Monday, September 19, 2011

A day at Broad Meadow Brook

When I woke up this morning I knew I had to get out, out out. Preferably far from the noisy and ugly city. After another cold night I felt the sun was going to warm us up to a very comfortable temperature. Also, fall is right around the corner, so if I still wanted to enjoy some summer attributes this would be the day!

After almost a week with cold nights, I haven't seen any of the bigger butterflies like the Swallowtails around, neither have I seen any Painted ladies or Admirals. A Monarch swirled by at a Sudbury nursery, and I've heard that they often remain in MA up till the beginning of October, but in my garden, they've gone missing. The tomatoes that ripened during the week were decidedly less sweet than before the cold snap, and the raspberries tasted bland and watery.

I'm not as witty as I would like to be while writing this - I'd love to have more thoughtful observations to report. For now, it will come across more like a long list of plants that I've proudly learned to identify during the past years. I am sure I would enjoy the woods and meadows and gardens just as much if I didn't know the names of things. But knowing what I see adds pleasure and joy, as I hope you can feel when I share it with you!

So we took the car to Broad Meadow Brook, an Mass Audubon Sanctuary in Worcester area, at the beginning of the Blackstone River which ends in Providence, RI. The river valley was early settled by colonists as was most of New England, and lots of mills and dams and other activities went on along the river. I wish I knew more about this... but reading postings along the way does not always work with my impatient hiking companions. I found it wiser to take advantage of their enthusiasm while it lasted, so off we went.

And what an absolutely perfect day for a walk in the woods!

In the muddy puddles were frogs.
There were fall fruits of all kinds:
Doll's Eye, or White Baneberry.
Maple leaf Viburnum

 And Spicebush! There were so many of them. It's fun to think of that they belong to the same family of plants as Avocados, so tropical and exotic. But when you look at the shape of the leaves, it makes sense.

The low stone walls remind us of a time when almost all of Massachusetts was farmed and the woods we are used to see today were not there. The walls tell us of the history of the land - of pastures for animals or fences to determine property lines. In the late 19th century, small farmers were abandoning their homesteads for industry work in the cities, and the forests started to grow again.

The Sharp leaved Aster likes the dappled sun light under the tree canopy.
Witch hazel was everywhere,
 as were Sassafras
and American Chestnut. This wood really gave an idea of how common the Chestnut tree once was. I saw dozens and dozens of small or not so small Chestnuts today, some in fairly good shape, others obviously dying. 
The dappled sunlight coming in, and I can never get enough of it...  

I've never been much of a fern-fan, and even less able to name them, but today they were stunning. Tall, gracious, in soft mounds under the trees.

Just as gracious but in a smaller scale, Indian Pipe.
 I saw both low- and highbush Blueberries.

Beautiful berries of a flower I can't remember the name of.

 The center remains red when the leaf withers.

Diamond spider webs

Spotted wintergreen

Purple cutie with red leaf.
 This mushroom was big as a dinner plate.
Sweet Pepperbush by a  muddy brook. I promised myself to come back in July to catch them in bloom.

My little wood elves.

An interesting branch winding itself upward

A somewhat drier area with Mountain laurels.

A tree with a view.
Fairly abrupt, our wooden trail opened up to the Power Line trail and a clearing. These kind of open spaces let the sunlight shine and can be great for spotting both plants and animals.

Meadowsweet, grasses, goldenrods and ferns in a sunny mix.

Many kinds of Goldenrod, some gone, some flowering right now, some still in bud.


And a butterfly called Leonard's Skipper.

The beautiful Clouded Sulphur
 A white cloud of pretty little asters


Joe Pyeweed

And yet another kind of goldenrod.

There were dozens of dragonflies - it's a good season for them now, and the big green Darners are getting ready for migration soon. I waited patiently for one to pose for a picture but the only one I could catch was this pretty red one. Perhaps a Meadowhawk?

At the place we entered the woods again I saw some blue berries on a bush, and I thought it was another Maple leaf viburnum, and I was glad to find one in sunshine. Not until I came home I saw that the leaves were not maple-shaped, and the berries were in a different sort of cluster, and what I had seen was a Dogwood instead.

My last picture is from the planting at the Visitor's Center. New England Asters are saying that there is still summer around here.