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Old guy, new nature leaf

I’m an amateur naturalist and a pro (technically, I’ve earned $5.81 on Adobe Stock so far) photographer, with tons of photos and years of personal observation of what’s going on in the ever-fascinating world of nature.

So I’m going to post a pic and a bit of text every day. I hope you find it interesting, or enlightening or refreshing.

Any comments — and I’d love to hear your thoughts — can be directed to me at bobqsix@Verizon.net.

Pictured is Opie, our precious 17-pound rescue dog and best woods buddy ever.

Enjoy and please come back often.opie edit (640x426)

 

Pretty in pink: Naked nature in two VERY different forms

tarFor an atheist to say I was blessed with a third straight wonderful day in the woods may be a bit odd but there you have it.
One interesting wildlife feature. A young woman had padded her boat up what she thought, I assume, was an inaccessible little waterway, so she stripped and was sun bathing…until I chanced on her.

I snapped as many twigs as I could to get her attention and she sat up, starting dressing and skedaddled out of there, but a warning that YOUR perspective of isolation is not necessarily that of someone in another position.


In any case, tatarian honeysuckle, with pink and white flowers, the cousin to the other invasive honeysuckle, morrow, with yellow and white flowers that I posted last week.
Again, an invasive with an oh-so-sweet aroma.

Restricted Noxious Weed
Tatarian Honeysuckle – Lonicera tatarica (L.)

Common Name: Tatarian Honeysuckle

Scientific Name: Lonicera tatarica L.

Legal status

Propagation and sale of this plant are prohibited in Minnesota. Transportation is only allowed when in compliance with Minnesota Statute 18.82. Although Restricted Noxious Weeds are not required to be controlled or eradicated by law, landowners are strongly encouraged to manage these invasive plants on their properties in order to reduce spread into new areas. Minnesota Noxious Weed Law.

Background

Tatarian honeysuckle is native to eastern Asia. It was introduced to the U.S. in the 1700s as an ornamental. It has since spread and naturalized in the Eastern and Midwest United States. It is established in most of the counties in Minnesota.

Description
Tatarian honeysuckle is a multi-stemmed, deciduous shrub, growing to 10 feet tall. It can be easily confused with similar species like Bell’s, Morrow’s or Amur honeysuckles, all distinguished by slight differences in flower color and leaf pubescence.
Leaves are opposite, oval, smooth, 1.5- 2.5 inches long, and blue-green. Leaves may be hairless or downy. Leaf-out is slightly earlier in spring than native species and leaf-drop is slightly later in the fall.
Flowers are tubular, paired, borne along the stem at leaf axils, and usually pink to red, rarely white. Bloom time is May to June.
Fruits are paired, spherical, red to orange berries, each containing several seeds.
The root system is shallow and fibrous.
Mature stems are hollow. Bark is light gray, and shaggy or peeling. Young stems are slightly hairy and light brown.

Sarsaparilla: The drink I’ve always wanted to taste; may have to make my own

flowersarWhat a day in the woods yesterday. Magnificent. SOOOO much blooming. The air was heavy with the scent of honeysuckle and they, along with all the Russian and Autumn Olive, were setting the forest alive with blazes of white.

The star of the day as far as I was concerned: Mr. Sarsaparilla. I’ve got a thing abourt this plant and not quite sure why. Brought three roots home to experiment with…so the mad herbalist may not be here tomorrow.

There’s an herbal remedy that’s been used by native populations in Central and South America for thousands for years, shown to help relieve a wide range of problems from skin dermatitis to coughs. Starting in around the 1950s, European physicians considered sarsaparilla root a “tonic, blood purifier, diuretic and sweat promoter” that could help treat serious, even life-threatening infections, such as leprosy or cancer.

Today, sarsaparilla products go by many different names depending on exactly which roots or plants are used to make the product, how they’re prepared, and what part of the world they come from. Other common names for sarsaparilla include Smilax, Honduran sarsaparilla, Jamaican sarsaparilla and zarzaparilla. While it’s no longer used to treat skin infections from tropical bugs, leprosy or syphilis, sarsaparilla can commonly still be found in herbal preparations for balancing hormones, lowering fluid retention and improving overall immune function.

