Over the holiday weekend we headed North. We have a camp in Coos County, New Hampshire that we do not get to often enough! It’s an entirely different world up there, even besides the fact that it’s legal – and encouraged – to drive down the street on a four-wheeler rather than a car. Adventures up north have never let us down!
Our first stop was to see an monitored population of Coeloglossum viride or long bracted green orchid. We had not been planning on searching it out, but we were driving right by during bloom time, so we had to make the little detour!
Our main goal for the day was to explore a cedar swamp in Vermont. Calypso bulbosa, or fairy-slipper, has not been recorded in New Hampshire in a looooong time, but we are on a mission to find it. This cedar swamp had a record for C. bulbosa from the 1980’s, and if you can find the habitat, you can find the plant! Familiarizing ourselves with a known habitat should help us find similar habitats in which to look (and, of course, we would have been OK with finding an active fairy-slipper population at this spot, too!).
While we were not successful in our search for C. bulbosa, we did manage to spy Neottia cordata, or the heart leaved twayblade. There are four Neottia species in New England: Neottia auriculata (auricled twayblade), Neottia bifolia (southern twayblade), Neottia convallarioides (broad-leaved twayblade), and Neottia cordata (heart-leaved twayblade). All are ranked or historical in at least a few of the states; partially because of habitat, and partially, one would think, because they are so tiny! Even when actively looking for them, these little guys are incredibly hard to spot.
This will be either Neottia auriculata, or the auriculed twayblade, or Neottia convallarioides, the broad-leaved twayblade. Keith is leaning towards N. auriculata, while I think it’s more likely to be N. convallarioides. Chances are we won’t be back this way to see it bloom this year. Maybe next spring we’ll head back out to settle the bet…..
We stumbled across a full moose carcass in the swamp, old enough to be mostly bone, but still fresh enough to stink! The bones were covered with a variety of carcass-lovers, including this Ontholestes cingulatus, or gold and brown rove beetle. I had to call upon the knowledgeable folks on the “Insects of New England” facebook group to get a positive identification. Facebook groups are an invaluable online resource – whenever we are stuck on an ID we head straight to the applicable insect, moth, lichen, moss, plant, or mushroom board!
Per Tom Murray’s Insects of New England & New York, rove beetles (Staphylinidae) are the largest animal family in the world with over 55,000 species, 4,400 of which are found in North America. They feed on decaying matter – carcasses and rotting fungus are a favorite!
The foraging season is kicking into full gear! We do not focus on foraging, but if we see something delicious, we are certainly going to collect it! Cardamine diphylla, or two-leaved toothwort, is one of those things. If you’ve ever wanted to eat wasabi in salad form, these leaves are for you! I snacked on a few leaves every time we saw them this weekend. Also, it’s car-DAM-in-ee. We’ve been apparently pronouncing that incorrectly, and coming from two people who were both trained in classical Latin, that is quite embarrassing….
Sambucus racemosa, or red elderberry, is flowering in northern New Hampshire now! I collected enough flowers to fill a ball jar. After filling the jar with vodka it will sit for a few weeks, and I’ll give it a shake or two once in a while. After a good straining I’ll combine it with a simple syrup, and a homemade elderberry flower liquor it will be!
Fresh chicken! Laetiporus sulphureus, or chicken of the woods, is a favorite among foragers for, well, it’s chicken-like texture! This was a nice fresh example; later in the summer than can get tough and wormy. It’s quite distinct and easy to recognize; besides the bright orange/yellow color, it will be growing on decaying wood and the underside will NOT have gills or teeth. As with any wild mushroom, go easy with it at first! Cook and eat a small portion to start, just to ensure that your stomach likes it, too!
Our trip home included one last spot at a listed Galearis spectabilis spot. We tried and tried and tried to find the showy orchid on our own, but we yet to be successful! Going to a known location is a great way to know the habitat for the plant. We learned that Galearis spectabilis likes it rich. REALLY rich. The entire hillside was a carpet of maidenhair fern, blue cohosh, baneberry, and rattlesnake fern (Botrychium virginianum) as pictured above. On their own, each of those species is a great indicator species for a rich habitat. To have the hillside carpeted with them, however, was something to see!
And of course, nestled in beside a stream, were a handful of Galearis spectabilis. Finally! Now all we have to do is find our own hillside of cohosh, maidenhair fern, rattlesnake fern and baneberry!
Our first try at video…just a few minutes from each of the habitats we encountered over the weekend. I have to say, looking back on it makes me smile. There are some amazing spots out there, just waiting to be explored!