Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Might As Well Enjoy It

I'm not going to pretend I was happy to see all that snow yesterday. But I WAS happy when Ed Miller called to invite me out to enjoy it today. Ed's a great guy who is always fun to be with, but he's especially fun on a walk through a winter woods that no one else would find the least bit interesting. A field botanist beyond compare, Ed always finds really cool stuff to study along the way, and today was no exception.

OK, I have to admit that the snow was really gorgeous, dazzling under a bright blue sky, pretty as a picture clinging to pine boughs along the trails at the Wilton Wildlife Preserve. Lots of folks were out today, whizzing along those trails on skis or trudging along on snowshoes as we were doing, but most folks passed us by as we stopped every few yards or so to examine our surroundings. Here's something Ed taught me today: that Sugar Maple buds are sharply pointed, unlike the chubby rounded buds of other maples. Here's a photo of one.

When all other greenery is buried under heaps of snow, there will always be bark gardens to enjoy. What a great mix we have here of liverworts, mosses, and lichens.

The dark brown branching stuff in the photo above is a liverwort called Frullania, of which there are just scads of species, requiring microscopic study to tell apart. I wonder if this green-colored liverwort is another species of Frullania, or some other kind of liverwort altogether. Even Ed didn't know.

I was intrigued by the frozen beads of sap dripping down inside this woodpecker-drilled hole. (As most folks could probably tell by now, I am easily amused.)

After trudging through only lightly trodden snow as we made our way through a pine forest, we were relieved to find this beautifully groomed trail that made for easier going. Here we made a little detour to explore a wetland surrounding a brook.

The banks of the brook were vivid with the bright red stems of dogwood shrubs. At first glance, I assumed they were all Red Osier Dogwood, but Ed encouraged me to take a closer look.

At this time of year, the stems of Silky Dogwood are almost as red as those of Red Osier, but up close the differences in their barks becomes quite evident. The Silky (on the left) has long vertical lenticels, while the Red Osier had lenticels that look like small round dots. I did not know that, but now I do. Thanks for the lesson, Ed.

We both immediately recognized this little Maple-leaved Viburnum, the shadow of its berries so beautifully cast on the sparkling snow.


The Cranky Crone, she lives alone! said...

How lovely for you to have Ed, I wish I had an Ed to go prowling around my woody haunts. I am usually left just wondering this and that, thinking when I get home i will look it up......then I forget or cannot even think how to pose the question! Im enjoying wandering through your jaunts with you though :-)

asita said...

Thanks for the tip of ID-ing dogwoods. That will be helpful. It sure looks gorgeous out there, I'm glad you got out!

asita said...

And does the woodpecker eat that sap?

Louise said...

I'm hitting the trails today, if "the creek don't rise and the boat don't sink." I'm going to make it a point to look for the differences in dogwoods, so thanks for the lesson!

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Hello Cranky, asita, and Louise. Thanks for stopping by to leave your comments. I do love hearing from you. Yes, indeed, I am very lucky to have knowledgeable friends like Ed to answer my every question as we wander the woods together. As for the sap, asita, I'm not sure. There are woodpeckers specifically called Sapsuckers who drill lots of holes in trees in order to get at sap, but this hole looked like the kind drilled to forage for insects. Other critters, like squirrels and Mourning Cloak butterflies, will eat that sap, for sure.