Notchbract waterleaf and dame’s rocket in bloom, full fruits on cleavers, sedges looking great

My family and I were in Door County, Wisconsin this weekend. I was leading a couple of field trips at the Ridges Sanctuary Festival of Nature, and I hadn’t really botanized in northern Wisconsin for about 10 years. Spring peepers are still going strong up there, and the woods are dripping with black throated green warblers. The trees are about as far along as ours, but the understory is perhaps 2 weeks behind us, especially on the east side of the peninsula, which is on Lake Michigan and much colder than I had realized compared to the west side, which abuts Green Bay. Several of the northern wildflowers were in bloom, things I haven’t typically seen flowering in my summer visits north: gaywings, labrador-tea, goldthread, arctic primrose, dwarf lake iris (everywhere! a magnificent species that is like a weed up there), floral buds on pitcher plant and starry Solomon’s plume (Maianthemum stellatum). The sedges were not far along. Carex leptalea, C. stricta, and C. aquatilis were only in flower. There were early fruits developing on Carex arctata, C. debilis, C. viridula (I am not 100% sure on this species, but pretty sure), C. eburnea, and almost mature fruits on a few species: Carex pedunculata, what I believe was C. peckii, and C. castanea along the bike trail, where it was fairly exposed. Carex comosa wasn’t even showing flowers. By contrast, the C. eburnea in our front garden has nut-hard achenes and darkened perigynia, and our C. sprengelii is starting to shed fruits.

On returning to the Arboretum yesterday, I found spittlebugs on Lactuca, Rumex crispus, some Asteraceae not yet in flower. This morning I realize they are everywhere: on Canada goldenrod and Symphyotrichum not yet in bloom, on yellow sweet-clover (Melilotus officinalis) in flower, on basal leaves of Queen Anne’s lace. I’ve surely missed them on other species. Erigeron is in bloom, along with Medicago lupulina and the common oldfield clovers, Trifolium pratense and T. repens. Maianthemum racemosum is in full bloom. Inflorescence bracts have started opening on Allium canadense, the wild onion that lines the roads through the East Woods. The sedges of section Ovales are in fruit (at least Carex molesta and C. normalis, and probably others that I am not seeing). White bear sedge (Carex albursina) culms are arched over with ripe achenes. Uvularia grandiflora is in fruit, Virginia bluebells are yellowing and dying back. The leaves are fully out on the trees.

At 6:30 the east end of the woods is dominated by indigo bunting, red-eyed vireo, eastern wood peewee and robins. A bluejay calls and a common yellowthroat sings from the field. By 6:45 the sun is relatively high, but it’s still dark under the maples. Thalictrum dioicum and Osmorhiza claytonii fruits are ripening. Thalictrum thalictroides fruits are almost ripe, and cleavers (Galium aparine) has fallen to the ground laden with hard, ripe, bristly achenes. I bite one, hoping that it’s spicy — it’s not. Why did I think it would be? At 7:00 a pack of coyotes yips and howls from the east prairie. I am on the hilltop overlooking the ephemeral pond that was full of chorus frogs six weeks ago. The coyotes stop after 30 seconds. I wish I’d been there to see what got them riled up. A great crested flycatcher and red-bellied woodpecker start calling. Mosquitos are everywhere, but not quite as bad as last week, and much better up here on the hilltop than down in the woods. I hear what sounds like the call note of a black-billed cuckoo… I follow it but do not find it, and I’m not sure.

