Weather at Bedford, Hanscom Field, MA - via NOAA's National Weather Service

Friday, October 30, 2009

red berries

Here are some pics of bright red fall berries.

winterberry (Ilex verticillata)

The winterberry is a plant I keep trying to get into my yard. I've got some on the edge of my yard, and I often scatter berries in other places, hoping they will spread. Winterberries need more than one bush to produce berries, because some bushes produce male flowers and some bushes produce female flowers. They are in the Ilex family, as is holly, which also must grow in pairs or groups to have berries.

spicebush (Lindera benzoin)

The spicebush berries don't cover their leafless shrubs the way winterberries do, but they are just as bright if you find them. This is a plant that I had never heard of until five or six years ago. At that time I was doing some research into wetland restoration, and I discovered that I have spicebush all over my property. It is a lovely plant, in all seasons. It blooms early, smells nice, has pretty leaves that turn yellow in the fall, and the trunks and twigs are interestingly shaped, so it is nice to look at in the wintertime.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

which season?

So I am pretty well convinced that it is fall. There are leaves coming down all over the place, especially in yesterday's wet, windy weather. It gets cooler each day. The days are getting shorter - or at least, the amount of daylight in each day is decreasing.
But look at this!

This is a skunk cabbage! And I took this picture less than an hour ago!
I thought skunk cabbage was a SPRING plant. I'm not sure exactly what this means, but I am very surprised and curious. It has not been a particularly warm fall. I don't think that the flies that act as pollinators for skunk cabbage are still around. I found three of these today, the first by accident as I was inspecting the edge of my stream, and the subsequent two when I searched for more. Will they last in this stage through the winter? Are they mutants? Is it the result of climate change? It will be interesting to watch...

Monday, October 26, 2009


Lots of times I walk in the woods and don't see any animals. Sometimes I hear birds, but don't see them hidden in the leaves. Yet I always know they have been there, and sometimes I can tell how recently - or at least if it was recently or quite some time ago.
Here are some images of evidence of creatures besides myself and my dog.

a small tunnel entrance (mouse? vole?)

scat (deer)

a clawed log (skunk?)

a stripped pine cone (red squirrel)

chewed acorns (chipmunk?)

tree holes (woodpecker)

I don't always, or even often, know who exactly has been there, but I love knowing that there is a whole web of lives going on around me, even if I can't see all the actors. It is thrilling to me to know the little that I do, and to be allowed in as far as I am.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

indian summer

It was warm, warm, warm today - just lovely. And lots of leaves came down in the breeze. Tomorrow is supposed to be cold again...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


Do you know how many kinds of Euonymus plants there are? I didn't - I still don't - but there are lots. It can be a shrub, a bush, a tree, a creeping vine.... In English is can be known as wintercreeper, spindle-tree, burning bush, and other names as well.
I already knew about the burning bush, E. alatus, also called winged euonymus, because it is an invasive and there is tons of it around my house.
The wintercreeper I also knew was a euonymus, E. fortunei, and I learned that it has become invasive in some areas.
What I recently learned is this: The spindle tree can be one of several forms of the tree. (At least I think so. There is a fair bit of information online, but sometimes it is hard to parse.) There is a native tree in this area, Euonymus atropurpureus, sometimes call eastern wahoo. There is an Asian type of the tree called E. bungeanus, also called winterberry euonymus. And there is the European euonymus, aptly named E. europaeus. They are similar in looks, size and fruit.
Whatever variety you may come across - don't eat the berries. It appears that at one time they were used for medicinal purposes, but there are other, safer medicines available today.
And in case you want to know more, the euonymus are in the plant family celastraceae, which includes japanese bittersweet, another greedy invasive in these parts.
There's ALWAYS more to learn...

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

fall afternoon

More lovely light this afternoon. Perhaps that is why fall is often my favorite season - the light and the colors are so inspiring. It got warm again today - temps in the 60s - which was quite nice after last week's cold spell.

Here's a blossom from the witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) I wrote about recently, and a pic of an entire shrub (and my daughter).

Monday, October 19, 2009


Just a quick post about some cool bugs. The sun came out and it was a gorgeous day - most of the snow melted, except in some always-shady spots - but it never got warm; temps in the 50s. As the sun was setting (early at my house, down in the hollow, surrounded by trees as I am), I saw these little bugs that looked like fluff - maybe they were some sort of flies. They were moving up and down in the air, in a fairly large group. It looked like they were bouncing, except that they were really flying. It was pretty neat.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

almost winter?

