nature

More Blossoms in the Boonies

Some years ago, Sigyn and I accompanied the human female to a local Wildflower Day at the Boonville Cemetery and Heritage Park. We had fun then, so I’m not averse to being dragged along to a similar event today.

It’s a beautiful day, and the flowers are out en masse.

That photo doesn’t begin to show what’s out here. There are all sorts of brightly-colored posies nestled down in the grass, there are sweeps of purple phlox in other parts of the park, and it looks for all the world as if some cosmic box of crayons has had been overturned out here. Sigyn is beside herself.

Various groups are setting up tables. I can see the local Master Naturalists over there, and I think that set-aside area is for kids to do coloring and painting. The human female has waited until the last minute to make a sign for her table.

She hasn’t even opened the markers yet.

It’s a small selection, but it includes the two most important colors.

It’s not the worst poster I’ve ever seen, but it’s a bit crude, don’t you think?

Looks like she’s doing the same thing she did last time, trying to show off. Just to take her down a peg or three, I’ll make sure that everyone who stops by asks a non-wildflower question. Let’s see what she knows about tomatoes, roses, and weird groundcover things from California. That ought to make her twitch.

The human male got dragged along this year, and he has set up a table about wildflower photography. He’s getting more questions than the human female! It’s amazing how many people own fancy cameras and don’t know how to use them, or who don’t know that cellphone cameras do a pretty decent job. That’s what I use to get all my great photos of Sigyn and flowers. If it’s good enough for a god, it should be good enough for anybody!

Looks like drawing is happening in between questions.

I think this is another one of her drawings that the human female is going to try to turn into a pattern for counted cross-stitch. Hmm. I’m no embroiderer, but I can tell that this little grass is going to be all backstitch and isolated cross-stitches. It will be a beast to chart and a pain to stitch. I love it so much!

I’m getting bored. What further mischief can I get up to? I already made sure the sketchbook got when when the ceiling fell in in the craft room last year, so I don’t need to tip anything over on it today.

I know! It’s pretty breezy today. If I put a little godly energy behind it, I bet I can get a veritable gale going. Done! Everyone’s phone is now going off with Wind Advisories and Fire Danger warnings. Everything on the table is trying to fly away, and folks are scrambling for rocks to keep everything in place.

See those wildflower cross-stitch charts the human female made and brought for giving away? I can make the wind blow hard enough to flip up the paper and…

Move the rock! Watch out, Sigyn, it’s about to go! And as you are very petite, better stick close to me, or you may find yourself airborne as well!

Ehehehe! The entire event is trying to pick up and head for the next county over. Oak catkins are being flung off the trees and the air is now, by my reckoning, 62% pollen. The humans will be miserable for about forty-eight hours now, antihistamines notwithstanding. Between windburn and the sunburn the human female is getting from the light bouncing off her sketchbook and up under her hat, she’s going to finish the day all swollen, red, sore, itchy, and dehydrated. Not a good look for her, but I try not to look at her anyway, so it’s all good.

Aha! Refreshments have arrived. It’s always interesting to see what a caterer thinks belongs in a box lunch. Sigyn is excited that there is a cookie.

Dearest, I hate to break it to you, but if you look, that “cookie” bag has lettuce, pickle, and tomato for putting on the little sandwiches. The human female specifically requested “no cookie,” since she’s trying to be better about sweets. However, if you dig a little deeper, you’ll find that there is one at the bottom of the box anyway, just for an extra bit of tempting mischief. I’ll let her decide whether to sabotage her healthy eating plan. Sometimes, if I give her an opening, she mischiefies herself.

(later)

I think we are wrapping things up. There are no more plant-related questions. Aside, that is, from, “What sort of self-entitled idiot stands astride the ‘Please do not stand in the bluebonnets’ sign to get a photo of his two ugly offspring sitting in/flattening down another chunk of bluebonnets?” And people say *I’m* an asshole…

Did you have fun today Sigyn? I know I did, and I’ll have even more tonight and tomorrow as the humans try to find the right combination of antihistamines, eye drops, lotion, and hydration to achieve normal functioning. Gosh, I love spring!

>|: [

If You Go Out In The Woods Today…

You’re in for a big surprise.

Well, no you’re not. It is no surprise AT ALL that the human female and Sigyn will take every opportunity offered to go out and snoop around in the forest. No excuse is too small! Sun’s out? Time to botanize! Heard the X was blooming? Let’s go see! It’s a day that ends in “Y”? Grab your hat and sunscreen and water, ’cause we’re headin’ out!