I walk down toward the Big Rock Visitor Station and up along the Heritage Trail. Hop hornbeam fruits are the length of squirrels’ toes, soft and just forming. Virginia waterleaf (Hydrophyllum virginianum) is fruiting, capsule soft and hairy, enclosing a few translucent ovules. Notchbract waterleaf (Hydrophyllum appendiculatum) is in full flower throughout the woods, and it looks beautiful. Many sedges are ripening or almost dropping their perigynia: Carex rosea, C. sparganioides, C. normalis, C. hirtifolia, C. grisea, C. cephaloidea, C. jamesii. I have my eyes on the ground, scanning for sedges and daydreaming, when a deer bolts off to my left. I look up. I haven’t been paying attention. This section of the woods atop the moraine, looking down over the kettle ponds, is magnificent: oaks opening onto wetland to the south, an open field to the north, the perfect balance between shade and sun. The shallow pond down below, which I swear I walked through as a dry depression this winter— I think I can’t be right on this — is covered with duckweed. Something moves on the surface, then a frog calls. I follow it and wait. It calls once more but I don’t find it, and after several minutes I let it be.

I ride out the service road that runs along Hidden Lake. Awful dame’s rocket (Hesperis matronalis) is blooming. Back at the visitor center, I finish writing up my notes and wait for the cafe to open. A green frog calls, and now that I listen to it, I think this is what I was hearing also up at the pond along the heritage trail. Plant scraps are out of my pocket and on the table in front of me. The sun is bright, mowers are going, walkers are coming into the Arboretum. I feel exactly as I did when I was a kid and it was summer, and I had the morning to myself, and I’d look at the clouds and decide it was a good day to bike down to the dirty river by our house and horse around. The cafe is open now. I’ll get a coffee, read through these notes, and get back to oaks.

First field cricket of the season; Prenanthes and Maianthemum in bloom

It was raining when I arrived this morning. I locked up at Parking Lot 11 and walked toward the Virginia bluebells. The forest floor there is a bed of Impatiens now, upslope and down. In the cloudy dawn, the East Woods there is impressively open between the trees. Robins were chuckling and water was running alongside the trail. Prenanthes alba is in full bloom, along with Maianthemum racemosum. The leaves are fully out on almost all the trees now, but still soft.

The rain picked up. I walked into the spruce plot. Sensitive fern is opening up, fronds a bit larger than my hand. A chipping sparrow was singing overhead. A bit further on, just west of the spruce plot, a wood thrush was singing. Why have I been hearing the wood thrush in this particular spot of the woods this spring? At the road crossing to Parking Lot 8, the woodland sunflower is about knee-high. This particular site Jason Sturner collected from in 2006, and it was determined as Helianthus decapetalus. I would be inclined to call everything I see here this morning Helianthus strumosus. Taking a look at the two in the herbarium, and at Jason’s 2006 specimen, the leaf traits (petiole length, pubescence on the underside of the leaf, toothing on the margins) appear to me to intergrade, and we don’t have flowers yet to distinguish the two. Wilhelm and Rereicha’s 2017 book doesn’t recognize H. decapetalus from DuPage County, either. I’ll leave the 2006 specimen for Jerry to look at if he is in today.

On the walk out, I hear a scarlet tanager again, the same place where I heard him last week. There was a beautiful scarlet tanager in the woods at Greene Valley Forest Preserve Saturday evening at around 6 p.m., and a blue-winged warbler calling from the edge of the field. Monday as I got off the train in downtown Downers Grove at 5:30, there was a field cricket calling from the tracks. It seems so early in the year.

Scarlet tanagers, great crested flycatchers, veery, blooming sweet cicely

When I arrive just before 5:00 this morning, it is almost 70 degrees F, slightly cloudy, and the birds are singing: red-wing blackbirds, common yellowthroat, wood thrush, robins. I lock up at Parking Lot 10. Mosquitoes are abundant but a little lethargic. By 5:00 a.m I can hear field sparrows, chipping sparrows, towhees, eastern wood peewees, tree swallows, and what sounds to me to be a blue-winged warbler to the northwest in the field edge. I take my cue from that and leave my pack under the bench to walk north along the trail toward Big Rock Visitor Station.