So this morning's rain turned to snow! That's twice now, and it's still October...
But I did notice, on my afternoon walk, that the witch hazel in the woods behind my house is blooming. There are two kinds of witch hazel - one that blooms late in the fall, and one that blooms early in the spring, late winter, really. So depending on the variety, witch hazel blooms last of the season, or first, but either way, it is fun to see blooms when few are around. The bushes that grow wild behind my house are the fall blooming type, Hamamelis virginiana, while the one I planted in my yard is the February blooming type, Hamamelis vernalis. To me they look quite similar, and I can't tell them apart, except when they are blooming.
As well as being an interesting plant, witch hazel is medicinal - I have a bottle in my medicine cupboard. It is good for bug bites, small cuts and other such ailments that benefit from an astringent. It has been used for centuries, and is still good today, as evidenced by this Boston Globe article.
And it is supposed to warm up as the week progresses, so I don't think the snow will stick around.

bright spot

It's a rainy, chilly day here today, but here is a bright leaf to cheer things up.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

morning light

The weather forecast for today was pretty miserable, rainy and cold. It is cold, but so far no rain, and a fair bit of sun. I had a lovely morning walk as the sun was coming up - about 7:30, since it is the middle of October. I love getting to sleep in AND see the sunrise in the same morning.
In the round meadow, I found an American Elm that I had never noticed before. I think the sunlight was hitting it just right, so as to catch my eye. The story of the American Elm is a sad one, as so many trees have died as a result of a fungal infection. Perhaps someday we will again see such great trees as lined many of our streets in the past. In the meantime, here is a photo of the one in my nearby meadow. It is good to know that some are still around.

Friday, October 16, 2009

later on

So the rain stopped, but the temps stayed low today - maybe a high of 40, 45 in the bits of sun that made it through. We seem to be having a yellow fall. Some of the swamp maples (red maples) are red, but the bulk of the color this year is yellow - quite pretty. I had some nice photos of yellow sassafras and oak leaves, but zapped them somehow, getting them off the camera - I'll have to take some more tomorrow.

weather report

It has turned to rain, but it was snowing just a little while ago! I do like a nice snowfall, but this is a little early for my taste!

Thursday, October 15, 2009


Fall is definitely here now. There was frost in my yard this morning, and we get it late in the season, because we are protected by many, many trees. Busy days these - chipmunks are scurrying around the stone wall, collecting goodies to store up for when the snow buries the ground; I saw a red squirrel with a pine cone almost as long as itself the other day, and it was climbing and jumping from tree to tree, stopping occasionally to pull off a few bracts and eat the seeds hidden inside. The berries seem to be gone from my dogwood tree, and I've seen flocks of birds on grasses and other seed plants. Soon it will be time to get out my feeders and start filling them with the black oil sunflower seeds that bring so many winter birds to my yard. I usually wait until the first snow, or Thanksgiving, whichever comes earlier.

Mouse tunnels in the grass - can you see them?

A cool millipede I found in the yard.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


I couldn't take a photo of this, so I'll try to describe it. The tops of the trees are changing color these days, and various plants throughout the forest change at different rates. Today as I was walking there was a yellow skim about 18" above the forest floor. Ferns (I didn't bother to check on what species - I was too entranced by the overall visual image) are turning yellow, and they are all about the same height, with few other plants at the same level. So we ended up with a broken film of yellow ferns at about knee height. It struck me as similar to a thin film of ice on a pond, late on a winter morning when it has begun to break up into smaller pieces in the sunshine - the ice is lighter (due to reflection) than the surrounding water. Make any sense? Well, it was beautiful.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

so cool!

I just saw the coolest thing! I'm sitting here at my computer, which has a window looking over a deck and the yard behind it. A moth fluttered by the window, and immediately afterward a blue jay landed on the deck railing. THEN the moth flew back over the blue jay, which took off, caught the moth in mid-air, and flew off to land in a tree. And then presumably ate the poor moth. Nature at its best.

A quick update on the sassafras - so far it looks good. Today is rainy, which will help it adjust.