Laying under the giant ferns time has snuck up on me...
Today we celebrate our 5 year Blogiversary (is that a thing?)!!
Five years ago...
I was running a gallery, art center, bridging communities
Juggling too much
Trying to impress others
"You Should" became an incredibly toxic phrase to me.
Then I got quiet
And heard the wind in the leaves
I needed to reconnect with the woods
This blog was my first step on a path
I had no idea where it would take me
But I knew I had to follow.
More solace was found in the woods
The first one-year-study began with a hike-a-day in March on the Trillium Trail looking for the first trillium to emerge.
I had no clue how little I knew then
Every bud, every new sprout, was potentially a trillium (as I had never paid attention to what they look like when emerging from the earth)
Photograph - go home - pour over field guides - not a trillium but a (insert spring ephemeral here).
Building that base.
Unwittingly learning the phenology of these woods.
A year passes, the first photography phenology study is complete.
I’m in awe (I’m still in awe of the Earth).
Time goes on, take nature classes, make nature friends.
Travel shines a light on how much more there is to learn.
Every year a new study (usually multiple).
Learning the Earth’s cycles made me aware of my own cycles - as one can anticipate spring, I can anticipate my over ambitious self will kick into gear in the mid spring months, then as will fall pull back in November.
At some point it becomes undeniable how interconnected everything is. The self, the seasons, the birds, the moon. We are all parts in one grand machine.
This journey has been incredible. So much bigger than I could have ever imagined.
I’m grateful, darling followers, that you have chosen to follow along. Hopefully you’ve been inspired to explore or learn more about the world around you.
What’s in store for the next 5 years?
That’s a good question…
I’d like to continue to raise plant awareness (plant blindness is a real thing)
For the Adventure Pack to grow and evolve - I can almost picture it facilitating a seasonal series of nature retreats - but we’ll let that grow some.
Two if not more of my books/guides will be released.
Hiking, volunteering, making friends, and finding joy.
Thank you so much for being here, I hope you’ll continue on this journey with me!
Is there anything more perfect than a sunny June day?
The leaves are lush on the trees, the sun shines bright, the breeze blows cool. On the air the scent of blooming honeysuckle and multiflora rose (yes, super invasive but boy are they sweet).
June is the month to lay in the grasses and watch the clouds drift by (see photos from June 3rd, that's exactly what I did).
You don't have to journey deep into the woods, or immerse yourself in prairie habitats to find things in bloom this time of year. Right now some of the toughest most resilient plants are blooming and to find them you only need to take a drive down the road.
Bird's-foot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus)
- Uses: along roadsides to control wind and water erosion as well as in fields as green chop, hay, and pasture.
- A great food for the Canada goose, deer, and elk. Pheasants and other birds use this as cover.
Predominantly found in waste areas, disturbed areas,
As a biennial it spends its first year as a basal rosette of large fuzzy leaves. The second year a large stalk of flowers emerges from the rosette, sometimes growing as large as 2ft tall (the plant all together can grow to be 3 to 7 feet tall!).
- Brought from Eurasia as a great medicinal plant as well as for its unique appearance.
The flower of the mullein was used as medicine to help with coughs, tb, bronchitis, colds, earaches, flu, allergies, tonsillitis, asthma, diarrhea, colic, migraines, joint pain, and also used as a sedative.
The leaves have also been used by being applied to the skin for wounds, burns, bruises, frostbite, and skin infections.
Other uses include: as a flavoring ingredient in alcoholic beverages, if nature calls it makes a good toilet paper, the dried stalks were dipped in wax or tallow and used as torches.
Crown Vetch (Securigera varia)
A newbie to our area being introduced in the 1950s as a ground cover used to prevent soil erosion. It can now be found in 47 of the lower 48 states.
- Fruiting pods are not edible.
- The plant itself, when in bloom, is often browsed by cattle and deer and makes for a good hay (although it takes much longer to dry than traditional hay).
Ox-eye Daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare)
- Introduced ornamental species from Eurasia
- Escaped from gardens and can now be found in all lower 48 states.
- In Ohio it is considered an invasive species.
- In the United States and Canada there are 191 species of Fleabane.
- Ohio has only 3 native species: the Eastern Daisy Fleabane, the Philadelphia Fleabane, and the Wild Prairie Fleabane.
- The leaves are edible but fuzzy, so it's best to cook first!
