Seasonal Signs
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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

Monday, July 14, 2003
Salem Woods

I hadn't been to Salem Woods for over a week and things have changed a lot. The biggest find was the Wood Lilys growing in the meadow above Thompson's Meadow. There were also coloful mushrooms everywhere, probably because of the heavy rains we've had recently.

Wood Lilies





Tall Meadow Rue

posted by Dennis 3:07 PM
. . .
Sunday, July 13, 2003
Forest River
On yesterday's long walk I saw two plants I didn't know. They are in the Forest River area across the path from each other in the woods. I checked them out this morning and they are both interesting. One is Moneywort, that's escaped from cultivation, and the other is a native plant, Enchanter's Nightshade (Circaea quadrisulcata).


Enchanter's Nightshade

posted by Dennis 5:08 PM
. . .
Saturday, July 12, 2003
The Path
Today I took off on foot for Leggs Hill and ended up back home 5 and a half hours later! The light was great and I found so many interesting things I just kept going. Most of the walk was along The Path, but I detoured back into Wyman Woods to check out the yellow fungi I posted yesterday. I've been reading Bill Bryson's new book "A Short History of Nearly Everything" and he had a section on slime molds. Sure enough, that's what that yellow "fungi" was and I found more. Another yellow on in the woods and a number of them in the mulch along The Path by Tower school. These are amazing things. They live as individual cells but gather together into a huge organism that can then move. One photo shows the trail the slime mold left as it climbed a telephone pole.

Stinging Nettle

Hedge Bindweed

Day Lily



Blue Vervain

Slime mold

Slime mold with trail

Staghorn Summac flower head

Beetle on milkweed

Not sure what this is hiding from me

Inch worm of some kind

Canada Mayflower berries

posted by Dennis 1:53 PM
. . .
Friday, July 11, 2003
Ware Pond
The light drove me over to Ware Pond this afternoon. It was so soft and beautiful, it seemed to come from every direction. It's the light you find on an overcast day when the light is refined even farther by a thin mist. It's diffused light that's great to photograph in because there are no shadows. The only problem was a light breeze. One of my favorites today is the yellow loosestrife, also known by the more colorful name "swamp candle." The berries are now appearing from the Nightshade flowers I posted a month or so ago. The first photo shows Ware Pond on this misty rainy summer day. The pond has the shape of a figure 8, and this is the smallest part by far. In the winter you can skate between the two parts on a narrow channel of ice. The pond is shallow and the surface gets almost covered by Water lilies late in the summer. The green plants in the foreground are Pickerelweed which is just beginning to flower.

Ware Pond

Swamp Milkweed


Swamp Candles

Nightshade berries

posted by Dennis 1:50 PM
. . .
Wyman's Woods
I went back to Wyman's Woods today to take some more photos of the Wintergreen that I posted yesterday. The only new "plant" that I photographed was a bright yellow fungus growing on a dead tree. It was so bright it could be seen through dense foliage. I realize I used the title "Wyman's Woods" for the last post and reused it this time. It raises the question of how place names evolve. At least in Marblehead it seems that names are given at the time someone owns a property, hence, these woods were once owned by a man named Wyman. Since they were his, the possessive form of the word was used in the name "Wyman's Woods." As time passed, and the property became public, the possessive was dropped and the name became "Wyman Woods." It's named after him but not owned by him.

Fungus on a tree

posted by Dennis 1:34 PM
. . .
Wyman's Woods
It's the time of year when Wintergreen starts to flower in Wyman Woods, our richest upland habitat. There were a half-dozen boys having a paintball war in the woods so it wasn't what I'd call a time for reflection and quiet thought. But my timing was right, the plants are flowering or almost there. I found great examples of Spotted Wintergreen and Round-leaved Pyrola, a close relative of shinleaf.


