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Posts Tagged ‘may’

Sometimes it’s difficult to tell one cat from another, especially if they’re plants, not animals.

A cattail from last year looking ragged in springtime

In the spring, last year’s cattails look shabby and ragged.  An aggressive native species, colonies of this spike-like plant are commonly found in ditches and freshwater wetlands.  The soft down-like seeds are easily dispersed by the wind.  Besides being employed by birds to line nests, the down was used by First Nation’s people as a firestarter and to line moccasins and papooses.  Many parts of the plant are edible.  (For more see the Wikipedia page for Typha at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Typha) New green cattails will appear later this summer and turn brown as the season progresses.

Cattails growing in a ditch.

Cattails are often confushed with catkins, the male (and sometimes male/female) reproductive part on some trees and bushes.  Below are catkins on an alder tree.    The word ‘catkin’ is derived from the Dutch word for kitten.  In late spring, these catkins certainly look like kittens’ tails.

Male catkins on a speckled alder in May

In the next image, you can see the greenish catkins as they appeared earlier this spring, hard and closed.  Also visible on the leafless branches are small brown cones leftover from last year.  These cones hold many small seeds that are a favorite of chickadees.

New catkins on speckled alder with last year’s cones

Below are the pussywillows that are such a welcome sight in early spring.  Their soft grey fur invites petting by young and old.  As a child I recall my first grade class glueing these to an image of a kitten to provide texture and color.  It was a common craft back then when most children had access to pussywillows near their homes.

Pussywillows are a type of catkin growing on willow trees or bushes.  Eventually, they go to seed and appear quite different than when they first emerged from the branch.

By now, it’s difficult to find evidence of  pussywillows in our woods.  However, fresh green catkins can now be found on the yellow birch trees.

Yellow birch catkin

With such staggered and changing appearances, cattails, catkins and pussywillows can seem as mysterious as their feline namesake.  Perhaps that’s part of their charm.

Text and images copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2012

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May is one of the best times to see plants in bloom along the Salt Marsh Trail. The experience is not one to miss. Barely visible from the trail, bog rhododendrons, shown above, look rather exotic for these woods.

wild strawberries in bloom

Simpler wild strawberries are in bloom on the ground.  They seem especially numerous this year.

The soft pink of the flowering apple trees is a special treat for the eyes against the dark green of the woods and a bright blue sky.

Pin cherry trees are barely noticeable at other times of the year but right now their blooms allow them to stand out from surrounding greenery.

Up close, an elderberry bloom looks like an ornate chandelier.

Most ubiquitous of all are the delicate service berry blooms.  Unfortunately, they’re the most susceptible to being blown off their branches by strong winds.

Perhaps it’s this quality about them that makes them seem so fragile and ephemeral.  Like springtime itself, they never seem to be around long enough.

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Mayflowers c. 1840 by Maria Morris Miller

April showers bring mayflowers.  Sometimes in May… sometimes in April.

It’s raining today which is good news for all things green and growing.  Mayflowers  (aka trailing arbutus ~ Epigaea repens) are among the earliest native blooms to appear in Nova Scotia.  Half-hidden on the edge of the woods, their leathery leaves may look ragged and browned in spots, but the flowers are nonetheless fresh and pristine.  Their petals fade from light pink to white as spring progresses.

Mayflowers enjoy the moist, acidic environments that are typically found near bogs.   They are also shy plants, with a preference for shade. 

Over a century ago mayflowers were designated the floral emblem of Nova Scotia.  Found throughout most of eastern North America, this native evergreen plant is now considered an endangered species in Florida and vulnerable in New York. 

Unbeknownst to many gardeners who unsuccessfully try to transplant them, the roots of mayflowers have a secret relationship with fungus.  In this mutually beneficial liaison (also known as a mycorrhizal association), fungi gain direct access to carbohydrates through the roots of the mayflower.  At the same time, the fungus  makes the mayflower more resistant to disease and drought. 

In the language of flowers, mayflowers mean welcome.  Welcome to Nova Scotia.  Welcome to spring.

The image of mayflowers at top left was scanned from a postcard I purchased at the Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History over two decades ago.  I photographed the mayflowers just a short walk from the bottom of Flandrum Hill Road last week.

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Trees and shrubs are blossoming in yards, orchards and even in the marsh.  It’s blossoming time in Nova Scotia.  The air seems enchanted as delicate white and pink petals are blown in the wind.  The time to enjoy them is now. 

Chokecherry blossoms are blooming in the woods and near the marsh. 

Break open a cherry tree and there are no flowers, but the spring breeze brings forth myriad blossoms.
~ Ikkyu Sojun

The flowers of Elder trees are nearing the end of their blooming time.  By Midsummer’s Eve, their green fruit will already be visible. 

Serviceberry, also known as shadbush, are among the first of the trees to blossom.  Their delicate flowers have already been blown off many of the trees near the marsh.

There came a time when the risk to remain tight in the bud
was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.
~ Anais Nin

Pin cherry blossoms are not as showy as most of the other blooms.  Their tiny fruit will be appreciated by the birds later this summer.

The crabapple tree is blossoming next to the house.  I always wonder where the pinks of the buds go once the white flowers open.  This tree seems to bloom for such a short time.  The strong winds we’ve experienced over the past day have blown so many of the petals off the trees.  Blossoming time will soon be over. 

Thought is the blossom; language the bud; action the fruit behind it.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Spring sunlight bounces off the fog and onto the sea as the spruce trees watch in awe.  Light shows like this don’t happen every day.  In the woods, light is filtering through the mist and trees, putting on a spectacle of a different kind.

