Farmscape Wonder Wander: 23 May 2020

By Claudia

A Walk through Borden’s Pond Conservation Area in Chatham

Please join me and Delia (our dog) for a botanically-themed loop through Borden’s Pond and let’s see what we can find together… And I apologize for sticking to common names for the plants, today. I am running out of time to add all the scientific names. But please don’t hesitate to email me if you have any questions about the plants.


This was my favorite discovery of the day, and it wasn’t the first plant that drew my attention, but I put it out front to get you all excited and make you want to look through the post to find out who this is and where we found it…


Right in the parking lot, there are several Boxelder trees, male and female. Any guess which one is this?


And this?

4 DSC_0744 Mulberry buds

In the old field by the parking area (which used to be a baseball diamond), stands a tree that is still almost bare. When you look close, you can see that it is starting to leaf out and that the flower buds are ready to burst open, as well. It is a Mulberry tree and I am looking forward to keep watching that one, because I actually have no idea how fully open Mulberry flowers look… — I do know that I love to eat the fruit!

5 DSC_0749 Mouse-eared Chickweed

Not many plants are in bloom in the old field, yet. From afar you see the yellow of Wintercress, which I didn’t get a good picture of. And when looking a little closer underfoot, you might discover the tiny Mouse-eared Chickweed with its delicate white flowers and its “furry” leaves.

6 DSC_0735 Ground Ivy

Ground Ivy has been blooming for weeks now and is common out in the old fields, as well as sprinkled along the paths through the forest.

7 DSC_0763 Dame's Rocket

Around the Boxelder trees and also at the entry of the path into the forest, you might spot the tall pink flowers of Dame’s Rocket. It is one of several members of the mustard family (look for alternate leaves, basal leaf rosettes, and flowers with four petals!) you might encounter along the trails. Note: this is NOT Phlox, which looks very similar but flowers a little later, has five petals, and opposite leaves.


Soon after passing the pavilion, you will see a shrub on your right that is in full bloom. It is the non-native invasive Burning Bush. Note the curiously “winged” branches and the tiny four-parted flowers. However, because this is a woody plant and its leaves are opposite, this is not a member of the mustard family!

9 DSC_0730 European Barberry

Just a little further up the trail, this time on the left side, you might notice another shrub in bloom. This is European Barberry, which had been introduced long before the Japanese Barberry and—at least in our region—does not seem to behave like an invasive. It is distinguished from its invasive sibling by its flowers that dangle in racemes (rather than axillary clusters of two or three flowers) and leaves that have serrated margins (rather than entire margins). Can you spot Japanese Barberry further along the trail? It is VERY common at Borden’s Pond!

10 DSC_0765 White C. Blue Violet

Still along the green trail, I spotted this white Common Blue Violet. Once in a while, species that usually have blue or purple flowers, produce white flowers, instead.

11 DSC_0796 Common Blue Violet

This is a more typical Common Blue Violet seen later somewhere along the green trail.

12 DSC_0693 Marsh Violet

In one wet spot along the green trail (near one of the little boardwalks), is a colony of Marsh Violet, which basically looks like Common Blue Violet with long flower stalks. It tends to grow in moist soil and sometimes even on little islands in streams.

13 DSC_0651 Dog Violet

Also along the green trail are several patches of Dog Violet. Note how this violet species—other than Common Blue and Marsh Violet–has branched flower stalks and leaves coming out of the same stalk that bears the flowers.

14 DSC_0768

But, for now, we will leave the green trail and follow Delia up the hill along the red trail…

15 DSC_0770 European Larch fl

Pretty soon we come to a tree that has fallen across the trail. As we maneuver around it, we have an opportunity to see the branches of European Larch up close. Here you can see a cone from last year next to a new one that has started to develop this season.

16 OBs

Just past the tree fall, I spotted the Oriental Bittersweet vine growing around a small tree shown on the left of the image. I just recently noticed, that every single vine of this species that I have seen since I am paying attention to this, has been twining around its support in the same direction. From bottom left to top right. The other image is from a younger Oriental Bittersweet vine growing in the same direction around a tree next to the parking area. I’d be curious if anybody ever sees one of these vines going the other way around—if so, please send me a picture!

