Lucy and I were walking in the woods not on a trail when something cold brushed past my leg. I kept the shrieking to a minimum and saw this toad, about the size of my fist, so well camouflaged that I never would have seen it had it not tapped me on the shoulder. So to speak. Even the stripe on its back looks like a bit of grass.

Their tadpoles are very small, solid black, and reach adulthood in 30-40 days, and then become mostly terrestrial. Their skin produces a toxic chemical that discourages fish from eating them.

American Toad (Bufo Americanus)


At the Dover Farm, I was wading out into the field to pick some cherry tomatoes, and noticed this plant with distinctive arrow-shaped leaves. It’s Buckwheat! Cultivated as a crop, but this one is an escapee. Buckwheat has been grown as a crop in the U.S. since colonial times for livestock feed and for flour. Also a honey crop (used to supply nectar for bees) and a smother crop (a quick germinator that creates a dense leaf canopy to smother weeds).

Buckwheat (Fagopyrum sagittatum)

Bonus picture to contrast with the farm: we were just in Manhattan. Drive-by shot of a grocery store in the Washington Heights neighborhood that is open to the sidewalk. It’s the sort of colorful outdoor display where you expect produce… but it’s all cans.

Nodding Smartweed

Similar to Lady’s Thumb but a more extravagant outsized version. 1 to 6 feet tall. A big patch of them at the Dover Farm. Buckwheat family. Can be pink, white or purple.

Nodding Smartweed, Pale Smartweed, Dock-leaved Smartweed (Polygonum lapathifolium)

Pink Knotweed

There is a little weed charmingly called Lady’s Thumb, which is very common and looks a lot like this. It took me a while to notice that all these varieties of smartweeds and knotweeds are NOT Lady’s Thumb. There are about 35 varieties in this area. This one is a paler pink. Also, Lady’s Thumb has a dark smudge on the leaves. Buckwheat family. Native.

Pink Knotweed (Polygonum pensylvanicum)

Pale-spiked Lobelia

Came up uninvited with a potted tomato plant. Beautiful form. Contains a toxic white sap, so mostly avoided by mammals, but visited by insects. Native perennial. Bellflower family.

Pale-spiked Lobelia (Lobelia spicata)

Japanese Bamboo

Big shrubs (4-8 feet tall) with great arching branches with spikes of white flowers at every axil. Native to Asia, introduced to the U.S. as an ornamental. Considered a noxious weed in some west coast states. Young shoots can be eaten like asparagus. Seeds are eaten by birds.

Japanese Bamboo, Japanese Knotweed, Rice Cane (Polygonum cuspidatum)

Pale Smartweed

This is at the edge of the Charles. White blossoms, nodding. The stem has prominent joints. Buckwheat family. Native.

Pale Smartweed, Dock-leaved Smartweed (Persicaria lapathifolia)

White-pored Chicken of the Woods

A.F. Irit was wondering what these feel like so we tried it. I expected it would feel velvety, dry, and hard. But actually it was not velvety dry, it was more like velvety damp, cold and kind of rubbery, like feeling a diving wet suit. Reputedly edible and absolutely choice if cooked (and very upsetting if eaten raw)! (No thanks!)

White-pored Chicken of the Woods (Laetiporus cincinnatus)

Yellow Coral Fungus

With new wildflowers scarce, I do find other things catch my eye, like these small yellow fingers of fungus. I hope this is the correct identification.

Yellow Coral Fungus (Clavaria amoena)


The only non-golden goldenrod! White flowers, and look how they grow in the axils all the way up. Blooms through October. Another gift from the meadow of wonder, while most of the flowers there are wilting down and going to seed. Aster family. Native.

Silver-Rod (Solidago bicolor)