The objective today is to locate a stand of trees that the human female saw last autumn but could not identify. She thinks they might be Carolina laurelcherry (Prunus caroliniana). The cultivated shrubs of that species are flowering right now, and if she can catch the ones in the woods in flower, she will be able to key them out. (I know what the plant is, but I’m not telling. I’m here just to enjoy my own joke. Well, that and to keep Sigyn from getting lost.)

So here we are, tramp, tramp, tramp, stopping to look at every little thing blooming beside the trail. Come on, woman! I have places to go today; people to annoy. Find your mystery trees, slap a name on ’em, and have done with it!

Odin’s Eyepatch! We’re pausing again! What is it this time? Ah. I see. We have stumbled upon a patch of V.I.V.s.

Very Inviting Violets. These are awfully pale, though.

They are barely lavender. Usually, they’re a good, solid purple.

I agree, my love. They are beautiful, and they do appear to have “little cat whiskers.”

This is rather pretty–we have reached the Great Desolation, A.K.A. the cut that houses the inflow line to the water treatment plant. The morning is just cool enough that we have a nice bit of fog.

I actually like a good fog. You can hide any amount of mischief in it…

And now we’re back in the woods proper. There’s a bit of color in this clearing. Most of it is blue.

But a fair amount is yellow

Or white.

The effect together is very pleasing. Sigyn, make note of where those white flowers are so we can find the plants again later. Unless I miss my guess, they are blackberry flowers. I’m sure the human female could tell us the fancy slanty name for them, but I’d like to offer a new and appropriate common name. Behold, Cobbler Plant! That’s the best thing to do with blackberries.

(a bit later)

Is the human female ever going to find her mystery plants I mischiefied? My tummy clock says we skipped breakfast and it’s time for brunch or lunch or something.

Here we go! They’re not quite where she remembers them being, but we got here eventually.

Ehehehe! Look at her face! She’s completely discombobulated. I broke the botanist!

Come look, Sigyn, and see what’s got her taxonomic knickers in a twist. See the underside of that leaf, where all the rusty brown hairs are?

No? Me neither! Because there ARE NONE!! Ta da!!

So what is this plant? It’s not Carolina laurelcherry. That one has evergreen leaves, and the new, soft growth here means this plant is deciduous. It is also missing the two wet-looking, darkish glands at the base of the leaf. Those are a dead giveaway for P. caroliniana. The leaves aren’t furry, so that rules out Mexican plum. The only reasonable option left is black cherry, Prunus serotina, but that is supposed to have tan hairs on either side of the midrib on the lower surface, and this one is bald as bald can be!

The human female is finding it hard to believe that I would take the time and trouble to remove the hairs on every leaf of every plant of this species in this part of the woods. Oh, mortal, I would go a lot further than that to make you feel stupid, believe me.

Wait–we’re finally going home? Oh, I see. She wants to consult her collection of botanical tomes before either deciding on an identification one way or the other. Sounds good to me. All of this traipsing about in damp woods making the wet hem of my cloak cling around my ankles, so I’m more than ready to leave. I can watch her be confused just as well back at the house.

(later)

Mystery solved and mischief managed. The human female, after consulting the references, has verified that, yes, occasionally, Prunus serotina can have hairless leaves.

Especially when it has a little help…

>|: [

“L” Is for “Lepidium”–And Also for “Loki”

Sigyn and I are back out at the herbarium, where the human female is deep “in the weeds.” I’m told that’s a Midgardian way of saying, “lost and floundering,” and that is definitely true, but in this case it is also botanically accurate.

She has reached the letter “L” in her slog through the mustard family. While that might seem like great progress, given that I only recently recorded her as dealing with the letter “D,” I feel obligated to point out that there is only one “E” genus, no “F”, no “G”, no “H”, a single species of “I”, and no “J” or “K”, so don’t give her too much credit.

Lepidium (Peppergrass) is the group occupying all of her functional brain cells at the moment. It’s a large genus, full of white-flowered, weedy plants with tiny little flowers and round, flat fruit. (Except for the ones that have yellow flowers or rounded fruit…) Some of the local species are easy to identify. L. didymum, which enjoys the delightful common name of Swine Wart Cress, can be told by its fruit, which look like wrinkly little balls and its repugnant odor. L. austrinum is woody at the base and quite hirsute. L. densiflorum usually has flowers with reduced petals or no petals at all and obovate fruit, while L. virginicum usually has well-developed petals and ovate to orbicular fruit. However, sometimes L. virginicum feels like having no petals, and L. densiflorum sees no problem with making fruits that are wider below the the middle than they are above. The only sure-fire way to tell those two apart is to cross-section a seed (about 0.5 mm across) and see how the little seedling leaves lie in relation to the tiny baby rootlet. I’ve yet to see the human female attempt such a dissection. I’m betting she can’t do it, or at least not without slicing her fingers.

