Snapper on the move

Snapper1Snapper2I was visiting my mom in Charleston, Illinois and looked out the window to see this snapping turtle motoring down the driveway at high turtle speed. Presumably it had laid eggs (somewhere in the yard? in the plowed field behind the house?) and was on its way back to the creek across the street. The neighbors came out to see what I was photographing. One of them was mowing his yard with a small end-loader. He came over, scraped the leeches off the turtle, picked it up by the tail and hauled it off to the creek. The turtle was pretty mad about this change in plans and got in some good snaps, but this way she didn’t have to cross the street. (I have since read that you shouldn’t pick them up by the tail because it can damage the spine and tail. Safest way for turtle and person is to grab the carapace above the back legs.)

Snapper3Snapper4Snappers are known for their angry attitude, biting jaws and the fact that their heads can really extend and snake around for snapping you! They snap to defend themselves because they are too big to hide in their shells. In the north, they mature at 15-20 years and apparently can live over 100 years. Adults have few predators (besides humans) but almost everything likes to eat the eggs and hatchlings. Incubation time is 9-18 weeks, depending on how warm the weather is… so Mom’s neighborhood should be watching for hatchlings starting in early July.

Common Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina)

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.)


Jack in the Pulpit


They’re so distinctive. There is something very proper and elegant about them, like they would never consider leaning, or demanding attention by being colorful, or blowsy and over-large. The most ornament they care to sport is some tasteful stripes.

This is from May 5, 2014. (I have quite a backlog of photos.) These are native to the east and midwest.

Jack in the Pulpit, Indian Turnip (Arisaema triphyllum)

White and blue violets

violetsIt’s been a good year for violets! This is a variable species that can occur as white or purple. Photographed in Dr. Whiteside’s magical Illinois garden, but also native all over New England.

Common Blue Violet (Viola sororia)

Bonus pictures from my trip to the Midwest: we went to a concert in Lafayette, Indiana but had some time before the concert, so we checked out a wolf park surprisingly nearby. Beautiful animals.

DSC_0034 Wolf face

Wild Blue Phlox

DSC_0002I found this growing by a dusty country road outside Charleston, Illinois, but apparently it is native from western New England to Michigan south. Fragrant flowers, pollinated by bees with long tongues, like bumblebees.

Wild Blue Phlox, Wild Sweet William, Woodland Phlox (Phlox divaricata)


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)

Visiting the Whiteside Garden in Illinois

That Illinois flat agricultural landscape is a beautiful thing when you’re looking at it from a little plane. Here’s the descent, through the clouds, to seeing details of the homesteads surrounded by oceans of soybean fields and corn fields… with evidence of recent flooding.

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We always go visit Dr. Whiteside’s giant and fabulous garden in Charleston. At this time of year, many magnolias were in bloom…

DSC_0059_magnoliaBut mainly I loved all the wildflowers. They were just rampant, they were deliriously happy and vigorous. Here are a few I don’t think I’ll be seeing around Needham: the spring beauties, big bunch of trillium, bluebells, dutchman’s breeches, and a double form of bloodroot that looked like some kind of water lily or lotus.

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When we were ready to leave, I went to say goodbye to Dr. Whiteside, who was out working in the garden. I asked him about that last one, what was that lovely thing… and he asked would I like a specimen for my garden and of course I would! So we tromped back to that section and he dug up this double bloodroot… and four kinds of european anemone  (single and double white, a blue, and a pale blue), and while we were back there I admired a purple larkspur… so he gave me some of that… and a himalayan maidenhair fern. I felt kind of bad that he was going to so much work for me… but then it seemed like it was kind of his idea and maybe he just really enjoys sharing his garden. (Thanks to Alert Flowerophile Marilyn for grabbing my camera and following us around as Dr. Whiteside so generously dug up all kinds of things he thought I would like to grow.) Photos: April 22.

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I told him I was flying home. He said no problem, just wrap them in wet newspaper. So my carry-on was a bag of soil and plants. I just smiled a lot at security.


Wildflowers at the Whiteside Garden

I was in Illinois for a few days and one of the highlights was visiting the garden of Dr. Wesley Whiteside in Charleston. Here are photos of just a few of the wildflowers he had in bloom… green dragons, lady slippers, foxglove, pitcher plants…