Ilex decidua

A Neenering We Will Go, Part II: What Passes For Fall Color

We are walking back along the Neener Path. Sigyn is exclaiming about the “fall color” we are beginning to see. Now, this part of Midgard doesn’t get the blazing reds, yellows, and oranges that other parts do, but she is very cutely appreciative of what we do get.

There is just a hint of red in the Virginia creeper and the holly berries.

The shining sumac is having even more success.

We will have to remember to come back to look at it again later, since it should just get brighter and brighter as the season wears on. By the time the leaves start falling, it will match my sweetie’s outfit entirely. As it is now, she’s the brightest thing on this path.

In addition to red, there is a good deal of one particularly garish shade of pinkish purple. I speak, of course, of the beautyberry berries.

It clashes with everything!

The insides of the fruit are a rather disappointing yellowish hue. I really wish the color went all the way through, because then you could do useful things with the berries, like dye some fabric that would look hideous on the human female, or else just leave some berries in her chair to dye the seat of her shorts in lurid fuchsia spots. Pants acne!

This same color, watered down, is actually pretty common around here in the fall. The human female would say its because certain classes of anthycyanin pigments are found in a number of plants and… Blah, blah, blah–snore! Shut up and look at the flowers.

The morning glories are the same kind as the ones back at the house.

Even some of the stemmy bits are purplish.

Some of the fall-flowering beans take the color even lighter. This fuzzybean (Sigyn, did YOU name it?) does it,

and so does this tick-trefoil.

Those little beany flowers are only barely pinky-purple. We will have to come back when more of them are in fruit, because–if I remember correctly–the fruits are covered with tiny hooked hairs that cling onto everything. If I can get the human female in a fuzzy sweatshirt and off balance, one good nudge should serve to get her covered head to toe with botanical velcro bits.

Oh–here we are with the bright shade again. This is the human female’s beloved false foxglove.

That she can’t get in focus to save her life. Well, actually, it’s not her plant–that’s the one that grows on the outcrop in the next county over. This is just its more common, more glamorous cousin.

It’s like a little, pinky-purple sorting hat.

And that appears to be the end of the fall color for today. There are plenty of leaves falling, but they’re doing it without changing to anything but brown.

Some of the leave are quite large.

I’m not sure where this huge burr oak leaf blew in from; I haven’t seen one anywhere around here.

And here is the champion of all!

Not the largest sycamore leaf I’ve ever seen, but certainly big enough to make a decent party tent for someone Sigyn’s size. But no, sweetie, I don’t think you should carry it home as a souvenir. It’s a little breezy today, and if you hold that leaf up, it’s going to soar like a kite and take you with it! If you really want it, make the human female carry it.

The neighbors already think she’s weird.

>}: [

I Am Quite Famous in the Botanical Community

Sigyn, do you know what day it is? It’s go-to-the-outcrop-and-look-for-the-rare-plant day! The weather should be lovely, too, so grab your sunscreen and let’s go!

(a bit later)

Here we are. The human female is meeting two colleagues here. Between the three of them, they hope to get an accurate account of how many (if any) plants are blooming this year. Here comes one of the others now.

Ehehehee and neener, neener, neener! Do you know what his first utterance after “hello” was? Not, “How have you been?” Not, “How many do you think we’ll find this year?” Ha! No, what he said was, “Did Loki and his little friend come today?”

Yes, indeed we did, good sir, and thank you for putting the human female in her place!

Idunn’s little green apples! Our first Navasota false foxglove has met us right at the top rim of the outcrop, and it’s a big, well-branched one.

Now that we have all reminded ourselves what it looks like, we can start carefully quartering the outcrop and getting a good count.

Hmm. It looks as if this will not be a record-breaking year, number-wise, though it is certainly better than the worst year. Most of the plants are well-grown and flowering well, which is good to see. There’s a good growth of grass and a lot of leaf litter, however. That means it must be time to BURN this place again! Just name the day, humans, and I will be here with a torch and my fireproof cape. (Setting things on fire is FUN!)

It is like meeting old friends, seeing the usual fall plants right where we expect them to be.

The obedient plant is abundant this year. The flowers will stay in whatever position you put them in. While Sigyn dangles, I think I will try to arrange the flowers on the next plant over to spell out semaphore-wise, “the human female is a dork.” It will look something like this:

except with more pink and less yellow and red. It will be a lot of work and might take two or three plants to get in the entire message, but it will be worth it, and I will definitely have time, as it is taking the GPS forever to calculate the waypoints.

The holly at the top of the outcrop is in full fruit. Isn’t my color-coordinated sweetie cute?