As she did when she was working with the daisy family, she has ferreted out an expert in the group and is peppering him with questions. The poor fellow has already agreed to receive a loan of the troublesome Cardamine from last month, and now she is stockpiling Lepidium to torment him with. Sigyn, let’s see what she’s got so far.

There’s this specimen, which she has been staring at for a solid hour now. It was collected eighty-two years ago down where the Rio Grande meets the Gulf of Mexico.

Look at the woody root and lower stem. I bet that this is one of the perennial species. What do the fruit look like?

“Loki, look! They’re all veiny!”

Great Frigga’s Hairpins! You’re right! Nothing in Texas is supposed to have fruits that look like that, and it won’t go through the key at all. I think she’s going to to email photos to her tame cruciferist and see what he says. It’s zebras and horses again!

While we’re waiting, let’s see if there’s anything else interesting.

Sweet Sif on a Cracker! Look at this weirdo!

Everywhere there should be a little stalk with a flower or a fruit, there are leaves, and then lots and lots of sepals! Nothing here has petals, stamens, or fruit! It’s mounted on the same sheet as a normal-looking plant. Just what in Heimdall’s name is going on?

Oh. The human female says that sometimes plant will mutate or get a fungal infection or something and it will grow “all funny.” This certainly counts! This sort of physical derangement would be massively lethal in an animal, but plants don’t seem to mind such things. It’s having so much fun making extra sepals that it doesn’t even care that without fruit it will never pass on its genes.

(later)

The poor beleaguered (that word doesn’t look right any way I spell it) botanist responded to the human female and asked for some better photos. She sent them, and he wrote back to tell her that her veiny-fruited mystery is Lepidium strictum, a species which occurs naturally in California and Oregon and as a non-native in Chile. What it was doing in southernmost Texas in 1940 is anyone’s guess! In the meantime, the human female has found two more collections of the same species, from two different counties, both from the 1960s! Ehehehe! The expert just happens to be wrapping up a forty year monograph on this species, and now he will have to make a note about this! If the human female finds more sheets lurking elsewhere that indicate that it might still be down there, he’ll have to do some re-writing. For her part, the human female is going to get to publish a brief note about how this thing was, once upon a time, lurking half a continent away from where it ought to have been.

You may be wondering how I managed to make this mischief when the plants in question predate my showing up to make life difficult for the human female. That is a very good question! But may I remind you about a little trinket called the Tesseract?

I get around!

>|: [

Squee! (Wildflower Wednesday, Sigyn Speaks)

We found the most beautiful flower on our walk today! It was right along a busy road, where we have been dozens of times, but we had never seen it before. It’s not very common here at all, so I feel so lucky!

Veronica persica, Persian speedwell. The flowers are about four times as large as the common sort I found last week. Isn’t it the most gorgeous color ever? Like a little piece of sky that fell down into the grass. Hee hee hee! It’s almost enough to make me change my favorite color to blue.

Hmm… I wonder if Veronicas come in red…?

: )

The First Good Neener Walk of the Year (Sigyn Speaks)

I think I’ll celebrate the arrival of spring with a walk along the Neener Path by the big ugly apartments that sit where the neighborhood pond used to be! Loki is busy tinkering with some mischief and says he’s too busy today and that if both the humans go I’ll probably be safe, as long as I don’t try to cross the creek. I’ll miss his company, but I guess that means more flowers for me!

The bur-clover is such a cheerful yellow!

The wood-sorrel is exactly the same color. Isn’t that neat?

And look! Here’s some yellow growing out of a crack in a retaining wall. The human female says these are called straggler daisy.

More yellow! This is oriental false hawksbeard. It’s not native, but it’s cute.

It’s like little dandelions on stilts!

I just love real dandelions! They’re so soft and sunny!

Sometimes you just have to smoosh your face into a flower and give it a big hug!

There is plenty of purple around too. The little wild sweet peas are sort of reddish-purple.

And so is the henbit (which I always think looks like little hand-puppets!):

But what’s this little blue flower next to the henbit?

I think I remember these from last year… What was their name?

Oh! Now I remember! They’re one of the little speedwells! So tiny!!!

Shepherd’s purse has tiny flowers, too, but the plants are bigger.

Squee! The heart-shaped fruits are so cute!

It’s sort of a toss-up as to which are cuter, speedwell flowers or shepherd’s purse or bluets.

Sherardia is like bluets, only smaller and more purple-lavender and less blue.

I could be happy just lying around in them all day.