I don’t end up finding the blue-winged warbler, if there was one (it’s a hard call to get wrong, but a bit soft, and what I heard was only the tail end… I reserve judgment for today), but the great-crested flycatchers begin soon and sound warlike all during my walk. By the time it is light enough to see clearly in the understory, blue-gray gnatcatchers and house wrens and chickadees are calling everywhere. It feels like summer. The touch-me-not cotyledons are yellow, Carex albursina is in full fruit. Sweet cicely (Osmorhiza claytonii) and Sanicula odorata (the old S. gregaria) are in bloom. In the spruce plot, a veery and a ruby-crowned kinglet are calling. Spores are developing on the undersides of the Dryopteris carthusiana fronds. A bumblebee is foraging in the Virginia waterleaf flowers.

I work my way around the trail to Parking Lot 8. Camassia are still in outstanding bloom, perhaps the most beautiful display I’ve seen since I started working here in 2004. Carex cephalophora, Carex radiata and Carex rosea fruits are developing, and Carex tenera is in first flower. I worry a bit about the sedge class I’m teaching five weeks from today… will the sedges be past by then? But I think I worry about this every year, and every year that I teach the class, it works out fine. Further east on the trail, the sweet-scented but pernicious lily-of-the-valley (Convallaria majalis) is in bloom. I see only one plant, and I know from experience that there’s no sense in trying to pull it: it will need a concentrated effort or herbicide to be rid of this. In a wet depression of poison-ivy and Ranunculus hispidus just south of the trail, Carex sparganioides and C. grisea are in bloom. A red-eyed vireo calls.

I reach the top of the hill overlooking the field near Parking Lot 10, near where I parked my bike. I’ve been thinking this morning about something that the ethereal Simone Weil wrote. She poses a sort of thought experiment in one of her essays, asking whether it is really people’s personality or essence that makes them important. Imagine, she asks, that we were to do some violence to a person that did not change his or her personality: would we think this was alright, simply because we hadn’t wounded the personality? The answer she arrives at (and I hope we all do) is “no.” What matters is the whole person, everything about him or her. I sit on a bench, and the mosquitoes are going to town on my arms and forehead. The sun is almost showing over the trees. Rubus is in bloom, Smilax is almost there, and the fruits on the yellow, battered Floerkea seem, miraculously, to still be ripening, drawing every resource they can from their withering parents to get all the way to germination time several months hence.

As I am walking to my bike, I hear a few “chick-burr” calls and then the unmistakable gravelly, robin-like song of a scarlet tanager. On the bike ride out, what I take to be a barred owl flies across my path (perhaps it is a great-horned owl, but it seems far too rounded for that). It’s still almost unfathomable to me that I get to be in the field hearing individual birds, finding individual trees, each with its own history. What first excited me about learning to recognize plants is that suddenly, knowing a species by name, I could recognize where its individuals like to live. “Names,” Richard Feynman tells us, “don’t constitute knowledge,” but plants, like people, are easier to get to know if you know their names. With sedges, I fell in love with all the funny places they prefer to grow. With systematics, I still thrill at the thought that each specimen in our herbarium, each DNA sequence, every data point, represents one tip of a phenomenally rich tree of life. We are always being asked why what we are studying matters, and frankly I study the things I do for few of the reasons we typically list: not because of ecosystem services, or their economic value, or how understanding This Particular Taxon will shed light on This General Question. From these secondary values, it may turn out that every individual is replaceable. I study them because I really like all these individuals, the individual oaks and sedges and flies and bumblebees and owls and tanagers and ovenbirds and ants. Not so much the mosquitoes, but the rest of them.

Ovenbirds, blooming wild hyacinth and bulbous bittercress

The morning is cloudy, ca. 55 degrees at 5:00. When I arrive, red-winged blackbirds, song sparrows, robins, and a common yellowthroat are singing from the wetland next to Finley and I-88. I lock up at Parking Lot 10 and hear a towhee, a chipping sparrow, a house wren. For a moment I think I hear a chorus frog, but I suspect it’s in my imagination only. Have twice wrongly declared that the chorus frogs seem to be done for the year, I’m wary. Last night they were singing beautifully along Park Street at about 8 p.m., and last week they were raising a ruckus out by Ware Field. It may be that chorus frogs just switch to singing later in the day when mating season is past. I’ll make no more declarations today.