Hello! What’s this? The human female says it is a wild petunia and she’s not sure she remembers seeing it out here before.

It’s not really a petunia. I guess someone thought it looked like one, though.

And this might be new, too.

It’s snow-on-the-prairie. There are only a few plants her, but I imagine that a whole roadside of it would look whitish. Great Frigga’s corset! Sigyn, do you see any mature fruit? I need seeds of this dreadfully! The human female says the sap is caustic and that’s she’s really, really sensitive to it! I want to plant it all over the yard and see if she really does swell up like a red, peeling balloon if she gets any on her. (All for science, of course.)

Oooh! What’s this? I thought junipers made little blue-green-gray fleshy cones and not these pointy, twiggy structures.

Ah. Not fruits. Sigyn, did you hear? The human female says there’s an evergreen bagworm caterpillar in each of these, all tucked up for the winter. Basically, bug hotels. Imagine if you built and lived in a case constructed of everything you ate! It’d be cherries and Cheetos and apples and…more than a little messy!

We have finished our survey of the sides of the outcrop and are ready to have a look at the top. We don’t expect to find any of the rare plant up here, but the human female says we might see other interesting plants.

There’s this. It smells vaguely minty and has small, purple, hand-puppet-shaped flowers.

The common name is “skullcap”, which doesn’t sound very nice but it is decidedly comfy to lie in. The human female is telling some tedious story now, how the little extra “flange on the calyx” is the same shape as an old-fashioned John Deere tractor seat, except that today’s students are used to tractors with enclosed cabs and AC and stereo and have no clue and..blah, blah, blah. How is anyone supposed to rest with you yapping away like that?

One last plant to look at before we wrap up the day’s investigations. I like this one! The flowers of the zizotes milkweed have a strange, alien-looking anatomy—and they have horns!

Supposedly, butterflies love them. If I hang here quietly, maybe I can catch one for Sigyn to cuddle. It’s definitely worth a wait!

>|: [

Here a Neener, There a Neener, Everywhere a Neener-neener, Part II: New Releases (and possibly some shoving)

Yesterday we looked at plants we’d already seen recently. Nice, but a bit BORING. Where are the new things? I checked the calendar. It is FALL now. Show me fall things!! I demand fall things!

Ah. This is better. False foxglove. Shows up like clockwork the third week of September.

Sigyn and I have a fondness for this plant. Well, one of it’s relatives, anyway—the rare one that grows on that outcrop to the east of us. I wonder if we’ll get to visit the outcrop again this year?

What does one call that color, anyway? Pink? Purple? Pirpkle? Whatever it is, it seems to be a theme. (Trust Texas to have non-traditional fall color!)

The Beautyberry is quite conspicuous in the understory.

Gaudy, but great for dangling. (The one at the house does not have any fruit this year, on account of I let the tree-removers drop a big oak tree on it earlier this year and it is in the process of recovering.)

The Beggar-ticks has flowers the same color, only a few shades paler.

It has typical bean-family flowers and makes interesting little legumes (one of which is visible at the left end of the stem). They’re scalloped and break up into single-seeded bits that are just covered with microscopic hooked hairs, which makes them perfect for being dispersed by furry animals or clothing. I will keep an eye on this extensive patch, come back in a few weeks when they’re good and ripe, gather up a pound or so of them, and do a little experiment to see what happens when you dump them in the washer with a load that includes socks, sweatpants, and towels. (I’m all about the science.)

Looks like the Woolly Croton is doing well this year.

It has separate male and female flowers and is very, very furry.

Hey, I have an idea! Let’s see how well the Beggar-ticks stick to the Croton! A wildflower cage-match. It’ll be brilliant! I can sell tickets. . .

Whatever else Sigyn does on a nature walk, if she gets a chance to sit in a holly, she calls it a perfect day. The fruit on this Possumhaw are about half-ripe.

A little further along the path we have yellow rather than pirpkle. Unless I’m mistaken (which I rarely am), we are looking at Camphorweed.

That’s the flower head in the photo, but the wispy foliage to the left belongs to Horseweed, and the leaves to the right to another something else. (Sigyn, are you going to play ‘He loves me; he loves me not’ with the flower? Because I can tell you, if the ‘He’ is me; he definitely, definitely DOES!)

The something else those leaves belong to is, I think, Climbing Hempvine. The human female says, “it’s our only local viney member of the sunflower family or Asteraceae.”

She also says it’s related to the Mistflower. I can see that. Both have the same fluffy flower heads. There is certainly a lot of it here, sprawling over shrubs and climbing trees. It likes wet feet, so I imagine it is very happy here in the ditch by the path.