Sarsaparilla Nutrition Facts

What is sarsaparilla exactly? Sarsaparilla (which has the species names Smilax Ornata, Smilax regelii or Smilax officinalis) is technically a perennial vine that grows in warm temperatures, such as those in the southern most states of the U.S. or Central and South America. The plant is a member of the Liliaceae (lily) group of vines in the plant family called Smilacaceae, which includes over 300 different plant species. (1)

Sarsaparilla vines can grow very long (sometimes up to eight feet), have starchy, edible roots, and produce small berries that are edible for both humans and animals, especially birds. Although the roots are much more often used to make remedies today than the berries are, the berries and leaves can also be consumed for their benefits, effects and mild taste.

In fact, in the the past, sarsaparilla plants, roots, vines and berries were all used in various ways to create beverages, fermented snacks and other treats that were enjoyed in places like India and Latin America. Sarsaparilla is actually the name for a type of soft drink (similar to root beer) that’s flavored with the root of the plant — although the soft drink doesn’t have the same benefits as real sarsaparilla teas or tinctures do, of course.

In herbal medicine practices, sarsaparilla plant roots are ground up and used to make natural remedies (tinctures, teas, supplements, etc.) that help treat some of the following health problems:
•Cancer and tumor growth
•Coughs and colds
•Rheumatoid arthritis pains, joint pain or rheumatism
•Skin problems, including psoriasis, toe fungus, wounds, ulcers and ringworm
•Fatigue
•Muscle pains or weakness
•Low libido and sexual impotence
•Headaches
•Gout
•Indigestion
•Liver damage
•Infections, such as sexually transmitted diseases like syphilis and gonorrhea
•Bloating/fluid retention
•Overheating and fevers

The tiny, tiny world of rough bedstraw

bedThe improbably small flowers of rough bedstraw. The tip of my thumb gives an indication of just how tiny these guys are.

[photo of flowers] Small branched clusters of several to many stalked flowers arising from leaf axils and at the ends of branching stems. Flowers are about 1/8 inch across with 4 white petals longer than wide and pointed at the tip.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: whorl Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are mostly whorled in groups of 6, though branches may be whorled in 4s or 5s. Leaves are 1/3 to ¾ inch long, up to ¼ inch wide, generally elliptical but usually widest above the middle, with an abrupt sharp point at the tip. There are tiny downward pointing hairs around the edges and along the midvein on the underside. Stems are 4-sided with downward pointing hairs along the angles. Stems are weak and usually sprawling, using surrounding vegetation for support, and heavily branched.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

Fruit is a pair of smooth round capsules, each less than 1/16 inch across and containing a single seed.

Notes:

Rough Bedstraw is aptly named. The downward pointing hairs on leaves and stems allow it to grab onto and stick to anything that passes by. It most closely resembles Fragrant Bedstraw (Galium triflorum), which has greenish flowers all grouped in 3s, and is mostly unbranched. Also similar is Cleavers/Sticky-willy (Galium aparine), which blooms much earlier, has longer, narrower leaves whorled in 6 to 8, few flowers in a cluster, fruit covered in hooked hairs, is primarily a woodland species, and is also few-branched.

Ne plus ultra? Just Latin for saying a day like yesterday was as good as can be

mayapplecanadaNe plus ultra! Think this was the finest afternoon of the season so far. Just perfect, perfect weather. Made the woods even more delightful.

And the way things are blooming now I was snapping like mad, and got pics of at least 10 wonderful flowers, ferns and plants, two of which I’ll post here, the flowering May Apple and the ubiquitous Canada May Flower or Wild Lily of the Valley.

First, Ms. May Apple. I’m still hoping this is the year at least one May Apple fruit tastes like custard, as so many nature writers aver.

MAYAPPLE (Podophyllum peltatum) by Marion Lobstein

Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum) is one of the most easily recognizable spring wildflowers by its distinctive foliage. By early to mid-April the unopened, peltate leaves of Mayapple begin to poke through the forest litter resembling a fat green umbrella ready to unfurl. The single-leafed stems will not produce a flower that season. The forked stems bearing two leaves will have a tight flower bud nestled at the base of the two petioles. By the end of April and often the first week of May the lovely white, waxy flowers begin to open.

Found in rich woods, thickets, and even roadsides from Quebec and Ontario south to Florida and Texas, this species is now placed in the Berberidaceae or barberry family although it once was included in the Ranunculaceae or buttercup family. Linnaeus assigned the binomium (genus and species) of Podophyllum from “podos” meaning foot, “phylum” meaning leaf, and “peltatum” meaning shield. Other common names are mandrake, wild lemon, and raccoon berry.

