Smallspike False Nettle

False NettleFalse Nettle 2

When I saw this I wondered if it had a disease or a parasite, but it turns out these are tiny green flowers. This plant is in the Nettle family, but has no stinging hairs. Can be about 3 feet tall. Likes wet and shade. Attracts moths and butterflies.

Smallspike False Nettle, Bog Hemp (Boehmeria cylindrica)

Great Blue Heron

This morning we took a paddle on the Charles River. This bit borders Cutler Park and is about 20 miles upstream from Boston Harbor. I was trying to take a picture of an egret farther away when I realized we were really close to this well-camouflaged heron hiding in the pickerel weed!

GreatBlueHeronThe closest I’ve ever been to one — thrilling surprise! So tall — I feel like it was head-level with me in the canoe. Later we saw another one which had caught a fish…

HeronwithFishIt flew off and I was not ready with right camera settings… so here’s a terrible blur of a great sight:

HeroninFlightGreat Blue Herons are about 4 feet tall. They eat mainly fish, but also crabs, insects, frogs, small rodents, snakes, dragonflies… Their favorite breeding areas are beaver swamps, and their favorite nesting areas are in the branches of dead trees down in the water. They mostly migrate, and come back to use the same rookery every year.

Bonus picture of the whole scene. An usually wide place in the river. Felt lucky to have a canoe, a beautiful day, this amazing place, and a friend to go with! and a camera!



Pinesap 1Pinesap 2The most exciting new wildflower discovery in a long time! A bit of shocking pink among the September leaf litter. Kudos to AF Brian for spotting it first. It’s very like Indian Pipe, but this wonderful color, and it’s rare. It’s a mycotrophic flower — it has no chlorophyll and gets its nutrition from host green plants like a fungus. But instead of being a direct parasite on the host roots, it taps into an intermediary fungus on the roots of the host. Unlike a fungus, it does flower and bear seeds. Can be 12 inches high! Native. Pyrola family.

Pinesap, Dutchman’s Pipe, False Beechdrops (Monotropa hypopithys)

Snappers head for the Charles

BabySnappersbyScottOn September 1, we were walking on a mowed trail at Charles River Peninsula. We noticed something round and black in the grass– it was a baby snapping turtle. Its shell was about 1.25 inches long, and the pointy tail was about that long again. In another yard or so, we saw another… and another… and another… we counted 23 (!)  little black turtle babies, all heading up over the hill, presumably going to the river to grow up. Why did their mama put the nest so far away? I hope they all made it. (Plenty of critters like to eat hatchlings. I know we have fishers, coyotes, foxes and hawks around here…)

The nests are dug in June or early July, with up to 75 eggs, but usually 20-30. The egg incubation period is 10-12 weeks. Apparently the temperature of the soil around the eggs determines the sex of the hatchlings. From October to April, they chill in mud at the bottom of ponds, slow areas of the river, etc.

It was rainy that day so I didn’t have a camera with me. This pic of a different snapper baby migration is by my talented brother-in-law Scott Robinson. Thanks!

Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentine)

Destroying Angel

Destroying Angel

I’m new to identifying mushrooms, but apparently this is a poisonous mushroom that causes death by liver failure from eating just one. Identifying features: has a smooth white cap (sometimes with a tan tint in the center, like this one), gills, and a drapy skirt-like ring near the cap. The first stage of poisoning is called the incubation stage: 6-12 hours with no symptoms while it takes over without you noticing. Don’t eat white mushrooms!

Eastern North American Destroying Angel, Deadly Amanita, White Death Cap, Angel of Death (Amanita bisporigera)


Teasel in ILI had a request from Alert Flowerophile Mary to identify this weedy plant growing in a field in central Illinois. The flower heads are thistle-like and were green, but by the time she photographed them in late August, were brown. They’re about 6 feet tall.

I had shot the same variety while traveling across Pennsylvania June 29…

Teasel in PA

Turns out, this is called Teasel. Has small lilac flowers, but we missed those. Can grow to over 8 feet. Sessile leaves growing together at the stem. The seeds are winter food for birds, especially goldfinches. A cultivated version was widely used in textile processing until the 20th century; they used the dried heads to comb wool to raise the nap (to tease up the fibers — origin of the name!). Native to Eurasia and North Africa.

Teasel (Dipsacus sylvestris)

Three-seeded Mercury

Three-seeded Mercury 2Three-seeded MercuryThis is a common weed that offends all over my yard. I never wondered what it was called… until I noticed it blooming! So I had to identify it and it has a rather fancy name: Three-seeded Mercury. I can’t find an explanation of the name. It’s an annual, it can have a two-foot deep taproot, flowers in the axils, it has clear sap, can be a mild allergen, mourning doves like the seeds, deer like the leaves. The latin name Acalypha comes from the Greek word for nettle — Linnaeus thought the leaves resembled nettles. Native. Spurge family.

Three-seeded Mercury, Copperleaf, Diamond Threeseed Mercury (Acalypha rhomboidea)

Good-bye to summer

DSC_0006It’s September already. Makes me want to think about a day in July, in the Meadow of Wonders, when it was so full of flowers!  Mostly yellow coneflowers, bee balm in many colors, mugwort, thistle, crown vetch… Lucy looks like she’s enjoying the fragrance of the flowers, but she’s probably carefully considering the question, “When did a deer last pass by here?”