Smilax bona-nox

A May Neener Perambulation

The human female and Sigyn and dragging me out on another Neener Walk. Didn’t we just go?

My innocent question was met with a mixture of scorn (the human female) and gentle reproof (Sigyn.) Apparently, things happen quickly in late spring, with the early spring flowers winding down and the summer flowers just appearing on the stage. It is therefore some sort of moral imperative that we take the trail down by the LUAs (Large, Ugly Apartments) and make note of what we see.

Oh, well, as long as it’s for science. (insert eye-roll.)

The highlighter-yellow false dandelions have been up forever.

And so has the bur clover.

The human female says it has been a good year for dogshade. It’s in all the ditches. Sigyn says it looks like lace.

Thistles are old hat. Be careful, my love. You are up very high and they are very prickly.

Greenbriar is also nothing new. This one is just about to bloom

The farkleberry has nearly finished flowering. If I didn’t know it was related to blueberries, I’d think it was kin to lily-of-the-valley. The flowers look a little alike.

No, human, don’t bother me with the slanty Latin name or start harping on monocots and dicots. I don’t care, and you know it.

The venus’ looking-glass has been out for a good bit. It’s tall enough that the human has to lift Sigyn up to get a good view.

The daisy fleabane started early this year and is gong strong.

We should take some home with us, Sigyn. The human female has some itchy bites she says are from fire ants, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all if she actually had fleas…

This cut-leaf evening primrose has yellow flowers which turn orange as they fade.

I suppose that’s mildly interesting.

I remember the dayflowers from previous years. They’re such an alarming color.

Ah. The spiderworts are up. The human female really likes them.

The brown-eyed susans showed up last month.

And so did the tickseed.

Have you noticed, Sigyn, that all of those yellowy orange composites are always EXACTLY the same color? With blue flowers, there is usually some variation in shade, but nope, these are all the same. That can’t be natural… I don’t trust them.

So where is the new stuff? Things we haven’t seen already this year?

All right–the prairie gentians are new. I will give you that.

Sigyn is squeeing! She thinks she has found “an itty bitty teeny tiny one.”

The human female says no, it’s a centaury, and that it’s a cousin of the gentians. That’s right, human. Take all the fun out of my sweetie’s delight with your tiresome pedantry. No wonder you never get invited anywhere.

I don’t remember seeing this before. If I did, I forgot it.

Go on, Sigyn. Ask her what it’s called. Ehehehe! Look at her waffle and stutter! She can’t remember what its name is! She says she always confuses Mecardonia and Lindernia and can’t remember which one has yellow flowers and which one has white. Woman, you are losing it, and we all know it.

What about this yellow one?

It’s on a small little shrub with shreddy bark. The human female is calling it “St. Andrew’s Cross.” What a ridiculous name. I swear she makes this stuff up.

Odin’s eyepatch! I’ve needled the human female enough that she is barking back at me! “Fine,” she is saying, “If you don’t want to learn anything about botany, show me what you are interested in. What did you see this morning that you liked?”

Glad you asked! I thought this mushroom was neat.

Might have to put some in the next batch of spaghetti sauce…

And this. This makes me very happy.

Because it means somewhere, there is an annoying, cute–possibly even squeaky–stuffed animal that has had its puffy guts ripped out.

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It’s Baaaaaack…

Several weeks ago, the human female got up off her lazy fundament and did some yard work. She pulled weeds, dead-headed some spent perennials, removed some brambles from a flowerbed, and took a stab at eradicating the greenbriar from the bed under the bedroom window.

Greenbriar/ catbriar/ smilax/ blaspheme vine is essentially the botanical equivalent of barbed wire. The stems are tough and wiry and it is just loaded with curved, flesh-rending prickles. It is native and can be found everywhere in this part of Midgard, tying the carpet layer, the understory, and the canopy together and making off-trail exploration slow and uncomfortable, if not downright hazardous. The human female has scars from run-ins with this thing.

In her estimation, it has only three redeeming features:

  • It occasionally has some fall color.
  • The black berries have stretchy, snot-like pulp which is amusing to play with.
  • In spring, the shoot tips are edible and taste like asparagus, so for two weeks one can get a little of one’s own back and bite the ends off all the shoots in retaliation for all of the bloodshed the other fifty weeks of the year.

I think it is one of nature’s best inventions. The vine in the human female’s yard is quite persistent. She cuts it back. It sends up new shoots. She unspools it from the trees. It covers a bush. The plants grow from underground stems or tubers which can weigh multiple pounds. I’m fairly certain the one in question here must be roughly the size of a small automobile and I never fail to whisper encouragements into the soil.

In any case, she cut to the ground all the stems of this menace she could find. (She also pulled up some of the mint that is rampant on the property. She’s persistent, if frighteningly naive.)

No more tangly-pricklies?! I simply could not have that. I redoubled my praise of its vigor and tenacity.

Yes! Paying off! Eighteen inches of Smilacaceous menace, coming up right in the middle of the lawn!

