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Posts Tagged ‘New England’

In late September last year, I visited Newport, Rhode Island. The weather was beautiful – the sun was strong, the sky was clear and blue, and it was a perfect chance to walk along the cliff walk where the mansions look over the ocean.

Seaside goldenrod, Rhode Island in September

Seaside goldenrod, Rhode Island in September

I noticed this bright yellow flower, which I was sure was a goldenrod, growing from the rocks. I was surprised to see a goldenrod by the ocean, since I’ve mainly seen them in sandy waste areas by the side of the road. This goldenrod was more plush than its relatives, with healthy leaves and full flower heads.

Seaside goldenrod, Rhode Island in September

Seaside goldenrod, Rhode Island in September

Its leaves are toothless and parallel-veined. It sometimes hybridizes with the Rough Stemmed goldenrod and can be found along the coasts near salt marshes, dunes and beaches. This one is a showy one, but on New York shores and south to Florida, they might not have such a plume-like head. There are many goldenrods in New England, but the key aspects to look for to tell them apart are the silhouette and whether the leaves are feather-veined or parallel-veined. Something new I learned while looking up this flower is that underneath the plant are  rhizomes – the plants close in proximity to each other all may come from the same original plant and may actually be clones.

Goldenrods signal the end of the summer. It was nice to see this flower out in late September – it can bloom through November in some parts – on a day when it felt like summer was going strong.

Seaside goldenrod, Rhode Island in September

Seaside goldenrod, Rhode Island in September

I caught a bee enjoying the goldenrod nectar. Goldenrods are insect-pollinated – the bright yellow attracts the bugs and the sticky pollen sticks to their legs so it gets passed around. If you are interested in finding insects, goldenrods are a good place to start! But insects aren’t the only ones who have enjoyed consuming this plant. The leaves are edible and have been used for some healing remedies (the Latin name for goldenrod Solidago, which means to make whole, coming from its medicinal use in healing wounds). Apparently they also contain rubber, which was once used to make tires!

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Today was a beautiful September day – a little cooler than last week but the sun was strong and warm.  I came across these blue asters by the Fens.

New York Aster (Aster novae-belgii), September (Boston, MA)

It is hard to identify asters sometimes because there are so many of them and they can be very similar. I believe this one is a New York Aster for the following reasons:

1. Stem is pretty smooth and only slightly downy. Other asters have a hairy stem.

2. Leaves are narrowly lanceolate (long, like a lance).  Other asters have wider leaves or heart-shaped leaves.

3. Leaves have some teeth (but not many). Other asters can have mostly toothed leaves.

4. Leaves are not strongly clasping the stem.

5. Floral bracts are reflexed (the green part that surrounds the underside of the flower look like they’re peeling away from it)

6. Found in meadows, shores, wet spots from July through October.

The only reason I am still unsure is that this flower is not deep violet but a lighter shade and the stem was purplish in parts. These characteristics are found in other species but not alongside the 6 above ones.  I think asters can hybridize, so maybe this is a mix of a few.  The name “aster” comes from Latin and means “star”.

Note the leaves:

New York Aster, September, Boston, MA

Here you can see the flower bracts:

New York Aster, Boston, MA, September

Funny to find these New York Asters here in Boston… we won’t tell the Red Sox fans nearby that New Yorkers are residing so close to Fenway Park!

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The woods in August and early September seemed to be full of mushrooms!  I don’t have much experience with identifying members of the fungi kingdom, but this one stood out to me.  I saw this fungus in August in the woods on the outskirts of Stockholm. Fomes fomentarius is called ‘tinder fungus’ or ‘hoof fungus’ in English. In Swedish, it is called ‘fnöskticka’ (‘fnösk’ = tinder, ‘ticka’ = fungus).  This fungus looks like a horse’s hoof. It can be used as tinder for a fire and was found with the 5,000-year-old Ötzi the Iceman.  This is a dark brown or black fungus, and it is lighter at lower latitudes and altitudes.

Tinder Fungus (Fnöskticka), August, Stockholm, Sweden

The tinder fungus is found in North America, Africa and Europe. It can be found on living trees with damaged bark as a parasite through and on dead ones working at decomposing them.  It only infects trees which are already sick, so it can be viewed as a cleaner-upper.  In late August I also came across it in the woods in Massachusetts.

Tinder Fungus (Fnöskticka), August, Stockholm, Sweden

It grows from the bottom of the fungus and can live up to 30 years.

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