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.

Pink water lilies

DSC_0118I photographed this lily, but look closely at who else is in this shot!


That’s right, a little frog has its nose stuck up there. And when we started looking for them, we saw loads of little frogs, still wearing their tadpole tails, enjoying their new ability to breath air, sunning themselves on the lily pads. (I can’t help but think, heron snacks.) I think these might be juvenile bullfrogs. There was a bullfrog at this pond with a call like a great foghorn.


Water Lily (Nymphaea sp.)

Bonus photo: Lucy investigating the beaver lodge, which is about twice as big as last year.

beaver lodge

Maple trees waking up

Tree-openingThis fancy little blossom is on a male Red Maple (I think). The blossoms on female Red Maples are not as showy and not loaded with pollen like this one.

Red Maple (Acer rubrum)


DSC_0015Lucy and I were walking at Charles River Peninsula and I was surprised to see a vining wildflower running rampant that hasn’t been there for the last two years, the years I’ve been paying attention. It’s a vine with showy pink clusters of flowers, growing in the moist edges of the meadow. Why did it appear this year?

It has edible tubers (similar to potatoes but apparently way more nutritious) and beans! The shoots and flowers are edible too. It was a staple food for Native Americans, who called it Hopniss, among other things… They prepared it boiled, peeled and dried, made into sweet preserves with maple syrup, or as seasoning… many ways! Apparently Europeans learned all about using groundnut as a food source from Native Americans and it was a major help for those early (1600s) colonists like the Pilgrims. It’s commercially farmed in Japan.


DSC_0013Thoreau: “In case of a famine, I should soon resort to these roots.” Maybe we’ll need to try them. The best time to harvest them (for sweetest flavor) is after a frost, but before the ground freezes. Native.

Groundnut, Wild Bean, Potato Bean, Indian Potato, Hodoimo, Hopniss (apios americana)

Sweet White Trillium

DSC_0126This photo is from early May in Dr. Whiteside’s garden, and as it turns out, it is not native to New England. I think it’s a rare variety native to parts of the Appalachian mountains in the southeastern United States. Lily family.

Sweet Trillium, Jeweled Wakerobin, Confusing Trillium (Trillium simile)

Here are a couple more shots from that day, also of some varieties not wild in New England: some very fragrant and unexpectedly pink! lilies of the valley, and a variety of Lady’s Slipper (Cypripedium). There are 11 species of Lady’s Slipper native to the U.S., but I think this one might be a hybrid instead of a wild variety. (Cypripedium: Cypri- refers to the island of Cyprus, where Aphrodite was born, and -pedium means shoe or foot.)



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)

Indian Pipe in pink

Peace Pipe trio

Peace Pipe pink closeup

I thought I had discovered a new kind of Indian Pipe; instead of ghostly white and nodding, they have upright heads and are pink and black — kind of a zombie form of normal Indian Pipe. But it turns out this is just regular Indian Pipe as it matures–they sometimes turn pink after fertilization. Then each flower turns into a big seed capsule that eventually splits open and releases seeds. Then the whole plant turns black. Indian Pipe family. Native.

Indian Pipe, Ghost Plant, Corpse Plant (Monotropa uniflora)

My new plan


My original plan for the blog was to photograph all the local wildflowers as they came into bloom and post them right away so that I would have a good record of the flowers with information about them and their blooming times. I was thinking I would do this multiple years and keep track of trends in the blooming time. That year we had a freakishly warm winter which really had me wondering how the plants would be affected. It was a big job; some days I’d barely walk out the door and I would see 10 new kind of things blooming. Plus I didn’t know what anything was and it took me a while to get efficient at identifying the flowers.

This spring I started out with the same plan, but I have been out of town so many weeks that I fell hopelessly far behind. So my new plan is to continue to photograph new discoveries and write about them, and when the growing season is over, I’ll create a good index to make this a more useful tool for Massachusetts wildflower identification. And post interesting flower photos when I have them. That’s the new plan.

Common Milkweed, Butterfly flower, Silkweed (Asclepias syriaca)

Pink Lady-slipper

Pink LadyslipperDid you ever notice lady-slipper always has just two leaves and one flower? Also that the blossom is mostly closed, but has a small opening in front to admit pollinating insects, who have to find a different exit to bust out (brushing past the pollen-covered stamen). Lady-slippers can live to be twenty or older! Photo taken May 22, 2013.

Pink Lady-slipper, Moccasin flower (Cypripedium acaule Ait.)

Wild Crab Apple

Flowering CrabNative to North America. They require cross-pollination by insects… they’re food for many butterfly larvae. Plus, a beautiful sign of spring. (Photo taken May 1, 2013)

Wild Crab Apple Tree (Malus coronaria)