Chicory (Cichorium intybus)
- Introduced species
- Chicory has been used as far back as 1000 years ago in Ancient Egypt as a medicine for everything from gout to stomachache to cancer.
- Today is is used as a caffeine free substitute for coffee as well as flavoring in beers to give a 'hearty earthy' taste.
- Folklore surrounds this plant supposing it has magical qualities, including that of invisibility. It has been said that the chicory could be used to open a locked chest, but only on St. James's Day - July 25th. This method involved holding a gold knife and chicory leaves against the lock, but only in total silence - pain or death would follow if a word was spoken.
-Early American settlers would carry a piece of chicory for good luck.
Sweet Clover (Melilotus alba)
- Introduced from Eurasia
- Used for its qualities to fix nitrogen in the soil and as a pasture food for grazers.
- The yellow variety (Melilotus officinalis) behaves in much the same manner but has an earlier bloom time and the seeds differ slightly.
- Both have become weedy and invasive in many areas.
Orange Day Lily (Hemerocallis fulva)- Blooms through the summer months, flower blooms last only one day - namesake. Not a true lily but has similarly shaped flowers.
- Introduced from Asia, has become invasive across the US creating hardy patches through its wandering tuberous root systems.
- All parts of this plant are edible: Leaves and shoots can be eaten when very young, raw or cooked (they become too fibrous when aged), flowers and young tubers can also be eaten raw or cooked, flowers may be dried and used as a thickener in soup.
In Louis Bromfield’s book Pleasant Valley, he talks about Johnny Appleseed’s time in the area; one of the stories tells about anytime Johnny would call on a neighbor he’d bring the wife a bouquet of these orange flowers, the seeds falling from his bag wherever he roamed, and as Johnny wandered (and he saw a good many states) the flowers followed him.
Highly unlikely there’s much truth to the story but it’s a good tale nonetheless.
Happy Solstice one and all!
I hope you all made the most of the extra sunlight. We helped out at a local natural area clearing trees and brush to fight back succession of an open meadow. It's incredible what can be accomplished when everyone chips in (there were about 45 people volunteering - practicing social distancing). In just over 2 hours we had nearly everything cleared, brush and trees picked up, everything put back.
But yes, the solstice, the day of light, although it's a natural occurrence I do like assigning other attributes. Self reflection is important and if the seasons can remind us to do that then all the better. The solstice shines light, helping us to see that which was hidden. Do you like what is illuminated? Do you see where adjustments need made? Do you feel the glow of growth and opportunity? Right now it feels like anything is possible, and by golly it just might be.
Speaking of growth, it's time to check in with our favorite tree and the newest subject of our one year study series!
Can you even believe it's been 6 months since starting this?! So much in the world has changed in that time.
June has brought the summer skies, lush greens, and a breeze with the faint scent of honeysuckle.
The dappled sunlight, the grasses swaying, birds fluttering to and fro. The perfect summer day.
I don't think I've ever really looked at a Sycamore before this project. Their growth is odd - they hold a lot of dead limbs, they leaf out later than many other trees, between the leaves there is a lot of empty space (nubbins on the branches suggest they may grow more leaves later?), hollow cavities and twists in the branches make good nesting areas as I found a bird fluttering to and fro from an opening (I'm assuming feeding babies). It'll be interesting to see if it fills out further between now and next month.
For now, flip through the months below to see how it changes!
For the past 5 years we have been exploring and sharing all the amazing things we’ve found in nature. From great and unique places to explore, to learning about new and interesting plant species, to understanding the earth’s cycles. We could have never imagined the breadth of what we were to learn (and what we’re sure to learn in the future)!
It has been an incredible journey.
It’s time for us to take that past experience and provide the tools and knowledge for others to find their place in the great outdoors.
That’s why we are so excited to bring you the Through The Woods Adventure Pack Subscription!
With the tools provided you’ll:
How it works:
At the change of every season (Summer Solstice, Fall Equinox, Winter Solstice, & Spring Equinox) you'll receive, in the mail, your seasonal Adventure Pack loaded with resources to inspire you to experience the outdoors in a deeper way.
Click the Adventure button in the header or click HERE!
We have been working hard behind the scenes here at Through The Woods at putting together something amazing for you...
What if I told you we could help you:
and that all the tools you need can be delivered to your home with every changing season?