Pfft! Forget barbed wire. This stuff is the botanical equivalent of a hydra.

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Making the Most of Fleeting Beauty

I can refuse my beloved Sigyn nothing, so here we are again, crunch, crunch, crunch, enjoying the little bit of fall color and drifting leaves that the thirtieth parallel affords.

The Virginia creeper seems to be trying to outdo all the other vines.

If it doesn’t feel like being red, sometimes it will opt for copper.

And if that doesn’t do it, there’s always the gradient effect.

About the only color it doesn’t do is lemon yellow. Good thing the little passionflower has that nailed down.

The trees and shrubs are vying for attention, too. Winged elm can’t seem to decide if it wants to be yellow or orange.

This one has settled on burnt orange,

which should be illegal in a town in which everything is required by law to be Aggie Maroon, but whatever.

Farkleberry is adhering to the maroon law as best it can. There are usually some maroon leaves in with the red ones.

(This year the fruits have hung on much longer than normal. Where were the birds that were supposed to have eaten them up over the summer?)

Shining Sumac can be counted on for a consistent, bright red.

SIgyn would be just as happy if everything were this color. I keep trying to explain that if everything were red, nothing would stand out and she’d grow tired of it quickly. She says that might be true but it would be “fun to try it out for a few days.”

The willows down by the mostly-dry-creek have gone enthusiastically yellow.

That photo doesn’t really do them justice.

The hickory, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to be trying AT ALL.

Sigyn is trying to comfort it, assuring her that it is loved and valued for its sturdy wood and squirrel-treat nuts and that it is beautiful in its own way. My love, how can you appreciate any fall color with your rose-colored-glasses affixed so firmly to your lovely face?

The Bushy Bluestem has also opted for brown this year.

What it lacks in glamor it makes up in poofiness.

Where foliage fails, the fruit can sometimes be counted on to supply the color deficit. Beautyberry is always happy to provide that color that defies classification.

I don’t know what it looks like on your phone/computer/tablet, etc., but to my eyeballs, it’s a very, very obnoxious fuchsiamagentapurplepink not found anywhere else in nature except a rare species of sea slug that inhabits the waters off of Borneo.

(I made that last bit up. Might be true. Might not. Can’t be arsed to check.)

Greenbriar has luscious-looking fruit.

And let us not have that tiresome argument about whether black is a color or not. This isn’t optics, this is botany, and anyone who has played with the berries, pulling out their rubbery-snot innards to see how far they’ll stretch, can vouch for just how dyed their fingers are for the next day or so. It’s color. Case closed.

Well, this has been a lot of walking and a good deal of dangling and poking. Sigyn, see if you can find us a soft, pretty place to rest before we make the long trip back home.

Is she the best, or what?

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Ha! I was right!

Purple Sea Slug (Chromodoris sp.) | Sea slug, Slugs, Sea

A Very Colorful Fall Walk

The recent local weather (hot cold hot cold rainy sunny cold hot again), while making wardrobe deliberations a maddening ordeal with at best a 50-50 percent chance of success, have had an unexpected effect.  The local flora, famous for not giving a fig for seasonal expectations and remaining green until January, has decided, for once, to oblige Sigyn’s longing for a colored autumn.

We have therefore embarked upon a tour of the yard, the surrounding neighborhood, and the park at the end of the street, in order to take in all the offerings on this bright and sunny afternoon.

crapemyrtle

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cedar elm

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pecan

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woolly bucket or gum bumelia (both ludicrous names)

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upland swamp privet (an oxymoron if I ever heard one)

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yaupon holly

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post oak

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aster

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winged elm

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farkleberry

fall-color-9-vaccinium

bitterweed

fall-color10-helenium

more asters

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more yaupon

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ditto (can you tell Sigyn really likes holly?)

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greenbriar

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a whole galaxy of asters  (Time for a little rest.  Dangling is hard work)

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white mulberry

fall-color-mulberry

miniature dragon

fall-walk-lizard

poison ivy  (Go on, human female, pat the pretty plant!)

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more mulberry

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copperleaf (Aptly named, I’d say.)

fall-color-acalypha

More elmage

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honey locust

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bald cypress

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yet more elms

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many shot of a truly splendid farkleberry

fall-color-vacciniumfall color-vaccinium2fall-color-more vaccinium

blackjack oak

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They say some medieval craftsman invented stained glass.  I’m not so sure.

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A Very Colorful Fall Walk, Part II: Sigyn’s Other Favorite Color

By now, I assume everyone in Midgard knows that Sigyn’s favorite color is red.  It’s bright and cheerful, just like she is.  Thus, her love of holly berries and sumac is easily explained.

She also has a soft spot yard deep and a mile long for anything yellow.  Good thing for her that there’s a lot of it round about these days.

The winged elms are usually the first thing to turn around here.  Their color has been variously described as number two pencil, Kodak film box, schoolbus, or macaroni and cheese…

yellowelm

They stand out among the green as if they were lit up from within.

