I spent Friday morning with my colleague Dr. Christy Rollinson and our summer research intern Liz Gibbons, visiting a few of the fixed plots in the East Woods. These are plots that Christy and her collaborators are monitoring for phenology, getting data of relatively high resolution in space and time, plots of 1 m2 inventoried for flowers, fruits, and vegetation cover by species about once per week. Joe-pye weed (Eupatorium purpureum) is about waist-high now, Helianthus decapetalus is up to my nose, the most common Solidago sp. along the trails (which I ought to know but don’t… I’ll try not to be ignorant of it this time next year) is nodding at the tip, and hog-peanut (Amphicarpaea bracteata) is looping over everything in the woods; it may be even more aggressive a couple of weeks hence, but you notice it now almost everywhere you go. Enchanter’s nightshade (Circaea lutetiana) is about shin-high. There are spittlebugs on the Geum canadense and Rosa and sowbugs trundling through the leaf litter. Red-eyed vireos and wood pewees were singing. Mosquitos were pretty swarmy, especially in the lower parts of the forest.
Achenes have hardened up on rue anemone (Thalictrum thalictroides; leaves on many of the plants are yellowing) and are nearly all fallen from early meadow rue (Thalictrum dioicum). By contrast, the purple meadow rue (Thalictrum dasycarpum) in Schulenberg Prairie is in full bloom. Fruits were falling from a buttercup I believe to be Ranunculus recurvatus, but checking our herbarium database I find that the species has not been collected from the Arboretum, so I’ll have to return to voucher it and double-check my identification. Geranium maculatum fruits are starting to ripen and curl, launching the seeds off into the adjacent woods, and the so-fuzzy-you-want-to-use-them-as-a-pillow downy yellow violet (Viola pubescens) fruits are beginning to dehisce, seeds lined up like peas in pods. Fruits are developing on Jacob’s ladder (Polemonium reptans) and hop-hornbeam (Ostrya virginiana). Solomon’s plume (Maianthemum racemosum) berries are pinking up, and bottlebrush grass (Hystrix patula or Elymus hystrix or Asperella hystrix… H. patula Moench seems to be the favored name now) is almost ripe, some of the spikelets breaking off easily, but none flinging themselves off at a touch. Some of the sedges are beginning to look bedraggled: Carex blanda perigynia are perhaps 1/3 dispersed already, C. rosea perigynia are darkening and the culms are beginning to grow weary. But most are still looking good: Carex woodii and C. oligocarpa, the latter of which I am noticing more this year than in the past, are ripe and holding their own. Carex vulpinoidea, C. sparganioides, C. molesta and C. normalis are in a slightly earlier stage. The latter is visible along the southern leg of the Heritage Trail and the east side of the road that bisects it as you walk south to the main road, and the morphological variation you’ll find in it along that walk is instructive to say the least. Carex cephalophora, C. stipata, and C. tribuloides are not quite as far along, at least the individuals I passed.
The flowering scapes of wild leek (Allium tricoccum) are becoming more obvious, though the white flowers are only visible as buds, not yet open. Meadow garlic (Allium canadense) and tall thimbleweed (Anemone virginiana) are in full flower. The bedstraws are good now. While cleavers (Galium aparine) is well past — I don’t barely notice the pale dying stems in the woods now, while the yellowing stems were quite obvious this time last week — you can find the broad-leaved licorice bedstraw (Galium circaezans) with wiry inflorescence stalks and widely-spaced cream-colored flowers on the Heritage Trail right next to the delicate, densely-flowered shining bedstraw (Galium concinnum), whose pure white corollas are reminiscent of baby’s breath. In the marshy area along the road that bisects the heritage trail, I believe a third species is growing, much more airy and densely flowered than G. concinnum, which I suspect is Galium tinctorium. I have struggled with bedstraws in the past, however, and I will reserve final judgement on this until I have plants in fruit.