17 DSC_0774 Grandfather Maple & Penn Sedge

Where the trail levels out a little, one gets a great view of several grandfather Sugar Maples surrounded by young Sugar Maple trees in a park-like forest with a sedge lawn. The sedge is Pennsylvania Sedge or one of its close relatives.

18 DSC_0778

At the next junction, we hang to the right and follow the red trail up a steep section.

19 DSC_0781 White Wood A.

White Wood Aster, which will flower in late summer, seems to be the most common understory plant on this dryish hillside which has some beautiful oak trees.

20 DSC_0786

At the next junction, we turn left to continue on the red trail. Soon, we cross a little clearing where a gap in the canopy allows lots of light to reach the ground and Oriental Bittersweet is dominating the scene.

21 DSC_0788

Back under the canopy, we see several sedges and grasses in bloom along the trail, but not much in terms of showy flowers. We pass the outlook where in leaf off season and on clear days one can see the Catskills.

22 DSC_0790

At the next junction, we turn left onto the green trail, again, and descend back down the slope.

23 DSC_0701 Rue Anemone

We pass a nice patch of Rue Anemone in full bloom.

24 DSC_0793 Maple-lvd Viburnum

And some low shrubs of Maple-leaved Viburnum, their flowers still hidden in the buds. Note how—in contrast to any true maple species in our region–the maple-like leaves of this shrub are very velvety to the touch.


At the bottom of the hill, we briefly turn right to get out onto the town road and have a peek at the creek. There are a number of members of the mustard family flowering along it. The insert shows Pennsylvania Bittercress. But in the vicinity, we also spotted Cuckoo Flower (we’ll have a closer look at that a little later in this walk), Wintercress, Garlic Mustard, and Dame’s Rocket.

26 DSC_0587 Herb Robert

At the entrance back onto the green trail that leads us in the valley back to the parking lot, we found this native geranium species, Herb Robert. It has smaller and lighter pink flowers than our other native geranium, Wild Geranium.

27 DSC_0696

In comparison, this is the sturdier Wild Geranium, whose flowers are usually a bit darker in hue than this picture shows. Look for it as you follow the green trail.

28 DSC_0619 Kidney-leaved BC

This is one of five buttercup species we saw in bloom at Borden’s Pond today. It is the native Kidney-leaved or Small-flowered Buttercup. Note the tiny petals!

29 DSC_0697 Hooked Buttercup

Also a native species is the Hooked Buttercup, which grows in several places along the green trail…

30 DSC_0724 Early Wood Buttercup

… just like Early Wood Buttercup, which has the more familiar big yellow buttercup flowers and very hairy leaves. Out in the old field by the parking area, you can also see the non-native Common Buttercup and Bulbous Buttercup in bloom.

31 DSC_0621 Jumpseed

These unique leaves with their dark mark are a native species of smartweed, called Jumpseed.

32 DSC_0632 Cleavers f

Several native bedstraw species also grow along this trail. The one that has a very sticky (like velcro) stalk, a spreading growth form, and narrow leaves (eight to each whorl) is Cleavers. Note its tiny four-parted white flowers. Bedstraws are placed in the same botanical family as coffee…

33 DSC_0646 Sweet-scented Bedstraw fl

Sweet-scented Bedstraw has six leaves per whorl and grows more upright.

34 DSC_0691 Galium circaecans

Wild Licorice has four pubescent leaves per whorl.


We found a single Golden Ragwort plant in bloom at the base of a tree right next to the trail. This is one of the few early-flowering members of the aster family.

36 DSC_0668

Common Cinquefoil has a yellow flower, similar to buttercups and palmate leaves, which are sometimes confused with those of strawberries. Note that Cinquefoil has five leaflets per leaf.

37 DSC_0725

While the Wild Strawberry further along the trail has only three leaflets per leaf.

38 DSC_0685 Trout Lily fr

Some of our spring ephemerals are starting to go to seed. This is the fruiting capsule of Trout Lily.

39 DSC_0640 Trout Lily leaves & rhizomes

The leaves of non-flowering plants of Trout Lily are wilting now. Note the white worm-like rhizomes that sometimes emerge above ground and indicate the location of a colony of Trout Lily, even when the leaves have vanished for the season.

40 DSC_0686 Jack

This post would not be complete without acknowledging the abundant Jack-in-the-Pulpit plants growing all along the green trail.

