disappointed! It really is amazing how fast things grow at this time of year, that one can see a difference after just a few days away! 

The abundant Red Trillium (Trillium erectum) had just started to bloom. 

And this was the first time I'd had a chance to view a Tamarack (Larix laricina) up close with its new growth and in flower!

Horsetails (Equisetum arvense) look lovely in the rain...

A large patch of Bluebead Lily (Clintonia borealis)...

One of my favorites, the Canadian Lily-of-the-Valley (Maianthemum canadense) should be in bloom very soon!

A couple of days ago I went for another walk, early in the morning. And yes, things had changed even more! It was a delightful morning. Sometimes I was almost on my hands and knees, admiring the beauties of the flowers up close, and trying not to miss a thing. It's wonderful how much there is to see when we are looking!
The woods are still very, very wet and rubber boots are a necessity (last year at this time I could get through in just my shoes).  I surprised a pair of Mallard ducks swimming around in this area, but couldn't get close enough for a picture. They kept on waddling further off, keeping just out of sight of the camera...

And when I accidentally splashed too noisily they finally flew up, and this was the only picture I got. Can you see him? 

Despite its name, Skunk Currant (Ribes glandulosum) is perfectly lovely in bloom! I just did some research on why it is so called, and apparently, the leaves have an unpleasant smell when crushed. 

The flowers are so beautiful!!

I found this one seemingly grafted into a rotting tree stump. It looks almost as if it had just been broken off and gotten stuck there, but there were no others nearby and it certainly seemed to be thriving! 

More red Trillium. I picked one for my herbarium and finally noticed the odor which gives it the nickname 'Stinking Benjamin'!

This one had an unusual color! 

One of the most exciting finds were some Painted Trilliums (Trillium undulatum) growing on Cypripedium Hill which is, of course, a much drier area than the rest of these woods. 

I haven't identified this yet, but I found quite a few of these almost ready to bloom. If you recognize it, please let me know!

It looked beautiful with the dewdrops dangling from its drooping leaves!

Bunchberry Dogwoods (Cornus canadensis) just coming up...

Young Coltsfoot leaves (Tussilago farfara)...

Here it was in bloom, a few days before I left for PA...taken in afternoon light, which is just about impossible! 😁

Emerging Yellow Lady's Slippers (Cypripedium parviflorum)...

Another entirely new-to-me find was this American Fly Honeysuckle (Lonicera canadensis)...

The flowers hang mostly under the leaves, making them very difficult to photograph without standing on your head! 😃

I'd been wondering about this plant since last Fall but could never find any matches and had nothing to go on having never seen it in bloom.

But on my last walk, I came across a tiny, ethereal flower which seemed at first to be coming from nowhere. But on brushing away some of the leaves, I found it to be arising from my mystery plant! Turns out this is Threeleaf Goldthread (Coptis trifolia), so called from the yellow threadlike roots, which were chewed by the American Indians for canker sores! 

A member of the Buttercup family (Ranunculaceae) this is a very interesting flower to me. It is only about 3/8" across, and what you would think are the petals are actually sepals...

The petals are yellow, cup-shaped, and shorter than the stamens! These flowers don't last very long, so I was lucky to find them when I did.

Truly it is best to "study your home surroundings before you go to other strands"...and after too! 😊

Monday, May 27, 2019

In a Vase on Monday: Spring Flowers

Spring flowers, spring flowers,
Lovely firstlings of the year,
Where's the heart that scorns your powers?
Joys not in your presence here?

Spring flowers, spring flowers,
Fairest, sweetest gems of earth,
Won from Eden's happy bowers,
Angels smiled upon your birth.

 Spring flowers, spring flowers,
Say not they are useless things
Sent to raise the drooping powers,
Whisper of perennial springs.

 Spring flowers, spring flowers,
Earth without your like would be
Dark and sad our only dower,
Stern and cold reality.