Beams of light are descending onto the forest floor further down the path.  Light shining through mist or trees in a forest can often appear otherworldly or heaven-sent.  This is especially so if the rays of light are separated from one another.  It’s no wonder that walking towards such a light is often used as a metaphor for attaining a peaceful presence in the next life.  

Spring:  An experience in immortality.

~ Henry David Thoreau

In the marsh, spring light is putting its mark on every surface. Nothing is so fine it can escape its touch.

Even colors are affected. Greens appear fresher and more full of life.   Pinks seem more tender and delicate.   Even the sky seems a kinder blue.  Nature is lighter and human nature can’t help but respond with a feeling of hope that at least for today, all things are possible. 

It’s amazing how spring light can so transform the world.

The world’s favorite season is the spring.
All things seem possible in May.

~ Edwin Way Teale

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Nova Scotia’s woods beckon in May.  They coax you outdoors and do their best to keep you engaged.  Apple blossoms call out for your undivided attention as you walk along the path.  ‘Look at us know’ they tell you, ‘we won’t be in bloom for long.’

Farther off the beaten path, bog rhodora wave at you in the breeze to come have a closer look at their petals.  Their delicate beauty is short-lived too. 

The soft white blooms of elderberry trees wink at you from a corner of the woods where mountain ash are also thriving.  These elegant trees have cropped up in large numbers since Hurricane Juan downed most of the large firs and spruce.  The lacy elderberry flowers wish to be noticed now too before they must give way to the berries.  

Down by the seashore, the story is different.  The whispers of the woods are drowned out by the ongoing moan of the ocean.  The seaweeds sway with the current below the surface but remain silent.  They want to be left alone in their muted sadness.  Only the waves seem to relentlessly rush to the shore. Are they finding comfort among the rocks that are waiting for them there?

Whether large or small, the rocks have become rounded stones, worn out from listening to the waves’ endless refrain of sadness hour after hour, year after year, age after age. 

The woods are never solitary–they are full of whispering, beckoning, friendly life. But the sea is a mighty soul, forever moaning of some great, unshareable sorrow, which shuts it up into itself for all eternity.

~ Lucy Maud Montgomery

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Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.

~ Edna St, Vincent Millay

The beautiful, the tender, the kind, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.  They represent to us the best that we have to offer one another.   Certainly among their ranks was navy diver Craig Blake, who was killed in Afghanistan by a roadside bomb on May 3rd.  He was only 37 years old.  His funeral is today at Shearwater.

This past weekend I walked through Bowes Cemetery with my grandson.  The sun was shining, birds were singing in the spruce trees and tiny bluets were blooming everywhere in the grass. 

Together we read the names on the headstones and talked about those whose lives had ended:  some in infancy, some in childhood and many in young adulthood.  To die at any age brings sadness, but this is especially so when someone’s lifespan has not yet reached half a century.  It’s also especially sad when someone’s life ends in the spring of the year, when all of nature is busy renewing itself and creating new life. 

Goodbye my friend it’s hard to die
When all the birds are singing in the sky
Now that the spring is in the air…
With the flowers everywhere
I wish that we could both be there.

~ Terry Jacks, Seasons in the Sun

And blue has never been bluer
True has never been truer
Honey never tasted so sweet
There’s a song in the breeze
A million voices in praise

A rose has never smelled redder
The sun has never been brighter
If I could find the right words to say
If you could look at my face
If you could just see this place
You wouldn’t cry for me today
You wouldn’t cry for me today

~ Mandisa, You Wouldn’t Cry

 

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Have you seen the Green Man? His tracks are everywhere these days…  in the yard, in the woods and around the salt marsh.  He’s been busy engaged in activities that are too often attributed to Mother Nature.

From the trail I can see where he’s been doing his business in the woods, carpeting the forest floor.

Even areas with standing dead wood seem to come to life with him around.

The Green Man has been laboring in secret for thousands of years.  Besides greenery, his signature work includes flowers like forget-me-nots that are frequently found growing out of bounds.

Through the ages, he’s been known by many titles, among them Pan, Silvanus, the Wild Man, Skanda and the Green Knight.  But Mystery’s always his middle name.  He’s busy wherever it’s spring and summer on the planet, spreading his seed and encouraging unbridled growth.  His drawn, painted, or  sculptured image is found worldwide in various cultures dating back to ancient times.  His face is often covered with leaves.

Though you may not get to see him in person, you’re probably familiar with his work.  It speaks to all of us who are looking for a rebirth of the spirit (and the garden) at this time of year.

For more information about the Green Man, see Wikipedia’s entry.

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mint-and-chives

April is a promise that May is bound to keep.

~ Hal Borland

mountain-ash

April’s promise of spring has unfolded in a flurry of activity this month.  New growth is everywhere:  in the yard and in the woods.  Strawberry flowers are already in bloom along the Salt Marsh trail.  As much as I look forward to this time of year, it still seems to catch me by surprise.  Did I somehow believe it wouldn’t happen?

Bird activity is constant.   The chatter is especially noisy  in the early morning hours.  It’s not unusual to hear a pheasant crowing in the yard at 3:45 am.  Grackles, doves, woodpeckers, chickadees, juncos, sparrows and robins hang out around the feeder well past our supper time.

The squirrels are either chasing each other around, eating at the feeder or  scolding intruders.  Their presence is made known throughout the day. 

Spider threads and webs are everywhere in the woods, created in anticipation of the black flies and mosquitoes that are surely going to be out in full force soon.  The insects will also provide food for the baby birds soon to be hatched.  

He that is in a towne in May loseth his spring. 

~George Herbert

spider-threads

red-squirrel

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