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A Nature Trail Journal: Sweltering Days & Frosty Nights

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Honeysuckle

Honeysuckle

         Frosty nights give way to yet another weather change and we find ourselves dealing with highs around ninety. Is it any wonder that people in our neck of the woods struggle to decide when to switch out their winter/summer wardrobe?! For plants it is equally confusing, but somehow, they manage to work around the weather. Spring flowers that held off when we returned to cold temperatures wind up shortening their flowering period when they think that summer has arrived. This happened with our Toothworts and the Marsh Marigolds. No sooner had we noticed the flowers, they disappeared. Maybe next year we’ll have a longer display.

         The Buttercups have taken over the wet meadow. They don’t seem to mind the weather changes or human interference. Every year after we are able to get in and mow this part of the trail, the Buttercups bounce right back, creating a sea of gold. At the foot of the drumlin it is still very wet and will remain that way until almost July, but as we climb the hill, the path has become dry and easier for hiking. The honeysuckles are flowering now. These shrubs are considered an invasive introduced plant. They have spread throughout our woods and along the creek. However, they are not so aggressive that they have choked out the natives. The honeysuckles, even after forty years of their presence on the property, are really a small part of the tremendous variety and quantity of plants that are growing here.

         Up on top of the drumlin there are wild geraniums in bloom. These do not look like the geraniums that people like to plant in containers every summer, although they are in the same family. These wild geraniums are of the same genus as the very popular perennial known as Cranesbill. The flowers are a beautiful soft purple on very fine stems so that they sway in the wind even though they are close to the ground. May Apples are just now pushing their flower buds, one per plant. It seems late this year leaving us to anticipate June Apples this year. The Blue Cohosh leaves, with their scalloped edges and blue-green coloring carpet large portions of the woods making for a very soft floor. We see the Dame’s Rocket popping up and know that soon those flowers will explode. 

         As we hike down the trail towards the creek, we come to the area where we used to maintain a campsite. When our children were young, we would do overnights here, sometimes with up to five other families. The kids graduated long ago and moved away, but the campsite is still mowed a couple of times a year to prevent it from becoming part of the woods.

Blue-Eyed Grass

Blue-Eyed Grass

         On the trail along the creek, there are patches of Creeping Bluets. We don’t remember seeing these in previous years. Whether the seed blew in or birds brought them to us, this year they have expanded here and there along the trail giving us a new visual treat. You need to be looking at the ground to see the dainty blue flowers, but this is not a problem since you need to be aware of your feet while hiking along. The water in the creek is beginning to recede as the spring rains come to an end. There is still enough to give us the wonderful sound of water bouncing off of rocks or racing around corners where the creek narrows.

         As we climb out of the creek and head up towards the field we are greeted by Blue-eyed Grasses. While the foliage looks very grass-like, but they are members of the iris family. We don’t have a lot of these, but I love seeing them every year. There is something about this flower that always makes me smile. Many of the grasses in the meadow are blooming already. There is tremendous variety and one of these days I have vowed to try to learn the differences. But today we walk on and head for home.

 

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