Archive for May, 2015

Elusive Wildflowers 15 – Nodding Trillium

While out photographing ferns in their fiddlehead stage, I noticed that some trillium were up along the trail as well. No flowers yet, but I figured they were the usual purple or painted varieties that I’ve photographed before. Returning a week later I was a bit surprised to find they still weren’t blooming. Being the smarty pants I am, I went in for a closer look and wow, another elusive wildflower is elusive no more.

Who needs the moon?

Nodding trillium gets its handle from its Latin name – Trillium Cernuum, the root cernuus means drooping or nodding. That’s the biggest challenge to photograph these beauties – getting low enough. The plants aren’t nearly as large as purple trillium so getting under them without digging a hole is hard. Lucky for me some of the flowers were growing on a slope leading down to a brook and I could get the camera well below them.

Bow before the beautiful

I first found them in the afternoon and while the light was ok, the breeze was a major pain. So I went back the following morning around 7. The sun had just crested the trees and the air was quite still as it usually is that early. I really should get into the woods early more often. It’s quieter than during the busy part of the day (apart from the heavy construction I could hear across the river in Merrimack) and the light is magical.

Stand Silent

I keep meaning to put some friction tape on my beanbag and boy I really needed it for this session. The slope I was on was pretty steep and I had a hell of a time getting the camera still. It kept sliding and slipping off the plastic bag. With the aid of sticks (a great tool and always to hand in the woods) I managed to get the camera where I needed it, which was basically on the ground with only the lens propped up at an acute angle on the beanbag. My flippy-swively screen is my best friend in situations like this. A fixed screen would have been flat to the pine needles.

Shy beauty

For most of the photos I used my trusty vintage Olympus 90mm macro, but when I found this tall plant with really great leaves I put the wide-zoom back on. I just love the perspective and the sheltering quality those leaves have. Plus there’s some sensitive fern in the lower left. Bonus!

Come cover me

Up from under isn’t the only angle though –

Sails for the sun

So that’s it, one of my last posts from NH. We close on our new house on June 1. Movers leave the current house on June 9. The funny thing is, my yard in Wisconsin is blanketed in white trillium so next year I’ll have another species for the trillium files!

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While Rome burns

Ferns are some of my favorite things in the world. They are one of the major reasons I love the forest so much. Their presence is sometimes lush and is always vivid and varied. They are some of the oldest plant life on our planet and some varieties, like sword fern in the Pacific Northwest and Christmas fern here in the east, lend a primordial feel to the landscape. Their shapes, heights and colors are so diverse because they’ve been around so long, filling different ecological niches through the millennia.

As a photographer I love them because they’re intensely photogenic. Especially when in the fiddlehead stage. Right down the road from me is a small nature preserve that has a dense concentration of ferns. I counted I think 6 varieties along a few yards of trail. I have photographed the same section of trail with the ferns fully leafed-out and standing tall. They’re amazing and literally stopped me in my tracks, but before I show you that, here they are when they’re just starting out, braving the frost and the devouring insects.

Surprise package (Royal fern)

Evergreen fern

Cinnamon fern (and Canadian mayflower)

Just like in their adult state, the fiddleheads all have distinct features and characteristics. Look closely at this next one, can you spot the texture change at the heart of the spiral? Those are spores, the way ferns and other ancient plants reproduce and spread their genes. Only a few Christmas fern fronds carry the spores per plant (I love turning the fronds over to look for them, like Braille they are raised dots). I was just lucky that this gorgeous little fiddlehead was one of them.

Christmas fern

Some ferns come in more than just green, like sensitive fern. Its leaves are green, but the stems are red.

Sensitive fern

Most people have heard of fiddleheads as something to eat. A seasonal item that shows up in some grocery stores. From my reading those are ostrich ferns and the only ones absolutely safe to eat. A friend of mine told me that par-boiling them before sauteing will leach out the bitterness and make them much more delicious. I keep meaning to mark a big grove of ostrich fern and collect some fiddleheads in the spring, but I always forget. They’re some of the earliest that fully unfurl and they are some of the most beautiful.

Ostrich fern

Interrupted fern gets its name from the specialized leaves that interrupt the pattern of the entire frond. Instead of tucking spores underneath the tips of some fronds, this species hosts them on all the stems and locates them in the middle instead. I love evolution.

Revelry (Interrupted fern)

Here’s the trail shot I promised. Cinnamon fern dominates, but now I’ve explored it in the early stages, I know they share with interrupted, evergreen, royal, sensitive, ostrich and wood fern.

This side of paradise

For more ferny goodness, visit my gallery.


Elusive Flora

So this isn’t a wildflower, but I’m going to put it in my Elusive Wildflowers category because it’s got to go somewhere. There is also some irony in this little story, too, and that’s always fun.