This also includes beautiful art prints, activity prompts, cards to help you identify common plants, and more!
Sounds awesome right?
It doesn't matter where you live, if you have access to vast natural parks or a small city lawn, nature can be found everywhere.
This is nature for everyone!
All the details, contests, and your opportunity to sign up will happen
THIS FRIDAY - May 29, 2020!
Mark your calendars, this is going to be awesome!
I went out for a walk the other day.
It was raining, drops settled on my face and the leaves around.
The purple flowers are in full force - wild geranium, phlox, waterleaf, even the invasive dames rocket.
Ferns have unfurled, strong but delicate.
Soon we'll be seeing white blooms - sweet cicely, corn salad, mayapple, white baneberry -
and begin moving from the woods out to the prairie where the foxglove will lead the pack of summer blooms.
I didn't realize just how being cooped up indoors had affected me until I was out standing in the woods, in the rain, smiling like a fool.
Do you know the sound on windows computers when there is an error, the short 'dun' sound where you can't continue or do anything and often have to do a forced restart (Here's a youtube of the sound)? That's how things have been going, I've been trying on a number of "different hats" and nothing has been right.
But then I was there, in the woods, the vibration of the Earth humming all around me, and I knew I was exactly where I needed to be and what I needed to do.
I am working out all the fine details but soon I will be launching something very exciting, something to help people connect with nature - it doesn't matter if you live in a big city or in a rural community, there is always something to be discovered, let me be your guide.
Below are photos taken on the rainy hike of my epiphany. Enjoy and stay tuned!
Good evening my dear friends.
I write to you from my home, watching the bright green blossoms of the Norway maple dance in the breeze. The sun has set and the evening glow is casting a warm yellow light across everything unobscured. I am here, in this moment.
Tomorrow is Earth day, the 50th year anniversary. It's incredible all the changes over the past 50 years. I feel, as individuals, we're responsible for our impact, every bit helps; picking up rubbish in a park to taking reusable bags to the grocery (when that's allowed again) to planting a tree. Every small act can multiply into big changes. I believe in you.
I'm at a curious spot with this blog. It's the time of year where I like to highlight the seasonal flowers you might come across in the woods. In the past I've filled the blog feed with these botanical treats but this year has been a little different. Those of you on Instagram may have seen the flower quiz stories I put together followed by the plant profile the following day. Those of you on Facebook are just now getting a taste of ephemerals (2 plant profiles a day until I catch up to nature).
Do you seek out this page independently? Do you get your updates via the Facebook Page? Are you an Instagram follower who plays along with the quiz game? Or do you wait for the monthly newsletter to come out and read it as a digest?
I am hoping to engage with and stay connected to all of you, so please, let me know with this quick and easy survey, where do you get your TTW updates.
I appreciate all your responses. These will help me focus my efforts to where you actually see the content you want to see!
Have a glorious Earth Day tomorrow my friends. I am glad to know all of you.
The most amazing thing is happening right now. It's all centered around one word... Ephemerals.
Spring ephemerals are plants who have an incredibly short growing period. The term ephemeral can be defined as something that quickly fades. One of the things that makes these plants so special is just that. There is this brief moment of time from mid March to early May where we get to experience the earth waking in the most beautiful display of wildflowers.
Below are just a few that you can see blooming right now... soon they'll fade and it'll be time for the wild geranium, squirrel corn, wild blue phlox, the waterleaf... then we welcome the summer flowers!
Take some time to really consider this overwhelming welcome of spring. How the conditions must be just right, warm and bright but no leaves on the trees. Look at the shape of the leaves of the cutleaf toothwort, the dutchman's breeches flowers, the shrouded blue cohosh. Not only are they a new and welcome change to the forest, alone they are really incredible individuals.
On this early April day I have two different quotes for you, both about the month of April yet each expressing very different opinions about the month.
"April is the cruelest month, breeding lilacs out of the dead land, mixing memory and desire, stirring dull roots with spring rain."
"April hath put a spirit of youth in everything."
The first one has a strong pull of nostalgia, there's a pain, an absence, a longing for the lilacs of, remember when. The dull roots of the mind, the spring rain of memory. Pushing something that will happen but never in the way we remember.
The second one releases all that. It is free to experience the month in youthful abandon. Not the youthfulness of your past, no, but instead with a youthful essence and openness, experiencing the moment, where you allow all things to be possible. Not anticipating the flower, but being in awe when finding one.