41 DSC_0687 PI

Who is also common along this trail is Poison Ivy. And it has already passed its red young leaf phase and starts blending in with the rest of the greenery.

42 Gaywings

This is the spot where I found my favorite flowers of the day: Gaywings!


After that, we entered a part of the forest that was a conifer plantation and is totally overrun with Garlic Mustard.

44 DSC_0700

Finally, we reached the overlook over Borden’s “Pond”.

45 DSC_0704 wet meadow

After the dam breached a few years ago, the former pond is now a wet meadow, composed of Sensitive Fern, sedges, grasses, and wildflowers. Can you guess who the whitish/light pink flowers are?

46 DSC_0608 Cuckoo Flower closeup

They belong to one of the members of the mustard family seen earlier along the stream: Cuckoo Flower.

47 DSC_0709 Canada Mayflower fl

Right next to the bench of the overlook is another nice patch of Rue Anemone (not pictured!) and we also saw our first Canada Mayflower of the season in bloom (pictured).

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Farmscape Wonder Wander: 22 May 2020

By Kendrick Fowler

If you have visited Columbia Land Conservancy’s (CLC) Hand Hollow Conservation Area during the past 6 months, you may have noticed a strange sight: by the east parking area, where there once was a pond, there is now a large mudflat! That mudflat, of course, is the bottom of what was once the pond. The pond had been held in place by a Beaver dam, which our friends at CLC tell us blew out last October.


The mudflat at Hand Hollow in mid-April…

As many of our readers probably know, the activity of Beavers plays many important roles in our landscape. Flooding due to the creation of new Beaver ponds kills trees and thereby creates habitat for birds like woodpeckers, Tree Swallows, and Great Blue Herons to nest in. The ponds themselves provide habitat for organisms that like to live in wetlands, alter surrounding habitats by raising groundwater levels, and help control flooding and sedimentation downstream. And, vegetation colonizes abandoned Beaver ponds to form swampy meadows, producing vital habitat for organisms that like to live in open spaces.

Mudflat with vegetation

..and in mid-May.

In this image, taken earlier this week (the previous one was taken a month ago), you can see that vegetation is already starting to colonize the mudflat. If the Beavers at Hand Hollow do not rebuild their dam, the mudflat will become more densely vegetated, and trees will eventually start to grow. Over time, a young forest will start to form at the site, and, seeing as young trees are attractive food for Beavers, a new Beaver family may move in and create a new pond at the site, starting the cycle of change anew.

Mussel shells

Mussel shells on the mudflat.

For now, though, the surface of the mudflat is still visible, providing one with the unusual and interesting opportunity to scan it to see what lay at the bottom of the Beavers’ pond. Large mussel shells are scattered across the surface of the mudflat, which I found astonishing: I knew that freshwater mussels live in our area, but had no idea that they could grow as large as these! Although it’s a little hard to get a sense of scale from a distance, and I did not attempt to walk out onto the mudflat, many of the shells appeared to be as large as my fist, or even larger.

Mussel shell

Mussel shell.

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Farmscape Wonder Wander 21 May 2020

By Dylan

Highlights of the day: seeing various species of bees just in my backyard, coming across some baby mammals, and finding mysterious bird feathers.

Sweat bee

This is a larger sweat bee, a female Bicolored Striped-Sweat Bee (Agapostemon virescens). There are a handful of shiny green sweat bee species in our county, but this species’ female has a black and white striped abdomen. Female bees have 12 antennal segments while males have 13. And female bees typically have modified hairs on their body for carrying pollen for their offspring. Like a lot of bee species, these hairs are on the rear legs of this bee.

sweat bee

This is another type of sweat bee, a much smaller kind called Lasioglossum. Most species of this group are small and dark. They are easily overlooked due to their small size.

Bumble bee

There are various species of bumble bees in our county. The Common Eastern Bumble Bee (Bombus impatiens), pictured here, is our most common. It has a relatively long tongue, allowing it to reach the floral resources within the long Gill-over-the-ground flower.


A porcupette crossed my path today. Porcupines typically give birth to just one offspring. Porcupettes nurse for over 120 days and do not become independent for 5 months. I am not sure where mom was, hopefully nearby


Another baby mammal! This one was crossing the road. Since Opossum are marsupials, their offspring are called joeys, like Kangaroos! Like all Opossum offspring, this one lived in its mom’s pouch for over two months.


