Moving from NH to Wisconsin means there’s lots of new territory to explore. Being a nature nut, one of the first areas to get my attention was Door County, but I didn’t get there until this year. Ok so it wasn’t that long a wait, but I knew I’d need an overnight trip at least and I was right. Next year it will probably be a couple of nights. There’s a lot of conservation land even on this relatively small peninsula on Lake Michigan.
First I started with The Ridges Sanctuary in Bailey’s Harbor. It is very easy to get to and although parking is tight, I got lucky both times I visited. The organization was founded to protect 30 fragile ridges that formed on the lake over 1000s of years and created subtle, yet distinct, micro-environments. That effort expanded and now the group protects 1600 acres in and around Bailey’s Harbor. Mainly I went for the wildflowers!
Wisconsin is host to many native orchids including coral root which is a saprophytic flower and you know how much I love that! Alas they weren’t blooming quite yet when I visited because the spring was so cold and rainy everything was late.
Even though the bigger and showier flowers are what get most of the attention here (like lady slippers), I found plenty of shy retiring types that were just as lovely, including twin flower which I’ve wanted to photograph for years, but never found any.
It was raining very slightly when I shot the twin flower. I’d hidden out in my car while a small thunderstorm cell came though then went right back out. It was fresh and lovely and there were even fewer people around than before the rain.
Being a photographer of very small things, I often have to wait quietly while the wind dies down or the light shifts and while often not exciting, things can surprise you. While I was hunkered down waiting out the breeze I heard a persistent scuffling just in front of me. I didn’t move, but kept trying to see what was making the sound. Lo and behold, a porcupette climbed down one tree, moved to another and made its way up. I didn’t see mom, but she was around as a later conversation with a fellow visitor would bear out. She was on the same path and saw them both. Very cool. I also spotted this lovely water snake when many people just rushed past or gave me a strange look wondering why I was taking a picture of ‘nothing’.
My second day in Door County brought me to another of the Ridges properties, Logan Creek. I didn’t shoot much, but enjoyed my time there and on my way back to the car ran into another photographer who suggested I visit Toft Point for my final stop as it has tons of wildflower, is right on Lake Michigan and was easy to get to. Good suggestion and I got a few more shots I like despite the harsh light in some of them.
Toft Point is a State Natural Area and covers a bit over 700 acres which is amazing in this part of the lake where you just know if it hadn’t been set aside, would be covered in houses. It was given to Kersten Toft in lieu of money for work done at a local limestone quarry. The family loved it so much they didn’t clear it of trees or exploit its natural resources or beauty. Yes they did live there, but lightly. While many outbuildings survive and have been restored, the original Toft house is only a bit of foundation. The meadows are beautiful and there’s even an old kiln made of stone. Many of the cabins look habitable and I don’t know if they’re rented out, but I think they were previously used by students conducting various studies and projects.
It is a haven for flowers. You do have to go off trail to find them, but they are there.
So there you have it – my first, but not last, trip to Door County.
Wisconsin winters certainly seem longer and bleaker than NH winters. When things turn it seems so slowly that I think I know for the first time what spring fever is. Being cooped up with hardly any color or seeming life around can get on me a little even though I do enjoy winter quite a bit. Spring though. There’s nothing like it. And of course the flowers.
Round-lobed hepatica starts us off!
These are both shots from the yard. I used to have to drive 45 minutes to find these little lovelies, but not I just walk outside. They’re everywhere, but I love them still and marvel at their proliferation and toughness.
Sometimes the choice to go to black and white isn’t obvious. With this next picture I was playing with a moonlight simulation in Lightroom for a while, but it kept getting paler and paler until I finally knocked all the color back. I like the mix of detail and blur, the solidity of the stems and the muted exuberance of the flowers themselves.
Bloodroot is another flower I used to travel all over to find and now just have to step outside to see. My yard and the surrounding area is covered with them. They’re hard to shoot, but I keep trying. Those leaves are just so wonderful that when the light catches them just right, they become the focus, not the about to bloom flower.
Of course, finding wonder and joy in my own backyard isn’t new. I used to do it in New Hampshire all the time even though my yard was much smaller. Curiosity is the key to staying engaged in photography even though your horizons may be limited, either by the weather, time, physical ability or whatever. As long as you can keep your sense of wonder intact, subjects for your sensor will keep appearing and, more importantly, keep appealing.
