Category Archives: Flora

Oak Sentinel

At the right time of year, it’s almost impossible to not notice the abundance of acorns in places near the top of Elk Mountain.

On a walk several years ago, I gathered, and planted a few in the side yard.

Now, this tree and a few of it’s kin planted nearby, conspicuous seasonal sentinels, splash the last glimpses of color as autumn fades, nods toward winter.

Dragon tongue bean

Dragon tongue bean

Curiosity got the better of me earlier this summer, when I came across a small plastic envelope labelled “Pole beans” that had hid in a kitchen drawer for the better part of a decade.

Uncertain if they were still viable, on a whim, I planted them expecting flat green beans. I became pleasantly surprised as the seeds sprouted into dramatic Dragon tongue beans.

Wikipedia reports:

Dragon tongue bean is a flavorful, juicy bean whose seeds are encased in a buffed colorful pod with mottled burgundy patterns throughout the shell’s surface. The shelled beans are pale pistachio green in color, their size, petite, and their shape, ovate and slightly curved.

Dragon tongue bean can be harvested, picked and used for their pods as well as for their seeds like a green bean (snap bean) or allowed to mature into a shell bean for using their seeds only.

Climbing Nightshade

Climbing Nightshade

Wikipedia reports:

Solanum dulcamara, also known as climbing nightshade, bittersweet nightshade, blue bindweed, Amara Dulcis, felonwood, poisonberry, scarlet berry, snakeberry,… is a species of vine in the potato genus Solanum, family Solanaceae. It is native to Europe and Asia, and widely naturalised elsewhere, including North America, where it is an invasive problem weed.

Solanum dulcamara has been valued by herbalists since ancient Greek times. In the Middle Ages the plant was thought to be effective against witchcraft, and was sometimes hung around the neck of cattle to protect them from the “evil eye”.

John Gerard’s Herball (1597) states that “the juice is good for those that have fallen from high places, and have been thereby bruised or beaten, for it is thought to dissolve blood congealed or cluttered anywhere in the intrals and to heale the hurt places.”

Mock Orange

This blossom, and a bunch of it’s kin has populated a bush in the yard. Not that they’ve not done so other years, but this bush doesn’t seem to blossom but every few years.

When it does, however, walking past it on trips to the mailbox are delightful!

The blossoms emanate a wonderful scent, just days after the Black Locust blossoms have peaked.

Even with midsummer’s night still days away, it’s hard to imagine the woods and the forests getting any thicker, greener, or more lush.

 

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

Philadelphus coronarius (sweet mock-orange, English dogwood) is a species of flowering plant in the family Hydrangaceae, native to Southern Europe. It is a deciduous shrub growing to 3 m (10 ft) tall by 2.5 m (8 ft) wide, with toothed leaves and bowl-shaped white flowers with prominent stamens. In the species the blooms are abundant and very fragrant, but less so in the cultivars. It may resemble, but is not related to varieties of the similarly named dogwood, which is the common name for Cornus in the family Cornaceae.

Philadelphus coronarius
The specific epithet coronarius means “used for garlands”.

Black Locust

Many years ago during a Summer drought when mowing the yard became unnecessary for a couple of weeks, this tree became prominent in the yard.  When rain returned and the yard wanted mowing, on a whim, I cut around the tree and let it grow.

Now, taller than the house it grows north of, this tree has become somewhat of an indicator of just how fast decades pass.

Wikipedia reports:

The black locust is native to the eastern United States, but the exact native range is not accurately known as the tree has been cultivated and is currently found across the continent, in all the lower 48 states, eastern Canada, and British Columbia. The native range is thought to be two separate populations, one centered about the Appalachian Mountains, from Pennsylvania to northern Georgia, and a second westward focused around the Ozark Plateau and Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas, Oklahoma and Missouri.

