walkies

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…

>|: [

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?!

: )

Everything A-twinkle

This is not the largest or fanciest city in the realm, not by a long shot, but the local Powers That Be decided that it could be one of the best-illuminated during Yuletide.

So here we all are, in Central Park, after dark, to see if the display lives up to the hype.

Odin’s Eyepatch! I think this animated sculpture is supposed to be the North Wind, but it looks too much like my stoopid brother Thor for my taste. (If you scroll quickly, it’s sort of like watching the lights in motion.)

Thor always was a blowhard.

The North Wind/Thor is blowing us toward the Snowflake Forest.

Do you know, I really can’t see any two alike!

It looks like the rest of the park has a series of lit-up figures. Sigyn, shall we just stroll?

What the…?

A Santa-hatted alien delivering the Yule pie? Were the designers on drugs?

This bear is definitely on drugs.

Hold tight to my arm, Dearest. There is a whole cohort of elf-alien hybrids up ahead.

I don’t trust any of them!

Ehehehe! The human female says this is a proper botanist elf.

He is pointing out the key characters of the Ligustrum bush–opposite leaves, prominent lenticels, and other boring things. Hush, woman! Can you leave no occasion unruined by your constant twaddle?

It used to be tradition to bring the Yule tree home via horse-drawn sleigh.

I suppose a snowmobile is the modern counterpart? Though there do appear to still be sleighs…

But with the reins wrapped around his neck, I don’t give the poor horse much chance of getting very far.

This tree is going places via that most traditional of conveyances.

A Studebaker.

Look, Sigyn! Reindeer!

They appear to have been sampling a rather boozy eggnog.

The camels seem to be much more abstemious and dignified as they promenade among coconut palms.

Sigyn is completely smitten. I suspect she will be asking for a real camel for Yule. The HOA may have something to say about that, but I can deny my sweetie nothing, so they can lump it. (Or would that be “hump it”?)

Best part of all these LED lights?

Cool to the touch and excellent for dangling!

They say there are a million lights here. I’m not sure about that (and I have better things to do than count them), but it really is an impressive display. Someone put a lot of thought into the designs. And so many of the light sculptures move. Still photos don’t do them justice, so I made a little movie. My favorite is the Snow Tank that scoops up the snow and fires it.

Got to get me one of those…

>|: [

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…

>|: [

A November Neener, Part I: Some Plants Pay Attention to the Calendar–and Some Don’t

The weather is definitely more hospitable than it was a month ago. The human female keeps herding us all outdoors for “walkies.” (The human male hates it when she calls it that and says he’s not a dog. I don’t get it–I think he’s making a popular culture reference, but I can’t be bothered to look it up.)

So here we all are, on the Neener Path, to see what–if anything–is blooming. I think I see some of the same plants as in our last Neener Update.

The goldenrod has grown tall and top-heavy.

That’s right, you virgate, paniculate composite! Bow before Loki, Lord of all Midgard!

The beautyberries are still very showy.

Many of the fruits have lost a good bit of their neon-ness–which is to be expected at this point, but still, nothing else is that color.

I am surprised. There are a few final, fleeting false foxgloves flowering.

That’s right, Sigyn, bid them farewell. They should have been gone by now and have overstayed their welcome.

The winged elms, on the other hand, ought to be thinking about coming up with some fall color.

They don’t have much to show for themselves yet. Sigyn is dangling hopefully and encouragingly. Another few weeks and some of the leaves should be good and schoolbus-colored. If not, I will Have Words with them.

The farkleberries are better at sticking to a predictable schedule.

Fill your eyes, folks. This is what fall color looks like around here. Some of the more seasonally-conscious branches have gone a deep maroon.

While others are pokier about selecting a new wardrobe.

And what’s with all the fruit?! They’ve been hanging there since May! I know they’re not delicious, but they are edible, and usually the birds eat them all up. Someone’s not doing their job! Add lazy avifauna to the list of entities I need to admonish.

The girl hollies are covered in fruit, much of it festively red, as is proper for November.

Sigyn likes hollies best of anything.

Gee, I simply can’t imagine why. Hmm. My sweetie is very photogenic. Maybe this photo should be the humans’ Yule card this year…

Here is her other favorite color. Campohorweed. Smells funny, looks nice.

Well, some of them look nice. That one looks more than a bit raggedy.

That’s better. Mind the barbs, my love. And remember that if you drop off on the far side of the fence, you are outside the Neener Walk and technically, trespassing in a reserved area. (The city has it set off for drainage–there’s a creek–and as remediation habitat for the rare Navasota ladies tresses orchids they destroyed when they developed a parcel of land south of the city. Not that anyone has ever seen an endangered orchid here…)

The late-flowering throughwort is all but past. Late-flowering it is indeed, but when it’s done, it doesn’t tend to hang around long.