We get a lot of rain up this way and so when I found some collected between the leaves of as of yet still unknown flower, I got right down on it and just look at what I found –
A reflection of the trees above and yes, my camera. It was fascinating to me and I’m glad I slowed down to explore my yard in more detail. I ducked out of the frame and so now it looks like some alien probe from Star Wars checking out what’s down there.
So that’s my first wildflower post of 2017. There will be more. As of this writing I’ve found a spot that was literally carpeted in spring ephemerals and I shot some flowers I’ve never photographed before. I’m also planning a trip to Door County in June to visit a wildflower preserve so that should be really fun. Stay tuned!
My ongoing fascination with Indian pipe continues. This first one I almost didn’t see, being hot and sweaty with bug spray running into my eyes, I just wanted a blast of air conditioning in the car. But I went down a little side trail and on the way back, this little beauty appeared.
Background is key to good wildflower photography and so with some careful tripod placement I was able to get the distracting highlights out of the frame. When I shoot Indian pipe, I expose for the highlights, just barely clipping some whites at times, but managing that in Lightroom is key also. Preserving detail, but keeping the bright white takes a little finagling, but it can be done.
Here’s another with a background of green; this time a lovely mossy log. I’d have liked a better angle on the log itself, but that would have meant that some flowers would be sharp while others would be blurry. Lining up the angles is sometimes hard, but I do try. In this case the sensor is so much smaller than the scene and it wasn’t too difficult. A couple of checks in the LCD screen and some tripod shifting and I had the focus I wanted. When the sunlight hit I had a shot I love.
In northern Wisconsin we still get frost and freezing overnight temps well into May. What’s a demure beauty to do? Get tough. Spring beauty is one of the most hardy wildflowers we have and though it’s quite small and looks fragile, it survives almost anything Mother Nature can throw at it.
In addition to frigid temperatures, spring beauty can, and does, flourish in nutrient-depleted areas like housing developments and deforested areas like farms. It’s pretty undemanding.
Here in the yard though, there’s no skimping on soil nutrients, they grow in the lawn as well as in the woods where they have to push up through some very deep leaf litter.
They’re still blooming and I think I’ll have to go pick some because in addition to being adorable, they’re edible! The roots are actually tuberous, like potatoes, and it’s said they taste very similar, albeit sweeter and kind of chestnut-y so far as I could tell from info online. They can be eaten raw or cooked so I’ll have to get out there and get some while they’re at the peak of ripeness.
When I lived in NH I could spend a lot of time out in my yard photographing all kinds of small things. I had barely 1/4 of an acre or something and it was pretty anemic being basically a giant sand pile. But for a person like me who can see beauty in just about anything, it was adequate. Now I live in Wisconsin I have a bigger yard plus many vacant lots nearby and so the camera fodder is exponentially expanded. I could get lost out there for hours at a time and the other day I did just that when the hepatica first started blooming.
In NH I had to drive about 45 minutes to reach a location with these flowers and did so because of their delicate beauty. Now I just have to walk outside. Funny.
Their presentation is a bit different than where I used to shoot them. The leaf litter here is really, really deep because we only have deciduous trees in our yard (the conifers were harvested over a decade ago by the original land owner). This means very few of the plants have a lot of leaves and most of them are buried. So it was a challenge to find them at first, but boy, they are everywhere.
I went out when the sun was still low and I love the different aspects it produces, like this backlit group that I converted to black and white. It really picks up the fuzzy stems which I love. With a bit of cloud cover, the light softened a bit and for this really big group next to my driveway, it was a perfect way to emphasize their soft beauty. They’re kind of an ethereal flower; nothing at all aggressive or bold about them.
They open with the sun and on cloudy days most remain closed, which I have photographed before and had great results, but on this day it was sun, sun, sun.
Yes, they really are that color. Intense, slightly bluish purple; the deepest shade I’ve ever seen. From what I’ve observed, the purple ones are closer to the water than the white ones. I have no idea if that is random or not, but it seems to be consistent. I went across the street (away from the water) and there were no purples, only white.
I did my best to isolate some of the blossoms against the backdrop of last year’s leaves. I just love how it makes them really pop. Not all of them are purple or white, we have this lovely group of pink ones just next to the lawn. I only spotted one other plant with pink flowers. Puzzling.
All were shot with the legacy Olympus 90mm macro at f8 or wider.