Feathers in the forest, maybe a result of a bird falling prey to a bobcat, fox, another mammal or another bird. What kind of bird do you think these are from? My guess is American Redstart.

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Farmscape Wonder Wander 20 May 2020

By Anna

Following an animal trail in the forest, I came to a merry rivulet (not quite a stream) and stepped across into a sun-filled forest opening, alive with insect and bird life. It seemed the perfect place to sit and watch. This Wonder Wander is mostly a celebration of this bright forest oasis, though on the way there and back I was also struck by an upside-down bird, developing eggs, an empty nest, and a flightless fledgling climbing a tree. See the photos and read the accompanying captions to follow along.

Red-eyed Vireo

Stepping out of my door I was struck by the upside-down flutter of a bird in the flowering crab apple tree. It was this Red-eyed Vireo (Vireo olivaceus), who soon righted itself and flew to another branch. In breeding season, Red-eyed Vireos consume mostly insects (such as the one in this bird’s beak) that they glean from perching, hovering, and—yes—hanging upside down!


The animal trail I was following led to a sunny opening, just in front of a patch of May Apple (Podophyllum peltatum), where I spent a good hour leaning against this mossy log and watching the life of the forest.

May Apple

The May Apple creates a mini-canopy on the forest floor. This native woodland plant grows in rhizomatous colonies. The flower bud is seen here at the crotch of two leaves, and will open into a large, white-petaled flower that in turn becomes the “May Apple,” a fleshy fruit that turns from green to gold as it ripens.

Tiger Swallowtail

A fluttering in a patch of Garlic Mustard caught my eye, and I was able to watch this Tiger Swallowtail (verdict is still out on whether it was the Eastern or Canadian Tiger Swallowtail) sunning itself for long stretches of time, wings outstretched.

Hover Fly

The Garlic Mustard patch was buzzing with many insects, including this hover fly, Rhingia nasica, whose pronounced snout helps it extract nectar from flowers.

White-striped Black Moth

This native White-striped Black Moth (Trichodezia albovittata) was also in the Garlic Mustard patch, and its larvae feed on plants in the Impatiens genus, such as Jewelweed—which grows abundantly nearby.

Common Yellowthroat

Alongside all of this insect activity, there was much bird activity in the surrounding low branches of trees. The main foods of this Common Yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas) warbler are insects (including moths, flies, and butterflies) and spiders, which they glean from the ground and in low branches.

Chestnut-sided Warbler

The Chestnut-sided Warbler (Setophaga pensylvanica) also eats mainly insects, often by searching the underside of leaves.

Eastern Phoebe

The Eastern Phoebe (Sayornis phoebe) specializes in flying insects which they catch in the air.


The Veery (Catharus fuscescens) often foragers insects on the ground, as this one was in fact doing before it flew to this branch.

American Crow

While I was intently watching the songbirds, two American Crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos) landed on a log nearby and started noisily tearing back the bark, presumably in search of insects.


When the Crows had flown away I went over to the log to investigate. While I didn’t see any insects under the bark, I did see this beautiful native Foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia) of rich woods and swamps blooming in front of the log.

Spotted Salamander eggs

Leaving the forest, I stopped by the pool formed by the lifted root ball to check on the Spotted Salamander (Ambystoma maculatum) eggs that I had photographed during my last Wonder Wander. I was delighted to see they were still there—and now one could see clearly the developing salamander in each egg.

Spotted Salamander Eggs

A closer view of the developing salamanders in each egg. Spotted Salamander eggs typically hatch 1-2 months after they are deposited. I am certainly no expert, but in other videos of Spotted Salamander egg development, they are approaching the time of hatching when you can see long bodies inside each egg. I will keep checking!


Sometimes I find a “wonder” on my Wonder Wander that leads only to unanswered questions, such as who built what appears to be a soft nest liner, and how did it end up on the forest floor?


Finally, as I neared home, my attention was caught by the frantic hopping of this fledgling (perhaps a Starling?) who had noticed my presence and was trying to walk, climb, and hop up this tree just as fast as it could, since it wasn’t yet able to fly. In the time that I was watching it made it about 15 feet up the tree.