The flowers of Mayapple are up to two inches in diameter with six sepals that are shed early in blooming, 6-9 white waxy petals, numerous yellow stamens (usually twice the number of petals) with the anthers opening down the side, and a pistil with a large stigma. The flowers lack nectar, but offer the native bees and bumblebees that visit them a rich pollen reward. There is a fragrance to the flower that is a bit pungent or musky. Frequency of successful pollination is often not high in Mayapple flowers, even though there is extended anthesis (shedding of pollen) as well as receptiveness of the stigma if pollination has not been accomplished. Queen bumblebees are especially attracted to Mayapple flowers to collect pollen for rearing workers, and thus may be primary pollinators

CANADA MAYFLOWER

 .

Then, one of the 17 trillion Lilies of the Valley or Canada Mayflower per acre now blooming in the state woods. If you want to start your wild flower identification with an easy-to-find one, this is your baby.

This small plant grows 5 to 15 cm tall. Its thin stem bears 2 or 3 smooth, elongated heart-shaped leaves. Its small (4 mm) white or cream-coloured flowers are arranged in a terminal cluster. This plant is unusual for a Liliaceae, in that its flowers contain only 2 petals and 2 sepals, instead of the usual 3. Its fruit is a yellow-beige berry spotted with rust that turns light red when it ripens.

Reproduction

This perennial species flowers in spring, in May and June. Some individuals do not bear any flowers and are formed of a single leaf rising directly from the rhizome.

Habitat, distribution

Wild lily-of-the-valley is frequent and very abundant in cool woods, especially in maple-yellow birch stands, mixed forests, coniferous forests and peat forests. It occasionally grows in Laurentian maple stands and beech stands, as well as in clearings. It is found in central and eastern North America. It occurs almost everywhere in Québec south of Hudson Bay and Labrador.

Ecology

It often grows on humus-covered erratic blocks, on rotting stumps and abandoned ant hills. Individual plants without stems or flowers are the most abundant by far and often form continuous carpets in the undergrowth.
Small mammals (mice, voles) and ruffed grouse eat the ripe fruit in fall. Snowshoe hares enjoy the foliage.

Uses and effects

The berries are edible. They should be eaten in moderation, however, because they are purgative.
Amerindians used an infusion of this plant to relieve headaches. It can also be used as a gargle for sore throat.
At one time, gamblers used wild lily-of-the-valley root as a lucky charm.

 

Glorious week demands a trip to glorious preserve

girl fishing (640x426)ground nutThursday and Friday are predicted to be what we dream about all year: upper 70s. sun, blue skies and low humidity.

So time to visit the Blakselee Nature Preseve, only about 3 miles from the Darling Preserve I visited last week, but a million miles away in terms of character, plants and ambience.

Pics are of ground nuts which grown in abundance there and a teenage girl who walked the trail to the end to Tobyhanna Falls, to do some quiet fishing.  Just a wonderful place.

Here’s my article from last year.

By Bob Quarteroni

 

“Take a course in good water and air; and in the eternal youth of Nature you may renew your own. Go quietly, alone; no harm will befall you.” John Muir, pioneering naturalist

Taking such a course at the hugely unappreciated Austin T. Blakeslee Natural Area was Scott Newton of Charlotte, NC, who was sitting on a rock in the middle of Tobyhanna Creek “emptying my mind of everything except the moment and the perfect, quiet beauty of this place.”

Newton, a native of Bear Creek, said that the Natural Area, 9/10ths of a mile from Blakeslee Corners on Rt. 115 heading toward the interstate — was a chance discovery, “and I couldn’t have found a better spot if I tried. It’s absolutely perfect.”

The Natural Area, 130 acres of permanently protected land, is a lovely microcosm of the best that nature has to offer, from Tobyhanna Creek and its signature Tobyhanna Falls to miles of lovely trails, scenic wildflowers, picnic facilities and lots and lots of quiet. It is open dawn to dusk daily.

And this gem arose, improbably, from its beginnings as a Pocono hot spot. Originally farm land, the area morphed into Harrison Park nearly a century ago, and as they would have said then, it was the cat’s meow, the place to go in the Poconos.

And why not, it had all the bells and whistles: A large club house, two large swimming pools, roller skating, dancing, a Penny Arcade, a Ferris wheel, a carousel, even a miniature railroad.

