It certainly does not feel like winter! The lack of snow is a little worrisome for the spring wild mushroom season (two lack-luster morel seasons in a row would not be acceptable!!), but it is certainly extending our pre-and post- summer exploring.
Walking in the woods while most plants and deciduous trees are dormant allows you to see all the ‘other’ things – the lichens and the mosses, treasures that are usually hidden beneath a layer of ferns, the hills, lumps and valleys that are usually obscured by foliage.
Our explorations this week took us around Copps Pond in Tuftonboro. That area used to be an old dump site for the town, so it made a unique landscape – the mad-made pile overgrown with grapevines, Oriental bittersweet (ugh), and moss. Littered around the edges were lots of bottles, my favorite will the small, half-buried ones that made cozy little terrarium-like homes for ferns and moss.
From 1935-1964 it was required that all bottles be labeled with “FEDERAL LAW FORBIDS SALE OR REUSE OF THIS BOTTLE.” This law was enacted to deter bootleggers from refilling and reselling those bottles after Prohibition. I’m not sure how effective it was….
“John Cillon & Co, Glascow Scotland” was engraved along the bottom of this bottle. Google could give me anymore information about John Cillon, but I’m going to guess it was whiskey :).
A blue log! This blue coloring is caused by a Chlorociboria species mushroom. All mushrooms of the Chlorociboria genus produce xylindein, which turns the wood underneath it this awesome blue-green color. This wood has historically been used in wood inlays, such as in Tunbridge ware.
The BEST part of the day, though, was a new swamp! We had never been back here before, and although we knew there was potential, one never knows until you actually walk it. Places like this really are my favorite. Sphagnum moss everywhere. Last years’s orchid seed pods sticking up through the snow. Hello.
On the left is Platanthera clavellata, or a little club-spur bog orchid, and on the right is Corallorhiza trifida, or early coral-root. Platanthera clavellata is ranked S2 in Rhode Island, but stable in the other New England states. Corallorhiza is ranked in both Connecticut and Rhode Island, and is on the ‘watch list’ in New Hampshire. So…if you are in New Hampshire and happen upon it, please report it!
We find C. trifida to be quite common in our area, but we’ve heard that west and south of us it is a rarity.
Epilobium ciliatum, or fringed willow-herb, can be seen in bits of open running water in the spring.
Lichen! There were a few large rocks in this area covered by both Umbilicaria mammulata, or smooth rock tripe lichen, and Lasallia papulosa, or common toad skin lichen.
U. mammulata is commonly known as edible, but, well, I have not tried it. However, in a pinch, feel free to grab a handful! It’s supposed to be quite bitter, so a good boiling might help that. Scientific name lesson: this genus of lichen is attached it’s host by one small spot, usually near the center of lichen. Umbilicaria = umbilical. Easy! Smooth rock tripe is quite common and is easy to identify, smooth and varying shades of brown on top, black and rough on the underside.
Lasallia papulosa, or common toad skin lichen, is a little more interesting to look at. The lumps and the bumps, the black fruiting bodies (which I’m dying to get a macro shot of!)… so cool! These were dried specimen; when they are wet they are usually a green color.
Porpidia albocaerulescens, or smoky eye boulder lichen. Quite common, and again a pretty easy ID. Little grey disks with black borders. Let another lichen I’d really like to get a macro shot of. And no, these are not edible :).
Lesson of day? Don’t think that just because green things are not blooming that you can’t see amazing things in the woods. Get outside, and get dirty!