May Chronicles – Northeast – painted trillium

Third week of May.  A trip to a higher latitude on the East Coast allowed for some walking in the White Mountains, gorgeous and green with the first wave of spring leaves.  A local informed me that the leaves had just emerged within five days of my visit.  These woods are distinguished with an embarrassment of riches among the ground plants spanning the unique window of sunny bare forest and shaded leafy forest.  This was the perfect moment to see the elusive trillium.  After noticing one trillium with a bright white star flower, it was easy to find them just about everywhere with maroon, white, or painted flowers.

Charming mountain streams twined through the woods and tumbled over full round mossy stones forming small waterfalls and cool rippling pools.  New ferns swayed over the fresh mossy banks. The water there is crystal clear due to the type of bedrock and soils.

Birds sang bright warbly songs in loud voices, but hidden from sight.  A female wild turkey strode swiftly through a stand of evergreens.  A local pointed out a moosewood tree striped of its bark, and explained that moose like to gnaw on the bark of that tree.  Another sign of moose in the area – moose droppings!

Gorgeous delicate wildflowers basked in the sun.  Hobblebush was starting to grow in thickly everywhere with snowy white flowers just opening.  Purple violets clustered together by the streams, and tiny white violets scattered around the ground.

The mix of trees on the mountains were leafing out in delicate variety of colors.  From across a serene lake the woods on the opposite shore appeared to be as varied in color as a bouquet of flowers.  I could only imagine these woods in their rich autumn colors and considered a return trip in the fall.

Mountain streams twined through the woods and tumbled over full round mossy stones
Moose droppings!

Delicate wildflowers



Trillium sighting
Painted trillium


Tiny white violets
Purple violets clustered along the streams
Moose like to gnaw the bark of the moosewood tree
Cool rippling pools, new ferns, mossy banks




The woods appeared to be as varied in color as a bouquet of flowers

Trillium undulatum – or painted trillium; according to Michigan Natural Inventory this rare species is known by three showy, white petals with a dark pink, inverted V-shaped mark toward the base of each petal

Viburnum lantanoides – Hobblebush. According to Northern Woodlands online, hobblebush is a sprawling shrub that has beautiful, showy white flowers in spring, succeeds well at growing in deep shade, using several strategies that keep it from having to declare photosynthetic bankruptcy, despite having very little regular solar income. Hobblebush has an early leaf out, sometimes beginning when there is still snow on the ground.

Acer Pennsylvanicum – Moosewood tree. According to Plant Guide online, the Striped Maple, or Moosewood grows from a shrub to a tree 40 feet high, best always in the shade of taller trees and usually in rocky woods that cover mountain slopes.  The bark appears striped.

Macloskey’s Violet, Small White Violet

May Chronicles – Gone West

Second week of May.  New longitude and altitude.  A trip to the West Coast afforded a few moments to explore the Sierra Nevada.  The woods were still emerging from their snowy winter blanket. At the time of my visit, there was still a good amount of snow on the ground, and the higher altitude road and trails were not completely open.  A local gave me directions to find a mountain rim trail.  The steep mountain, snow pack, and underbrush made for interesting walking, a fresh change after the spring underway back east. It was important to keep aware in all directions to make sure not to get lost.  Snow-melt was generating constant run-off into the streams and gullies, making it easy to stay along a very noisy river to my left.

The woods were thick with trees, evergreen tree branches, and snow, and the air was cool, clean, and pine-scented!  Stopping atop a large sturdy mound of snow, I suddenly noticed the trail ran underneath and off in either direction.  Lichen and mosses dotted the tree trunks, and a thick carpet of pine needles covered the trail.  The trail was interrupted off and on by snow pack, and it took some exploring to keep following and pick it up again.

At some point the snow overtook my ability to follow the trail, so I retraced my steps back and down the mountain back to where I started, river to the right.

