May 6- road clean and forest walk

This morning, I did my monthly “road clean” walk around the half-block, picking up trash with a crew of visitors.   I’ve been working on a theory that the most pleasant (and unpleasant) weather of the year happens roughly six weeks after solstice and/or equinox.  So, first week of May and November= most pleasant weather of the year; first week of February and August = most unpleasant.  For the most part, this theory has held up, as the last week has been as springtime-glorious as one could ever hope for, but today was drizzly, overcast, and unseasonably cold, like “bust out the sweaters that you just put up in the attic” cold.  Ennyhoo, here’s some of what I saw out there today:

Walking past our neighbor’s field, filled with buttercups.  It seems like the fields that are more heavily grazed by cattle or other animals have more buttercups– maybe because the animals don’t eat them so there is less competition from other grasses?Image

Another photo of the same buttercup-filled field.Image

I’ve mentioned before that, in many places, the spring colors of new leaves oddly matches the fall colors of old leaves.  This is especially apparent in the leaves of this young red oak.Image

I’ve been coming across lots of these gauzy nests, filled to the brim with tent caterpillars.  These were on a dead tree, but I think that the tree was already dead, I don’t think the caterpillars killed it.Image

Say what you will about April showers and May flowers, but it seems like the greatest profusion of bright blooms actually happens in April around here.  There are still many flowers around, both planted and wild, but nothing as spectacular as the flowering trees and floral abundance of last month.  The wildflowers I saw along this walk tended to be more of the small and muted variety, although there were a lot of them.

This plant in particular was especially abundant, massing along the roadside and in fields.  Image

Here is a close-up of the flower itself.  I think that it might be something in the Antennaria family, based on a small amount of internet and book research.

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There was also a lot of wild strawberry growing along the side of the road.Image

And these tiny delicate flowers, which look like some sort of white vetch…Image

Also, these cool-looking spikes of white flowers, whatever they are…Image

And finally, this plant, which I’ve been seeing all over, but I haven’t been able to identify.  Finally, with the help of the Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide (which just arrived in the mail today), I was able to identify it!  It’s a perfoliate bellwort (U. perfoliata), and you can read all about it at http://www.sierrapotomac.org/W_Needham/Bellwort_060507.htm

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As we neared the end of the road clean, we came across a neighbor’s “animal farm,” complete with emus.  This heavily-grazed field was a carpet of yellow buttercups, which gives some evidence to the theory that buttercups thrive in areas where other plants have been more heavily grazed.Image

Another clear sign of spring– piglets!IMG_4189

When we finished the road clean, I decided to walk back home through the woods, rather than on the trail, just to see what I could see.  Some of what I saw included this cool salamander, which was scurrying around near some mushrooms I was checking out.

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I’ve started seeing this type of mushroom growing on decayed wood.  I’m not sure what it is– one of dozens of species of “LBM’s,” but it’s cool to see the variety and diversity of mushrooms in the woods seems to be increasing as the season progresses.
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And, of course, the ever-so-tasty oyster mushroom!Image

It was pretty cool walking through the woods in areas that I definitely walked through in winter/early spring, and not having a clear idea where I was.  The vegetation is so much thicker, the sight lines are much shorter, and I found myself in this small swamp of ferns and primitive horsetails with no idea if I had walked through here before.  If so, it certainly didn’t look like this the last time I was here.Image

And finally, I should mention an exception to the idea that the flowers of May have been more muted than the flowers of April had been.  This azalea, growing right outside of our dining hall in our primary meal-eating area, is about as bright as any flower, wild or cultivated, that I’ve seen this year.  It almost hurts your eyes to look at it!Image

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