The goldenrod is decidedly more lemony in hue.

goldenrod

They’re usually tall and wand-y, very hard to climb, so this bent-over one is a treat to sit in.  Sigyn thinks the flowers look like little stars.  And she’s not wrong!

Usually, the greenbriar is tangled up in the trees like so much botanical barbed wire.  You don’t see it until it has hold of you, and then—ouch!

Today, though, it’s announcing its presence in an unmistakable way.

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And now Sigyn’s REALLY happy, because she’s found a couple of greenbriar leaves with both of her favorite colors!

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Of course you can bring them home with us!   You bring the pretty leaves to admire, and I’ll bring the prickly stem to…hide in the human female’s sofa.

This is what I call a successful walk!

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Loki’s Mostly-Accurate Vine Primer

While the humans are finishing up with their photographs and questionable nomenclature, I’ve decided to review what I learned about the local vines.  You will see that I know quite as much as the human female.  Probably more.  For each vine, I will provide a handy mnemonic jingle.

Sigyn, don’t touch that!   I know the new growth is shiny and red,

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but this is Poison Ivy.  Some people can be immune, but it’s best not to push one’s luck.  Leaves of three, let it be!  Frost Giants are immune, so I’ll just pick a bit to put in the human female’s next lunchtime salad.  (She’s always complaining that her packed lunches at work are boring.  I’m just trying to help.)

This plant, greenbriar, is scarcely less pleasant to deal with.  Sigyn and I have run into it several times before.

vines-smilax

Look at those prickles!  It is the botanical equivalent of barbed wire!  Smilax vine makes you whine!  It can make some very dense, flesh-shredding tangles and has left its mark on every field botanist in the South.  (Do not ask to see the human female’s scars.  Some things are better left to the imagination. )

vines-smilax2

This plant looks like greenbriar, but it isn’t  prickly.  I’ve heard it called snailseed, but I can’t remember why.  I really never listen very closely when the human female talks.  Snailseed does no mean deed.

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Oops, back to prickly things.  This is our local blackberry or dewberry.  It has both prickles …

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And little red glandular hairs.

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Dewberry, dewberry, make me a pie.  Beware of the prickles, it WILL make you cry!

Are you keeping score?  That’s one poisonous plant, two prickly plants, and one not-prickly plant rather cryptically named for a mollusc.

Our last vine of the day is Creepy Virginia.  It has leaves sort of like poison ivy and sort of like dewberry.  It climbs like poison ivy, but belongs to the grape family.  No prickles.

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Five leaflets, harmless, up trees it will climb./ For words like “Virginia” there isn’t a rhyme.

Hey, there’s nothing to this poetry stuff!  Bet I can do a limerick.

A mighty Frost Giant named Loki/  Taught vines while the humans were pokey./  She won’t have a hunch/ P.I.’s in her lunch/ My mischief is naughty and joke-y.

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A January Afternoon Walk, Part II: More Treasures

I know that I always grumble about having to accompany Sigyn on these botanical walkabouts, but I usually do end up seeing something interesting or even beautiful.  (Sigyn is always the most beautiful sight, but some of the plants are nice too.)

sedgemeadow

It’s good to see the sedge meadow all squishy and wet.  It’s bottomland woods, so it’s meant to be that way.  We’re not wearing rubber boots today, so we will have to admire it from here.  Come summer, it’ll be a marvel of dappled green shade.

Sigyn, what have you found?  A little leftover bit of fall color?

smilax

Be careful, Sigyn–it’s that prickly greenbriar stuff.  Do you know, usually I hate the color orange, but that one leaf is just glowing like a citrine.  Or a citrus.  One of those.

Ah.  This must be the scratch-and-sniff portion of the walk.  The human female is rattling on about glands and aromatic oils and how this wax myrtle is related to bayberry and blah blah blah.  I just know that it smells good.

myrica2

I think that Sigyn is gathering some leaves to make into a sachet.  It’s not too “girly” a scent, so I’ve no complaint.

I may pick a few of these lichens to take home.  Just look at all the wonderful shapes and textures.  Lichens are very underrated.

lichens

Oh, now this is a real treasure.  Sigyn likes the flowers (they’re late), even though they’re a scruffy, dirty white.

frostweed

I’ve actually been reading up on this plant.  Its name–frostweed–intrigued me.  Apparently, if there’s a cold snap while the stems are still green, the stems rupture and the sap oozes out, freezing as it does so.  The result is a delicate ice “flower” that lasts only as long as the freezing temperatures.  You’d have to be in the right place at the right time to see it.  Sigyn, if we ever get a hard freeze this winter, we should come back out to see if we can catch it.  Or if the human would just wander off and look at something else, I could zap this one…

We’ve been hiking for an hour or more, and it is just about time for the human female to think about going home and making us some dinner.  (I am a god; I do not cook.)  But before we trek back to the vehicle, we should take a little rest, and here is the perfect spot.

moss

Better idea:  Human, you heave yourself up, slog back to the car, go home, and cook dinner.   Call me when it’s ready and my sweetie and I will teleport home from  here.

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