Beautiful bountiful boneset

BonesetBack in April, the boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum) patch looked really lush.  Recently, the boneset has been putting up flower heads:

BonesetToday, after checking in with the deva of the boneset, I began harvesting some of the lower leaves before they became bug-eaten and browned.  I used the leaves to make a fresh tincture.  (I gratefully used last year’s boneset tincture this past winter to prevent any significant down-time from seasonal illnesses.)

Boneset tinctureWithin a few hours, the liquid at the top is visibly green.  So beautiful . . .

Posted in Conscious nature collaboration, Herbal medicine making, Herbs | Comments Off on Beautiful bountiful boneset

Wild yam

Wild yamI’ve been keeping my eye on this wild yam (Dioscorea villosa) since I first spotted it this spring.  The photo (above) shows how well it’s grown as of a couple weeks ago.  Here are more photos of its progress from early spring, through its flowering, to its dead blooms phase.

Wild yam

Wild yam

Wild yam

Wild yam

Wild yamSince I know where at least two other patches of wild yam are growing, I anticipate harvesting the roots of this plant later this fall (for a personal tincture).

Posted in Herbs, Vines | Comments Off on Wild yam

Spotted St. John’s wort

Spotted St. Johnswort (closeup)I love Spotted St. John’s wort (Hypericum punctatum).  What excites me the most about it is the fact that it is loaded with hypericin — one of the medicinal components of St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum).  The hypericin accounts for the beautiful red color which appears when making a tincture of this plant.  The dark spots are evidence of the hypericin . . . and they are throughout this plant.  On the leaves (especially evident and visible when held to the light) . . .

Spotted St. Johnswort leaf. . . on the flowers . . .

Spotted St. Johnswort flower cluster. . . and on the stem.

Spotted St. Johnswort stem

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Those pesky keys in field guides

Crested dwarf irisOnce upon a time . . . many years ago . . .  I hiked in the woods and found beautiful wildflowers and wondered what their names might be.  So I purchased a field guide with lovely color photos and felt certain this field guide would give me the answer to all my questions for every wildflower I might see.

After a few years . . . I could not find all the wildflowers and forest plants in the field guide.  So I purchased more field guides — some with color photos and some with illustrations.  I was satisfied with looking through lots of pages in the field guides until I found a matching photo or illustration — and identified the plant.

And then . . .  I became dissatisfied with the inefficient method I was using to find the plants in the field guide.  Oh yeah, each book had a key for the best way to narrow down the choices to the one “right” choice of plant name.  So I began to learn each book’s key methodology.

Until . . .  I created IdentifyThatPlant.com as a place for people to learn how to identify a plant.  I realized the variety of keys used in field guides can be overwhelming to figure out.  So I created a set of videos demonstrating exactly how to use each type of key.

And the happy ending is . . .  the set of six videos will soon be available for purchase at IdentifyThatPlant.com — so you, too, can easily learn to use keys to efficiently, effectively and correctly identify plants which are new to you.

Join me in creating your own plant identification success story with a happy ending.  Sign up for early notification (via email) and you’ll be the first to know when the videos are ready for purchase.  (By the way, it’s quite probable there will be a special price for those who jump on board first.)

Are you ready for “A Detailed Study of Keys Used in Field Guides?”

Series title

Video series

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Hail

Shiso with hailAnother summer thunderstorm moved through this afternoon.  Oh my. . . that sounds like hail!

Watching out the window, I saw hail coming down and it got bigger . . . and bigger . . . and I couldn’t believe I was seeing hail this large.  I prayed everything would survive this storm.

Hail and shisoI grabbed my camera and — from protected decks — I quickly took photos.  Then, even as the hail stopped and the rain continued to pour down, I stepped outside and . . . the smell!  It smelled like fresh herbs and pine.  Of course . . . the plants had been torn by the hail and were perfuming the air with all their scents.

HailThis hail was incredible to me because (1) I had not personally experienced hail this large — up to one inch at the longest dimension, and (2) the hail was not round as I expected from other photos I’ve seen of large hail.  Instead the hail had sharp points all over its surface.  It looked like it had formed from many columnar pieces of ice — merged together.

Lettuce with hailSuch an amazing experience.  And the vegetables look fine.

Posted in Vegetable garden, Weather | Comments Off on Hail

Bluebird tales

Chickadee babies in nest

Chickadee babies in nest

So. . . I’ve built two bluebird houses over the years and one of them tends to be a home for chickadees while the other has been occupied by bluebirds. (The photo above shows this year’s chickadee babies in the house designed for bluebirds.)

This spring the bluebirds were in the “feeding their babies” stage in the second bluebird house (high atop a pole) when I became aware that my two cats had decided to hang out nearby.  The bluebirds swooped at the cats and called out loudly.  As soon as I saw what was happening, I brought the cats back inside.

