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)

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

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.

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)

It’s the season of the Giant Puffball

This year, we had a double puffball event in our yard. When I noticed them they were smaller than baseballs and then were visibly larger every day. Finally B picked one and ate it, after a brief “Alas, poor Yorick” moment, and then there was one. Last photo with a slice removed, to show its solid interior, with the slice like a piece of soft cheese or a delicate wedge of memoryfoam pillow.

Double puffball 1Double puffball 2Double puffball lonelypuffball interiorFound in temperate regions worldwide.

Giant Puffball (Calvatia gigantea)

Snapping turtle action

Snapping TurtleI was sitting at my desk when my attention was drawn by sudden movement outside. This turtle had just walked through the yard and when it came to the edge, where there’s a wall and a two-foot drop, it just took a flying leap tumble down to the driveway. Turtle parkour! At first I thought it might be injured, but it straightened its tunic and kept going. They’re surprisingly leggy and fast when in motion. Reminded me of this:

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/0/0f/All_Terrain_Armored_Transport_in_Star_Wars.JPG

Presumably it was on an egg-laying mission.

Skunk Cabbage Leaves

SkunkCabbageLeavesThe first wildflower of the season is transitioning from flowers to leaves. The maroon flowers/spears come up through the snow. They’re kind of like mammals; they convert glucose to heat so they can emerge in the late winter months. Then the spadix and spathe wither away and these stout green leaves emerge. Native to the wetlands of eastern North America

Skunk cabbage, Symplocarpus foetidus

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)

Red-osier dogwood

Red-osier DogwoodIn the gray and brown landscape of early spring, it’s heartening to see these clouds of red stems. They like wetlands, and these are in the wetland border along the Charles. The  bark responds to the increased light of spring by becoming brighter red. Native people used it for all kinds of things, like making dye from the inner bark and brushing teeth with peeled twigs. Native throughout northern and western North America.

Red-osier dogwood, red-twig dogwood (Cornus sericea)