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)

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)

Smallspike False Nettle

False NettleFalse Nettle 2

When I saw this I wondered if it had a disease or a parasite, but it turns out these are tiny green flowers. This plant is in the Nettle family, but has no stinging hairs. Can be about 3 feet tall. Likes wet and shade. Attracts moths and butterflies.

Smallspike False Nettle, Bog Hemp (Boehmeria cylindrica)

Three-seeded Mercury

Three-seeded Mercury 2Three-seeded MercuryThis is a common weed that offends all over my yard. I never wondered what it was called… until I noticed it blooming! So I had to identify it and it has a rather fancy name: Three-seeded Mercury. I can’t find an explanation of the name. It’s an annual, it can have a two-foot deep taproot, flowers in the axils, it has clear sap, can be a mild allergen, mourning doves like the seeds, deer like the leaves. The latin name Acalypha comes from the Greek word for nettle — Linnaeus thought the leaves resembled nettles. Native. Spurge family.

Three-seeded Mercury, Copperleaf, Diamond Threeseed Mercury (Acalypha rhomboidea)

Wild Asparagus

Wild AsparagusThere is a bit of meadow where these stalks have emerged. They seem few and far between so I wouldn’t feel right harvesting them. But they look good! (Later when they fruit, they’ll have small red berries that are poisonous to humans.) There is an asparagus recipe in the oldest surviving cookbook, which is a Greek book from the third century AD. Native to Europe, Africa and Asia. Introduced to North America around 1850.

Wild Asparagus (Asparagus officinalis)

Skunk cabbage is the first

skunk cabbage 1 We first noticed the skunk cabbage emerging on February 16. Even though there had been a blizzard and there was snow everywhere else, this is a protected swampy spring-fed area, and the shoots were emerging up through the ooze, looking very primordial and eager to get on with it. This is their bloom, before they leaf out later in spring. From Wikipedia: “Eastern Skunk Cabbage has contractile roots which contract after growing into the earth. This pulls the stem of the plant deeper into the mud, so that the plant in effect grows downward, not upward. Each year, the plant grows deeper into the earth, so that older plants are practically impossible to dig up.” (I started this blog with photos from this location last March.)

Eastern Skunk Cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus)

Skunk cabbage in muck

Skunk cabbage first appearance: Feb 16, 2013

Bonus picture: except for down in the swamp, the snow blanket prevails.

Ridge Hill in the Snow

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)