Seasonal Signs
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Dennis Curtin's journal of natural events in and around Marblehead, Massachusetts

Monday, June 30, 2003
Salem Woods
After getting up at 3:30 AM in Wilmington, Delaware and driving home, I was able to get to Salem Woods in the late afternoon. It was a hot and humid day, even in the woods where there wasn't much movement to the air. Over the past week the roses have come out in force. Each blossom is an example of absolute perfection, at least until the rose weevils get to it. Late in the walk I ran into Jeanne Stella leading a wildflower walk for the Friends of Salem Woods. Jeanne had written me earlier identifying a plant that had confused me for a long time, and for that I'm grateful. The plant is Dyer's Greenweed (Genista tinctoria) and is shown below. Also, not that the berries have matured, it's easy to tell that the Baneberry featured earlier is red baneberry. A new and showy flower is the Purple-flowered Raspberry--a real joy to behold.

Rose weevil on a rose blossom

Pasture Rose

Dyers Greenwood

Jeanne Stella

Red Baneberry

Purple-flowered Raspberry

Tall Buttercup

posted by Dennis 4:58 AM
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Thursday, June 26, 2003
Leggs Hill
Leggs Hill is a great place to walk early in the morning when you don't have a lot of time. You can cover most of it in an hour and it's open so you don't have to worry about walking through dew covered grass and foliage. Today's walk turned up a painted turtle laying eggs, Deptford Pink, and softball-sized Yellow Goatsbeard seedheads. More mullein was also in flower but has a ways to go before it all reaches a peak.

Yellow Goatsbeard seedhead

A dragonfly at rest

Saint Johnswort

The business end of a Mullein flower

Deptford Pink

posted by Dennis 6:15 AM
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Wednesday, June 25, 2003
Leggs Hill Again
I almost didn't go back to Leggs Hill early this morning, but changed my mind. I was glad I did. The walk started with a very large snapper laying eggs on a hill aside the pond. I then discovered yesterday's heat and sun brought out some new flowers including Mullein, Coreopsis, and Black Eyed Susans. One of the prettiest sights was a flock of goldfinches in the dried weeds. Each day that I add to this log, I can't but help think of all of the people who are working their butts off so they can take a vacation to see the kinds of things they are ignoring all around them. My philosophy is that if you "vacation in place" every day, you get a lot more out of it.

Mullein (we'll revisit these majestic 6-foot tall plants a lot)

A snapper laying eggs--actually covering them up



Black-eyed Susans

posted by Dennis 8:17 AM
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Tuesday, June 24, 2003
Leggs Hill
Today promised to be hot so I took an early morning walk around Leggs Hill, getting a jump on the day. The only new flower was Birdsfoot Trefoil, but I ran across the swans on Coy Pond and a rabbit. One of the swans was featured in an early post on this blog sitting on a nest. Today's photo shows the payoff for all of that effort. The rabbit was a surprise given the foxes and even coyotes in this area. It must be a nervous, precarious existence.

Birdsfoot Trefoil



posted by Dennis 10:31 AM
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Sunday, June 22, 2003
Salem Woods
Last weekend I photographed a shrub in Salem Woods that I just identified. It's Trumpet Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens), a native evergreen climber shrub. I don't know what's more interesting, the flowers or the leaves that appear to be pierced by the stem. A very showy plant!

Trumpet Honeysuckle

posted by Dennis 8:19 AM
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Cursed Crowfoot
Don't you love that name! Cursed Crowfoot (Ranunculus sceleratus), also known as Celery-leaved Buttercup is growing just off the boardwalk in Hawthorn Pond. This plant is rare in Connecticut and the state classifies it as a species of special concern. It is one of six species of small-flowered buttercups found in Connecticut. Identifying features for cursed crowfoot include a hairless, thick, hollow stem; tall, cylindrical seed heads; deeply lobed basal leaves; and its preference for very wet soil. Juice from the stems is said to cause blisters; this may be why the plant is called "cursed." (Courtesy of the
Connecticut Botanical Society.)

If you haven't done it already, try using the Latin name of a plant to look it up in Google. You may be amazed at what you find.

Cursed Crowfoot flower

The entire Cursed Crowfoot plant

posted by Dennis 7:02 AM
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The Path and Leggs Hill
Things have really been changing with all of the rain we've been having. A walk along The Path and up and over Leggs Hill turned up many new flowers. Two of the prettiest are Crown Vetch and the highly invasive Multi-flora Rose. Crown Vetch grows in profusion on a hillside on Leggs Hill. Multi-flora Rose is everywhere and its thorny stems define the meaning of a "briar patch."