(That’s it, human female… Lean out over the wet ditch just a little bit more for the photo and it will be my perfect day… A little bit more… One good shove…)

Odin’s eyepatch! I hate it when she catches me plotting and removes herself to safety. I really, really wanted to see her sopping wet and muddy today! Oh, well. Maybe I will have another chance for mischief on the way home…

Hmm. There’s more water next to the sidewalk on the way home, a big floody area by the part of the wetland they didn’t build Large, Ugly Apartments on. I could push her down the slope into the Bagpod bushes…

Nah. She likes the clusters of redorangeyellow flowers so much and enjoys popping the seeds out of the inflated legumes enough that she’d probably just sit happily in the water enjoying the plant.

She wouldn’t like being pushed into the Horsenettles though. They have lovely flowers, but they’re very prickly.

In fact–ouch!–this member of the Nightshade genus–ah!— is– ow!—very unpleasant to sit in! I think I shall vacate! Besides, the sun has risen enough that it has cleared the surrounding trees and buildings, and it’s making me all squinty.

I don’t like squinty.

>|: [

A Very Colorful Fall Walk, Part I: A Mighty Pretty Palette

I asked the human female, and it isn’t my imagination.  The autumns are definitely becoming more colorful around here.  I’m not sure if it’s all the extra rain or the combination of mild days and cool nights or what, but things do seem a little extra bright this year.

(The fact that Sigyn loves colored leaves so much has nothing to do with it. Nope.  I absolutely did not up the xanthophyll and carotenoid content of the foliage. That’s preposterous!  Not I!  No way would I meddle…

…Well, okay.  Maybe I helped a little.)

Sigyn and the human female are doing one of their Neighborhood Walks to have a look at all the colors.  I’ve tagged along to make sure that Sigyn comes to no harm.

The bald cypress trees around town have outdone themselves this year.

taxodium

One of my favorite pranks is to tell clueless gardeners that all those falling rust-colored needles means that the tree is dying and should be cut down immediately.  I once got a landscape professional to cut down a whole ROW of them at a botanical garden, before someone applied a clue-by-four to his empty noggin.

Even some of the oaks have colored up this year.  This blackjack has a distinctly rosy tint to its usual paper-bag brown.

blackjack

For sheer brilliance, though, nothing can beat sumac.

sumac

It’s very nearly the perfect place for my beloved to hide!  But I see you!

The farkleberries are sporting some Aggie Maroon,

farkleberry1

As well as some missed-by-the-birds blue-black fruit and one very graceful half-Asgardian dangler.

Other plants have fruit too.  These yellow nightshade berries may look like little tomatoes,

nightshade

but they are not even remotely edible.

Bet I could sneak some into the next batch of the human female’s stir-fry…

Oh. There you go.  It was only a matter of time.  Sigyn has found her favorite perch.

yaupon1

No matter what’s on offer, she always seems to like sitting in holly bushes best.

yaupon2

Looks like a bumper crop of fruit for the yaupons this year.

possumhaw

And the possumhaw is decked out as well.

It’s been a full morning of admiring and dangling–and we haven’t even made it halfway around the block yet!

>|: [

A January Afternoon Walk, Part I: It’s Far Too Green

Sigyn and the human female are feeling a little house-bound, so I’ve donned my old clothes so that we can all go for a walk in the woods.  (Or, rather, they’re walking and I’m being dragged.)

Wait–what month is this?  January, correct?  And Midgard hasn’t toppled over to put us in the Southern Hemisphere, has it?  No?  Then why is everything so green?

clover

It has been a most atypical year, weather-wise.  All of this clover and grass is comfy and good to sit in, but much more appropriate for late February or March!  And can we move on?  The sun is right in my eyes.

Sigyn has found some flowers.  Are they early too?

helenium

Nope.  This is bitterweed.  It is supposed to flower in the fall, but in the past couple of years there have been stragglers blooming all through the winter and random individuals all spring and summer as well.  Hogun’s topknot, it is sunny today!

Ah, shade!  And this yaupon holly looks about right for the time of year.  It stays green all year, and the human female said once that the berries will stay on until the migrating birds in the spring swoop in and gobble them all up.

holly1

You’ll pardon me if I don’t try one.  I know better.

This deciduous holly is a little more blatant in offering up its fruity goodness.  No leaves to get in the way.

holly2

(Augh!  The low sun is right my face again.  Curse these winter afternoons!)

We are also seeing remnants of last autumn’s flora.  This verbena is just hairy enough to have a halo when back-lit.

verbena

And the pink muhly grass still has a little color.

muhly

Whew!  We’ve walked over half the park.  Let’s rest a bit and then continue…

>|: [