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Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Yellow and Orange Make Me Smile

Just got home from writers' group, so I'll do a fast post and call it a day. The two brightest flowers from yesterday are so intense they just seem to glow.

The yellow is hoary puccoon, Lithospermum canescens. It's really similar to hairy puccoon, but it's less hairy. Now you know. I think these two plants come the closest to having the exact color of the old Crayola boxes called yellow-orange.

hoary puccoon

The other is a flower that is stunning to find in the wild. The color is outlandishly fluorescent red-orange. It's commonly called Indian paintbrush (as are several other plants), but this is Castilleja coccinea. It's secret is that the color isn't the petals. the actual tiny flower is hidden inside the bright calyx.

scarlet Indian paintbrush

I had never seen either of these flowers till I moved to Michigan.

In other news: I hung out laundry and wrote chapter 3 in The Bigg Boss. Also participated in a meeting via computer about trail stuff, then went to writers' group.

See Hairy Puccoon
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Monday, May 21, 2018

The New Life- A Sample Day

Although I haven't gotten in any writing (yet), today has been an exemplar day of what I hope will become a standard for me.

It began with a hike on the North Country Trail. About 15 of us started at Sawdust Hole near Brethren. Here's the view over the Manistee River.

spring trees on hillside above Manistee River

The reason we were hiking on a Monday is because TV 9&10 came out and did a segment on the NCT and the Hike 100 and Hike 50 Challenges. It will be aired at 4 pm, Tuesday, May 29. I'll be posting a link to the clip when it's posted on the website.

interview with newscaster in the woods

We had to wait quite a while for the news team to find the trailhead, but after the interviews and shooting of hike segments, we finally got to hiking. Most everyone was released before a few of us- chapter leaders, and me because I've hiked the whole trail. So friend Loren and I ended up hiking together. We did about 5.5 miles and finished just before the serious rain began. We only got damp. No big deal.

This mama rose-breasted grosbeak was right near the parking area, so we moved farther down the trail so as not to disturb her. I was actually amazed at how small a nest they make.

female rose-breasted grosbeak on nest

The trail in this section winds through Leitch Bayou down almost at river level (Manistee River) for a couple of miles.

spring trees beside Manistee River

Then it climbs back up the bluff with more beautiful views of the springtime hillsides.

spring trees on hillside above Manistee River

Loren and I enjoyed taking pictures of a lot of the wildflowers. I particularly like this picture because it's not often you find a multi-colored spread of flowers on a hillside in Michigan. This is hoary puccoon and Indian paintbrush (blooming surprisingly early), with some white fleabane mixed in (hard to see). You may see them closer another day.

spring wildflowers

So I made a measly bit of progress on this year's Hike 100 Challenge. I'm not worried. I'll get it, but this brings me up to 15 miles. I know- pathetic.

Then Dave and Loren, and I went out to catch a late lunch-early dinner. I came home (poison ivy strip, shower, and clothes wash). Now I'm updating some websites with info from today, writing a blog post, and savoring the freedom I feel. Perfect.

This was the same place as Maggie the dog's last long hike, but it was winter then. I looked, but apparently didn't post pictures from that hike. It was also the same piece of trail where I cooked my first ever North Country Trail meal, long ago in 1991.

North Country Trail, Sawdust Hole almost to Highbridge and back

See Sawdust Hole north
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Sunday, May 20, 2018

Phacelia- A Whole New Genus

One of the fun things about going to an area that is only a little out of your normal range is that you are familiar with a lot of things, and only run into a few completely new ones. Alabama is definitely in the South, but even so, I know a lot of the plants or at least their cousins.

However, this was a complete stumper! Fortunately, it was labeled in the native plant garden on the TVA property. This genus of plants is often commonly called scorpionweed because most of the species in it grow out west and are very prickly. In addition, it's a member of the borage family, so the flower stalks are often curved (like a scorpion tail). Think of forget-me-not and comfrey. Those are also in the borage family.