Advertisements in 1931 for Decoration Day at Harrison Park called it “the Pocono’s beauty spot” and featured events including a clay pigeon shoot and a double header baseball game pitting the Blakeslee Giants against the Philadelphia Marines.

But in 1955, the Tobyhanna flooded, and flooded badly, and the lights went out for Harrison Park.

But today’s silence and tranquility is a carnival in its own right, a festival of the natural and scenic.

The Natural Area was made possible by a collaboration of Tunkhannock and Tobyhanna townships and was funded in part by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the Monroe County Open Space Bond.

According to tobyhannatownship.org, “It was the desire that this area be kept in its natural state, adding only a few paths and other minor improvements to allow the public to enjoy its scenic beauty and to allow fishermen access to the Tobyhanna Creek.”

And that’s exactly how it is: natural, scenic and accessible.

Tobyhanna Creek flows from Tobyhanna Lake. It is fairly large, averaging about 40 to 60 feet wide and with the brownish, tannic water common in Pocono streams. It is stocked with trout both preseason and in season, with the last stocking normally coming in May and that’s pretty much the end of the season for trout.

“When the water gets very warm in July and August, fishing is poor on Tobyhanna Creek,” Dwight Landis says in “Trout Streams of Pennsylvania: An Angler’s Guide.”

 

(I fly fished it in mid-September and caught a fair number of smallmouth bass, but all were on the smallish side.)

But its best trout fishing is just around the corner. According to Game&Fish Magazine, the Tobyhanna is one of “our Top 10 Winter Trout Streams.”

“Imagine finding a reliable Pocono Mountain freestone stream in winter that contains wild brook and brown trout and also stocked trout,” the magazine says. “Tobyhanna Creek in Monroe County fishes amazingly well in winter. Fishermen who get there during a brief thaw liken it to springtime angling.”

An added bonus is access to Tobyhanna Falls, a regional jewel. As one person on TripAdvisor raved, “It was an unexpected surprise. We took the Creek Trail to the small falls. So glad we did this as it was an amazing discovery of beautiful (although small) falls with a nice amount of cool rock formations around it.”

If angling isn’t your game, rambling through the forest of hemlocks, pines, rhododendrons and hardwoods might be. There’s a colorful show of wildflowers all along the creek – Joe Pye Weed and the exquisite Cardinal Flower among them.

The 1.1l4 mile Creek Trail hugs the creek and ends at Tobyhanna Falls. The mile-long Highland Trail and half-mile Pine Trail bisect the park and take you to a blueberry swamp, a Falls Overlook and Woodpecker Hill, named so for obvious reasons.

The picnic facilities are top notch and the entire area is scrupulously, impeccably clean.

To keep it that way, follow the rules: No littering, motorized vehicles, alcoholic beverages, fires, hunting or swimming. Pets are allowed but scoop and leash laws are in effect.

Heading from Blakeslee Corners on Rt. 115 toward the interstate, there is an Upper Parking lot on the right – it’s very tiny and easy to miss – and then the main Lower Parking, also on the right, which is well=marked. There’s a visitor’s pavilion with a large notice board at the Lower Parking Lot entrance as well as a large number of picnic tables.

A map and brochure of the Blakeslee Natural Area can be downloaded from www.tobyhannatownship.org; click on communities-parks-recreation.

 

 

Royal wedding? Hogwash. Really royalty awaits in our beautiful woodlands

perfoliate newWhile I was missing the televised wedding, I was with real royalty: perfoliate bellwort. Only the second time I’ve ever seen this incredibly elegant plant and as the text below — from New England — indicates it is becoming rare. So happy to have had a chance to see it.

Facts About

Perfoliate bellwort becomes increasingly rare in northern New England, and is absent in Maine. The name refers to the way the stem seems to pierce through the leaf blade. Note that large-flowered bellwort (Uvularia grandiflora) also has perfoliate leaves. The Iroquois used an infusion of the roots as a cough medicine as well as for washing sore eyes.