Milkweed starting to flower

Goatsbeard Seedhead

Crown Vetch

Rough-fruited Cinquefoil

Multi-flora Rose

Daisy Fleabane

Fluted Mushroom

Hoary Allysum

posted by Dennis 2:49 AM
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Friday, June 20, 2003
Flower Walk
This is out of order, but last Sunday I led a wildflower walk for the Marblehead Conservancy. We started at the Shore Lea Nature Center and did a loop of Wyman Woods and The Path. George Geis kept a list of the 36 flowers we identified, and here it is:

dewberry, star of Bethlehem, mullein, whorled loosestrife, wild sarsaparilla, Canada mayflower, false Solomon seal, celandine, rough-fruited cinquefoil, common cinquefoil, peppergrass, ox-eye daisy, tower mustard, bladderwort, leadplant, poison ivy, cinquefoil, hop clover, bladder campion, blackberry, strawberry, wild geranium, buttercup, touch-me-not, ground ivy, cleavers, joe-pye weed, chickweed, skunk cabbage, yellow jewelweed, horsetail, blue flag, stinging nettle, jack-in-the-pulpit, jewel weed, and multiflora rose.

The wildflower walk group

posted by Dennis 2:11 AM
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Thursday, June 19, 2003
Salem Woods
Here's some more on today's 4 hour walk through Salem Woods. A first for me was finding Cow Wheat (Melampyrum lineare) a native annual. Robb and I stopped by to check out the Lady Slippers and they are slipping into senescence, but amongst them new fungi was springing up. A month or so ago I listed a photo of Baneberry, and now the seeds are out. I'll try to follow these as they ripen and take on the "doll's eye" look.

Cow Wheat

Fungi in the Lady Slippers

Baneberry berries, also called doll's eyes

posted by Dennis 4:14 PM
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Salem Woods
This was the first day I didn't have to drive Emily and Matthew to school so I blew off work and spent the morning in Salem Woods. The excuse was that it's supposed to rain tomorrow and over the weekend so I better do it now. The time was well spent with first a sighting of a Wild Turkey and then Robb Kipp's sighting of a Red-tailed Hawk. I saw the Turkey lying under a tree, and as I tried to get closer it tried to get farther away. Although equipped mainly to do close-up photography, I managed to get a few shots of it. The Hawk, standing on a tree branch was feeding on what appeared to be a bird. He seemed to be standing, one foot on each of the victims wings, while he tore away at the breast. One sad sighting was the wings of a butterfly floating on the surface of a pond, all that remained after someone's meal. One yellow flower is emerging and I have yet to identify it with any certainty. It also grows in profusion in the Forest River in Marblehead. Another flower found almost everywhere at the moment is Common Blackberry.

Wild Turkey

Feeding Red-tailed Hawk

Butterfly wings

Insect on Dewberry blossom

Unknown flower

Common Blackberry

posted by Dennis 12:33 PM
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Salem Woods
A walk through Salem Woods revealed many new flowers, some just on the verge of emerging. One of the showiest was the yellow Frostweed. Large stands of Whorled Loosestrife look like red patches in the fields. The flowers are just emerging but should be quite colorful within a few days. On the way in I passed by the most dramatic display of fungi on a tree. It may have been there when I walked by a week ago, but if so I didn't see it and it sure is hard to miss.


Blunt-leaved Sandwort

Whorled Loosestrife

Fungi on tree

posted by Dennis 3:36 AM
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Wednesday, June 18, 2003
Lost Week
The last week was lost as I moved everything to a new system and temporarily lost access to my Web Log. Hopefully, everything is now back on track. To catch up, I'll add a few things at a time. The missing week started when I was passing Tower School and saw a snapping turtle returning to the pond after laying its eggs. It's always the week or so before school lets out that the females roam looking for the ideal nest spot. They dig a hole, lay their eggs, and then fill the hole back in, tightly packing down the soil. Sometimes it's not enough as the second photo from above Thompson's Meadow shows. There is always heavy predation, in this case probably by a raccoon.

A snapping turtle.

