Saturday, April 10, 2021

Twenty Degrees!


 

But I still have some snow! Want some?  There's a nice big pile of it where Mr. SnowBlowerMan throws the snow from three different directions so it becomes a dense icy pile and never melts until about the time farmers are taking off their first hay crop. If you want some, just come on over. Bring Scotch.

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Snowdrops are out - actually, I tell a lie, they've been out for a week already. This is Galanthus morrowii, a larger-leaved species, but just as charming as the more common G. elwesii.


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Dirca palustris, aka Wicopy, aaka Leatherwood, aaaka quite the earliest shrub to flower at my place. In fact, just about the first flower, period. The blooms are small, only about an inch long, but the black furry buds are cute. Kind of like my cats' black furry butts, but a lot smaller!


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I was delighted to find four separate clusters of purple Crocuses in a small bit of open woodland behind my Rockery. I planted 100 crocus bulbs in 2019, and had one flower. I figured the squirrels had gotten them, but it appears they missed a few!



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A miniature daffodil called Tete-a-tete. First, earliest, smallest, cutest, most invasive daff in the garden. I rarely see a seedpod yet Tete-a-tete seeds itself around. Adorable in a small wineglass. Wine is even better, but if you're out, these tiny perky blossoms will make you feel better. If you have wine, pour yourself a glass and go sit in the sun beside these little charmers and enjoy both. When your glass is empty, pick some daffs and put them in the glass.

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A False Morel, a tiny one, but it will get bigger, and there will be more of them. Seems too early for mushrooms, but these show up in a certain spot every Spring. Totally inedible, but they do signal that the True Morel might be up as well. I searched where there were some last year, but didn't see any. True Morels are scarce, False Morels not so much.

There's a moral there, somewhere. 

 



Happy Spring!

Monday, March 15, 2021

Hoya, Hoya, or, The Pride That Goeth

 

 I was taken to task, politely but quite firmly, by someone who asked why her Hoya plant wasn't blooming. 

Her post, on Facebook, included a very nice picture of a healthy looking Hoya carnosa.

Now I've had Hoyas, several species and several variations of the main houseplant, H. carnosa, for over 50 years. In fact one of the plants I have now is a distant offspring (are things grown from cuttings 'offspring'?) of a plant that covered the better part of a 20' by 20' brick wall inside the building where I worked. It's only light, other than the artificial office lighting, was a skylight overhead and about 10' away. One evening, after working late, I snuck over to the plant with my scissors and nipped off a small tendril with, I think, 2 or 3 leaves.

After a fairly long time, much coddling, regular talking-to and a certain amount of dark magic, it rooted and put out new growth. It eventually became quite large and after a few years, maybe not 7 like the old wives' tales, but at least 5, it bloomed profusely and did so every year.

So I felt confident that I could help her with her question. I suggested that perhaps it wasn't getting enough sun - it was very dark green, with few of the usual tiny silver splotches that Hoya leaves get - or that perhaps it wasn't old enough, or that perhaps, she had made the mistake which I've seen other people make of cutting off the finished flowering stems. I then went on to say that once it did bloom, she'd love the sweet scent from the flowers.

Well.

Somebody immediately leapt in and told me in no uncertain terms that they had a Hoya that lived in a   window, which was firmly curtained, overhung by a giant Spruce tree right outside, and faced due North, which bloomed all the time.

OK. 

Somebody else promptly refuted my idea that Hoyas needed to reach a certain age before they bloomed. Apparently she regularly roots small pieces and they always bloom the same year

Great. I'm happy for her.

Then a veritable storm broke out about the scent. 'Oh, I can't be in the same room as a blooming Hoya'. 'I always cut the flower stubs off because the scent is over-powering'. And more, many more, of the same.

All of which goes to show that whenever you think you know something about a plant, the plant will quickly make a fool out of you. If you know for a fact that a certain plant needs lots of sun, someone will be growing it under their deck where the light never goes above deep gloom. If you state confidently that such-and-such needs steady moisture, someone will be growing it on a rock with no soil and full sun. Or underwater. Or in zone 1A. Or in an old boot beside the kitchen door where the cook empties the dishwater over it three times a day.

And no, I can't show you a picture of my plants. They aren't blooming.

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Weird Fungi - 2

 It's Hallowe'en..... spooks are abroad and the woods are filled with scary things....

One of them starts with what looks like an egg pushing up through the ground:

Barely 2" across, it seems to have a slightly crinkled surface. It's white, more or less, and dry-looking. It doesn't change for several weeks. Eventually, one day, it begins to grow:


The top splits and an odd little white process appears. The surface has darkened and split. More days go by. It's getting cold at night, but underground much is happening. Our Egg is preparing itself for a sudden burst of growth:


The Egg splits completely open and a spongy white stalk with a slimy brownish-greenish knob on top elongates:


Unlike practically every other plant (or fungus) in the woods, it grows in an ominous curve. Quickly, almost overnight, it reaches it's full growth:


Growing horizontally across the ground, surrounded by fallen leaves and twigs, our weird Fungus #2 turns out to be a Stinkhorn.

Stinkhorns are so-called because, well, because they stink. Get your sniffer close to the 'knob' and you'll wish you hadn't! The smell, very unpleasant to us humans, attracts flies. The flies pick up spores from the slimy top and carry them to new locations, thus spreading the fungus around. The spores are produced in huge numbers and form the slimy surface of the 'knob'. The 'Egg' was an early stage in the fruiting body's development and, when cut open, shows the eventual structure in embryonic form. It is fairly common, growing on rotting logs or wood chips.

And yes, the man who named it agreed with what I'm sure you are thinking! He named the genus Phallus, and since his name was Ravenel, it's now Phallus Ravenelii, that is, Ravenel's Phallus

His response to this bit of taxonomic teasing has not been recorded.