The trail was interrupted off and on by snow pack
Lichen and mosses dotted the tree trunks
 and a thick carpet of pine needles covered the trail


the air was cool, clean, and pine-scented


Evergreen branches, and snow


Arctostaphylos patula – known also as greenleaf manzanita. says it grows in open, coniferous, mt. forests; 2000-9000 ft.

May Chronicles – Spring Showers

May is a busy month in the woods.  People too are suddenly busy in May.  It’s more of a challenge to take regular walks and organize photos when the month is filled with travel, weddings, friends visiting.  These May Chronicles entries are a look back at the walks throughout the month.

First week of May.  Rain!  A day with light rain can be a wonderful day to walk in the woods, after the springtime leafy canopy has grown in. The tree branches and leaves naturally reach to catch sun rays and fill open spaces at any height, providing incredible coverage over the ground below. The leaves and flower petals are positioned to catch just about every drop of sun, and catch every drop of rain as well.  The gentle sounds of rain falling on so many leaves is soft and lovely to hear, instead of the noise of a crowded city.  The light is low, not great for taking photos, but fine for a walk.  The foliage surfaces are shiny and some bead with raindrops.  The sounds of the birds are slightly amplified by all those rainy surfaces, or does it just seem that way?

There had been heavy rains the day before our walk, the trail was waterlogged, and  run off had carved channels near the trails.  After heavy rains the rivers and creeks turn brown, from erosion of soil from the urban yards and woods.  There are a few muddy patches and small streams to cross as we go.

Ground covers have been growing under these conditions of rain, warmer weather, and filtered light.

A male and lady cardinal fly across the trail and were visible singing on a low branch.  The ever present robin bobbed along over the wet leaves keeping an eye on us.  A chipmunk is spotted running start and stop through the leaves too quickly and too well hidden for a photo.

Two groups of deer drifted through the darkness of the woods chewing mouthfuls of fresh green leaves.  They were unhurried, but their eyes watched the trail as they chewed on leaves from fallen branches.

The Conopholis sentry have turned a rusty red color and shrunk back a bit, however still maintaining their posts!  The leafy carpet takes on richer hues in this rainy weather, and ferns and moss are glowing green with all the moisture.

A final discovery before returning home, dozens of tiny orange spiders in a nursery web just next to the trail.  The light was fading and the only way to get this cozy scene into focus was to use the flash, which created a black background.

Small streams to cross as we go
Foliage surfaces are shiny with rain
Leaves beaded with raindrops
Deer drifted through the woods chewing fresh green leaves.
Gentle sounds of rain falling on so many leaves is soft and lovely to hear
Springtime leafy canopy has grown in





Leafy carpet
Spider nursery

Sun rays through the rain


Springtime disorientation, part 3

The trees have been making the most of the warm weather and rain.   Oak tree beards and tulip poplar flower pieces had fallen to the ground decorating the trail and adding texture to the forest floor.

Silky purple violets with fallen fuzzy oak tree beards
Fallen orange-y petals contrast with the violet flowers.  Low light in the woods.


A tulip poplar dropped its green and orange flowers

Springtime disorientation, part 2

Several new arrivals were seen during this week’s walk.

Delicate mushroom growing on a fallen tree trunk.
These tiny yellowish cone like structures appeared to be parading along the forest floor. They are not fungus, but Conopholis americana
In the dim light of the woods, this bright yellow slime mold growing on a rotting log was like a neon sign.



Conopholis americana – According to gardenforum online, the yellow cone-type things are Conopholis americana, non-photosynthesizing parasitic plants which rely on the roots of mainly oak or beech trees for food.

Fuligo septica – a slime mold with a bright yellow stage which grows on bark or mulch after heavy rains.

Springtime disorientation

For the past couple of days the temperatures, humidity, and pollen counts have been high. Tree pollen has been very high, and today’s walk showed evidence that the trees have been producing much more than just leaves.

