Flower Fireworks

Against a dark sky, all flowers look like fireworks.

~Gilbert K. Chesterton

It is a strange Fourth of July this year for me. I have mixed emotions about the things I see happening in our country (and our world). And, while I have enjoyed watching the big firework displays offered in many communities, I am not a huge fan of the many noisy backyard fireworks sounds we hear for several nights each year around the holiday. I worry about pets, wildlife, and people with PTSD or other conditions that might suffer when hearing all this noise (and the potential for accidental fires near homes). So, this year, we opted to hang here in the woods (plus, one of us is under the weather). As I walked around the yard this morning, I realized that our flowers offer a hint of a fireworks display of their own in their varied shapes and colors. Here are a few of those blooming in our yard today (along with a couple of critters found lurking in the plants)…perhaps best viewed with the sounds of the 1812 Overture in the background…

Queen Anne’s Lace (click photos to enlarge)
Bottlebrush Grass
Bee Balm
Scudder’s Bush Katydid nymph on Bee Balm. These little guys are all over the yard flowers now.
Garden Phlox – the swallowtail butterflies and bees are frequently seen feeding on these flowers.
Tiger Lily. These majestic flowers are not native, but have taken up a section of our yard, much to the liking of swallowtail butterflies and the hummingbirds.
This small jumping spider grabbed a planthopper nymph off a Tiger Lily leaf and was taking a lunch break when I saw it.
This is one of the few Cardinal Flowers that is not caged to protect it from the ravenous rabbit that unfortunately seems to prefer cutting this wildflower species over all the others in our yard. We’ll see how long it lasts.
One of the best pollinator plants in our yard, the long-blooming Starry Rosinweed.
The Smooth Oxeye plants are often defoliated by Silvery Checkerspot butterfly caterpillars, but not this year (so far)
Narrowleaf Mountain Mint
My new favorite wildflower, the rare Plymouth Gentian. I bought two of these at a native plant sale this summer and put them along the edge of one of the water gardens (they grow naturally along riverbanks that experience drawdown in the summer).
Plymouth Gentian close-up.

Hope you can see some of your favorite firework shapes in these beauties. And I hope you all have a wonderful holiday. May we all work to make our country a more inclusive home for all of us and the wild places we share it with in the coming year.

Faces in the Forest

In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.
John Muir

I find great peace in a walk in the woods. And I usually find something that causes me to pause and look closer. I appreciate these simple moments of time and reflection and know I am lucky to have the opportunity to be a woods watcher, especially when the woods are like those I have walked in this past week.

Sometimes you find things that you either don’t expect or that fire some neurons in an unexpected way. I had two such moments in recent walks.

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On a quick stroll at Quoddy Head State Park I saw this mushroom staring up at me. It isn’t often I frown in the woods so I was a bit taken aback by the gloomy glare of this fungus. A quick snap with the iPhone and I moved on, wishing the next critter to take a bite would result in an attitude adjustment.

The next trail side countenance was a bit more surprising. The rain had just stopped when I strolled down a path in New Hampshire and came upon a puddle. I remembered a striking photo a friend had taken of water droplets in a woodland pool so I stopped to give it a try.

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The first few pictures yielded nothing special or no drip pattern at all. Then I looked closely at the last image on my phone and it made me smile.

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I am usually happiest when I am in such places but it is a bit rare when the feeling seems so mutual. And for the record, this image is real with no adjustments other than a slight crop.