 
Leaf arrangementalternate: there is one leaf per node along the stem Leaf blade shape•the leaf blade is oblong (rectangular but with rounded ends)
•the leaf blade is ovate (widest below the middle and broadly tapering at both ends)
Leaf blade length40–125 mm Flower petal coloryellow Flower petal length15–35 mm Petal fusionthe perianth parts are separate Inflorescence typethe inflorescence has only one flower on it Ovary positionthe ovary is above the point of petal and/or sepal attachment Fruit type (specific)the fruit is a capsule (splits along two or more seams, apical teeth or pores when dry, to release two or more seeds) Fruit length7–13 mm

Darling Preserve Lives up to its name: A sweet slice of nature

bunchWent to the Darling Preserve yesterday looking for bunchberry, which I had never seen. It was a hard slog finding one but I finally did and the feeling was like hitting a jackpot.

Here’s the piece on the Preserve I wrote for the Citizens’ Voice last year. If you’re close enough, I can’t recommend a visit too highly.

By Bob Quarteroni

The Thomas Darling Nature Preserve guarded its secrets very, very well.

As “Great Natural Areas in Eastern Pennsylvania” says: “The trails made by deer and other animals are the only paths through this trackless preserve…Impenetrable thickets make the hiking challenging.”

Not any longer.

Thanks to the Nature Conservancy, the myriad natural wonders of this 2,500-acre preserve are now on display for all to see.

The Darling Preserve, in Tobyhanna Township near Blakeslee, is “One of Pennsylvania’s three largest undisturbed peatland ecosystems,” according to Bud Cook, director of Nature Conservancy’s Northeast Pennsylvania office. “It is also probably the state’s largest remaining native spruce forest. Snowshoe hares thrive there.”

And so much more. Perhaps the most remarkable things about this preserve is the myriad habitats it contains: a boreal conifer swamp, an acidic fen, a beaver meadow, a stream and small ponds – all of which host a staggering assortment of natural wonders.

Named after Wilkes-Barre naturalist Thomas Darling, Jr. the preserve features flowering shrubs and rare plants like bog sedge, thread rush and creeping snowberry, and animal life including black bear, eastern coyotes, snowshoe hares and beavers.

A variety of breeding birds frequent the preserve, including Canada warbler, black-billed cuckoo, scarlet tanager, barred owl, osprey, golden-crowned kinglet and dark-eyed junco.

Running through the preserve is Two Mile Run, which emerges from underground springs and seeps, feeding into Tobyhanna Creek on its way to the Lehigh River

All now on view, thanks to a 2.2-mile loop trail and boardwalk constructed under the auspices of the Nature Conservancy, which is the preserve manager, and co-owners Wildlands Conservancy and Tobyhanna Township.

The preserve is about three miles north of Blakeslee Corners off Route 115. Driving from Wilkes-Barre, take a left on Berger Road and proceed to the well-marked parking area (Coordinates 41.114700, -75.598663).

Finished in 2014, the trail was funded by DCNR through Keystone funding grants and was a prime example of cooperation between a large and diverse number of entities and individuals.

Pocono Lake resident Matt Planer earned his Eagle Scout Award for laying out the trail; AmeriCorps volunteers spent four weeks building the first boardwalk segment; a local contractor finished the boardwalk; neighboring corporation KISS Inc. enabled trail access on the northern side of the preserve; and ESSA Bank & Trust Foundation provided funds.

Girl Scout Cadet Troop 50108 from Gouldsboro/Moscow marked the trail to earn their Silver Award. And six high school students from Saul High School in Philadelphia helped finalize the trail as part of Nature Conservancy’s Leaders in Environmental Action for the Future program.

All that hard work is evident on this beautifully blazed and easily navigable trail that allows you access to such rarities as balsam fir, thread rush, listed as “rare” by the state and bog sedge, listed as threatened, which I believe I was fortunate enough to find on my second trip there.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, magnificent displays of azalea, rhododendron, blueberry, honeysuckle and sheep, bog and mountain laurel grow in the shrub fen while in the conifer swamp are giant black spruce and tamarack as well as the balsam fir. More delights await in the mixed hardwood forest, beaver meadows and other habitats.

“Thomas Darling Preserve is one of my favorite places,” said Jennifer Case, Nature Conservancy program specialist. “I spent hours there while planning the trail and it is a magical place in every season; full of pristine wetlands and enigmatic wildlife, such as bear, coyote, bobcats, and snowshoe hare. You feel like you’ve been transported into a Canadian Boreal forest.”

The loop trail is flat and extremely well marked. However, there are wet and rocky areas to navigate so care is necessary. Nature Conservancy says, “The 2.2-mile trail takes most visitors at least two hours to complete at a steady pace. Visitors should be confident navigating rough, rocky and uneven terrain.”

 

 

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