This example, however, isn't prickly. This is its best look with flowers in abundance. It is Phacelia bipinnatifida, common names: fernleaf phacelia or spotted phacelia.

fernleaf phacelia

It was actually the spotted leaves I noticed first because it looked similar to waterleaf. But then I saw these trailing stems with other stems coming off them (bi-pinnatifid), and was confuzzled.

fernleaf phacelia

After the flowers are gone, it pretty much looks like a mess. Here's a pretty blossom, closer. Each one is about an inch across.

fernleaf phacelia

Fun, fun! A couple more new plants yet, but I'll sprinkle them in with other things as the days go by.

In other news: last handbell performance of the season this morning. Worked on chapter 3 of The Bigg Boss, but have to rethink it a bit so didn't get many words written. Goofed off!

See Bryophytes- Liverwort Sex
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Saturday, May 19, 2018

Bryophyte Fun- Liverwort Sex!

Here was another first for me (I think!). It sure was the first time I remember seeing this, and definitely the first pictures.

First of all, Bryophytes include mosses, liverworts, and hornworts. They reproduce by similar but odd means. What you see when you look at the plants are the equivalent of seeing eggs and sperm. I'm not about to try to identify this liverwort, but its one of the thallose ones (like a leaf, duh). These spreading "leaves" each have half the chromosomes of the plant.

liverwort with archegonia or antheridia

Some are female, some are male, but they all look alike until they grow these stalks. The stalks are what I don't recall seeing before. The heads in these pictures all look alike. I think if they were opened out more you could tell the male antheridia from the female archegonia.

liverwort with archegonia or antheridia

So the archegonia contain eggs, and the antheridia have sperm. These get together and produce a zygote with the full set of chromosomes. We're used to thinking of this as the "real" organism. You and I, and trees and puppies have full sets. But you'll never see the "real" liverwort unless you hunt for it and bring a microscope.

The zygote (fertilized egg) becomes a sporophyte, which spits out single-celled spores- once again with only half the chromosomes. The spores take root and grow into new little "leaves." See the small bright green "leaves" in the picture.

liverwort with archegonia or antheridia

Liverworts can also reproduce asexually, but no display of that this time. I've never gotten pictures of that either. There is lots to learn about bryophytes, even if I never manage to identify one with genus and species!

And, yes, ancient people thought liverworts were good for the liver. No actual medical value has ever been proven.

In other news: I wrote a chapter in The Bigg Boss, and got my Books Leaving Footprints newsletter just about ready to send. I'm just waiting to confirm a date. Put some stuff away.

See Liverworts
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Friday, May 18, 2018

Around the House

This post is really full of odds and ends. I still have more plants from Ohio and Alabama to show you, but there were a couple of cool finds at home, and I also got another really nice birthday gift. So, you get odds and ends.

These towels are a gift from hiking friend, Loren. What you need to know is that she made these. She did all the machine embroidery on them and the applique. You should see the quilts she makes! Nice gift!

gift towels

Next I have a very poor picture, but at least I got a picture. This was taken through my kitchen window screen. I opened the door and could see something dark in the grass but not what it was. I closed the door and got my camera, extended the lens, and took this picture. But when I opened the door again to try to get a better shot, it flew away.

It's a common black swallowtail (male). That said, any time I see a swallowtail butterfly is a good day. They are big and showy, and I see the tiger ones much more often than these. The link below is to a much better picture of one also taken in my yard, six years ago. Not sure I've seen one since.

black swallowtail butterfly

Now, let's talk about field guides. I have a brand new one for butterflies of North America, by Kenn Kaufman. When we were at Butterfly Ridge in Ohio, I asked which guide the owner recommended, because I don't particularly like the ones I have. He said this is the only one he sells because it's the best. Works for me. I now own one.

Of course, there was also an amazing one for caterpillars, but I had to limit my spending to one.

Kaufman Butterfly field guide

Finally, I doubt he/she was watching the butterfly, but also in the yard, at the same time, was this handsome woodchuck. You know that all he wants to know about plants is how many to eat.


I'm closing in on the identity of one of my mystery plants. You may see that tomorrow.

In other news: wrote a chapter in The Bigg Boss, worked at Shagway Arts Barn all afternoon. They open for the season next week. I mostly cleared trails and lugged fallen branches from beside the driveway. Earned my supper!

See Black Swallowtail
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