Spring flowers, spring flowers,
Wayside wildings,—garden gems,
Ever to the heart that's pure,
Ye are peerless diadems!
                                 ~Louisa Shaw

 Joining Cathy at Rambling in the Garden for IAVOM! 😊

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

In the Pennsylvania Woods

   My father and I just got back from a whirlwind trip to PA, leaving at 2 AM Friday and getting home around 3 AM today! It was a wonderful time. Some of our ancestors lived around the Scottdale area, so he showed me all the old family sites and we toured the West Overton Museum, which our family is also connected with. And of course, I was looking at plants at every opportunity! 😁 I couldn't believe how green and lush and WARM it was down there! It seemed more like early July, with Peonies, Irises and even Roses in bloom. And the woods! I felt like I was in the Amazon rainforest, everything was so different from what I'm used to! I am a sort of roadside botanical explorer, always peering into ditches, fields, and woods as we go by, and sometimes nearly jumping out of my seat when I see something interesting! 😃 One of the most exciting things for me along the way was seeing some Wisteria in full bloom along the highway in CT. It was the first time I'd seen it in person! Unfortunately, there was no time to get a picture.

A beautiful view from the first ridge of the Alleghenies... 

We visited General Braddock's grave...

The plaque telling about the history of the Braddock should be able to enlarge the picture a little by clicking on it, and hopefully it will be readable!

The road his army cut through the wilderness is still faintly visible. I found it very interesting as well as deeply moving to know that we were standing right where these things happened. 

I almost leaned up against this creature...ugh! Here in Maine I'm used to having nothing to fear smaller than bears! 😃

Eastern Hemlocks were a common but very beautiful sight (come to find out, it is also PA's state tree!). This one near the Braddock road and Fort Necessity was especially magnificent. I just read that Hemlocks take 250-300 years to mature and can live for up to 800 years. So this one no doubt witnessed Braddock's march! Think about it...George Washington may have looked on this very tree! 

Size certainly made me feel small! 

There were many pretty wildflowers growing in the woods near Braddock's road. I picked a few of the violets to press for my herbarium. 

Wild Geranium (Geranium maculatum) was also flowering nearby...

We also visited Fort Necessity...

And Ohiopyle...

Before starting on the trip home, we stopped at Keystone State Park, for my father to rest a bit and for me to explore! 😊 

Golden Ragwort (Packera aurea) was a very common flower along roadsides, fields, and in the woods. 

Evening Dame's Rocket (Hesperis matronalis)...

Aniseroot (Osmorhiza longistylis), which I mistook at first for Sweet Cicely (Myrrhis odorata). But I felt a little better at least when I learned that another name for it is Long-styled Sweet Cicely! The leaves have a wonderful anise fragrance when crushed. 

There were quite a few wild rose bushes in the woods, but none of them were in bloom yet.

Plumed or False Solomon's Seal (Maianthemum racemosum)...

Pennsylvania Blackberry (Rubus pensilvanicus) was also common along roadsides...

I've been wanting to see the Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum) for some time now, and I certainly got to see plenty of them down there!

Close-up of the single flower...

A fruit just beginning to from...

Great White Trillium (Trillium grandiflorum) was abundant but mostly past flowering. I did manage to find a few still in bloom though, and on the way back home I spotted a whole row of them lining the woods near the highway...a beautiful sight!

The Tulip Tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) had me puzzled for a little bit. I found this flower on the ground and was trying to figure out where it fell from.

Then I found this little tree nearby and thought at first that a caterpillar had been nibbling on the leaves. But all of them exactly the same?! I finally came to the conclusion that they were supposed to be that way! 😃

And finally, after more looking around and finding a few more flowers on the ground, always under these trees, I determined they must belong to them, even though, oddly enough, I couldn't see any flowers up there. It wasn't until I got home and did a search on wildflowers of the region that I learned what this beautiful tree was! 

I feel like I should know what this is, but can't seem to put my finger on it. Can anyone tell me? 😊

I was thrilled to find a couple of Jack-in-the-Pulpits (Arisaema triphyllum)!

It was a wonderful trip and over all too soon for me. It was actually a bit painful, after seeing summer in all its glory, to return to this chilly spot (today was only in the 40s here). But I went for a walk in our woods this afternoon and found things progressing nicely in just the few days I was away. But that's a subjest for another post. 😊