Today, just before I turned onto the trail, we noticed the sound of masses of leaves rustled by swells of warm humid breezes and thought it was the first time this year to have a walk with that lovely sound! However once on the trail the air was actually quite still, the trees not whooshing around. A hazy cloud cover prevented direct sunlight from coming through the woods, and the woods seemed dark.

As we started onto the trail, a man was walking out of the woods towards us wearing a large heavy wool overcoat, on a 90 degree day, which was odd to say the least. Trails close to urban areas draw in drifters and people looking to take advantage of the cover of the woods to remain unobserved. It can be good to keep aware of surroundings, keep in sight of other walkers, and realize that in the warmer weather various people will enter the woods.

Also at this time of year, it’s possible to get a feeling of disorientation along favorite paths. The changes happen so quickly, and after months of bare trees and long lines of sight through the unchanging winter months, the woods suddenly seem to confuse and become unpredictable.

Even after memorizing the trails in the long patient winter, our minds are truly forced to work harder to interpret this copious fast-growing greenery. Plants we found two weeks ago, have passed and disappeared or been overgrown, as we look for them wondering how something so obvious is now nowhere to be found.

Trout lilies are gone without a trace. Marsh marigolds have yellowed and become threadbare. The fluffy periwinkle patches have been subsumed by a riot of leggy vines and other scraggly looking growth. Tree trunks, large stones, or other landmarks change shape as plants overtake them, sometimes abruptly altering your points of reference!

At times I find myself forming questions – “Don’t I know these woods?” Sometimes the woods will surprise you with rare beauty, sometimes it will surprise you with a reminder of life’s difficulties.

A few fungus type things caught the eye today. A small white mushroom forming from the side of a downed tree. A bright yellow foamy substance on a different log. And short yellow cone-type things which had popped up out of the soil in small groups and clusters around the woods. At one point along the trail there were many clusters on one side of the trail but not the other!

There were just a few flowers this week. A few violets caught our eye, but my camera didn’t capture their deep purple well. A few white flowers this week. One appeared in several locations, varying heights, and looked very similar to wild strawberry plants. Also a bush that appeared to have azalea flowers bloomed and past; and another bush with tiny white bell flowers.

The low lighting made it difficult to take photos. The camera had difficulty focusing, and the exposure resulted in blurry photos. The camera also tends to brighten the photos by several shades, so the woods appear brighter than it was. By the end of the day, a few rays of sunlight came through between the trees and left a couple of golden traces on the ground. It seemed to clear the air and light a bit even though it was getting late in the day.  The woods change!

More in a later post.

Vines climbing in leaps and bounds, crawling up other plants, and everything overtaking the periwinkle
We missed these blooms, could be a variety of azalea
These appear to be a wild strawberry plant in flower


Fragaria virginiana  – Virginia strawberry or wild strawberry



New leafy canopy, and deer

After nearly two weeks of sun, rain, and fluctuating temperatures the woods look completely different!  Everywhere high and low the beech trees have sent forth new delicate leaves, there are new unruly ground covers, and the flowers have changed.  During my last walk, the bare tree branches still left the trails exposed to sun, cloud, and rain; but now a newly green and leafy canopy has enclosed the trail above and on all sides!   There are now curtains upon curtains of translucent light green beech tree leaves in every direction.

There was a light rain all day yesterday, ok to enjoy the outdoors, but good idea to bring an umbrella just in case.  The overcast sky created a beautiful diffused light. Walking through the woods surrounded by beech leaves was such a different experience from only two weeks ago.  The leafy canopy not only offers some protection from the raindrops, but the leaf cover makes the woods sound softer.  In the rain there was the soft tapping sounds of the raindrops falling onto the leaves; it sounded the same as rain on a camp tent, evoking a relaxing and cozy feeling of tent time (as long as the tent is keeping the occupants dry of course!).

As we approached the area where the owls had been spotted in previous weeks and looked up, we realized the walks with easy bird watching were over, at least until after the fall.  Leaves layer each other and mostly the birds’ presence is only indicated by their songs.