They’re still blooming and so there will be more shots coming, but the bloodroot is also coming into season and so are the trout lily, of which we have thousands in the yard. Behind them, trillium in equal numbers. It’s going to be a busy spring!
Another that is not elusive in the sense that it’s rare, but that I’ve always had lousy timing with it and this year was no exception. I think given more time I’d have found lots of it blooming at once, but as it was I found one single flower among hundreds of plants. It was pretty funny actually and I endured the mosquitoes at Bradford Bog in order to capture its solitary loveliness.
Clintonia is also called bluebead lily (for the longest time I thought it was bluebeard lily and couldn’t figure out for the life of me why it would be called that, then I put on my glasses). Bluebead makes a lot more sense. Lilies produce seed pods after the flowers are pollinated and the ones this flower makes are apparently true blue; a relative rarity in the natural world. Its other name is in honor of DeWitt Clinton who was governor of New York from 1817 to 1822 and again from 1825 to 1828. The Erie canal was built during his terms. I’m not sure what he did to have a flower named for him, but there are worse things.
I wouldn’t have even noticed it had I hadn’t gone off trail to photograph a painted trillium, which despite their ubiquity, I cannot resist. Lucky for me since this single flower was just yards away. Seriously it was the only one. I looked and looked. Nope. Just one early bloomer.
One of these days I hope to photograph a mass of them since that’s how they grow. The trouble is they bloom during the most intense part of mosquito season and the onslaught is really vicious. They have a quiet beauty though. The petals are pale yellow and rise gracefully from a pair, or sometimes a trio, of large, light green leaves which are similar to trout lily and sometimes people mistake them for lady slipper. Trout lily leaves are smaller and mottled with brown or tan, while lady slipper leaves are fuzzy and ribbed.
Despite the horde of bloodsuckers who tormented me all the while I shot, I enjoyed being there and like the results. Mostly it was from the changeable light and the fact that I was in an Atlantic White Cedar swamp, one of my favorite ecosystems and one I will probably not encounter again for a long time.
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.
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.
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.
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!).
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.
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.
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.
I found some!!
I found some!!
I barely know where to start this post other than to say that anyone witnessing me photographing these would have thought me crazy. It was almost an act of reverence. The fact that they were in a messy state and jammed up next to a pile of dead branches made it difficult to deal with them, but damn, I found some. Like the nut that I am, I took a picture with my phone and emailed my husband about it. He was happy for me, but probably relieved, too, that he wasn’t with me and didn’t have to stand around doing nothing but watch me for who knows how long. He gets enough of that as it is.
After I stopped my happy dance and restarted my heart (just kidding), the first thing that struck me is how different they are from the type I found earlier this year. Clearly there are big differences with this flower and what I found this time was the late blooming type, which in my book was pictured exactly this color and this size. They’re really that bright. Honest. No hue or saturation sliders were abused during the processing. And they’re little – the size of typical indian pipe which is 3-5 inches high. The other type is much larger.
Despite all my reference sources saying there are two genetically distinct varieties of this plant, they both have the same scientific name – Monotropa hypopitys. There is also Sweet Pinesap (Monotropsis odorata) which only grows in the mid-Atlantic states. It mostly resembles the early blooming type, but also has two blooming seasons itself. The later one is lilac colored, but unlike its earlier blooming friends it has no fragrance (it hangs onto that name though). Its flowers come outof crisp little wrappers, too. That would be really cool to see. Maybe someday.
As you can see, not a scrap of green on these babies which makes them saprophytic. Like others in this family, pinesap is a mycotroph which means it uses fungus in the soil to facilitate the transfer of nutrients, sometimes directly from the roots of nearby plants.
While I worked with the flowers, I lost track of time and luckily no one came by. Considering the number of dogs in this conservation property, I’m shocked the flowers were still there and not destroyed. They were right on the side of the trail.
When I left, I gently covered them with a fallen branch that still had leaves on it; better to protect them maybe, I don’t know. I hope they live to be pollinated and can spread their seeds around so they come up again next year. So long as the fungus doesn’t die, either.
As you probably figured, the Olympus 90mm was on duty for this momentous event.
Even with the naked eye they are fuzzy, unlike indian pipe which has smooth petals. I don’t know if the yellow or early blooming pinesap is also fuzzy, but I think it is judging by the ones I found. Reminds me of the differences between nectarines and peaches. Both are sweet and talismans of summer and I hope I get to savor them again next year.