Monday, April 25, 2011


The weather was fine (okay, it was actually ridiculously hot for an April afternoon, something that is happening far too frequently in recent years if you ask me) and I had the holiday off, so I decided to take a ramble through one of our local parks, Belleplain State Forest, with a local New Jersey Audubon/CMBO program.


Blueberries-to-be! (You may be able to tell I'm shooting over my head = highbush blueberries.)

Pitch pine alive.

Pitch pine (?) dead.

Maple seeds. With many apologies to Charlie Harper, but I think I found something not only “as red as” but perhaps even "redder than a cardinal"… (And when I manage to find the full quote, I'll post it.)


Sphagnum moss, in living color! Far cry from the dry brown stuff most of us only ever see if we happen to grow houseplants.

Well, lookee there... Fascinated with the moss, I found someone else who liked it too!

So just how good is that camera in your iPhone? (It was the view screen that was actually giving her trouble.)


And here’s the proof that I have wetlands! Had wetlands. This is a good thing when you are a biologist. My oldest property survey, kindly left to me by the former owner, says it too. (Too bad nobody paid attention to any of that when they built a house in my front yard. I had an entirely new wetland when it decided to rain in earnest again last year after too many years of drought...)

Wetlands/no wetlands. Sure wish someone would remind Mother Nature that “vernal” can refer to variability in the presence of water within a single calendar year; it doesn’t have to mean variability over many, many years… Last spring, for the first time in too many years, this part of the yard was at least ankle-deep in water, and the ditches that surround the one-time farm fields (a particularly deep ditch was the one marked by the old surveyor’s tape) required waders and were actually flowing. (Last year was marvelous, but oh, for enough rain to produce another spring like the one years ago when the water in the backyard was so deep it attracted the passing attention of a pair of wood ducks!)

“Sedges have edges and rushes are round.” Always figured this was some kind of rush (if you think mustards are multitudinous, don’t even go near a key for grasses or grass-like vegetation) as it is scattered throughout that part of the yard that should be very wet at the very least. If it is a wetland plant, it’s amazing to me that the smattering of it in my back yard has survived as many droughts as it has in the last dozen years. (Hope it survives the grazers this year—this bit has already had its tips chomped off. I may just have to start thinking about venison tenderloin next winter if the deer are resorting to eating anything and everything.)

But plants are truly remarkable things, and I’m not yet overly worried about total losses… Sure would be nice if it rained some more, though.

Thursday, April 21, 2011


Talk about “Nature from the minute to the infinite”…! How about these teeny-weeny, itty-bitty, can-they-possibly-get-any-smaller flowers?

There are at least four or more varieties of this basic model—basal rosette of leaves, some longer than this and with scroll-worked edges, 4-petal white flowers on a stalk—scattered around my place, but I’m not crazy enough to even wish to key them out.

Even if I had a book that would go into enough detail to do so. I do, however, know people who are crazy enough: the Cape May Brit and Jim McC—they’re all yours, boys… [Seed pods?! You want me to go back out there and try for seed pod photos? Sheesh.]

This one stood out for being so incredibly minute (the rest of the similar plants are at least twice this one’s size, maybe closer to three inches tall) as to be nigh-on invisible (I was stepping on the little patch of it before I realized it was there) and purple-leaved instead of green. And like the first one, it’s fuzzy.

I’ll jump on the blog bandwagon and assume they are all some kind of mustard. Mustards aren’t, apparently, limited to those tall (almost two feet! *lol*) yellow-flowered plants that also bloom this time of year.

It isn’t just mustards that come in miniature. Look at this little charmer:

This is it. All of it. Tiny-tiny-tiny... Needle-like, almost succulent, leaves.

It’s tough stuff, too: not only is this growing on (in?) my front walk, I took a broom to it before taking this shot. (The blossoms disappeared because they closed up when the sun went behind clouds. I hope.)

As if it isn’t cute enough, wait until you hear its common name…

UPDATE [April 5, 2012]: Pyxie!!! I kid you not. Proper name is Pyxidanthera barbulata. And—and—it’s a native. Likes our “sandy pine barrens”, so it’s no surprise that it showed up in the sand-filled spaces between the brick pavers here in southernmost New Jersey.  Okay, it pays to work with a horticulturalist. This is NOT Pyxie! This is... Pyxie is actually a rare native to the area and the plant folks are out looking for it.

These wee flowers are fascinating. Too bad getting up close and personal with them made me such an easy target for the ticks... ::scratch scratch scratch::


…A week makes.

The hosta pot last week. (I had rescued one plant out of the front “garden” when I first moved in and put it in a pot on the deck. Moved the resultant small clump to a gigantic planter last year and—wow—what a happy, happy plant…)

The hostas this week.

The violets this week. (The long-leaved plant gets to stay until I decide if it’s a goldenrod or not…)

Another planter volunteer, non-native wildflower of course.

But I like it, even if it has an absolutely lousy common name: dead-nettle.

I haven't yet waded back into what is gearing up to be one helluva tick habitat to re-shoot the sweet gum flowers. Perhaps this weekend. We'll see. If I'm not itching too much from last week's bites. Bad enough that the ticks were coming up the deck steps to get me yesterday... Sorry, I'll leave you with a better image:

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Everybody was out enjoying a warm and sunny afternoon last week. This cabbage white (?) female Falcate Orangetip [oh now doesn't it just figure? I didn't look it up and it was a special butterfly! The males have the orange tips, by the by] looks like it’s been out and about quite a bit already and on much less congenial days than this one was. (It’s nectaring on some kind of mustard. Think it’s a mustard. No, I didn’t try to ID the plant. More on mustards later.)

