Sunday, May 22, 2022

Wild Orchids


Pink lady's slipper orchids, Cypripedium acaule, bloom in the New Jersey pine barrens from early May to mid-June. Right now! Here are some I found this week. Kind of pretty and creepy looking at the same time, right? Click to enlarge.

The lady's slipper flower smells good to bees and the big pouch has a slit in the front that allows a bee to enter. Once inside, hairs direct the bee to an upper exit that requires squeezing past a pollen mass. Tricky!

They grow in association with a fungus that enables germination and provides nutrients to the plant. After the plant is established it provides nutrients to the fungus, in turn.

Joseph Pullman Porter wrote a poem called Wild Orchids that begins: 

Under the pines, near the murmuring brook,
I know the wild orchids grow, 
Fair and pure in their shady nook... 

Exactly describing the spot where I found this orchid. Brook, shady nook, and all.

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Wild Iris

Here's a favorite wildflower of mine, the blue flag, Iris versicolor. It grows wild in wetlands and along shorelines and has been adopted by gardeners. I saw this one growing by a fresh water ponds at Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge on the New Jersey coast. Is it not stunning? I feel well rewarded for choosing that path. Click to enlarge.

There was a single plant, three feet tall or so, sword-shaped leaves, with one bloom. It reminds me of this from Wendell Berry: "I  dream of a quiet man who explains nothing and defends nothing, but only knows where the rarest wildflowers are blooming and who goes, and finds that he is smiling not by his own will."

Sunday, May 8, 2022

Happy Mother's Day


My mother was a reader, and she read to us. She read us Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde when I was 6 and my brother was 8; I never forgot it.” —Stephen King

Sunday, May 1, 2022



Today I am one with the basking animals. I've spent hours lounging outdoors in delightful weather -- cool air and warm sunshine. I was not alone. Eastern fence lizards, like the one above, are out of hibernation and back to their basking posts. 

And the turtles, as usual, are jockeying for the best basking spots. Click to enlarge.

Sunday, April 24, 2022

A Dragonfly Emerged

I was walking past this wooden fence at Batsto Village in the New Jersey Pine Barrens last week when I noticed this:

Big insects on the fence! Click to enlarge.

Turned out it was not two insects, but a dragonfly resting after recently emerging from its empty skin (on the right).

Hard to believe that an elegant and delicate dragonfly used to be this creepy looking aquatic nymph, right?

It grew up to become the sleek brown stream cruiser, Didymops transversa.

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Behold Pyxiemoss!


This week I took a walk in the pine barrens at Pakim Pond in Brenden T. Byrne State Forest in Woodland Township, NJ. I love when the clouds are reflected in the still surface of the lake like this. Click to enlarge.

I was walking on this path when I glanced down and found...

Pyxiemoss flowers! I've read about this plant but had never found it, so -- I am bragging now. The little white flowers are a pretty sight in the brown spring woods, peeking out from under fallen leaves and needles.

It's an east coast native, possible from New York to South Carolina but only in piney sandy places, so it's limited to a few areas within its range. It only blooms from late March through early May. Oh, and pyxiemoss is not a moss. It is a flowering plant that grows in low moss-like mats.