I recognize a depression by the trail’s edge first by the mat of yellowing false mermaid in a pool of swamp buttercup (Ranunculus hispidus). There is a patch of wild ginger, one of geranium, scattered Solomon’s plume (Maianthemum racemosum). A mosquito lands on my cheek. A field sparrow has just started singing. It’s 5:20.

South of the trail a little further on is a sea of trout lily. The carrion-flower is in bloom. I just started noticing Joe-pye weed this week, about thigh-high. Further in, a light-green patch of lady fern (Athyrium filix-femina) is full size, and nearby is a clone of Pennsylvania sedge (Carex pensylvanica), a nearly perfect circle about 1.5 m in diameter, nearly the same color as the lady fern (remember that I am color-blind, so take this for what it is worth), exceptionally wispy in texture. There are a couple of little advance units moving out from the edge into the woods. Why has this conspicuous colony formed here and not elsewhere? There seems to be no difference in topography, no difference in shade or anything else. I presume the sedge just got here first.

It’s almost 5:30. Chickadees are singing from a few directions, and I hear a tree swallow in the field between the trail and the Arboretum drive. Five minutes later, a phoebe starts calling. Jack-in-the-pulpit fruits are beginning to develop. There is a stand of woodland sunflower about knee-high. Just past them there is a lower wet area. A few trout-lilies are still in bloom here, while most of the rest have gone to fruit; I noticed a few in flower in the lawn out by the daffodils on the west side last night, as well. A patch of Carex hirtifolia is well behind the rest of its colleagues, prominently staminate. An ovenbird calls from a honeysuckle thicket about 30 feet away. It’s my first of the year. I listen for a bit to make sure it’s not just wishful thinking, and there he is again. I walk to Parking Lot 10 past a flowering Carex grisea, debate taking the trail toward the spruces to see if the thrush is singing again this morning, but decide in the end to walk through the oak collection.

It’s nearly 6:00 and the woods are bright, every bird waking up. A blue-gray gnatcatcher is picking at the catkins in one of the giant, spontaneous white oaks at the entrance to the oak collection. I think I hear a yellow warbler twice, then I don’t hear him again and I don’t see him either. I don’t think it could have been anything else, but I’m not certain. The oaks are mostly leafing out. Numbering among the few exceptions are a few little southern trees whose marcescence was so conspicuous this past winter. They are a couple of blackjack oaks and a couple of post oaks, and their leaves are still hardly bigger than the first segment of my thumb. These are southern oaks: why aren’t they leafing out early? I’m going to have to ask Christy Rollinson and Bob Fahey about this.

In the marsh, the Carex lacustris perigynia are well along. There are more fruits than I expect: in a ca. 2m x 2m patch right by the boardwalk, I count 23 fruiting culms. I am counting quickly and just leaning over the railing, so likely my count is off by a few, but typically I don’t find more than a few fruiting individuals in an entire colony of this species. On the north side of the boardwalk, Carex stipata and Cardamine bulbosa are flowering. A common yellowthroat calls from the edge of the wetland, and the red-winged blackbirds are chasing around the treetops. At west end of the boardwalk, Osmorhiza claytonii is in flower, the first I’ve seen. The plants in the woods haven’t flowered yet that I’ve noticed today.

It’s 6:30, and I’m now almost as far from my bike as I could be. I truck down the trail only to be stopped in my tracks by an exceptional stand of Camassia scilloides. The first plants are in flower, and Cindy Crosby reports the first flowers this week. There are more to come. Further on in the marsh, Ranunculus flabellaris is flowering, and foliage of Cicuta and Plantago is several inches out of the water. On the north trail leading back toward Big Rock Visitor station, Viburnum prunifolium is blooming. Black-throated green warblers and wrens are singing here and there. By the time I cross the bridge, it’s 7:15. On the ride into work, there are geraniums in abundance along the roadside, Prunus americana in bloom, and some little warbler with white tail patches that dives into the shrubs and refuses to come out again. Birds.