Lately I've been considering the mind. Recently, all of us have had our 'normal' completely tossed to the side. People are coping, processing, reacting in many different ways.
But like the two quotes above show us, it's all up to us to decide how we react.
At a time where so much is out of our control (fellow control freaks I see you) the one thing you can always control is your reaction.
I'm not saying don't be sad, don't mourn, by all means roll around on the floor sobbing into pillows, this is a hard time. But then stand up, look the situation in the eye, and say We Will Get Though This.
Each of us has responsibilities in this situation, stay home, social distance, when out staying 6ft away from one another, and the responsibility of the mind, we will get through this, we must make the best of the situation within the parameters we have.
Along with the initial shock of the situation and losing both of my jobs, I have been holding a heavy guilt. A guilt that even now I'm having trouble writing for fear of being misconstrued.
I have been feeling terrible because I am thrilled.
No I am not thrilled about the masses of folks sick and dying, nor for the small businesses unsure if they'll be able to continue on after this. I am not thrilled about not seeing friends, family, or participating in events. These are terrible things and I mourn deeply for them.
I am thrilled, however, about the impeccable timing; this is a magical time of year to be outside. Naturalists rejoice - we have an audience and they are in the woods! Wanting people to appreciate nature, they must first experience the magic that it is.
In a time so uncertain it is unbelievably reassuring to know that first the skunk cabbage will bloom, then the ducks will migrate through, the tree buds will open next, followed by the ephemerals blooming, the songbirds will migrate through, and the trees will fill with leaves...
Coming back to nature can bring so much more than just fresh air and exercise, it can bring a sense of something so much bigger than our personal worlds. In these times it can be a huge comfort.
This time can be looked at both ways, as a terrible tragedy and as a blessing. And I think we should (look at it both ways). We should make the most of the time we have to enjoy and appreciate what we can (again, within the parameters we have).
Just like the two quotes above, remember, you are in charge, only, of how you react.
Let's allow the spirit of the season move us.
Well now, this month has been a doozy...
I hope everyone is healthy and staying away from others...
The first half of the month life was pretty normal (we've always been fans of hand washing). The second half, however, has been both very intense and very low key.
I will admit I am loving this time to bake, read, work on the garden, get back to nature and this blog, but I am worried about all the grandparents and immunocompromised folks out there. Please stay healthy my friends.
March in the natural world has done what it does best, lead us from winter to spring.
You'll see a few new features on each posting, weather, temperature, and GDD (Growing Degree Days) more info on that HERE.
The month started chilly with snow and ice. March 3rd brings back that wonderful earthy smell one experiences as the Earth warms and the leaves soften and decay. Very tiny signs of growth have emerged. Migratory Ducks and the 'return' of Turkey Vultures are the stars of early March.
By mid March we're starting to see some blooms - in waste areas and along fields the chickweed, whitlow grass, hairy bittercress, even some speedwell. Out in the woods the Coltsfoot starts blooming. Things get warmer. Spring peepers and chorus frogs singing for all to hear.
Late March brings the heavy blooming of trees, maple buds bursting into pompoms, even a few magnolias have opened. The early Ephemerals (spring wildflowers) are in bud - Hepatica & Spring beauties have started blooming. Peepers have faded, the leopard frogs taking over the vernal pool soundtrack.
I hope everyone has been getting outside (safely 6ft or more away from other people). Please remember to be mindful, healthful, and safe.
March 1st - Kenwood
9am - Sunny 20*
GDD:23 Set Feb 4th
3 bluebirds, startled a pileated - 2 singing back and forth, retail hawk, plantain leaved sedge greening, snow on shady side of hills, cocoon still in tact, crunchy snow on bridges.
Wren at feeder, drizzle all day, warm earth smells.
March 3rd - Wooster Memorial Park
Very early signs of spring, tree buds filling out, highly saturated ground.
Sunny but very windy. 52*
Turkey Vulture, 2 Red tail hawks, Beech Trees appearing stark white in the sun, Pileated calling, Earthy smell (SMELL!), slime mold fungi, green nubbins (may apple? trillium?), Christmas fern rhizome & new growth, purple cress leaves emerging, Miterwort base leaves green, ramps small but rising, waterleaf tiny green leaves, scarlet cup fungi is abundant, budding spring beauties, false mermaid is up, lots of trees in bud.