Posted in Animals, Plants | 2 Comments

Farmscape Wonder Wander: 19 May 2020

By Nellie

Remember Skunk Cabbage’s hooded spathe and flowering spadix at the start of spring? Well, it’s relative, Jack-in-the-Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum), has begun to emerge in our region! I recently learned of this plant’s relationship to one of it’s pollinators, Fungus Gnats. The following images will describe how these gnats pollinate Jack-in-the-Pulpit, as well as some facts I learned about the gender of this plant along the way! Have you been seeing any Jack-in-the-Pulpits in your neck of the woods?

Jack in the Pulpit

Like other members of the Aracae or Arum Family, Jack-in-the-Pulpit has a flower made up of a hooded spathe and a knobby spadix, which has flowers tucked at the bottom. The plant has one to two leaves that are divided into three leaflets.

Jack in the Pulpit

Fungus Gnats are one of the main pollinators of Jack-in-the-Pulpit. They are attracted to this plant by the fungus-like smell that it emits (Fungus Gnats would typically lay their eggs on fungus so their larvae have readily available food when they hatch).

Jack in the p

Jack-in-the-Pulpits are dioecious, meaning the male and female flowers are on separate plants. When the gnats enter a male plant, they inadvertently get coated in the pollen produced by the male flowers.

The male plants have an exit that the gnats leave through. When the gnats find themselves in the female flowers, they pollinate the plant and enable it to fruit and form red berries that feed many birds and mammals later on in the season!

Initial growth of Jack in the Pulpit

After learning of this relationship between Jack-in-the-Pulpit and Fungus Gnats, I got interested in how to distinguish between the male and female plants, or the “Jacks” and “Jacquelines.” As it turns out, the plants can change genders from year to year, depending on how much energy they have stored up in their underground stems, which are called corms!

Jacqueline in the Pulpit

A larger corm, and therefore more energy, will likely yield a female plant which needs the extra boost to produce the berries. More often than not, the female plants are larger and have two leaves (with three leaflets each), a result of the greater energy stores. Based on the outwards appearance of this plant, it’s likely a female!

Often times, after a season of being female, the plant will become male next year as it’s energy reserves have diminished. The corm size can also decrease after a season if the plant’s leaves have been damaged and can’t store energy through photosynthesis. It takes less energy to produce pollen flowers, and male plants usually are smaller and have one leaf (with three leaflets each), which also takes less energy to sprout. Producing male flowers for the season allows the plant to store up energy in order to produce female flowers and fruit the following season.

Jack in the Pulpit

Pictured here is likely a male plant!

Jack in the Pulpit male flowers

The number of leaves and size usually points to the gender of the plant, but looking closely (and gently) at the tiny flowers clustered at the base of the spadix really lets you be sure! These are the male flowers, identifiable by their pollen-producing anthers.

Jacqueline in the Pulpit female flowers

These are the female flowers, the round green ovaries of these flowers will develop into red berries later on in the season. More often than not, when I looked carefully inside the plants, there were gnats bumbling about and being productive pollinators!


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Farmscape Wonder Wander: 18 May 2020

By Claudia


Today, I decided to pick up a theme that Nellie had posted about earlier in the spring: fern fiddleheads. Following her posting, I made a point of documenting the newly emerging fronds of a variety of fern species (and also looking through spring images of ferns in our photo database) and this is what I found:

1 Christmas

Some fiddleheads, like those of Christmas Fern (Polystichum acrostichoides) are densely covered with scales, almost as if they were wearing a fur coat.

2 Christmas Fern 3W5A9242

As they unfurl, they present their smooth upper side of the leaves to the sun. Eventually, most of the scales fall off the leaves, only their stalk remains somewhat scaly. Christmas Fern is one of our “evergreen” ferns, which means that their fronds stay green through the winter and therefore can usually be found near the newly emerging fiddleheads, helping with the identification.

3 Christmas DSC_0120

Last year’s leaves of “evergreen” ferns quickly wilt once the new leaves have unfolded. This image was taken last week in Ulster County, where spring is a little advanced. Note the old leaves of Christmas Fern lying on the ground, the new unfolded leaves upright, and young fiddleheads still unfolding…

Phudd Hill

Wood Ferns (Dryopteris sp.) all have broad, straw-colored scales on their stalks, but their fiddleheads are not as densely “fur”-covered as those of Christmas Fern. Some, as this Marginal Wood Fern (Dryopteris marginalis) are evergreen, so the fiddleheads can be identified by inspecting the old leaves.