Black locust’s current range has been expanded by humans distributing the tree for landscaping and now includes Australia, Canada, China, Europe, India, Northern and South Africa, temperate regions in Asia, New Zealand, Southern South America.[8]

Black locust is an interesting example of how one plant can be considered an invasive species even on the same continent it is native to. For example, within the western United States, New England region, and in the Midwest, black locust is considered an invasive species. In the prairie and savanna regions of the Midwest black locust can dominate and shade open habitats.[9] These ecosystems have been decreasing in size and black locust is contributing to this, when black locust invades an area it will convert the grassland ecosystem into a forested ecosystem where the grasses are displaced.[10] Black locust has been listed as invasive in Connecticut and Wisconsin, and prohibited in Massachusetts.[1]

In Australia black locust has become naturalized within Victoria, New South Wales, South, and Western Australia. It is considered an environmental weed there.[8] In South Africa, it is regarded as a weed because of its habit suckering

Bleeding Heart

Snow drops are long gone, lilacs faded, peonies swollen to near bursting.

These bleeding hearts punctuate the yard as green now assumes its full summer presence, fleshing out leaves, filling woods, surfacing meadows as first cutting, late this year, nears.

Finally sun this week, respite from days on end of cold May rain. Seeing so many Mays, some damp and chill, some near tropical, makes one somewhat patient for Summer to express herself, reveal which demeanor this year she’ll assume.

Some Summers keep us pale skinned and fleeced almost the whole time that they’re around. Some leave feet, mostly bare or shod in flip flops through Dog Days, sole toughened and tan lined.

 

 

 

 

Common Periwinkle

Even more so than usual, any gaze cast on the neighborhood illuminates beauty.

Far across the valley, buds, impatient to leaf, nearly glow white, yellow, gold, rust, and every shade of green.

Light green conifer tips shed brown husks that had jacketed them since late Autumn.

Now pollen clouds puff from limbs like powder, like snow did this Winter when wind first picked up ending a snowfalls calm.

Nearby flowerbeds promise Peonies, explode with Periwinkle, begging the question “to where is venomous Myrtle running?”.

In between near and far, Lilacs range every purple shade of which they are capable.

Grifola frondosa

Grifola frondosa
Grifola frondosa

Recently a friend stopped by in my driveway and said “Hey, want a mushroom?”

“Sure!” I replied, knowing that in addition to being a renowned watercolorist and fisherman, he was an avid mushroom hunter.

He must have seen the look of uncertainty on my face when he revealed the hen-of-the-woods from the darkness of his auto trunk.

“Just rinse it as you would any other mushroom, and check the nooks and crannies for any critters that may have taken up residence. Slice, saute, and enjoy!”

The mushroom sat in the fridge for a day. I tried to think of neighbors knowledgeable of such things to whom I could pass on the mushroom. But realizing this as an opportunity to step out of my comfort zone (I had never knowingly eaten a wild mushroom), I followed my friend’s instructions, and gently fried the mushrooms in olive oil, wine, and some lemon juice.

The result? Magnificent! The taste of the mushroom was somewhat like store-boughten mushroom, with a delightful hint of gaminess. The texture made one think they were eating meat – very satisfying.

I enjoyed some of the mushroom immediately after cooking it, added some to a fresh vegetable soup I was making, and put a bit in the freezer hoping that some early winter evening, I’ll bust out the rest of that mushroom from the freezer, and enjoy a taste of a sunny, early autumn day.

Excerpted From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

“Grifola frondosa is a polypore mushroom that grows in clusters at the base of trees, particularly oaks. The mushroom is commonly known among English speakers as hen of the woods, hen-of-the-woods, ram’s head and sheep’s head. It is typically found in late summer to early autumn. In the United States’ supplement market, as well as in Asian grocery stores, the mushroom is known by its Japanese name maitake (舞茸, “dancing mushroom”). Throughout Italian American communities in the northeastern United States, it is commonly known as the signorina mushroom…

The fungus is native to the northeastern part of Japan and North America, and is prized in traditional Chinese and Japanese herbology as a medicinal mushroom, an aid to balance out altered body systems to a normal level. It is widely eaten in Japan, and its popularity in western cuisine is growing, although the mushroom has been alleged to cause allergic reactions in rare cases.”