March 8th - Brown's Lake Bog & Funk
Redwing blk bird, Pileated, flicker, bald eagle, dogwood in bud, bluejay, redtail hawk, tutv, fly, grackles, bog smell, crows shouting, baby pitcher plants, from jump high bush blueberry new growth, sensitive fern new growth.
Pintail ducks, 3 eagles, 2 sandhill cranes, skunk cabbage spadix revealed
Silver Maple at work is blooming. Crocus & Snow Drops around town blooming.
March 10th - Wooster Memorial Park
Cloudy & rainy 54*
Rosette under dried foxglove is turning green, spring beauty buds, purple cress greens, sweet cicely greens, false mermaid greens, interesting orange lichen (?), scarlet cup fungus, two-leaf toothwort greens, violet greens, pileated call, tree buds getting larger.
Fallen seeds are bare (when they fall they're fuzzy),
Trunk bark: gray, scale, porous, brown under layers (also porous)
Trunk to limb transition: bark thins to reveal white patches
Far limbs: mostly white (lacking lower bark) with few dark patches
Growing on/nearby: Poison ivy climbing tree, honeysuckle shrub at base, garlic mustard
Other: fallen leaves are larger than my foot!
Partly Sunny 57*
Chickweed in Bloom, FOY Grasshopper, Lagre cloud of mosquitoes
Stinkbugs & Ladybugs emerging in the house
March 17th - Neighborhood
Silver Maple blooming, lots of hair bittercress in bloom, forsythia nearing bloom, purple crocus blooming, snowdrops blooming, Henbit blooming, Magnolia bud, Scilla starting to bloom, Goldfinch at feeder (still dull colors).
March 21st - Johnson Woods
COLTS FOOT BLOOM! (almost open, when the sunshines), grape fern, cutler toothwort bud, spring beauty bud, jewelweed sprouts, maple blooms, TRILLIUM UP!, BARRED OWLS CALLING!
March 22nd - Neighborhood
Lesser Celandine Bloom, Dandelion bloom, goldfinches at feeder, juncos still around, squill (Scilla) flowers blooming.
March 24th - Wooster Memorial Park
bluebirds, turkey vultures, fox squirrels, spring beauty bud, squirrel corn "corns", Trillium UP!, Dutchman's Breeches BUD!, two leaf toothwort, false mermaid greens, grape fern, violet greens, owl pellet, wild chive, bedstraw, scarlet cup, waterleaf greens, woodland cares bud, ramps opening, cress?, garlic mustard, Christmas fern rhizome and new growth, purple cress greens, miterwort stubs forming, HEPATICA BLOOM!!!, Pileated call.
March 25th - Farm, Cemetery Rd, Brown's Lake Bog, Wilderness Rd.
Farm - Observations:
comma or question mark butterfly, housefly, honey bee, flicker, horses have torn up the woods. What is the bulb grass? Spring beauty in bloom, crocus bloom, daffodil bud, multiflora in leaf, blooming bittercress, blooming whitlow grass, blooming chickweed, blooming speedwell, maples in bloom, oaks in bud, dogwood in bud, Phoebe Foy, titmouse, tutu, fat groundhog, bluejay, blue bird, cardinal, redwing blk bird, sparrows, wolf spiders, robins, mourning dove.
Sunshine, light breeze, blue skies, fluffy clouds, fresh country air.
The titmouse's loud flutter, matching the loud songs it sings... loudest tiny bird.
Cemetery Rd - Observations:
Redwing Blackbird, Ring-neck Ducks (diving like orcas), Coots!, Bufflehead, Red Head Duck
Bog - Observations:
Peepers singing, lady beetle, ants on bog, tiny pitcher plants, no fern nubbins yet, comma or question mark butterfly. Just outside bog a harrier was hovering nearby.
Wilderness Rd - Observations:
Shoveler, redhead duck, ringneck duck.
March 27th - Walton Woods & Barnes Preserve
Showers and Sun 53*
Walton Woods Observations:
Burning Bush pink buds, Privet getting leaves, Multi-flora rose getting leaves, Cutleaf Toothwort in bud, Dutchman's Breeches greens up, Dames Rocket rosettes green, Troutlily "fins" are up, spring beauty greens - one growing through an acorn, Red velvet mite.