A normal spring day in the East Woods, but with a pileated woodpecker!

When I arrived this morning, the sun was just close enough to the horizon that I could ride the road without a light on, but slowly. Redwing blackbirds and robins were singing. By 5:20, it was light enough to botanize. Wrens were singing from the opening at the east end of the ravine that runs along the south edge of the woodlnad trail. A white throated sparrow had started up, and a field sparrow called from down near the east prairie.

The ravine that runs out toward the east along the south end edge of the woodland trail opens out at its east end into a low green opening, flat. I have never explored this ravine, so I headed down into it. The south-facing slope was a carpet of wild ginger, with clumps of Carex jamesii that I believe came into flower just in the past week and is already beginning to fruit. This is a unispicate sedge, an important Carex lineage of which we don’t have many species in our area, and perhaps they simply go more quickly from flower to fruit than I had realized. Carex blanda was in fruit as well. The flat opening I have visited before, but only its edge, and from the south edge. It is much like I had seen from that side: a carpet of false mermaid, now all sickly yellow and matted down with fruits well developed, flowering swamp buttercup, and Prenanthes alba and Smilax beginning to bloom. Cleavers (Galium aparine) is fully extended and in fruit, sprawling against fallen logs. To my surprise there was a labelled black walnut in there, quite large. Was there previously a trail down there or some interpretive stop? I’ll have to ask. I wandered around a bit and then headed back up to the trail.

The sun was coming in through the East Prairie. I headed around the woodland trail toward the Big Rock shortcut, and decided to take a shortcut myself up through the Rubus and Rosa brambles. Everything is coming along nicely, not a lot new going on in the world of flowers. I came across a stand of fowl mannagrass (Glyceria) that I had never noticed, a good sized patch of it. How do I miss these things? It’s not so far off the trail that I have a good excuse. In the epheral pool beside it was a nice stand of Carex tribuloides, one of my all-time favorites, but not yet in flower. I reached my bike and heard a yellow warbler calling from the wetland. It had been a nice walk, not a lot new to report. I figured I would get in, write a short note, and get on to a morning meeting I have today at Chicago Botanic Garden.

As I was heading back to the research building, a warbler was calling from a tree high overhead. The sun was illuminating the topmost boughs of the trees surrounding the fields west of Big Rock Visitor Station. Warblers often get active at this time, when they are first warming up for the day, but they are also usually so high in the trees that I can’t see them well. I stopped to try to find him. He was singing loud enough, and I could pinpoint him in one tree for several songs, then moving over to another. I couldn’t think of what the song was… perhaps just the call of a yellow-rumped warbler? Aside from the black-throated green I heard last week and the yellow warbler I heard this morning, and perhaps some blue-grey gnatcatchers—I’m increasingly doubting any gnatcatchers I think I’ve been hearing this spring as just wishful thinking—the yellow rumps are all I’ve seen this season. Perhaps that was what it was. I turned my bike and started to head out.

At that moment, I heard from the north side of the road the wild monkey call of what I at first thought was a northern flicker, but immediately suspected was far too loud. Pileated woodpecker? I turned to watch. A big black bird swooped off further into the woods. There was no other choice: the bird was almost crow sized, though I couldn’t see anything but black, and it was definitely the woodpecker I had heard. I kept my eyes on the tree he had landed in and biked up to where I could see more clearly. I leaned my bike against a tree and started walking up the southwest-facing slope through the savanna at the edge of the woods, overlooking the unnamed kettle pond wedged between the road and the heritage trail. The woodpecker flew further into the woods, and I lost sight of him. I walked through a stand of shooting star in bloom and heard him hammering. I looked up and around, trying for several minutes to find him. The sound of a pileated woodpecker drumming or drilling is, like everything else about him, very much like a downy or hairy or red-bellied woodpecker, but much bigger. I couldn’t place the sound, which reflected off the trees all around. I had a great view of the trees around and didn’t really think I had lost him, but I couldn’t figure out where he had gone.