As it was late in the day and the light was fading it wasn’t a long walk.  A distant twinkle from a neighborhood lamp beyond the leaves and it was time to go home.


Snowdrop leaves
Curtains of leaves all around


Soggy jack in the pulpit
Two deer grazing in the periwinkle patch. The little periwinkle flowers have gone.


Flowering dogwood


Looks like Paulownia tomentosa




Paulownia tomentosa, also known as Empress Tree – exotic species native to Asia (according to the online Invasive Plant Atlas of the United States)


Spring decorating part 2

More photos from yesterday’s walk.

These jade green leaves stood out like flowery beads strung along looping vines
These white flowers found a nice spot among the rocks

New flowers and stems are growing up from beneath the marsh marigold leaves.

Setting sun highlights plants on a rock shelf
Sunlight on a soft bubbling stream
This six spotted tiger beetle walked the trail before flying away
This jack in the pulpit was hidden right next to the trail

Six spotted Tiger beetle – Cicindela sexguttata

Jack in the pulpit – Arisaema triphyllum


Spring decorating

A beautiful day in the woods today!  Warm temperature, hardly any clouds or wind, and later in the day the warm sunlight backlit new green leaves as if they were jade charms dangling on delicate bracelets.

This week the purple violets and tiny white flowers were the most abundant flowers, decorating the trail’s edge and tucked in and around tree roots.

More green leaves and grasses have grown up since last week in some parts of the woods, and parts of the trail have become more defined as a soft brown suede path surrounded by light green growth.

I heard several woodpeckers and managed to glimpse a flying pileated woodpecker (possibly), and saw a smaller downy or hoary woodpecker through the trees, but they were too fast to be observed for long.  Also there were mourning doves calling in the woods, and at one point along the trail I looked up to see a pair resting on a branch just above me, two fluffy doves on a narrow branch.   I heard and caught sight of two bright red male cardinals moving about some branches making noise. And at the end of my trip, while wondering what had become of the barred owl we saw three weeks ago, I was searching the branches in the vicinity of that old owl tree, when I suddenly saw this fluffy little owlet perched quite calmly on a branch out in the open.  What a cute owlet, casually snoozing as the sun was setting.  I wondered if there had been plenty of woodland critters available to feed this owl.  And there were still a few squirrels nearby going about their business.

Trout lily leaves have sprouted between the trees along the creek.  A few yellow trout lilies have opened!  The marsh marigold leaves provide a soft looking ground cover, and this week other plants have grown up through the cover to different shapes and heights.

A bright green iridescent beetle with a long body and bulgy eyes was crawling along the trail and stood still for a second as I peered down at it, then it flew away.  Not a familiar sight, I wondered what this insect was doing in the woods (perhaps it wondered the same).

Sunlight shimmered throughout the woods today, spiderwebs outlined in the sun, a stream reflected golden sunlight off its surface, and translucent flowers and leaves gleamed as the sun set behind them.   A folded leaf on a low growing plant caught my eye, although I nearly rushed right past. It turned out to be a lone jack in the pulpit, unassumingly growing right next to the trail!  Discoveries every week.

A cluster of Mayapples
Spiderwebs catch the light
Delicate flowers decorate these sturdy roots
Fern fronds stretching for the light
No flowers here yet, but a good root system for something to call home
This stretch of marsh marigold now has other plants growing through it in different heights and shapes
Trout lily leaves near the creek (and two yellow lilies)
Trout lily
Two mourning doves!
This Owlet was snoozing not too far from the trail


More photos to share throughout the week in separate posts.


Gems, part 3

Continuing to post photos from this past weekend.  Today’s rain should bring more green growth and flowers this weekend.

New fern fronds unfurling!

New leaves and signs of spring.

The ends of this grassy plant release pollen dust.
Meadows of marsh marigold take over the leafy ground and change the color palette
A trout lily emerging
Flowers surprise!
This hungry red bellied woodpecker worked its way up the tree searching for snacks

Until next time!