Barnes Preserve Observations:
Frog Songs!!! Peepers, chorus, and more!, Flicker, Pileated, & Redheaded Woodpeckers, spring beauty buds, yellow rocket rosettes, coltsfoot bloom!, Coopers hawk nesting, big hickory buds, jewelweed appearing.
March 28th - Neighborhood
Thunderstorms in morning, cloudy & rainy 62*
Heavy evening fog, lesser Celandine blooming, hair bittercress still blooming but also sending out seeds, magnolia buds cracked open, vinca blooming, forsythia really starting to bloom, scilla blooms
March 29th - Killbuck Marsh Areas
Incredibly Windy, Sunshine with Big Fluffy Clouds, up to 70*
Cemetery Rd Observations:
Two giant snapping turtles in ditch, sandhill cranes, buffleheads, ringneck ducks, tuvu, redwing black birds, jumping fish, purple archangel blooming
Force Rd Observations:
Leopard Frogs Roaring, sandhill cranes, grebes, beaver lodge, swans, great blue heron, duckweed
Blue-winged teal, shovelers, coot, 2 juvenile bald eagles, skunk cabbage starting to leaf, jumping fish
Goldfinch is beginning to molt - bright yellow splotches here and there
While treating myself to some social distancing on the farm, in the sun, I came across a little white flower. Well, more than one little white flower, great clusters of little white flowers filling the median between the planted field and the fencerow. I let myself sit with them, feeling their leaves, tracing their petals with my eyes. The longer I sat the more variety I found. This wasn't one great cluster of the same plant, it was four different species all opening their little white flowers to the warm sun!
Early Whitlow Grass
(Erophila verna - formerly Draba verna) we learned all about in the post here.
(Veronica something - due to the small size and leaf shape maybe Veronica polita)
Generally speedwell flowers are blue/violet with white centers so this one's a bit of a mystery to me. The vining qualities and four overlapping petals are what lead me to believe it's a Veronica.
Another great vining plant with tiny white flowers. Five white bifid petals giving the appearance of 10 tiny petals.
All the flowers are non-native and a few get rather weedy and aggressive, but it sure in nice seeing things in bloom!
Look at the very first image again... can you tell what 3 are in the photo?
"In March winter is holding back and spring is pulling forward. Something holds and something pulls inside of us too."
- Jean Hersey
(Sarcoscypha dudleyi(?) or maybe S. austriaca(?) not S. coccinea as it doesn't grow in the Eastern US - Microscope is needed to differentiate between the three)
Better known as: Scarlet Elf Cup, Scarlet Elf Cap, Scarlet Cup Fungus.
Found in damp forests in early spring this is an abundant fungus that can easily be spotted due to the bright red coloring that stands out against the leaf litter.
March marks a big turning point focusing on the transition from winter to spring. If you look and listen closely you can already hear & see it happening: birds are singing their spring songs, salamanders are beginning to make the journey to their vernal pools, the very earliest ephemerals are surfacing, and the tree buds are swelling, soon to bloom.
March urges us to move forward. We, ourselves, are also waking from the winter period of rest and this season reminds us to get ready - March forth (4th)! - Spring forward (DST on the 8th)!
Grow, bloom, take winter's dreams and bring them to fruition.
The first official day of Spring is March 19th.
Draba verna is one of the earliest blooming plants, often opening as early as February and blooming through May. It is found in waste areas - the edge of fields, along paths, areas that are often disturbed. The basal rosette is no more than 1 to 2 inches across - this example was no bigger than a 50 cent piece. Originally native to Eurasia, it has made its way across the US (except for a belt across the center of the Country). The flowers are self fertile - which is good as not many pollinators are awake in February - each flower producing very large seeds that drop and can create small colonies. Although the name suggests that it is a form of grass, it is not, it is a member of the Brassicaceae (mustard) family. Once spring passes and summer comes around, the Draba verna withers away.
One site I was reading summed up this plant beautifully, "...Instead, maybe its best to leave it in place and enjoy it for what it is: a tiny, brave reminder that spring is on its way and an encouragement to get down low once in a while to admire the little things." - Awkward Botony
Partridgeberry is a trailing, evergreen herb native to the eastern states growing in shady forests, and enjoying moist soils. Trumpet-shaped blooms appear anytime between May and October, always blooming in pairs. Scarlet berries then form which are enjoyed by a variety of animals: Ruffed Grouse, Bobwhite Quail, turkey, skunks, and white-footed mice.