This morning I biked to Maple Grove Forest Preserve just as the sun was coming up over the trees. Pewees, robins, red-bellied woodpeckers, great-crested flycatchers, and red-eyed vireos were singing. Nutlets on the musclewood (Carpinus caroliniana) have become crunchy. Morbid owlet moths were flitting around in the fallen leaves. A cranefly dangled from a touch-me-not (Impatiens capensis); leaning down to get a good look at it, I found that the entire stand of touch-me-nots was bejeweled with water droplets, not dew but guttation water extruded from the plant by root pressure in the high humidity of this already-hot morning. The wood nettles (Laportea canadensis) growing right with it are of roughly the same size and height but did not exhibit the phenomenon, perhaps because their hairs break the surface tension of the water droplets. Fungi have come out: dead man’s fingers were emerging from a fallen branch, midges or gnats or some other small diptera swarmed up as I poked at a stand of decomposing mushrooms. A few crown-tipped coral mushrooms (Clavicorona pyxidata) lined the ridge of a fallen trunk with other mushrooms that I don’t know.
A fallen sugar maple that appears to have been knocked down by a larger Fraxinus americana that fell on top of it is sending up anemic, yellowing leaves at the crown, about 45 feet up from the splintered base of the tree, where shards of wood stand to more than six feet tall. Will the tree survive, shoots connected to the ground by 40 feet of horizontal vessels? At the base of the tree, American pokeweed (Phytolacca americana) and stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) stand chest-high in a field of touch-me-not.
Stickseed (Hackelia virginiana) foliage has become obvious throughout the woods, along with Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia). The white snakeroot (Eupatorium rugosum) leaves have filled with leaf-miner trails, and young inflorescences are rallying in the leaf bases of a few of the enchanter’s nightshade (Circaea lutetiana), which you can see everywhere now. Scapes of leek are evident along a few of the trails, at the same state they are in at the Arboretum. Looking at one, I was stopped by a gentleman who told me that the leeks have been poached from these woods in the past year by folks collecting to eat them. I hope they were collecting leaves only, and just one leaf per plant… this might be sustainable, even if it’s not legal within the forest preserve (which it wouldn’t be without a permit). Seeds on the blue cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides) are the size of chickpeas, and capsules on the large-flower bellwort (Uvularia grandiflora) are swollen, dragging the plants down: seeds inside are hardening up. Fruits on the upright carrion flower (Smilax ecirrhata) are pea-sized. Wild yam (Dioscorea villosa) was twining around the plant I observed in fruit, and further along the trail I found the prickly Smilax hispida, which I hadn’t seen here previously. Fruits are developing on the jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum), and fruits on the downy yellow violet are, as at the Arboretum, starting to dehisce.
The great waterleaf (Hydrophyllum appendiculatum) straddles flowering and fruiting right now. On some plants, a few flowers persist near the base while the upper flowers have gone to fruit. The fruits are downy with short hairs, armed with longer, wiry hairs that remind me of the lemmas of Leiberg’s panic grass (Dicanthelium leibergii). Squeeze them, and the pulpy seed inside pops out, slippery and pearly white, perhaps not ripe yet but too hard to easily bite into. The Virginia waterleaf (Hydrophyllum virginianum) fruits are very similar in appearance, if perhaps a bit further along.
As I am studying Hydrophyllum fruits, a chorus of American toads erupts from the pond close by, strident, or at least insistent, and keeps up for a few minutes before they are silent again. It is Father’s Day. I walk out past flowering nightshade (Solanum dulcamara) and elderberry (Sambucus canadensis), a solitary fruiting Carex grayi displaced upslope about 20 feet from where it belongs–making me suspect, again, that there is something hydrologically funny about this place–and Carex rosea dispersing along the road. I arrive home to find my younger son ready to chat about music and games and the baseball game of last night. My older son is sleeping, then he wakes up, tells me they are going to cook breakfast for me, and closes the door so I can continue writing. As I finish these notes, the boys are cooking breakfast downstairs. The bacon smells good, and I hear David coming up right now. “Is it ready?” I ask. “Almost… the eggs are still cooking.” He looks over my shoulder and talks about the day to come, but I know he notices everything. They both do. They catch things I’m not even aware are going on and infer much of the rest.
And now breakfast is ready. Happy Father’s Day to you.