Category Archives: Wildflowers


Birds are still singing;

the trees are long past their first delicate greening.

Peepers at the roadside are suddenly quiet.

The northward surge of Spring is past us now.

Summer flowers are blooming;

Canada Mayflowers put on quite a show this year

and I found my first blooming Starflower

(but the photo was awful!)

Birds are looking for homes

in boxes and under bridges,

gathering twigs and feathers.

Or building nests

from vines and rootlets

and whatever magic things they can weave together.

They’re making babies.


Lots and lots of babies!

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I’m planting flowers of my own

and reading books

(and remembering how much I love the poetry of the Spanish language.)

I’m checking-off lists

and working on this year’s.

It’s a big one!

I’m planning a very private party to celebrate

and wanting to wander some, to contemplate

and squander time, letting it pass ungathered and unregretted.

There’s no pictures yet to share.

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What’re you up to?

Side of the road

You wait in the car on the side of the road
Lemme go and stand awhile
I wanna know you’re there, but I wanna be alone
If only for a minute or two
I wanna see what it feels like to be without you

I wanna know the touch of my own skin
Against the sun, against the wind
If I stray away too far from you, don’t go and try to find me
It doesn’t mean I don’t love you, it doesn’t mean I won’t come back and stay beside you

It only means I need a little time
To follow that unbroken line
To a place where the wild things grow
To a place where I used to always go

If only for a minute or two
I wanna see what it feels like to be without you
I wanna know the touch of my own skin
Against the sun, against the wind.

A thousand miles there and back to spend a day with friends, old and new, gathered for the New River Birding and Nature Festival might seem crazy to some…

In fact, probably it was crazy to do, but the singing birds, the people, the chance to wander alone looking for wildflowers in those riotously rich West Virginia mountains … it’s all kinda irresistible to me.

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Lyrics from “Side of the Road” by Lucinda Williams.

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(1) Windflower (Anemone sp.) Among my favorite wildflowers, Anemones are heartbreakingly beautiful and delicate

(2) Showy Orchis (Orchis spectabilis) I dragged Jim McCormac out in the near dark yesterday to show me where to find this beauty

(3) A giddy me photographing blooming May-Apples

(4) May Apple flower (Podophyllum peltatum) The parasol-like foliage of May-Apples is cool enough, but the flowers are especially lovely; more so cause you have to lie with your face in the dirt to photograph them where they hide beneath the leaves


(5) Fire Pink (Silene virginica) So named not because of their color, obviously, but because of the scissor-like notches on the petals… thanks Susan!

Fire Pink and silly me photos by MevetS.

One swallow

One swallow does not make a summer, but one skein of geese, cleaving the murk of March thaw, is the Spring. – Aldo Leopold

Early spring is a season of small flowers, of course, and one Spring Beauty or one Violet is of no consequence…

but a carpet of them, sneaking up through the blanket of last year’s leaves or the first green grass where the sun beckons…

that’s the Spring!

*the Violet is Viola brittoniana,a South Jersey specialty.

Pine Barren Beauty

Pyxidanthera barbulata and False Reindeer Lichen

This pretty little creeping plant is found only in the pine barrens of New Jersey and North Carolina; it creeps like a vine, looks like a moss and flowers like an herb, but is really a shrub; that is, its stems are woody. It forms small evergreen mats resembling mossy cushions and blooms in early Spring.

The name, shortened to Pyxie, delightfully suggests the fairy folk to whom the name belongs. Smiling upward from the sandy soil in the April sunshine, this tiny plant wields an incredible charm; especially so because I went out today not expecting to find much of note. As is so often the case with the Pine Barrens, I was pleasantly rewarded!

Botanical info from Our Early Wildflowers by Harriet Keeler, 1916 and Wildflowers of the Pine Barrens of NJ by Howard Boyd, 2001

For the wayfarer

You have to kind of wonder when, on a trip for the earliest blooming flower in the Pine Barrens, you step out of the car to find most everyone on their knees in the sand, peering into the vegetation with hand lenses or macro lenses.

What the heck?

I wondered just what bag of goods the Pinelands Preservation Alliance (via MevetS) had sold me on this trip… as if the setting on a bombing range weren’t crazy enough!

These tiny plants and their diminutive *flowers* were our focus.

My focus on them was never very good, by the way, because they’re so darn tiny!

