About Axie

In 2012, I started to keep track of all the wild blooming things as they appeared. As I walk with my dog Lucy, I take note of wildflowers in our neck of the woods—mostly Needham, Dover, Wellesley, Natick, Sherborn and Dedham, Massachusetts. So if you hike in this region and have been wondering about some wildflower you've seen in the woods or meadows or weedy parking lots, there's a good chance you can find information about it here.

House Sparrow Fledgling

The only wildflower I’ve seen this spring is skunk cabbage, but a morning walk at Rocky Narrows (Sherborn MA) was so full of birdsong, it really felt like spring. Saw this little sparrow on its penthouse roof deck and also a few gartersnakes out catching rays.

Bonus video: The peepers are out and loud at Ridge Hill Reservation in Needham. Peepers are “chorus frogs,” and can live in breeding groups of several hundred. Their bodies can be less than an inch long or up to about 1.5 inches. It’s only the males that make the sound (to attract their women). They hibernate under logs and leaves, and can survive being mostly frozen. Then in spring, you hear them especially in vernal ponds and other temporary wetlands. They lay their eggs in the water, and then live on land the rest of the year, feeding on insects. You can also hear wood frogs in this video — they’re the ones that sound like ducks quacking, or loose banjo strings getting plucked.

Pickerel Frog

pickerel frog, Massachusetts frogI haven’t posted in a long time because I hadn’t seen anything that I hadn’t already photographed, here in my narrow stomping grounds; I really covered a lot of wildflowers in my original fury of documentation. But today I saw two new wildflowers and this beautiful frog! The pickerel frog has front toes that are not webbed, making it more able to live on land apparently (and you can see the toes in this pic).

In winter they hibernate under debris in the water and come out for action from April to October. To catch their chow (insects, spiders, larvae), they will search grassy areas near their watery homes — like this frog, which was right on the trail, near the Charles River.

This is the only poisonous frog native to the U.S.! If attacked, it emits toxic skin secretions! However this does not deter its main predators: other kinds of frogs and snakes.

Pickerel frog (Lithobates palustris)

Purple Deadnettle

Purple Deadnettle

Velvety leaves in a gradation of purple to green, with orchid-like little blossoms. Called deadnettle because even though it looks like a nettle, it doesn’t sting like a nettle. Apparently the flowers, leaves and stems are edible, raw, cooked or dried. Mint family. Native to Europe and Asia.

Purple Deadnettle, Red Deadnettle, Purple Archangel (Lamium purpureum)

Bloodroot, double and single

Bloodroot-double2016double bloodroot

This is a wildflower I admired in the garden of Dr. Wesley Whiteside, and he gave it to me. What a generous plantlover, sowing his spectacular garden into other people’s modest yards… (Shot April 23.)

It looks like a perfect little lotus or water lily. More common: the single version, below. A “spring ephemeral.” Has only basal leaves which wrap around the flower stalk as it begins to bloom. Then the leaves open fully as the flower withers. The flowers bloom only one or two days each, with a fragrant scent. The foliage contains a red juice (which was used by native people to make dye). It’s toxic and usually avoided by herbivores. Native to eastern North America. Poppy family.

Double-flowered Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis ‘multiplex’)

Bloodroot-single

Lesser Celandine at Centennial

LesserCelandineField2016The first showy spring flower was Lesser Celandine. (Shot April 20.) There is an occasional brook at Centennial Park in Wellesley, MA, that is enough moisture in this bit of dry valley that a big field of yellow erupts there in spring.

Lesser Celandine

The blossoms follow the sun during the day and close in cloudy or cold weather. The name Celandine is derived from the Greek word for swallow (chelidon), because the early flowering time was also when the swallows arrived (and the flowers faded when they left). It is not native, found throughout Europe and west Asia. Eight petals and leaves that resemble wild ginger. Don’t eat it: “Unsafe in any quantity.” Buttercup family.

Lesser Celandine (Ranunculus ficaria)

Spring arrived in April

skunk cabbageIt was a mild winter. The skunk cabbage seemed to just survive the snow, with frost-blackened tips. In early April, creatures were waking up. Here, a skunk cabbage hood (spathe) showing the spadix inside (the flower head).

garter snakeAlso a garter snake adventuring, and best of all, there were a glorious few days of peepers. When I recorded this, they were so loud, and there were so many layers of sound, and individual voices. Wonderful. Not long after this, we had a spate of severe cold and snow and the peepers were noticeably quiet.

After the snowstorm

South Street Bridge over Charles River, NeedhamWe had a snowstorm that took out power in our neighborhood, so suddenly we had to quit working and also couldn’t do all our various other projects that require computer-staring. So we hunkered down, made a fire, (cheated by going out for dinner)…. but after the storm was over, the sun came out for an orange sunset on the sticky snow. We drove to the South Street bridge and it was so gorgeous…

Charles River, Dover, Massachusetts, aftermath of blizzardsunset after blizzard in NeedhamThen the heat came back on during the night (yay!) and at dawn, we immediately went out to look for beautiful photographs. The sun comes over the ridge and touches the treetops first…

Dawn breaks over Charles River after a blizzardCharles River in Dover after a blizzardCharles River with glow from morning light, frozenSnowy day on the Charles River, Dover CharlesRiver-ripples-WThis last scene had a glassy surface, but my boot slipped into the river and made this rad ripple! A day of stunning sights. These are all of the Charles River as it divides Needham and Dover, MA… and all within five minutes of our house, which is so GREAT! And now, grateful for heat, light, and a way to upload my photos! Time to make some hot chocolate.

And if you’re wondering about the wildflower report: yes, skunk cabbage is up, blackened tops showing through the snow in some places, and plump and green in the swampy spring at Ridge Hill.

Hemp Nettle

Hemp NettleStill discovering wildflowers in my familiar haunts that I haven’t identified. This one has tiny, snapdragon-like blossoms. The most distinctive thing is the dense spiky whorls of blossoms growing in the axils– between the leaves, all up and down the stem. This is an annual, dependent on seed production to flourish, native to Europe and Asia. In the Mint family.

Hemp Nettle (Galeopsis tetrahit)

Bonus picture: There is a gentleman in our neighborhood who has transformed his suburban property into a delightful farm, with fruit trees and bees and all kinds of berries and vegetables. We stopped and bought some peaches off his front porch, and he gave us a short tour, including these elderberries. Describing how he cooked with the white flowers, and all the delicious things you could make with the berries. He has a passion for his plants.

Elderberry

Frost’s Bolete

DSC_0027A very distinctive mushroom because the whole thing is dark red, it’s pretty big, and it has this internal-organ looking stem. In Mexico, the common name is panza agria, meaning “sour belly”.

Frost’s Bolete, Apple Bolete (Exsudoporus frostii)

Purple-headed Sneezeweed

Purple-headed SneezeweedPossibly the best flower name we’ve had so far. All manner of insects use the nectar and pollen, the leaves, the stem. But the leaves are nasty so it’s avoided by mammals. A member of the Aster family. Native

Purple-headed Sneezeweed (Helenium flexuosum)