Then suddenly I caught sight of him on a downed log that had fallen perpendicular to the trail. “Excavating” inadequately describes what he was doing. He was tearing into the tree, woodchips flying, adjusting back and forth in abrupt little quanta of movement, drilling his way precisely in toward something he dearly wanted and knew was in there. How could he know from a distance there would be food in there? And yet he must have. He hammered at the wood for 5 seconds, turned his head to look at what he was doing, adjusted, hammered away again, never stopping. He was quiet for a few moments, dipping his long bill into and out of the hole he had been making, then drilling again. When he was eating, I know that it must have been silent except for the sound of his bill against rotten wood, but as I recall it now, it’s as though the drilling never stop.

After about 5 minutes at a distance of at least 30 feet, I started walking very slowly toward him. I tried to time my steps to coincide with when he was buried in his work, up to his eyeballs in wood, but he was looking everywhere at once. What vigilance! If I were to try to do this, I would get nothing done, yet he was somehow wholly focused on what he was doing while simultaneously keeping his eyes on the entire woods at once. How is this possible? He seemed not to be overly concerned about me as I inched my way closer. I got to within about 18 feet. He was throwing everything he had into this, as though he were digging to save his life. The crest on his head and his neck muscles and his bill and his straight back were aimed only at the task of opening the log and getting the goods out. How was there any energy left to keep even his heart running? I wondered briefly what he might do if I got too close. I have no doubt about what a creature like that could do to a person’s skull.

A woodpecker on the bole of a tree uses its tail for stability. So, it turns out, does a pileated woodpecker on a rotten log. He dipped in and out dozens of times while I watched him, made numerous precision turns here and there, ate his fill. Then he raised his head and seemed to consider his situation for a moment. Perhaps it was half a second… perhaps it was 5 seconds. He flew off to a nearby tree and rested for a moment, then he started to work on that tree, drumming and pounding. I don’t know if I had perturbed him, but I wasn’t too concerned about it. A bird like that won’t wait long after I’m gone to come back and finish what he’s started.

I walked to the log and found to my surprise not one hole but two. I believe he made both, and in the course of the roughly 10 to 20 minutes I had been watching him. One was circular hole about one inch diameter. To its left was a hole about 2 inches long and 3/4 inch wide. Both were about an inch or so deep, burrowed into rotted wood. Again I wondered what had brought him to this section of this particular log today. It did not differ obviously in color or texture from the rest of the log, at least not to me. But I am not a woodpecker, just as he is not a plant systematist. He had bet right. Looking inside the larger hole, I saw one ant hobbling around, aimlessly. Have you ever seen an ant hobble? or move aimlessly? Neither have I, except when it is injured, and this one appeared dazed, the lone survivor of a thoroughly unexpected attack. Ants are remarkable social creatures, but I suspect that ants don’t have the intellectual wherewithal or social infrastructure to record these kinds of catastrophes and communicate them to others. Presumably, no ant has grown up hearing stories of a flood that devoured the world, of hordes of locusts that destroyed ancestors’ crops, of the plague. If there were such stories in ant lore, this lone survivor’s tale might well impact the arrangement and organization of colonies 1000 years hence.

Of course I know the ant I was watching certainly was not the lone survivor of the woodpecker, but I can’t help thinking these things. The ants’ misery aside, I walked out through the shooting stars thoroughly buoyed. It wasn’t yet 6:30, the trees on the far side of the field just illuminated on their upper halves, and I had the whole day ahead of me. Field sparrows and house wrens were singing. On the ride back to the office, I found bladder-nut (Staphylea trifolia) in bloom. I arrived, ate my breakfast and sat down to write. I need to leave momentarily for Chicago Botanic Garden, where I’ll spend the morning talking about how to mine oak genomic data for molecular markers that we may use for the next several years to tease apart evolutionary relationships from patterns of gene flow among white oaks and their relatives. One of them may be the very tree the pileated woodpecker is perched in right now, or, more likely, working on.

