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.

Sunday, April 3, 2022

Tufted Titmouse Time

Here's a cute little bird that is currently making its voice heard. Tufted titmouse males are singing now to attract mates. Their song is a clear two-note whistle repeated a few times. It's surprisingly loud and ear-catching for a tiny bird. Birdwatchers think it sounds like peter-peter-peter. Click here to listen to a recording from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

The tufted titmouse has a little crest on its head, big dark eyes, and a sporty peach colored patch on the side. They reside year-round in most of the eastern United States where they work as scatter hoarders, collecting seeds to tuck away in numerous small caches for later use. They always seem to be working. With a little time off in spring to just sit and sing. Click to enlarge.


Sunday, March 27, 2022

White-throated Sparrows are Singing!


Snow is blowing past my window right now. Earlier today I brought all the houseplants I took outside last week back in because it's going to freeze here tonight. And tomorrow night. And the next. It is helpful in the face of the continued cold weather to review our evidence of spring. I give you the white-throated sparrow. I heard them singing this week! Click to enlarge.

White-throated sparrows are ready to breed right now and the males are singing to attract mates. It's a guarantee that spring is on track out there even though it's not picnic weather yet. The song is an attention-getting series of whistled notes that you may have heard lately. Click on this sentence for a nice You-Tube video performance. Birdwatchers use this mnemonic to help remember the rhythm of the syllables in the white-throated sparrows's song: Old Sam Peabody-Peabody-Peabody.

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Spring Today!

Spring begins today, March 20, at 11:30 a.m. in the northern hemisphere. 

Rainer Maria Rilke once wrote: "It is spring again.The earth is like a child that knows poems by heart."

Robin Williams once said: "Spring is nature's way of saying -- let's party!"

Sunday, March 13, 2022

Spring Forward

Daylight Savings Time started last night while you were sleeping. There's still time to set your clock forward by one hour if you haven't done it yet. Note that the sun will set today in Philadelphia at 7:05 p.m. Click to enlarge the newly-open dew-drenched daffodil.

More daylight means there will be more time to visit nice outdoor places like Chatsworth Lake in the New Jersey pine barrens. I took this picture there on Friday, two days ago, when is was so sunny and spring-like that I didn't need a coat.  How about we just ignore the snowstorm that happened between then and now? And today's freezing wind. Wait. Where'd I put my coat?

Sunday, March 6, 2022

Two Weeks Until Spring


Hal Borland once wrote: "No winter lasts forever. No spring skips its turn." The Equinox will happen on March 20th this year. These daffodils are ready.

Here's one precocious blossom almost open!

Lenten roses are blooming right on schedule.

And snowdrops have become easy to find. Click the photos to enlarge.

Sunday, February 27, 2022

Countdown to Butterfly Weed


This is orange milkweed also known as butterfly weed, Asclepias tuberosa. It is a pretty native plant that is important to monarch butterflies. Adult butterflies feed on its nectar. Click to enlargre.

It is also a host plant for monarch caterpillars. Here's one now, eating foliage.

It's really pretty in the garden, producing pods at the end of the growing season. Here is a patch I grew from seeds. At the end of the season I collected seeds from these pods.

They've been in a paper bag since then.

Look how delicate and pretty they are. They are incredibly well engineered, lighter than feathers and ready to fly on the slightest puff of air. As soon as I opened the bag they commenced flying all over my house. 

These two were making their way across the floor. Looking for the garden?

My bounty of milkweed seeds. 

Eventually I removed all the fluff. After a little vacuuming all is OK again. I'm going to cold treat them by keeping them moist in the refrigerator for 30 days. It will simulate winter and increase the percentage that germinate when I plant them later. I mentioned above that I grew my plants from seeds. I bought those seeds from a nursery at 40 seeds for $6. Behold my seed wealth now!

I  wet a paper towel, squeezed out excess water, sprinkled about 40 seeds on one side.

Folded once.

Folded again. I made four of these.

I put them all in a big sealable plastic bag. Then into the refrigerator until the end of March when I will plant them in little pots indoors. At the end of April, after fear of frost, they'll be ready to plant outside. And then...

Sunday, February 20, 2022

February Continues...


What can I say? The last full week of February opens cold.

Remember this? It's Pakim Pond in Brendan T. Byrne State Forest in south Jersey last autumn. Click to enlarge.

It looks like this now. I am looking forward to adding a spring shot of the location to the series. Meanwhile, here is the February stanza from A Year's Windfalls, a poem by Christina Georgina Rossetti 

"On the wind in February

Snowflakes float still, 

Half inclined to turn to rain, 

Nipping, dripping, chill. 

Then the thaws swell the streams, 

And swollen rivers swell the sea. -- 

If the winter ever ends

How pleasant it will be."

Sunday, February 13, 2022

Snow Crocus


Purple crocuses popped up in my yard this week. A promise of spring, right?

Fast forward to today's little snowstorm. This is the same group as above Click to enlarge. One more little blossom stuck its head up but all of them are tightly closed. Crocus flowers close for night, for rain, and for dark snowy days.

Gotta love a flower that sleeps in when the weather is bad. Spring's still coming.