Lesser Celandine at Centennial

LesserCelandineField2016The first showy spring flower was Lesser Celandine. (Shot April 20.) There is an occasional brook at Centennial Park in Wellesley, MA, that is enough moisture in this bit of dry valley that a big field of yellow erupts there in spring.

Lesser Celandine

The blossoms follow the sun during the day and close in cloudy or cold weather. The name Celandine is derived from the Greek word for swallow (chelidon), because the early flowering time was also when the swallows arrived (and the flowers faded when they left). It is not native, found throughout Europe and west Asia. Eight petals and leaves that resemble wild ginger. Don’t eat it: “Unsafe in any quantity.” Buttercup family.

Lesser Celandine (Ranunculus ficaria)

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

Young herons

I wondered how this heron nest could possibly weather the severe winter we had, but I was glad to see it still there and occupied this spring. I believe these are the young ones, looking a bit like bowling pins til they turned their heads…


Herons lay 2-6 eggs in a clutch, in March and April. The eggs incubate about a month. Then they fledge when they’re about two months old. They still come back to visit for a few weeks.

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:


Presumably it was on an egg-laying mission.

Another sign of spring: Backhoes

Another sign of spring in Needham is that you’ll be driving along and do a doubletake because suddenly, there’s an empty lot and a backhoe where there used to be an older house and a bunch of trees. Or depending on your timing, maybe they’re sawing all the trees down, or a big machine is biting the roof off of a little house.Teardown empty lot

Central Ave trees missing New construction on Charles River St One by one, the little houses are replaced by big ones. Sometimes the razed houses are ugly little houses and occasionally they’re charming, large, or architecturally significant. Sometimes it’s just a big estate of mostly woods carved into a subdivision. When we moved here I assumed all the woods was the happy result of zoning and conservation, but I was wrong.

Northern Water Snake

Let us digress from admiring wildflowers for a moment and instead say Eww on behalf of this big snake who was basking on a rock very near the water lilies I photographed recently. An unusual sight — usually we just see garter snakes. The Northern Water Snake eats pretty much anything alive that fits in its mouth– frogs, birds, mammals. At night, it can eat fish sleeping in shallow water. It can swim on the water’s surface, or submerged. Thanks to Alert Wildlife Spotters Clara and Aaron for taking this photo. Colubridae family. Native.

Northern Water Snake (Nerodia sipedon)

Live Forever

As we approach the end of summer, it was great to get this surprise– a really showy new flower. It looks a lot like purple milkweed, but has distinctive succulent leaves that are very regular and same-sized all the way up the stalks. An unusual characteristic: the leaves can be alternate or opposite. It’s named Live Forever because it’s very persistent and can grow from any small bit. We saw just a couple of plants in this whole field of other flowers– I wonder if this is the beginning of a big colony.

It has several intriguing common names that come from this: put the leaf in your mouth until it’s soft, and when the membranes are sufficiently loosened, you can inflate the leaf like a little balloon. Crassulaceae (Stonecrop) family. Native to Europe.

Live Forever, Witch’s Moneybags, Midsummer-Men, Orpine, Aaron’s Rod, Pudding-bag Plant (Sedum purpureum)

Tall Blue Lettuce

I love this name. Small flowers, under a half inch wide, that are only open when it’s sunny. A thick cascade of flowers–can be blue, but these are white. A tall plant, up to 15 feet, with milky juice. Has a history of medical uses but not of food use. Annual or biennial. Aster family.

Tall Blue Lettuce, Woodland Lettuce (Lactuca biennis)

Sessile Bellwort (Wild Oats)

Thanks to Alert Flowerophile Donna for noticing a flock of these little lilies at Wilson Mountain.  Sessile means sitting or resting on the surface —  these have sessile leaves, which means the leaf comes directly out of the main stem, but the leaf itself has no stem of its own. From the Lily family. Native to this region.

Sessile Bellwort, Wild Oats (Uvularia sessilifolia)

Common Winter Cress (Yellow Rocket)

Newly blooming in the upper field at Centennial and Wilson Mountain. Native to Eurasia, member of the Mustard family. Blooms all summer. “Historically” used to make a medicinal tea. Several moth and butterfly varieties lay eggs on them.

Common Winter Cress, Yellow Rocket (Barbarea vulgaris)