Tower Mustard

Tower Mustard

This is a plant with creamy white flowers, and later each flower is replaced by a leafless vertical seed pod that hugs the stem. They can grow to be 4 to 5 feet tall. Native. (Photo taken May 29, 2013)

Tower Rockcress, Tower Mustard (Arabis glabra)

Bonus picture: this turtle was also using the path. I think it’s a musk turtle. They only get to be about 5 inches long, and are primarily aquatic, living in the shallows. This one was still wet from the river. They rarely leave the water, but they usually nest in June, so maybe this one was on a nesting mission.


Common Stitchwort


Related to Chickweed — the same deeply divided petals (this is five petals divided to look like ten). So many plants are called worts… wort is from Old English “wyrt” meaning root or herb. It often was used to name plants that had medicinal uses, and the first part of the word was the problem it could cure, like for instance, spiderwort to treat spider bites. Was this good for curing stitches? I can only find that some varieties are edible…

Common Stitchwort (Stellaria graminea)

Cypress Spurge

SpurgeNative to Europe, introduced to North America in the 1860s as an ornamental, and now, a harmful invasive that has really colonized Charles River Peninsula. Forms a dense ground cover. Tiny flowers that start lime-green and yellow, and age to red. Poisonous sap.

Cypress Spurge (Euphorbia cyparissias)

Lone sentinel down

Before it was conservation land, Charles River Peninsula was a meadow where dairy cattle grazed, and this shagbark hickory stood at the top of the rise overlooking the scene. A big limb came down previously and revealed that it was partly hollow … so it was not a surprise and yet, a very sad sight to see that a September windstorm had taken it down. 

Someone had tucked wildflowers into the gash… Below, the scene last summer. We’ll miss it.

Poison Ivy

I never got a good shot of the poison ivy when it was in bloom. But now it’s really drawing attention to itself with color. Many songbirds eat the seeds and fruit. Bears, rabbits and deer eat the foliage with apparent immunity–in fact only hamsters and primates are known to have allergic reactions to it! Of course, it is identifiable by its three leaves, regardless of other variables– it can be a shrub, a trailing or a climbing vine. The poison is urushiol, a compound found in the sap. Urushiol oil can still be active for years after the plant is dead, so an old vine is still poisonous. Also, mangoes are in the same family, and people who are sensitive to poison ivy can have a similar reaction to mangoes. Jewelweed is a natural remedy for poison ivy. Native. Virtually unknown in Europe. Anacardiaceae family.

Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron radicans)

Milkweed seeds

The milkweed is moving on to seeds. The pods are splitting and spilling. This great meadow is full of milkweed, but I never noticed any monarch caterpillars or chrysalises…

Wasp Nest

Nestled in the spurge and poison ivy, a cozy wasp nest. There are two categories of wasps: solitary and social. The singletons don’t construct nests, and they’re all fertile. The socials live in colonies with thousands of their buddies and often only the queen and males are fertile; the rest are sterile female workers. Also, most wasp species are parasitic; i.e., they lay their eggs directly into the body of a host insect. Ew.

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)