Ohmygoodness! Ohmygoodness! Look!!

WHITE Sherardia flowers!!! I didn’t know they came in white.

Veronica and bluets and sherardia and a lot of other things blooming now are so little that I can’t try them on. No floral millinery today!

The spring beauties would be more than big enough to wear as hats…

But there are only a few of them, so I will let them be and just enjoy their pink stripes.

What is this?

Oh, I see now! Not flowers, but moss with little spore capsules! Loki will be sorry not to have come. He likes to lie in moss as much as I like to lie in sherardia and bluets!

I miss Loki. Walks are always better with him. I know! I’ll take him a souvenir. There’s a very pretty leaf on the path here…

Ooops! Hee hee hee! It’s not a real leaf! It’s a fabric one off some fake houseplant. But it’s very colorful!

Red and green! My color and Loki’s! He’ll like it, and he’ll have a good laugh at how I thought it was real for a moment. But it’s awfully big. I’m not sure I can carry it all the way home. If I asked the human female nicely, do you think she would put it in her jacket pocket?

Isn’t spring wonderful?!

: )

A Collection of Very Odd Walks

Sigyn and I have been walking a lot these days, and I have noticed something. Things are very odd here lately.

The weather has been very, very odd lately. Most days are running about 10 to 15 degrees F warmer than average, but every ten days or so a front comes through, blows another batch of leaves off the trees, stirs up everyone’s allergies, drops the temperatures to something resembling October rather than April, and then twenty-four hours later it’s all warm sunshine again.

No one knows what to wear, myself included. The cloak goes on, the cloak comes off, the cloak goes back on again. It needs to get real cold, REAL fast, please, because nobody needs to see the human female in shorts.

The flora is entirely confused. The winter annuals that should be waiting until January are already flowering, and a lot of the garden plants are still going strong. Look! Morning glories.

Look at her dangle! My beloved is absolutely fearless when it comes to hanging upside down.

I think she’s waiting for a bee to come and give her a little kiss.

(Another day) Now we are exploring the woody area between the Neener Path and the last street of houses in the neighborhood. The human female has been eyeing this patch of real estate for over year, wondering what is on the other side of the creek at the end of the Neener Path. Today we all have on our hiking boots (which in itself is odd enough), and it’s dry enough that we’ve been able to navigate the edge of the creek and follow it along.

Great Frigga’s Corset! Sigyn, did you know this was back here?

It’s a proper woodland stream oxbow! How odd to find it smack in the middle of suburbia! If you don’t look behind you– and pretend you aren’t within rock-throwing distance of the back of the houses– you could imagine yourself in a great little wilderness. This is a good Thoughtful Spot. I’ll have to come back when I have major mischief to plot.

(Another day) Today’s walk is in Central Park. Not THE Central Park, of course, just the local one, which is not terribly centrally located. While it has some woody-ish walking paths, it also has athletic fields and lights and places for cookouts and a playground, so it is almost completely unlike Lick Creek Park. Nothing odd about that, but what have we here? Someone has been defacing the tennis court!

What do you make of this, Sigyn? It looks like someone has been conducting a biological classification lesson in Chinese. How very, very odd! 您拼错了“kingdom”这个词,但您在正确列出分类级别方面得到了满分。

(Another day) Today we are just going around a couple of blocks. Nothing special. Bark at a dog here, poke a hole in an inflatable Yule decoration there. You know how it is. Hold on, though! What’s that odd blue thing in the leaf litter? Sigyn! Didn’t anyone ever tell you not to pick up things you find in the gutter?

(A bit later)

No. No, thank you. I don’t care how well you’ve washed it…

I’m not drinking gutter teapot tea!

>|: b

It’s December, So Time to Check for Fall Color, Part II: More Than Just Leaves (Sigyn Speaks)

We’ve had to walk a long way to find so many colorful leaves. But it’s a lovely day, and it feels so good to be outdoors that no one minds. (Well, maybe Loki has been complaining a little bit. The human female says that’s how she knows he’s still breathing. Rude, but a teeny bit true…)

Most of the flowers are long past flowering. This Goldenrod is wearing its furry winter underwear now.

One gust of wind or one good sneeze and we could have acres sown with seed! Acres of yellow next fall! Wouldn’t that be fun!

A few Black-eyed Susans are still out.

I hope the pollinators have noticed they’re here, or they will be lonely. : (

The Bitterweed is actually fairly common right now.

It flowers so prolifically that it’s hard to find a month when it’s not in bloom.

Not all the flowers are yellow.

The Blue Mistflower is easy to spot. There’s nothing else quite that color, especially this time of year!