Spotted Wintergreen

posted by Dennis 5:01 AM
. . .
Leggs Hill
The reason I'm drawn to Leggs Hill every morning is that it's mainly open meadows with parts hit by the morning sun and parts in shadow. Many other regular haunts are now overgrown and hard to navigate. This morning was especially nice since it had rained all night and the sun rose in an almost clear blue sky. The rain and a heavy dew made the plants come alive with a suit of beaded drops, each reflecting and refracting the sky and morning sun. I got soaked walking through the tall grass but the things I saw made it well worth it.

Queen Anne's Lace emerging

Marshmallow backlit by the rising sun

Bullthistle getting ready to blossom

Everlasting Pea growing amongst the Crown Vetch

Sweet White Clover against the sky

posted by Dennis 4:48 AM
. . .
Tuesday, July 08, 2003
Over the weekend we drove trough Vermont on our way to a family reunion on Lake George in the Adirondacks. It was a great trip, especially trying to identify roadside flowers at 65 miles an hour. The best was a stand of Great Angelica, a 6-8 foot tall plant with gigantic flowerheads. One sad thing is the way Vermont tries to keep the old life alive by artificially enhancing the scenery. As dairy farms close one after another, the state populates the hillsides with large herds of small stuffed cows, hoping you won't notice the decline of real cows. Check the photo below for documentation of this scandal.

Great Angelica

Great Angelica growing along a back country road.

Cows designed to fool you. (Just kidding, this is a garden center and one of our favorite stops each year.)

posted by Dennis 7:15 AM
. . .
Leggs Hill
I've fallen a few days behind on the seasonal signs because of the holidays and short vacation trips. On July 4th I walked Legg's Hill but didn't have time to post the images until now. Things are really popping out all over, too fast to keep up with. Some beautiful new flowers such as Marshmallow and Black Swallowwort have made their appearance, along with Rabbit's-foot clover and Field Bindweed. The first berries of the season are ready to eat.

Deptford Pink

Rabbit's-foot Clover

Wild Raspberries



Chickory blossoms not yet opened in the morning light

Butterfly on Mullein



Field Bindweed

Black Swallowwort

posted by Dennis 6:50 AM
. . .
Wednesday, July 02, 2003
Leggs Hill
A quick morning walk over Leggs Hill turned up the emergence of a flowering pea that I have yet to identify. Each day more Chickory also appears. Because the sun was so bright (not my favorite light), I tried to use it to may advantage.

Pea of some kind

Chickory plant and blossoms

Chickory backlit by the morning sun

Chickory as a major food source for bees

posted by Dennis 6:12 AM
. . .
Tuesday, July 01, 2003
Leggs Hill
The day came up warm and windless so I spent an hour wandering around Leggs Hill. It's amazing how fast things are now emerging. I'll have to retire just to keep up. For now, here are photos of what I saw this morning. Some, such as Curly Dock and Whorled Loosestrife have been around for awhile, but I wasn't able to get a good photo till now. Others, such as Canada Thistle and Milkweed flowered overnight. The last picture from this morning is off a field of Mullein in full bloom. It's quite a sight to behold in the early morning light.

Canada Thistle

Staghorn Summac

Milkweed flowers

Curly Dock

Curly Dock

Butterfly on Canada Thistle

Whorled Loosestrife

Field of Mullein

posted by Dennis 5:49 AM
. . .
Leggs Hill and The Path
The heat and sun are bringing out some of the summer flowers and other plants. Many of these are different from spring plants. They aren't as soft or smooth. Many tend to be hairy, thorny, or sharp. They are designed to survive the harsher conditions of long hot, dry periods. One example is Viper's Bugloss (Echium vulgare), a beautiful yet hard-edged plant. It's definitely one to research on Google. Another interesting plant is the Wild Cucumber. Although not yet in flower, it's tendrils are arching and spiraling, looking for footholds to grasp in it's climb toward the sun.

Wild Cucumber tendrils searching

"Houston, we have landed"--Tendril grasping a leaf

Spotted Knapweed

Viper's Bugloss

Beetle holding on in the wind

posted by Dennis 2:39 AM
. . .

. . .