As I said in my last post, this will most likely be my final spring in New Hampshire. When we move from Wisconsin in 10-15 years it will be to our retirement home which most likely won’t be anywhere east of the Mississippi. Funny that Wisconsin just squeaks by being east of it as its boundary with Minnesota is the river itself.

Springtime is wonderful for many things, but high on that list is the ferns. I love them in any season, but spring is especially great for photographing them. That fiddlehead stage is hard to beat. The unfurling is graceful and enigmatic. Especially when it’s a fern I’ve been hunting for years. In New England I’ve only ever found it under cultivation and in the wild only on the Pacific coast; northern California and Oregon. It’s maidenhair fern. One of the most ethereal and barely-there ferns I’ve ever encountered.

Stir of Life

I went to the Plainfield Wildflower Sanctuary, a property owned by the New England Wildflower Society and while it’s not a traditional nature preserve (no trails) it has an abundance of ferns. Flowers, too, of course, but it was early yet (the hundreds of trout lily had all gone by though). While I was crouched down photographing a purple trillium and waiting for the endless breeze to cheese it for a second, I did a double take. Is that? Could it be?? OMG!!! A solitary maidenhair plant. Jaw dropped. You would have had a good laugh at my expression and how fast I abandoned the pedestrian flower.

A slight trembling

Actually I was on my way out of the sanctuary. There wasn’t much blooming apart from some early saxifrage and the purple trillium, so I decided to head back home. That’s when I came upon my Moby Dick of the fern world. Then, like so many other plants in the under-story, once I saw one, others began materializing out of the landscape. Soon I found myself amid a very large swath of the plants. In more directly sunny patches, they were further along in their growth, but none were fully unfurled.

Sursurrus

Patience is not my strong suit, but I exercised it to the best of my ability for these images. Even breathing stirs the delicate leaves of maidenhair fern. The spiral structure of the plant itself seems designed primarily to catch the least stirring in the air. It sets them fluttering, muttering in their own mysterious dance. Even low down amidst dozens of plants the ethereal, feathery quality lingers and they seem to slip sideways and disappear from view.

Hopefully they don’t continue to elude me in my new home. Ironic though that I finally find them and have to say goodbye so soon.

 


Fate and the Irony of Bloodroot

This post is going to be dual purpose. To showcase these beautiful flowers and to announce that this will probably be a short wildflower season for me here in NH. And probably the last for the foreseeable future. I’m moving out of New Hampshire. Out of New England too.

Wisconsin.

That’s where I’m headed. Husband took a great job out there and it happened so fast that it’s been really crazy for me. And on an even more unbelievable note, we found the perfect house.

So with the hook set, let’s talk about bloodroot. It’s another in my Elusive Wildflower series and it has a strange history with me. Well maybe not strange, but difficult. I’ve combed the woods for it in spots where it is said to grow, but like pinesap, it would not show itself to me. Once a photographer I know slightly posted some photos and when asked, refused to tell me the location. A flower. Riiiiiight.

Then another photographer I know slightly did reveal the location where he shot and I got to see these beauties in all their strange glory. But they were closed up. Not fully bloomed. I went back to the place the next day and shot them again. Better luck, but it was only that one time. I’ve never found them again outside of the cultivated beds at The Garden in the Woods.

But it was there that I recognized some leaves I photographed once back in 2012.

There Will Come Soft Rains

And wouldn’t you know it, the plants were in a bit of conservation land about a minute’s drive from my house. Seriously. The trailhead is just a tad over a mile door to door, so to speak. Unbelievable. And I remembered there being masses of these leaves on both sides of the trail. So with that in mind I put a reminder in my calendar for the following year. I knew right where to look.

The first time I headed out, it was a bit early and I didn’t see any sign of bloodroot anywhere. That is until I almost trod on one.

First blush

In my limited experience, pink isn’t a usual color for these flowers, but another photographer on the web mentioned he sees them blushing like this fairly often when they first emerge. The color doesn’t stay though and that makes me doubly glad I spied this little beauty. Plus look at the colors in the leaves!

I meant to get down to this location often to record their lifecycle in more depth, but I got sick as a dog and couldn’t (I was when I shot this image, all those to come and I’m still sick as I type this…the cold that won’t die!).

Welcoming Warmth

Luckily when I did return, I caught them at their fullest blooming. The petals catch even the slightest breeze and after they’re pollinated, leaving a seed pod, they blow away in drifts of white.

Just how beautiful you are

This time I found so many it was hard to walk among them. Hard to find nicely arranged little groups and even harder to find isolated specimens. I had time though. Lots of time and I found some in sun and some in shade. Some with friends and some alone. Enjoy.

Singular Stance

in black and white

Lowdown highlights

The place is blanketed in them and they were wonderful. Ironic huh? That the mother lode turns out to be two minutes from my house. They were hiding in plain sight all along.

But it doesn’t end there. In exploring the wooded lot of the house we’re buying in Wisconsin, what should I discover right next to the driveway? Bloodroot. Welcome home.