Archive for November, 2014

The Grandmother Tree

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One of my tree friends, the Grandmother Tree, one of my tree friends, was still standing January 2011 and went down during a strong storm later that the year.

She grew on my rural property, near the creek and in view from “my rock” seat at the top of a short bluff. During many, many camping trips, I saw her in all seasons, different kinds of weather, different times of the day and under full moons.

Davis (my youngest son, now 34 years old) and I did a night hike one winter evening when he was in 4th grade. We laid with our heads near her trunk. The limbs made her look like a giant spider standing over us.

 One time  a raccoon tail hung out the hole on the side near the top. I would sit and lean against her and watch/listen to the water running in the creek just feet away.

It’s been nice to sit here and “walk” back through memories of the Grandmother Tree.

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Late Season Misc.

Buffy and I went for a short hike at Stone Face, a site in the Shawnee National Forest. We headed into the woods because fallen leaves filled the creek instead of water.

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A cranefly orchid leaf (Tipularia discolor) caught my attention first.

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More leaves grew in a cluster about ten feet away.

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The dark purple underside easily identifies their leaf.

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The leaves overwinter and die back before the flowers bloom in the fall.

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A silver maple used to grow down the hill to the north of the grassy sandstone barrens on rural property I own. Conditions were right for a healthy population of cranefly orchids … like 135 leaves scattered around under it. Sizes varied. A heritage biologist told me to not let anything happen to that tree! Years later the tree died, the canopy opened up, and most of the orchids went dormant and/or died.

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Grape ferns (Botrychium dissectum) commonly grew in the woods and will remain green through the winter.

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Surprise, surprise — a nodding lady’s tresses orchid (Spiranthes cernua). Its double spiral of white flowers bloomed in October.

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Putty root orchid leaves overwinter too, with their flowers blooming May into mid June.

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Their flowers blend in with their surroundings, and

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the seed stalks remain through the winter.

Mine and Buffy’s hike lasted about an hour. We hadn’t been out for a while and had a good time. She’s about to turn 10 years old, and ran around like a young whipper snapper.

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My oldest son had a knack for finding orchids when he was in grade school. I called him my “orchidontist.” He still wears that title and calls me to report in.

Spark of Color

I don’t know about you, but I could use a spark of color in the middle of this Arctic weather.

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So, this picture with a painted lady butterfly on a summer farewell aster

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certainly offers sparks of color.

A Cloudless Sulphur Butterfly

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The last cloudless sulphur butterfly (Phoebis sennae eubule) I saw was on September 29.

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It preferred the red salvia flowers.

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They migrate north through the summer to breed and return to the south in the fall. This translates into their numbers varying yearly.

Kenilworth Ivy

A patch of Kenilworth ivy (Cymbalaria aequitriloba) grows by the door on the north side of our house. It’s a family heirloom handed down from my great grandmother, who lived in New York. The vine is native to Spain and southern parts of Europe.

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We’ve had the freezing temperatures from the large Arctic front that moved through southern Illinois.

Obviously, the cold hasn’t affected the ivy.

Asiatic Day Flower

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The last Asiatic day-flower (Commelina communis)  bloomed in my yard almost a month ago. It added a spark of blue then, and adds a spark of blue to today’s winter-like cloudy, windy day.

Crab Spider

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Crab spiders come in different sizes, with females being the largest.

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The angle of the sunlight made this one easy to spot.

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Shadows later made it much less conspicuous.