Itty bitty not-yet monkey balls!

Well, what do you call the seed cases of the sweet gum tree? I grew up with “monkey balls”… And I’m ashamed and astounded that I have spent twelve years in this place without ever getting out to see the sweet gums flower. (Must remember to check this tree again in a day or two.)

Sweet gum is a pioneer plant—it loves to be the first into disturbed ground. (This one is at the edge of the sand pile left when the house's foundation and septic system were installed.) Given that I live on what was once an agricultural field, I have sweet gum trees. Lots and lots and lots of sweet gum trees. And just look at the swathe of past years’ productivity under this particular one (liberally mixed with leaves, but mostly old seed cases). That’s one thing that makes a plant a good early-successional species: grow fast and prolifically…

A fellow walk-abouter out enjoying the unusually balmy April day. (Eastern box turtle whose amazingly red eyes didn’t show up in any of the photos I took.)

Probably should have cleaned this box out years ago. But someone was enjoying it. Although I do wonder how that side cracked open just so… Hmm.

A basic wild violet (again, do you really want me to key it out? ::whine::) has found it much prefers the richer soil to be had in a couple of my planters over the excuse for topsoil that covers many feet of sand here on the continent’s edge…

More planter volunteers.

No idea what it is* but it is rather pretty. It gets to stay until I find something else to put in this window box.

This is a native, and I know what it is! Blue-eyed grass, just up. This wee little thing is an iris (note the flat leaves in a flat fan-shape). How cool is that???

All in all, quite a lovely way to spend an hour, even if I paid for it with a touch of sun/windburn and enough ticks to keep me busy plucking them off for the next six hours... Having this little piece of paradise surrounding me really isn’t helping my hermit-like ways. Nor does it allow for much housework to be done.

Oh, well.

* ED. NOTE: Common chickweed. Non-native. Whatever... I still like it.


Ooh, look, it’s an ornamental cherry tree! How… unimaginative. (Thank the heavens it isn’t one of those weeping ones that have oh-so-obviously been grafted onto some other tree’s trunk.) Numerous ornamentals came with the purchase of my house and yard but none were too obnoxious*, and a few I rather like.

*sigh* I must admit that the cherry is stunningly lovely for the few days it’s in full flower every year. And nectaring insects love it, especially since it is one of the first blossoms of any significant size to bloom in the spring. (Funny, the forsythia never seems to hum with anywhere near as much activity as the cherry. Must not taste as good. Or perhaps it flowers just a bit too early.)

Still shooting from the hip (so to speak) and not doing so well. Whatever. I like the composition even if the mourning cloak butterfly isn’t spectacular. Or in focus…

Nor is the funky egg case in focus. Sheesh, you can hardly see it (it’s there on the branch to the far right). Nevermind, you are supposed to be looking at the lovely flowers.

I thought these things weren’t supposed to have fertile fruit. That’s a young’un to the right of momma tree that came up unexpectedly some years ago—a root shoot, perhaps? (The corkscrew willow, definitely one of my favorite landscaped bits of vegetation, managed a descendent too, a bit too far from the main tree to be anything but a seedling and, unfortunately, too far from the house for proper appreciation. But it is in what should be/tends to be wetter soil—good thing, as the original tree is all but dead now.)

Mmm, pretty… The interesting trunk help keeps the cherry attractive all the rest of the year when it isn’t blooming.

* Actually, the vine that was oh-so-efficiently twining up the lattice wall at the end of the deck (and the corner of the house, and the front kitchen window shutter, and the...) turned out to be a rampant, noxious invasive species of bittersweet. Wish I had figured that out years before it ended up everywhere.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


I did warn you, my readers, (once… off-handedly… some time ago…) that lack of inspiration for a blog post would likely result in cat photos.

*puuurrrrrrrr* She's getting skritched under the chin, not mauled. Although one of our county veterinarians was a tad bit overzealous with their spay/neuter ear-notching. "Ear-chopping"?

Persephone, the newest (with us about six months now) and youngest member of The Horde. She's certainly living up to her name: half love bug, half resident of the Underworld. Imp Personified. Itty Bitty Kitty (still, even though she's likely approaching two years old and eats more than the cats half again her size).

Yes, that's an awful lot of names for such a wee little thing. It's not even the full list. She was recently christened with a new one.

I didn't mess with the color of this photo, although the camera did shift into lighter browns than my eye was seeing. In the right light, Sephy certainly doesn't look like the black tabby I'd normally call her. Hmmm... Chocolate stripes… fudge stripes… Keebler!

Not that we're using the newest name all that much. I want to make sure she at least knows (one of) her name(s) is Sephy. Which I'm pretty certain she does, but in typical cat fashion only remembers (or comes when called) when she wants to.

Whoa. It only takes a good yawn to remind one that inside that sweet cuddly house cat is a lean mean fightin' machine… Well, in Sephy's case, it shows when she attacks my feet under the bedcovers. When she joins Sandylion for their pre-meal wrestling matches... When she flies through the house just so she can attack Snickers… Okay, perhaps the sweet new nickname isn't so appropriate after all.

[In truth, most of Sephy's rambunctiousness is youth and high spirits. She's actually the only cat I'll hand wrestle because she's so gentle about it. She does, however, have a serious thing against Snickers for some unknown reason. (She's not the only one. Poor Snick. *sigh*) ]