Broom Crowberry is a very special plant, not only because it’s among the earliest of bloomers, but also because it’s quite rare outside of the pine plains habitat. Plant geeks seem to love it, despite its drab appearance. I was sort of less-than-excited about it cause I wanted SPRING! and PINK! and FLASHY! but whatever.

This attitude is probably exactly why I need to go on these trips… don’t you think?


I love the Pine Barrens, but its beauty is very subtle. It doesn’t give away its treasures easily, I know. You have to drive and then hike past thousands of pitch pines and scrub oaks, get lost countless times on sugar sand roads that all look the same, sweat and freeze and question your sanity and then, maybe, she shows you something wonderful for your efforts.

Where it grows well, Broom Crowberry grows in great mats across the sand… it likes to be out in the open under the sun and flourishes, according to plant geeks who study these things, in areas of disturbance… hence our visit to the bombing range (and the area near some power lines where these photos were taken). Like so many Pine Barrens endemics, it’s well-adapted to fire… in areas that aren’t regularly burned (or bombed!) it’s shaded out by tall trees or shrubs.

We learned that botanists (among them Alexander Wilson of ornithological fame) traveled from Philadelphia to the Pinelands to find these plants and Thoreau described Broom Crowberry as “a soft, springy bed for the wayfarer”.



Winter color

“The color, we say, is gone, remembering vivid October and verdant May. What we really mean is that the spectacular color has passed and we now have the quiet tones of Winter around us, the browns, the tans, a narrower range of greens, with only an occasional accent in the lingering Winter berries. But the color isn’t really gone.
The meadow is sere tan, but that is a tan of a dozen different shades from gold to russet. The fallen leaves have been leached of their reds and yellows, but theirs is no monotone by any means. The bronze curve of the goldenrod stem emphasizes the ruddy exclamation point of the cattail. The rough brown bark of the oak makes the trunk of the sugar maple appear armored in rusty iron. The thorny stalk of the thistle stands beside the cinnamon seed head of the pungent bee balm. Dark eyes stare from the white parentheses of the stark birches, bronze tufts of one-winged seeds tassel the box elder, miniature “cones” adorn the black-brown alders at the swamp’s edge.
In the woods, the insistent green of Christmas fern and partridgeberry leaf compete with the creeping ancients, ground cedar and running pine. Hemlock, spruce and pine trees cling to their own shades of green, individual as the trees themselves. And on their trunks are paint patches of the ancient lichen, tan and red and blue and green, like faint reflections of vanished floral color.
The color is still there, though its spectrum has somewhat narrowed. Perhaps it takes a Winter eye to see it, an eye that can forget October and not yearn for May too soon.”
-Hal Borland, Sundial of the Seasons
(still my favorite book in the world!)
I love the way this author makes me stop to notice or puts a name to the things that grab my attention. Always there’s something to learn from Borland’s observations.
Anyone recognize the flower in this pic?

Too easily forgotten

A lecture and slide presentation yesterday sponsored by SHBO on NJ’s native orchids has me reviewing photos from this place and drooling with the memory of it.

One problem with waiting forever to process photos is the forgetting of details that happens in between.


I’ve all these photos of drop-dead-gorgeous flowers and can hardly remember the name of one of them!

I’m thinking this one is Ragged Fringed Orchid, as the deeply fringed petals make the flower look pretty tattered.

Am I right? Anyone know? Jim?

Midsummer minutiae

I love tiny, tiny flowers and the littlest details revealed with a close-up. I haven’t discovered the skill yet, with a very fussy macro lens, to reliably get all of the flower in sharp focus, but instead let the camera choose its point of interest. Sometimes we agree on what’s interesting, but often not. I liked the rich brown scaly head below the petals of this Yellow-eyed grass, but the camera had other ideas.

The barely pink urn-shaped flowers of Bearberry are a treat in mid August. This plant was obviously confused; flowering when it should be bearing fruit. The ant on the underside of the most forward leaf distracted both me and the lens.

I’m not sure which of the Bladderworts this is, but the effect of the water and the angle of the sun is pretty psychedelic! I can’t ever produce this effect on purpose, but I’m tickled when the lens makes it happen by surprise.

Sweet pepperbush and its tiny fragrant flowers… as abundant as blueberries in the Pine Barrens, but not as tasty.


I was up to my ankles in mucky water when I took this one, but a close-up of Horned bladderwort requires that, almost. I love the flower’s yellow spur. There’s some 11 species of bladderworts in the Pine Barrens, yet I’ve only ever seen 2 or 3 of them.

Thanks to Steve for use of his macro… I needed a close-up flower fix!