6 Evergreen Wood F. DSC_0558

Same with Evergreen Wood Fern (Dryoperis intermedia). Note again the broad, straw-colored scales characteristic of all Wood Ferns.

7 Lady DSC_0446

Lady Fern (Athyrium angustum or A. asplenioides) is a notoriously tricky fern to identify, even when fully grown, because it is extremely variable. It is not evergreen, so there are usually no old fronds around to help identify the fiddleheads. However, they tend to be smooth (no fur!) and have small, dark scales on the stalk.

8 Cinnamon F. DSC_0304

In contrast, the Cinnamon Fern (Osmundastrum cinnamomeum) fiddleheads are covered with easily rubbed-off fuzz. This is one of our largest ferns, growing in vase-like clusters in permanently wet areas, such as swamp forest. It is not evergreen, so no use to look for last year’s leaves!

10 Interrupted Fern DSCN0648

Interrupted Fern (Osmunda caytoniana) is hardly distinguishable from its close relative Cinnamon Fern at the fiddlehead stage. It, too sports the easily rubbed-off fuzz and grows in large, vase-like clusters. However, Interrupted Fern grows in a wider range of soil moisture and can be a common fern in upland forest.

11 Interrupted Fern DSCN0018

When the fronds of Interrupted Fern unfurl a little more, you can see that some of them have two different types of leaflets. While the top and bottom leaflets on the frond are photosynthesizing, an intermediate set is dedicated to producing spores and—once this task is accomplished—they drop off in early summer, leaving an “interrupted” frond.

13 Hayscented

Hay-scented Fern (Dennstaedtia punctilobula) has a completely different growth form. Its fronds and fiddleheads emerge not in clusters but spread out evenly, almost like a “fern lawn”. They can cover large areas in forest clearings and even meadows. The fiddleheads are covered with very fine hairs.

14 Hayscented Fern 3W5A9239

The unfurled fronds and leaf stalks of Hay-scented Fern maintain their hairiness throughout the summer. Wilting fronds do smell like new-mowed hay!

15 Bracken DSC_0079

Bracken Fern (Pteridium aquilinum) is another fern that does not grow in clusters. In our region, it is the fern most tolerant of dry conditions. It is usually found on thin soil, often in half or even full sun.

16 Bracken DSC_0082

Its fronds grow tall and are branched into three parts, as one can guess in this image.

17 Royal Fern closup IMG_9719

Royal Fern (Osmunda regalis) is also a tall fern with branched fronds, but it grows in our wettest soils. Its fiddleheads are very smooth, no sign of scales or hairs. And like in Interrupted Fern, the distinct photosynthesizing and spore-bearing parts of the frond are already discernable in the fiddlehead.

18 Royal Fern IMG_9717

Royal Fern mingling with Skunk Cabbage in its preferred habitat, swamp forest.

19 Sens DSC_0428

Sensitive Fern (Onoclea sensibilis) is a very common fern of wet areas. It is called “sensitive” not because its leaves recoil when touched (as in the Sensitive Plants), but because its eaves are very sensitive to frost damage.  Its fiddleheads have smooth, often somewhat colored stalks.

20 Sens DSC_0429

The unfolding frond of Sensitive Fern is covered in “fuzz” that rubs off easily. When you suspect you might be looking at a Sensitive Fern fiddlehead, see if you can find the dark and woody sporophylls from last year nearby. Last year’s green leaves of this fern quickly decompose in the fall and leave no trace.

21 Ostrich DSC_0341

You might have been wondering, why none of the fiddleheads earlier in this post looked like the ones you would want to eat. The reason is that the only culinary fiddlehead in our region is that of Ostrich Fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris), which is pictured here.

22 Ostrich DSC_0344

Ostrich Fern grows in floodplain forest, where its vase-shaped clusters can form large colonies.

23 Ostrich F. DSC_0001

Like in Sensitive Fern, last year’s green leaves of Ostrich Fern have decomposed, but the woody, feather-like sporophylls are often still around in spring.

floodplain forest off Field 22

I hope this post reinforced Nellie’s earlier message about the beauty of the newly emerging fern leaves and maybe you can use some of the pointers I gave to guess which fern you are looking at when you next find a fiddlehead… The 11 species featured in this post are the most common of the 60+ fern species known from our County.