Black-throated green warblers

Between 4:30 and 4:45 this morning, the sky went from essentially black in the east to glowing. Venus is still bright in the mornings. It’s been raining almost incessantly since Friday, five days. This is the first really nice morning, but there was still haze in the air, and not many stars visible. By the time I reached the Arboretum, it was light enough to see the ground clearly and make out some plants. There were already field sparrows and song sparrows singing when I locked up at P10, and the flowers of Enemion stood out clearly in the twilight. White-throated sparrows started up a few minutes into my walk. No frogs or toads this morning, but it is gloves weather, and I hear that it dipped down to 30 F nearby.

The woods have developed considerably in the past week. The sugar maple leaves are unfurled but not yet fully open, like butterflies’ wings fresh out of the chrysalis, waiting to harden off. Basswood leaves are the diameter of tennis balls. Geranium is in bloom everywhere. Wild ginger leaves are overtopping each other. Low areas alongside the trail are all filled with water. As I walked toward P8, a great horned owl called.

By the time I crossed the road at P8, it was bright enough to see everything. There was a Viburnum lantana in bloom alongside the road. A number of sedges are already fruiting: Carex albursina perigynia are filling up and just peeking around the edges of their bracts, C. hiritifolia culms that were in flower a week ago are now arching with the weight of developing achenes, C. sprengelii is dangling with perigynia. The Vignea sedges aren’t there yet: C. rosea flowers aren’t even open, though in the groundcover garden (which I would expect to be at least a week or two ahead), the close relative C. radiata has been in flower for at least a week. This morning I did not see any Jacob’s ladder in bloom, but I saw some in on my ride out through the woods last night. The mayapples have mostly started to fruit, though some are still in flower. Trout-lilies are all in fruit, onions are about to flower (though the wild leeks still look exactly the same, leaves out, flowers hiding underground), nodding and big-flowered and prairie trillium are all still in bloom, Solomon’s plume is coming into flower. False mermaid was beaten to the ground by this rain and has nearly given up the ghost. I picked a plant and bit the flower: the fruits are developing, though not as far along as I would have expected them this late in the season. I’ll have to watch more closely in the coming week or two to see if they are really done for the year. They don’t have much time left in which to drop their achenes, which will wait for winter to germinate.

I crossed the road again toward P12 and, perhaps 50 feet from the spruce plot, I heard a wood thrush. Walking into the spruces was like entering a cathedral in midday: there is the noise of the road, the heat of the day, then with the step over the threshold the temperature drops a few degrees and the sound of the city outside is muted, softer than the sound of the still reverberation of the hall. The thrush’s song filled the spruce grove and was mixed with calls of other birds I didn’t recognize but probably ought to have. There is no song like a thrush’s.

I crossed the road at P12 and walked to the east end of the woods. A fog was settled over the east prairie, and I walked further east to see it. I was immediately in a monoculture of Virginia bluebells, which are going to fruit. They form a denser stand than I had realized. Where the bluebells are growing, essentially nothing else does. Can this be natural? Is this a cultivar of some kind? They are as dominant here as garlic-mustard is in other places. Wood nettles are thigh-high in the openings, along with native celandine poppy (Stylophorum diphyllum) going to fruit. Little else grows through except for some poison ivy and Virginia creeper.

By now the sun had come up, and I was antsy to get back to work. A wood duck squeaked about 20 feet overhead in a red oak. I have been worried about the warblers lately, as I’ve only seen yellow-rumps and perhaps heard one other. As I walked back to my bike, I heard my first black-throated green warbler of the spring. It seems late: I typically think of full-sized leaves on the sugar maples and full bloom on the geraniums as being the end of the good warbling, but there is variation from year to year. I’m hopeful there are still warblers around the corner.