Have a Happy, Safe, and Spooky Hallowe'en!

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Snow!

 Mind you, not a lot of it!

Just a dusting so far, but it's coming! 

I guess Hallowe'en is the right time to scare us with that news! Have a good weekend; stay safe!



Thursday, October 15, 2020

Weird Fungi - 1

 I was surprised, amazed, delighted, astonished, gob-smacked to find a fungus I had never seen before but had been wanting to see for a long time, when I was pulling out old Goldenrod stalks this afternoon.

There has been a large plant, or maybe I should say, plantation, of Solidago Altissima at the top of the steps from the driveway to the side door for almost as long as there's been a side door. It's fine until after it blooms, then it is just a big mess and too large for the space it's in. At that point I pull all the stalks, and the following year just as many new ones grow so the patch stays about the same. So that's what I was doing, pulling out stalk after stalk of spent Goldenrod, when I noticed small whitish bumps on the bases of some of the stems.

A quick closer look showed me that the larger bumps were Bird's Nest fungi! Here you see some


of them on one stalk. (I put it on the junipers to make them easier to see).

They are very tiny, only about 1/4" across. And very odd! 

To quote Mushrooms of Ontario and Eastern Canada: "The fruitbody of a Bird's Nest Fungus looks like a tiny nest with eggs. The 'eggs' (peridioles) are packages of thousands of spores contained within a hard outer wall. ... the eggs are anchored to the side wall by a structure that contains a long, thread-like tail (funiculus), with a sticky base (hapteron). Falling raindrops cause mini-explosions in the cone-shaped cups and the splash propels the eggs out of the cup. Eggs can be shot nearly 2 m away from the cup, and they attach to a suitable substrate by means of the sticky base."

I'd read about them in my mushroom books, but had never seen them. Here are a side view and a bird's-eye (pun intended!) view:


 How cool is that!



Wednesday, September 2, 2020

A Small Peach

 Ate my Peach crop today.

At about 3:40 EST this afternoon. The sky was overcast, with high clouds crossing rapidly from the South West. About 24C. Very little wind. Don't know what the barometric pressure was. Forecast was for scattered showers later, but it was dry at the time.

Things were, of course, happening. Somewhere south of my Peach tree, a minor government official paused in his study of a long report to get a cup of tea. On his way back to his desk he wondered if he'd still have a paycheck tomorrow. With four small children and a wife to support, the question wanted to fill his mind, but he resolutely put it aside and got back to his report. Further south yet, a much younger man surreptitiously reached for a young girl's hand; his heart skipped a beat when her hand met his halfway. A thousand miles to the east of them, a woman quietly removed her hand from the wrinkled hand of her old father, studied his face for a few minutes, not sure of her own feelings, and called the nurse. Further east yet, and somewhat north, a small group of children played a skipping game, oblivious to the war clouds gathering over their elders. Not far away, desert areas were too hot to cross; goats and men stayed in the shade. Despite the heat, two babies were born. In a vast city, far removed from the need to cross deserts, cars honked, men and women scurried and heat radiated up from cracked pavements. In a small town not far away, bargains were made, not always in the bargainer's best interest. Life, everywhere, was happening.

And I ate the edible portion of the only peach to ripen on my accidental Peach tree.

It was delicious.
 

Friday, August 21, 2020

Fall Is Here

 Well, what can I say? It's been a summer. Hot, very dry, no rain here from early May until the end of July. Tons of bugs. Never seen so many chewed up leaves, or so many butterflies. Some kind of nasty yellowish caterpiller ate an entire Mugho Pine. The weeds got ahead of me by June and it has stayed that way. 

Fall arrived last Sunday, about 8:30 pm. I was at the road making my weekly donation to the Garbage Gods and watched a fog develop over the Marsh. It started as a small white cloud hovering above the cattails, and grew bigger as I watched. In the morning there was fog high in the trees while on the ground spider webs captured some of it as dewdrops.

In the fields and my Hillside Garden, the Goldenrods are blooming.

As are the Coneflowers.

And the Japanese Anemones.

In the Beaver Pond I found a Bur Reed I have never seen before. It took me a while to find its name, but I'm pretty sure now that it is Sparganium angustifolium. From a slight distance, it looked like an orchid blooming in the shallow water, but closer up it seemed to be a Sedge. Bur Reeds are similar, I guess.

After a rainy August, the woods are full of fungi. Mushrooms and lichens literally everywhere! I took Rosie for a walk to the back of the property yesterday and came home with 409 images on my camera's memory card! Closer to home, here are some of the fungi that have appeared on some old wooden rounds I've been using as stepping stones (stepping woods?) in the Sampler Garden. They are all quite small - the rounds are only about 12" across - and I was down on my stomach photographing them.

Since I was back at the house, I let the kittens out and they joined me exploring the stepping stones. Yes, kittens. Since I was on the ground trying to focus on the tiny fungi, this meant they were walking on my head. What happened was, a friend called and asked me if I wanted a kitten, she had to find homes for four of them, and since my old cat Pepper passed on last year and I've been having a problem with mice in the house, I said I'd take one. When I got to her house to pick it up, somehow she managed to convince me I should take both of the last two... they'll play together, she said. They'll catch more mice, she said. They don't eat much, she said. Well, of course she's right, but I'd forgotten the 'kitten phase', which is when they basically trash everything they can get onto, into, or under. Which is everything. But they're cute and they'll grow out of it. So here, drum roll, please, are the two new members of the Team. Tiger is slightly smaller than Fred and has a few white hairs.

Rosie thinks they're great, something to chase, something to lick until it's soaked, something to carry around carefully when Mom isn't watching. 

She expects to get her favourite sleeping chair back when they're a little older.