Posted in Plants | 1 Comment

Farmscape Wonder Wander: a potpourri from the week (10 – 16 May 2020)

By Claudia and Conrad with contributions from the community

As it has become a tradition, this Sunday post starts with our weekly bouquet of flowers that recently came into bloom in Columbia County. Many other flowers featured in past week’s posts are still around, as well. This poster can be viewed here as a pdf file with clickable links to the species descriptions.

Next is a summary of the historical observations for the third week of May between 1826 and 1859 compiled by Conrad from our historical phenology data browser.

The other images are a mix of observations sent to us by a number of people from different parts of Columbia County during last week.

1a Spring Flowers May 10 - May 16

This is the weekly “What is blooming?” post on our Spring Flora website. If you see a flower that is not included here, please make sure to check the posters from the previous weeks. I did have to omit some species included in previous bouquets that are still in bloom, to make space for newly flowering species. If you still can’t find it, send us a picture and we’ll make sure to include it in next Sunday’s post.


In the historical record for this week, frogs have given way to toads, more Bobolinks showing up, and as you may have also noticed in the here & now, the orioles are back. The Spring ephemerals are giving way to the next members of the floral relay team. Lots of trees leafing out including, one might be surprised to learn, Tree of Heaven. While that species is currently considered “invasive”, it has been with us for a long time; see our 2015 post for more details: Seems to be the height of the fruit flowering season, that delicate season when a late frost (as happened this year) can cause substantial damage to the fruit crop.


This perfect little creature, discovered by Tracy Pennea in her garden soil, is the pupa of a moth. Many moth species, as well as butterflies, overwinter in their pupae and will emerge as the weather continues to warm.

4 Nodding Trillium by David L.

We know Nodding Trillium (Trillium cernuum) from only one place in Columbia County, at Art Omi. David Lewis went back to see how the plants are doing and found a single one in bloom. Should you know of other populations of this white-flowering Trillium species that displays its flower like a bell underneath the leaves, we would LOVE to hear about it!

5 Starry False Solomon's Seal

These two images of Starry False Solomon’s Seal (Maianthemum stellatum) were shared with us by Tracy Pennea and David Lewis. Both images were taken on different days at Art Omi. This got me really excited, because I consider Starry False Solomon’s Seal a rare species in Columbia County. I had so far seen it only in the swamp forests of Drowned Lands Swamp, Shaker Swamp, and a farm in Claverack. These sightings from the swamp forest at Art Omi mark the 4th known location of this species. Again, should you stumble across it anywhere else in the County, please do let us know!

6 Angelica

Several people have mentioned during this week the emergence of a large (not yet flowering) plant in swamp forests and wet meadows, which looks as if it might be the dreaded invasive Giant Hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum). Thankfully, so far, they all turned out to be the native Purple-stemmed Angelica (Angelica atropurpurea)—as far as we know, Giant Hogweed has not arrived in Columbia County (yet?).

7 Dwarf Ginseng by Rebecca Bissonnette

Dwarf Ginseng (Panax trifolius) is not as rare as its big sibling, American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius), which has almost been exterminated in our region by collection for the medicinal plant trade. But Dwarf Ginseng also is not a very common plant. Rebecca Bissonnette spotted it on a walk along Taghkanic Creek.

8 Woods Horsetail

This beautiful young Wood Horsetail (Equisetum sylvaticum) was captured by Conrad during yesterday’s retracing of 19th century poet Mary Chase’s steps. Other than the more common and familiar Field Horsetail (E. arvense) the rarer Wood Horsetail has finely divided branches. We tend to see it in shaded muddy areas. The brown tip is the spore cone (horsetails are considered ferns because they don’t make flowers and reproduce with spores, just like ferns).

9 Black Bear by Patty Rafferty

This visitor came to Patty Rafferty’s house in Austerlitz yesterday evening. She thinks he/she got attracted by the smell of roasting chicken. Luckily, the visitor got wary when it heard some unfamiliar voices and retreated back into the woods.

10 fawn

Finally, today I almost stepped on this very young fawn while exploring a floodplain forest along Kinderhook Creek. It was still so small, that it hunkered down and hoped really hard that nobody would see it. It almost worked… and–after taking a quick picture–we left it alone, again and felt very privileged to have gotten a glimpse of its world.

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