A few years ago, I transplanted some Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica) into my garden from a local wild patch. Though this wild edible is more commonly collected in spring, the plants usually send up new growth late in the year. Nettle tops are delicious as cooked greens and are popular in herbal infusions.
Not all birds come out in the open for easy identification, sometimes a partial view is all one gets. Who is behind this lichen covered branch?
Leave your guess in the comments for this post. And be sure to check out the answer to last week's plant quiz on the Quiz Answers page.
The Natural Resources Trust of Plainville manages several properties in town, the largest of which is Goddard Sanctuary, located on the corner of Taunton St. (Rt. 152) and Shepard St. The property has frontage on Turnpike Lake and abuts the former home of Engelhard Industries.
Look for a sign marking the entrance along Taunton St. just south of Shepard St., and follow the path less than a quarter-mile west through the forest to the shore of Turnpike Lake. From there, you can cross a bridge and head north to a field, or find the trail that heads away from the lake and follows the course of Turtle Brook (which eventually empties into Lake Mirimichi). The latter choice will take you over wooden bridges, passing a small pond, old waterworks, and a variety of previously tended gardens. The trail follows the water until a final bridge leads to an old field. From there, it's a short walk north to Shepard St., then east to Taunton St. and south back to the entrance. Additional trails cover the interior of the property and are well worth exploring.
The variety of habitat (lake, stream, pond, forest, field) makes this site a good place for bird watching. In summer, Double-crested Cormorants are conspicuous as they perch out in the open lake to dry their wings, and more secretive Wood Ducks can be viewed in the small stream-fed pond. Year-round it's possible to see Mallards, Canada Geese, and families of Mute Swans. Gray Catbirds are common near the field in summer, and Song Sparrows can be heard year-round. Baltimore Orioles tend to be vocal upon their return in early May and become harder to locate as the weeks go by.
While walking stream-side trails, look for mounds of fish scales -- the scat of Northern River Otters. You might also spy a Common Muskrat quietly swimming by or catch the skunky fragrance of a Red Fox scent-post. White-tailed Deer can also be seen in the fields and forest.
Goddard Sanctuary is home to many large trees, including a grove of Eastern Hemlock(Tsuga canadensis). In addition to trees, look for Northern Spicebush (Lindera benzoin), Japanese Barberry (Berberis thunbergii), Coastal Sweet-pepperbush (Clethra alnifolia) and other shrubs along the paths. Do watch your step, the vines of Virginia-creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia), Poison-ivy (Toxicodendron radicans), and Fox Grape (Vitis labrusca) may trip you up if you're not careful.
Fern aficionados can observe Royal, Sensitive, Cinnamon, Bracken, and New York Fern, to name just a few. As for wildflowers, look for Spotted Crane's-bill (Geranium maculatum), Jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum), and one of my favorite spring edibles, Garden Yellow-rocket (Barbarea vulgaris). Near the side entrance along Shepard St., look for a patch of Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica).
Plants often share tight spaces. The following photo contains two shrubs and a vine. Name one, two, or all three if you can. (Click on the photo for a larger image.)
Leave your guesses in the comments for this post. And be sure to check out the answer to last week's plant quiz on the Quiz Answers page.
Spend some time in old fields and meadows in the fall and you'll notice a variety of dead, standing stalks that have gone to seed. Some seeds are hidden within juicy pulp, other seeds form in clusters designed to stick to animal fur (and clothing) and hitchhike to new locales, while still other seeds are attached to fluffy parachutes designed for wind dispersal. This week's quiz features one of the latter types. Name the species that produced this handful of fluff.
Leave a guess in the comments below. And be sure to check out the answer to last week's bird feather quiz on the Quiz Answers page.