Friday, March 29, 2013

Get Down Onto Your Belly

Photo: Wintergreen, Gaultheria procumbens
Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens)
The biggest tip I could give people for taking good plant pictures (other than buying a good camera to start with!) is get low, real low. Get down to the plant's level to take your photo. Sometimes in the case of tiny plants like wintergreen, it means you are at least kneeling or even on your belly to take the shot. The lovely part of getting down to take this picture was the soft and incredibly carpet-like nature of the moss bed in this beech grove (visible in this shot).

Monday, March 18, 2013

I Go to Nature to Be Soothed and Healed

Barnes Creek, Canandaigua, NY in Winter
Barnes Creek, Canandaigua, New York

"I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses
put in order." 

John Burroughs, (American Essayist and Naturalist, 1837-1921)

If you are like me in that you retreat to Nature for solace and healing, you will want to read these articles: Find Therapeutic Healing in 'Forest Bathing' and Forest Bathing for more information about Shinrin-yoku or forest bathing which is a Japanese tradition of therapeutic walks in the forest. Now you have a name and some supporting science for what you already knew to be true!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Signs of Spring

Turkey Vulture
Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)
(photo by Dori, Wikimedia Commons)
Unlike some, I find the return appearance of the American Robin (Turdus migratorius) a poor indicator of the coming spring season. Too many times I have seen these birds looking cold and miserable as a late winter snow storm pounds the area. No, I find a less beautiful bird a much better indicator and harbinger of the coming spring. The Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura) doesn't make his return to my area until spring is very close - usually syncing their appearance with the emergence of pussy willow catkins and skunk cabbage flowers which are other seasonal signs I look for.

Over this past weekend I saw my first turkey vultures of the season plus my pussy willow tree is also getting large and fuzzy catkins. I'll have to go out hiking to look for other pussy willows (Salix spp.), skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus), and coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) to get a better guess as to how close spring is.

Either way, I had better finish my garden planning for the upcoming season - it will be here soon!

Update: Shortly after publishing this article, I happened to spy another one of my key spring signs. A Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) was visiting my place and looking to lay his claim again to my yard. These highly territorial and migratory birds are warm weather only visitors at my house. All summer long I get to hear their bird "Top 40" - as I call their repertoire of copied bird song. Many times the male mockingbirds have they fooled visitors to my house thinking I have resident bluebirds. No bluebirds here but their copied song by proxy!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Know Your Herbs?

Here is another entry in our herb identification feature, Know Your Herbs? Can you ID the plant pictured above? (Two more images follow if you need to see more of the plant.) All the plants featured in Know Your Herbs have some sort of culinary, medicinal, or utilitarian use.

Think you know what it is? Check the ANSWER to see if you are right!

A Detail of the Seed Head

Entire Plant (Click to see larger image)