Shoots, Leaves, and Flowers

010The trees are still bare, but that doesn’t mean there’s no greenery in the forest. The weather was finally warm and sunny again this afternoon, so I took off for a walk to see what I could find. These green shoots sprouting in the bog are the beginnings of blue flag iris (Iris versicolor):


In the slightly higher, drier habitat of the forest floor, the tiny partridgeberry plants (Mitchella repens) have been waiting all winter for the snow to melt and the sun to return:

008And, on the way back from my walk, I got very excited to spot hepatica in bloom. Hepatica flowers are my favorite sign of spring.

012After the long, long winter, spring is finally asserting itself. And I have a big transition of my own coming up – watch for a new post on Saturday with a major announcement.

P.S. Are you – yes, YOU – interested in writing a guest post for Rebecca in the Woods while I’m in the backcountry in a few weeks? If so, get in touch with me using the “Contact Me” link above. See the previous post for more details.

Leatherwood in Bloom

We have two shrub-sized plants here with similar names: leatherleaf and leatherwood. Leatherleaf (Chamaedaphne calyculata) is the shrub that carpets the bogs, green in summer and russet-brown in fall and winter. Leatherwood (Dirca palustris) is a plant of the forest understory, and most of the year I walk past it without even noticing it’s there, but at a certain point in spring it catches my attention.

004Its leaves don’t amount to much yet, but this is leatherwood in full flower, with tiny yellow-green blossoms along each twig.

002Not every flower is big or colorful – just look at the flowers of the wind-pollinated aspen in my last post for another example. There are all sorts of different strategies for plants to achieve pollination, and there are all sorts of different flowers as a result.

Slope Aspect and Snowmelt

With high temperatures reaching the fifties this week, the snow is finally – and slooooowly – starting to melt. However, it doesn’t melt at a uniform rate everywhere on the property. A number of factors can affect how fast the snow melts in a particular spot, one of which is aspect, the direction a slope faces.

Here is what the northern shore of one of the lakes on campus looked like this morning:


And here’s the southern shore of the same lake:


On the northern side of the lake, the sloping shore is facing toward the south, so it gets more sun each day and the snow melts faster as a result. You can see this same effect just driving along the roads here, with bare ground on the northern side of the road while the southern side still has a layer of snow.

I’m going to be donning long underwear and snowshoes to trek into the woods this afternoon, but there is a glimmer of hope in our weather forecast for the weekend!


“Heyyy, Sweetie”

The woods this morning may have looked (and felt – more sub-zero temperatures) like the depths of winter…

Frost on fir needles.
Frost on fir needles.
Entrance to a squirrel's cache under the snow.
Entrance to a squirrel’s cache under the snow.
Looking out across the snowy lake.
Looking out across the snowy lake.

But they sounded like the very first stirrings of spring: for the first time this year, I heard chickadees practicing their whistle songs and woodpeckers drumming in the trees.

Listen to these sounds yourself at the Macaulay Library website by clicking on the links below:

Five Things I Have Said to Children

Photos are from my walk this evening and admittedly have nothing to do with the text.

  1. No, turtles don’t bite.

    Wild blueberry
  2. What are those stick insects doing? They’re… well… they’re making more stick insects.

    Something purple
  3. Go ahead and rub the mud on your face. Mud is good for your skin. People go to spas and pay lots of money to get mud like this rubbed on them.

  4. Yes, I know it’s raining, but your skin is waterproof.

    The only time of year I don’t think Canada Geese are annoying
  5. That’s okay, it’s good luck to get pooped on by a bird!

Wildflowers Yet to Come

Spring unfolds at a slower pace here. In Ohio, the hepaticas were the first of a profuse riot of wildflowers. Here in the North Woods, the hepaticas bloomed weeks ago and I’m still waiting to see much else. Instead, the forest floor is spangled with wildflowers yet to come.

They’ll bloom soon enough. In the meantime, it looks like spring is still playing a waiting game.