It’s cousin, blue mistflower, however, has the air of a plant with plans to see if it can make it until Thank the Turkey Day, if not Yule.

The flower clusters are on such slender stems that even my beloved’s insignificant weight is enough to bend them right over.

It looks like something that should be in a garden. If the human female weren’t so bone-idle, she’d be looking for seeds to harvest.

And because she IS bone-idle, she’s decreed that the end of the path is the turn-around point of our walk today. I’m sure that, plant-wise, it will be just more of the same on the way back, but maybe we missed something and there will be Interesting Things to look at. We shall see.

>|: [

A Blursday Walk in the Woods

A cold front blew through between Tuesday night and Wednesday, bringing bright, breezy fall weather. Today it is eleven kinds of windy. The human female, undeterred by the sheer tonnage of ragweed and sumpweed pollen in the air, has dragged us all out to Lick Creek Park to take advantage of the non-sweltering weather.

With all of this wind, the likelihood of good plant photographs in focus is small, but the humans both have their cameras with them anyhow. Let the blurry photos commence!

The pink muhly grass by the nature center is whipping about in a very graceful manner.

The one the human female has planted in front of the house isn’t as big or as pink, but it is trying.

We are seeing quite a bit of the formerly-a-mystery white bidens in the Great Desolation. We managed to catch some of it in focus.

The asters not so much.

While the human female is bigger than she should be, she is still not large enough to make an effective windbreak to keep the plants still so that the male can photograph them. Hence, images like this weirdly-out-of-season black-eyed susan:

Real prize-winner, that one.

The human female says she hasn’t been down Raccoon Run trail in a few years, so that’s where we’re going. It appears to have been widened, but it’s still rather pretty. There are a fair number of large hickories and a lot of frostweed in flower.

The sun is shining though the sumac leaves.

There are some unusual plants along this trail. I didn’t recognize this one at first,

and I didn’t believe her when the human female said it was a palm tree. Palms? In the forest? But yes, this is the native sabal palmetto, and this is about as big as they get.

The stem or trunk is underground. Up close, I can see that the leaves really are pleated like a paper fan.

Some of the trees down here in the bottomland are just festooned with this gray stuff.

The human female says it is an epiphytic bromeliad that likes to live on trees so it can be up in the sun and humid air, which sounds plausible. She also says it is a relative of pineapple and has little green flowers, which sounds entirely bogus. (I never believe more than half of what she says, anyway.)

Shhh! Sigyn, did you hear that? It sounded like a tiny little shriek. There it is again! It’s coming from that thick vegetation right over there. The human female says it’s a small frog in distress. Given that the human male just saw the back half of a snake disappear into the same clump of foliage, I suspect what we’re hearing is the batrachian version of, “Oh, no! Don’t eat me! Help!”, but I’m just going to tell Sigyn that it’s two local creatures meeting for lunch, which is perfectly true.

Another wind-blurred photo:

They look like little yellow tomatoes and are the fruit of one of the native nightshades. Hmm. Salad for dinner some time this week, I think. The human female had better not lose another of my helmets out here in the woods or she will find some in her serving.

Unfortunately, there is an awful lot of non-native vegetation in this part of the park as well. Chinaberry, ligustrum, Japanese honeysuckle, and Chinese tallow tree are the main ne’er-do-wells. The human female is snapping saplings and hauling down vines and resolving to come out again with a) help, b) a saw, c) clippers, d) some brush killer for painting stumps, and e) some napalm. Okay, that last was my addition to the game plan, but you must admit, it sounds like fun!

What have you discovered over there, my love?

It’s like she has a little baldacchino! (You can look that up later.)

Looks like we are headed back to the vehicle now, having made the complete loop–without, I point out, seeing a single raccoon. I feel cheated and shall be complaining to the management at the first opportunity.

Odin’s Eyepatch! The human female just fell down! One minute she was walking and the next, BOOM! I don’t know if she rolled an ankle or if a rock moved under her foot, but here she is, splat on the trail with her limbs waving like a cockroach in its death throes. The male is helping her up, and I don’t see blood (though I bet that knee is skinned under those jeans), so presumably she is mostly all right. Who knows? It might just be a pitiful bid for attention. Let us continue!

Hold! There is something odd in the path up ahead (and I am not talking about the toddler making a puddle, though that is outside the normal realm of goings-on). Sigyn, do you see?

I do hope he’s not on his way to have lunch with his cousin down on the loop trail. If he is, I fear he shall find his kinsman…unavailable.

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