A few days later, when the cats were outside again, one of them brought me a prize:  a male bluebird.  For the first time, I got really upset with this cat for her ability to capture something so beautiful to which I had become attached.  I wrestled with her and finally got her to release the bird — who flew off.  I brought the cats inside again and watched with heart-wrenching sadness as the female sat on the wire near the birdhouse and called and called and called to her mate.  He never returned.  After a very long time, she finally picked up her child-rearing duties and brought food back to the nest.  I thought I saw the babies at the entrance hole to the birdhouse.

I was devastated and vowed not to let the cats outside again until those babies had fledged.  Two days later I saw one female and two male bluebirds swooping up, down and around each other — trilling out their amazing song.  Oh how wonderful!  The babies had fledged that day.  My heart sang with them as I watched them soar.  (I kept the cats inside for a couple more days until the bluebirds no longer returned anywhere near the birdhouse.)

Bluebird nest in houseThis morning I decided to clean out the previous bluebird nests.  There had to be at least three layers of them since I missed cleaning out the nest last summer.  Also I had noticed how high up in the box the babies seemed to be this year.  Within hours of the housecleaning, I saw a pair of bluebirds flying — around, into and out of — the bluebird house.  And the female was bringing new nesting materials.

Female bluebird with twigsWow!  I wonder which of these bluebirds (or maybe both?) are from the recent hatching and fledging.  Life cycles onward again.

Bluebirds at house

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Pink lady’s slipper

Pink lady's slipperMagnificent!  And right on time . . . the pink lady’s slippers are blooming.  This year I found two of these delightful flowers.  Last year I could only find one.

Pink lady's slipperWhen bending close to the flower and getting your nose right into its slipper, you can smell the lovely fragrance.  I am always intrigued by the amazing intricacy and delicacy of this flower.

Pink lady's slipper (very close)I am entering this last photo in the Gardening Gone Wild Picture This Photo Contest for May.  This month’s focus, set by judge Alan Detrick, is on light as it affects a closeup image.

Posted in Wildflowers | 2 Comments

Hummingbird clearwing moth

Clearwing hummingbird mothAs I was standing over the newly blooming sage, admiring its purple color and the size of the plant, I noticed a new pollinator.  I watched for a bit, knowing that I was seeing a hummingbird moth for the first time and wanting to savor the experience.

Then, I made a quick request to the hummingbird moth and walked a fast pace back to the house for the camera.  Not having time to get the appropriate lens on the camera, and hesitating to get too close to the beautiful creature, I shot the photo you see above.  After getting several more photos, I returned to the house and cropped the images closer.

Hummingbird clearwing mothHummingbird clearwing mothHere’s a link to more information about the hummingbird moth.

Posted in Moth, Pollinators | 1 Comment

Could this be comfrey?

100702 Wild comfreyI found this plant in the woods last July and could not figure out what it was.  The leaves reminded me of the comfrey plant (shown below).

100616 Comfrey (closeup)And yet, the leaves are really quite different.  So I waited.  I saw the plant again recently and noticed it had a flower stalk . . .

110419 Wild comfrey (closer)I waited some more.  Now it’s blooming:

110426 Wild comfrey110426 Wild comfrey #3 (closeup)And now I’ve been able to identify it:  “wild comfrey” whose scientific name is Cynoglossum virginianum.  How very exciting to realize I was on the right track by thinking it resembled the common comfrey (Symphytum officinale).  Even though they are not in the same genus at all.

I did check on whether wild comfrey is a medicinal.  The only reference I could find is that the Cherokee have had some medicinal uses for its roots.

For now, I delight in the successful adventure of finding, identifying and admiring this plant.

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Spring flowers keep on a-comin’

Trillium grandiflorumA friend gifted this particular Trillium grandiflorum to me three years ago.  Each year it comes back more splendidly.  This year I saw it with as many as seven blossoms at the same time.  I believe the ants are doing their job, too, because I saw a much smaller non-blooming plant nearby.  (The ants spread trillium seeds when they enjoy the trillium’s fruit body.)

I experience spring as a rather long season with many plants in bloom during these months.  And yet, they bloom in very rapid succession so I feel challenged to keep up with everything (in fact, I probably don’t).  This post focuses on wildflowers — with an acknowledgment of all the other wonderful cultivated flowers we see during spring.

Yellow violetIn addition to the more widespread purple violet typically found in a lawn, the yellow wood violet and white Canada violet are showing their glory.

Canada violetThen there’s the sessile-leaved bellwort . . .

Sessile bellwort . . . and large-flowered bellwort.

Lareg-flowered bellwortFor now, I’ll leave you with one close-up image of chickweed:

Chickweed

Posted in Wildflowers | 4 Comments