This trailing plant doesn't often grow taller than 2in high so when hiking, look down this time of year, you will likely see the evergreen leaves poking out of the light snow!
What are lichen?
They are symbiotic organisms that are composed of a fungus and a photosynthesizing partner - could be a green algae (85% of lichen), or a cyanobacterium (formerly known as blue-green algae)(10% of lichen), or a combination of both (5% of lichens).
Fungi + Algae = Lichen
Fungi + Cyanobacterium = Lichen
Fungi + Algae + Cyanobacterium = Lichen
The symbiotic relationship between fungi and algae and/or cyanobacterium is unique in the way that it's not just beneficial to both partners but both lose their own identity and a new different, dual organism is formed!
There are three different growth forms of lichen
Crustose - Crust-like, tightly attached to that which it's growing on. Has upper surface but no lower surface.
Foliose - Flat and leaf-like. Can be loosely or tightly attached to surface. Has upper and lower surface. (Images above and below are of this form).
Fruticose - Upright and shrubby, but sometimes hang down. Most of these lichen do not have a distinct upper and lower surface, but have an outer surface.
Where do lichen grow?
Lichen can be found on every continent - including areas in the Arctic and Antarctic and can be found on mountain tops.
Lichen are the dominant organism on around 8% of the entire world's land surface... That's HUGE!!!
Lichen and their role in nature.
In Arctic regions they are used as a winter food for grazing animals. In more temperate regions they are used by birds as nesting materials, insects and small invertebrate will use it as shelter. Lichen can also aid in the breakdown of rock into soil. The lichen with the Cyanobacteria can even fix nitrogen and add fertilizer to the ecosystem.
Lichen as air quality indicators.
There are some lichen that are very sensitive to air pollution (sulfur dioxide). These lichen have been widely used as indicators of air quality to study air pollution patterns around cities and industrial areas.
Thankfully, in many developed countries, air quality has improved to the extent that lichen are no longer affected and are returning to areas that had been so polluted the lichen could not grow.
The Eastern Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis)
A member of the pine family, this coniferous species can be identified by its unique qualities -
Prefers growing in cool, moist areas. Often found in gorges along sandstone cliffs where cracks in the rocks release cool air from deep underground. A native from Canada, these trees were brought to the area thousands of years ago when the glaciers moved through the area.
Important resource for food, nesting, and shelter for many animals including - barred owl, white-tailed deer, turkey, grouse, rabbits, porcupines (not around here), and others use as places to live. Squirrels, mice, and voles eat the seeds.
Hemlock Wooly Adelgid
"Eastern hemlocks are currently under attack by an exotic sap sucking insect that originated from Asia. The hemlock woolly adelgid (Adelges tsugae) is a serious pest in Shenandoah National Park that threatens to eliminate all eastern hemlock stands. First observed in 1988, it has since been found in all sections of the park, at all elevations, and on all aspects where surveys have occurred. Hemlock woolly adelgid has caused significant decline in hemlock crown health and tree mortality has increased Park-wide. Without intervention, there is a very real possibility that this insect pest could directly or indirectly eliminate eastern hemlocks from Shenandoah's ecosystem. Efforts to extend the lives of our remaining healthy hemlocks in 2005 will be accomplished through soil and stem treatments with a systemic pesticide that remains at effective levels to kill adelgids for over a year. Some vehicle accessible areas will also be sprayed with an insecticidal soap. The battle to save a lasting remnant of Shenandoah's hemlock gene pool for future generations continues."
Different from the herb poison hemlock (completely different species).
The bark has been cut and used for its tannin to aid in tanning leather.
A combination of my worlds. My nature journal notes and drawings combined with images captured on noted adventure days!
With the warm weather, there has been some slight growth with the early bloomers. These hepatica leaves, though, are from last year's growth - at the base of the cluster is where the new bulbous starts are filling out.
For the past year I've been contemplating how to merge these two mediums. While I'm sure it'll evolve over time I do like where this is going!
Both Noah and I have had the great pleasure to be accepted into the 2nd annual Wayne County Artist Exhibition at the Wayne Center for the Arts!
The show runs through February 7th. We highly encourage you to take some time to visit, there is some spectacular art there!