Loki, look! What is that over there? It’s not blooming, but it looks…different.

Wow! The human female says this is a Grape Fern and that they’re not at all common out here. The leaves at the base are sterile, she says, and the sticky-uppy part is a fertile frond with little round balls of spore-producing tissue. Hence the “grape” part of the name. Hee hee hee! Loki licked it before she explained that…

Oh, my goodness! Oh, my goodness!

Buttercups! It’s entirely the wrong time of year for these, but aren’t they pretty? Loki, did you have something to do with messing up their timing?

We have almost finished our loop trail and are walking back along the Great Desolation (the water treatment plant right-of-way). Oh! We are stopping to look at this plant.

The random red and maroon leaves first attracted our attention, but now we are all scratching our heads trying to figure out what it is. It has pointy leaves and is very, very flat, with roots at every node. Whatever it is, there is a quite a bit of it. Since this is a disturbed area, it could be anything, from just about anywhere! I mean, this is where we found the white-flowered Bidens, the first record for this county. We’ve made a note to come and look at it in the spring to see if we can identify it.

There’s always something fun to look at in this park. I hope we can come again soon!

: )

It’s December, So Time to Check for Fall Color, Part I: Slim But Pretty Pickings (Largely Wordless Wednesday)

Every part of Midgard has its own peculiarities. One of the wonkinesses of this particular bit is that unlike decent, rational regions, fall color happens—if it happens at all—early in December rather than in earlier months. Even then, the color is neither ubiquitous nor uniform, so one has to actively seek it out to enjoy the random tree or shrub that has decided to eschew traditional verdant attire and attempt something as outrageous as…yellow.

To this end, we have all donned our “outdoorsy clothes” and prepared ourselves for a possibly-muddy walk in Lick Creek Park. Rather than bore you with a transcript of the human female’s relentless stream of botano-babble, I shall merely note the colloquial names of the few plants which have decided to participate in a display of autumnal finery.

Slender Three-seed Mercury

Giant Ragweed

Peppervine

I’m hiding

Farkleberry

Deciduous Holly

Post Oak

Greenbriar

Chinese Tallow Tree

Shining Sumac

Mulberry

One may confidently assume that everything else out here is either brown or still clinging tenaciously to green.

But have we found anything else of note? Stay tuned…

>|: [

A November Neener, Part II: Teeny Things and a Look Ahead to Spring

The human female is noticeably slower as we wander back along the Neener Path. She says she’s “looking for microflora”, but I’m pretty sure she’s just worn out. Her middle initial is “D” which, if it doesn’t stand for “Decrepit” now, will do so in the not too distant future.

Still, at this pace, we are finding things we missed on the outbound trip. I’m not sure how we missed this slender three-seeded mercury.

It has the fall-color thing down pat and is lit up like a torch. Someone remind me why this isn’t grown as a bedding plant just for its color in November?

Some of the plants flowering today can be considered advance scouts for their spring-flowering bretheren.

Mr. Dandelion says that any plant that can sprout in fall and overwinter will have a head start come warmer weather next year. The chickweed in the photo is employing the same strategy.

You know, the general populace often complain about slanty scientific names and how difficult they are to spell and to remember. I ask you, which is easier to recall for this plant:

“Oriental false hawks-beard” or “Youngia japonica?” It’s not native to this part of Midgard, so it has other, even less-pronounceable names when it’s at home. I know *I* have no idea how to say “黄鹌菜”.

What do you have there, Sigyn?

Little seedlings! The human female says the fluffy one is next year’s burrweed. It won’t be much taller than that and will have spiny little fruits. Hmmm. Sounds like it would be fun to plant in the lawn. No walking barefoot for her!

And what are those heart-shaped leaves?

Unless I miss my guess, those will be violets in spring. That’s one of the few plants I do know. I remember them because Sigyn likes them so much.

But what’s this? (poke poke poke)

It’s green, so I’m assuming it’s a plant, but it’s flat to the ground and doesn’t have a proper stem or leaves, just these flat pieces that branch at their tips. Ah. Miss Know-it-All says it’s a liverwort. She doesn’t have a lot of experience with them since they “aren’t flowering plants” but it might be a species of Riccia. Guess she doesn’t know it all!

I think I know why we are moving so slowly. All of this botanizing is tiring. Sigyn, would you like to rest for a bit? These asters would make a starry bed to flop onto.

Um. Perhaps not. They are a bit pokey. But I think I see something over there that would be much more comfortable.

Ahh… Nothing like getting the heavy helmet off and stretching out on a nice, plush patch of bryophytic velvet. Wake me up if we seem to be actually heading for home…

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