Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Spot pond

No blogs during the whole month of May, but it doesn't mean that there wasn't anything to see. We've had a long spring slowly unfolding and I feel I got a good chance to see it all. Now summer is here, and it is overwhelming as always, and I'm not complaining about that.

It felt like it rained for weeks, and it was freezing most of May. In the beginning of the month I went on a fieldtrip to Spot Pond in Middlesex Fells Reservation with wonderful leader Roland "Boots" Boutwell. I really have him to thank for most of what I know about native shrubs, and that day I was eager to hear what he could tell about wildflowers as well. Most of the native plants I've seen have been in Garden in the Woods, which is a wonderful place indeed, but it's still a garden, not quite the Real Wild Thing. So I was really looking forward to this day.

It's called Spot Pond because the pond had many small islands dotted over the surface of the water. But since the first settlers came here - in the 1630-ies - lots of development has taken place and at some point the level of water has risen and no spots are more to be seen. In the woods are remnants of all the old mills that used the brook for power.  

It was a really cold and freezing day. I came, thinking I'd be ok since it was a hike and I would soon get warm, but of course we stopped every 15 ft or so to look at plants and I was almost trembling despite 4 layers under my raincoat. But we kept going, and Boots kept it interesting, and there was just so much to look at.

Canada Mayflower covered the ground. I have not paid any attention to it before, now I wonder how could I ever miss it, so cute and abundant as it is.

I don't think it's fair to call a flower for something it isn't, like this False Salomon's seal. It deserves a name of it's own, I think.

Big Hickory buds unfurl dramatically.

And this cutie greeted us already on a cliff side by the parking lot. Pale Corybdala - although we didn't find anything pale with it.

Catbriar vine was also everywhere. Green stems with both thorns and tendrils are unique to this plant, which can form impenetrable thickets where little critters can safely hide from predators.

Now, I realize how unwise it is to wait so long before posting. Is this Starflower, or is it Indian Cucumber root? I think it might the root. With Boot's blessing, we dug up a root, rinsed it and sliced it to eat - very nice! Sort of crunchy, white, refreshing, a little bit like that shredded white stuff you get with sushi sometimes.

Sessil-leaved Bellwort was new to me, and it was so nice and graceful like the most tender garden plant.

One of the high points of the day was a rich stand of Pink Ladyslippers.  

And this fern I just had to take a picture of.

Here, Boots is demonstrating the lathering properties of what some Native Americans called Soapbush - or Clethra Alnifolia, or Summersweet, or Sweet pepperbush. Crush some leaves in your hands, add water, rub a little, and you'll soon have a mild cleanser with a good bubbly lather.

It was sad to see how many hemlocks in this wood that was suffering from infestations of the Wooly Adelgid. Both large and small trees were infected, and most of them will have only a few more years to live. Wooly adelgid is a tiny insect who hides it's eggs - or is it larvae? - in these white paste-like blobs on the stems, and they eat and suck out all the nutrition of the tree until nothing is left. There are treatments available for gardens, and used by knowledgable people it seems to have some success, but I'm afraid these trees in the wild are too many and too far for any rescue crews.

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