Dug up turtle nest

posted by Dennis 6:27 AM
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Sunday, June 08, 2003
The Path and Leggs Hill
After an all night rain, the dawn broke with a light haze and bright overcast, perfect photography weather. I took off down The Path, returning by way of Leggs Hill, drawn on by the wonderful light. The only new flowers were Mayweed, Field Mustard behind the new High School, and Common Speedwell on Leggs Hill. But the light was so good I took some new shots of Blue Flag Iris. I also took pictures of some plants that have been around for some time now--the highly invasive Garlic Mustard and the soft and feathery Horsetail.


Field Mustard

Common Speedwell

Garlic Mustard

Blue Flag


Horsetail from another angle

posted by Dennis 12:02 PM
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Saturday, June 07, 2003
Leggs Hill
There is so much happening on Leggs Hill that I returned there this morning and was glad I did. By the pond I found One-flowered Cancer Root, a parasitic plant in the same family as Indian Pipe and Squaw Root. It had beautiful blue flowers. I also found English Plantain, a flower that reminds me of a model of the solar system with all of the small flowers circling the head. This one had a small beetle on it. Cow vetch is in blossom and will soon be seen everywhere. The same with Common Barberry. The strangest finds were a small jaw fragment from a skull and a perfect bird's egg on the ground. When I saw the egg I looked for a nearby nest that it could have fallen from, but saw none.

English Plantain

One-Flowered Cancer Root

Common Barberry

Yellow Hawkweed

Cow Vetch

Bird Egg

An unidentified jaw fragment

posted by Dennis 11:35 AM
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Leggs Hill
I climbed Leggs Hill as the sun was setting and was rewarded with some nice flowers. One surprise was Forget Me Nots, the first time I have seen them in this area.

Oxeye Daisy

Forget Me Nots


posted by Dennis 3:18 AM
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Salem Woods
Yesterday was one of the first days to approach 80 degrees. In the afternoon I walked through Salem Woods, seeing places I had not explored before. Plant and animal diversity is directly proportional to the habitat left undisturbed. That's why this place is so much richer than the places in Marblehead. Most of the photos I took today were of flowers I've shown you before. It was so still I was able to get better photos of many of the plants such as Columbine, Pink Lady Slipper, and Pale Corydalis. But there were also new flowers and even a turtle laying eggs above Thompson's Meadow. There are hundreds of turtles in this pond and they dot the bluff above with nests. In a few weeks, there will be many open craters with shell parts strewn about. Predation is heavy but some make it through.

Golden Ragwort

Blue Toadflax

Turtle laying eggs

posted by Dennis 3:10 AM
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Friday, June 06, 2003
Preston Beach
It was a nice warm day so I walked through the Palmer's Pond area at the end of Preston Beach. The Beach Pea is in bloom and Poison Ivy is flowering everywhere.

Beach Pea

Poison Ivy starting to flower

posted by Dennis 5:49 AM
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Leggs Hill
A quick walk over Leggs Hill showed me it had exploded in the past few days. There were wildflowers everywhere. It's now getting so busy I'll be able to do little more than just show photos of what I'm finding. There are spittle bugs everywhere. If you gently probe the spittle you'll find a small green bug living inside its protective hideaway.

Hop Clover

Red Clover

Herb Robert

Mouse-eared Hawkweed

The home of a spittle bug

Yellow Goatsbeard

posted by Dennis 4:32 AM
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Wednesday, June 04, 2003
The Path
A walk along The Path turned up some showy new flowers; Rosa Rugosa alongside The Path in Lead Mills and Blue Flag Iris (Iris versicolor) in the wetlands of Wyman Woods. It's after the Blue Flag Iris that Flag Pond in Steer Swamp is named. A yellow iris (Iris pseudacorusis) is blossoming in Hawthorn Pond. This is a non-native species that has become invasive in some areas.

Rosa Rugosa

Blue Flag Iris

Yellow Iris

posted by Dennis 2:55 AM
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Tuesday, June 03, 2003
Seaside Park
A quick walk through Seaside Park turned up my first sighting of Bluets in Marblehead. The blueberries are still in blossom, but the Trout Lilys are gone. On the way home I stopped on Clifton Avenue to check some flowers I saw on my walk yesterday when it was too windy to take pictures. They are Dame's Rocket (Hesperis matronalis), a really beautiful flower introduced from Europe in colonial times. It looks somewhat like phlox, but has four petals instead of five. Dame's rocket is one of the many invasive plants that crowd out native vegetation. A good source on this is the
Invasive Plant Atlas of New England.

Dame's Rocket

posted by Dennis 6:27 AM
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