Those of you familiar with the blog (and if you're here you probably are) will see these two beauties at the art show. I love how framing and printing an image can give it so much depth! Go check it out and you'll see what I mean.
For the WooWeekly paper I gave this description of my work for an excellent article written by Barb Lang:
“For each of my series I dedicate an entire year to getting to know an area, from the natural history and wildlife down to each plant species and when they bloom in that particular year. Once I choose a location I approach each natural area with a deep sense of curiosity, making notes on what birds I see, what plants are emerging, blooming, or seeding, any signs of animals, scents, sights, anything that I find interesting or that I want to learn more about, each time I visit and compile them into blog posts at www.throughthewoods.net .
Each area I’m learning about I chose a view that either has a recognizable element or that I think could have some very notable changes that would be visually appealing throughout the year, I pick a spot and capture an image. Every month when I’m out walking and observing, I will stop in the same spot and capture another image trying to visit at the same time each day. After a year is up I have not only a concise record of observations from each location but also a visual guide telling of the ebb and flow of the year. Each slice may show just one day of one month but put together a rich tapestry is woven, the quiet winter months, the remarkable quickness with which spring arrives and bursts open, summer’s deep greens slowly fading to yellows, fall sweeping in for a brief bold show, all ending again with the peaceful rest of winter.
We are very lucky here in Ohio to have such great seasons, each should be appreciated for all its worth."
"Nature never wears a mean appearance. Neither does the wisest man extort her secret and lose his curiosity by finding out all her perfection."
There are a few things that happen at the turn of every new year... changing of the calendars, eating sauerkraut and sausage, the first bird of the new year, and our annual new year's day hike.
This year didn't disappoint. For not snowing much so far this winter, it was wonderful to wake up on the morning of the new year with a fresh sparkling layer over everything. After our pork and kraut breakfasts, we bundled up to see what the new year had to offer.
The first bird Noah saw this year was a titmouse, however, my first bird remained illusive - every time I looked at the bushes or feeders at home, not a bird to be spotted. So as we were driving, about halfway to our destination, something stirred up a large flock of starlings from a tree, then just down the road a large red-tailed hawk appeared. I know it's the FIRST bird of the year but after a few more interesting encounters with the red-tails, there's something I need to learn from each of these birds.
If you're into the spiritual significance of birds/animals that appear, read on.
If not, skip down a bit.
So the very first bird was a Starling, this bird is known for traveling in large groups and teaches us, or rather brings awareness to how we behave in large groups and reminds us to pay attention and not behave inappropriately (note the starlings' tendencies to swarm and mob other birds). It also reminds us to mind our words as they are great mimics of others.
- Clearly a lot of good to meditate upon there, especially in such a busy gathering season-
The second bird being the Red Tailed Hawk. The messenger, the protector, and the visionary of the air. This bird can lead you to your life purpose so when it shows up, pay attention.
So on the way to the bog, we saw these birds, and enjoyed a cool crisp walk along the boardwalk, where ours were the only tracks most of the way. Taking the loop off the boardwalk two more hawks appeared, one first soaring between the forest and the field singing its song, then another appeared and they flew together side by side, one singing, the other strolling, I just picture them as a married bird couple promenading (just like me and Noah!) on this new year day!
Along this hike we found a good number of red-headed woodpeckers (it's been a long time since I've seen so many in one place - okay there were 4, but still!).
It was a lovely start to a new year. Life's purpose, I'm open to whatever you may be!
I hope you all have a beautiful 2020. Thank you for being here with us!
January: Named from the Roman god Janus, who is represented with two faces looking in opposite directions - as retrospective to the past and prospective to the future.
A new year, starting slow - the cold, muted snow, bit by bit will begin unfolding new traits, the rains come, a flower opens, the skunk emerges from its slumber. While it's easy to get caught up thinking about the future, don't forget to pause and enjoy this ever so brief moment of stillness.
Let yourself stand out in the cold, breathe in the cool stillness, only now, right now, on this day (whenever you're reading this) this breath is just for you and only you and will never be exactly like this, these scents, these sensations, ever again. How full yet fleeting a mindful moment can be.
Happy New Year one and all!
Since 2015 we have been exploring and sharing all the amazing things we’ve found in nature.
Emily is an Ohio Certified Volunteer Naturalist who is most often found out in the woods.