I’ve posted several times about Knights Hill Nature Park, in New London, New Hampshire: a July 2014 trip, an April 2015 trip, a compilation of trips over five years, and a photo summary of four trips in fall and winter of 2013, 2014, 2015.
I also posted last September about the gentians, mostly.
“Oh, what in you can answer to this blueness?” — DH Lawrence
As it happens, gentians are why I went to Knights Hill yesterday. I know of only one other place where wild gentians grow in central NH, the Bradford Bog in Bradford (which I’ve blogged about only in winter), and I believe these are actually two different species of gentian. The gentian at Knights Hill are meadow bottle gentians (Gentiana clausa); I had long thought them to be Gentiana andrewsii, (non-meadow) bottle gentian, but according to Go Botany that species doesn’t grow in New Hampshire at all, and their photos of it really do look different than the ones at Knights Hill (see below).
Narrow-leaved gentian, Gentiana linearis, also grows in some counties in NH, and perhaps that’s what I’ve seen at the Bradford Bog; these photos were taken there on 31 August 2014.
There are also gentian growing at The Fells, in Newbury, NH, but I believe they were planted by someone, and their crinkled leaves and unclustered flower habit don’t resemble the native species:
I grow willow gentian (Gentiana asclepiadea) in my yard, which are gorgeous but not wild or native.
I don’t think I’ve seen them, but a couple of slightly differently genused (is that a word?) gentians grow in NH — stiff dwarf-gentian (Gentianella quinquefolia) and greater fringed-gentian (Gentianopsis crinita) — and there is a red-stemmed gentian (Gentiana rubricaulis) that in New England grows only in Maine.
And now, without further ado, the meadow bottle gentians (Gentiana clausa, also called closed gentians) blooming at Knights Hill yesterday:
Don’t they take your breath away? Who thinks of these colours, this vibrancy?
God made a little gentian;
It tried to be a rose
And failed, and all the summer laughed.
But just before the snows
There came a purple creature
That ravished all the hill;
And summer hid her forehead,
And mockery was still.
— from ‘Fringed Gentian’ by Emily Dickinson
There’s another small colony of gentians in another area of the same park, not by the pond but along the birdwatch loop, in a shady spot:
On the way through the brush along the pond to check on the gentians, we stumbled on these brilliant (though not so blurry in person) orange berries of the Jack in the Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum):
I went to Knights Hill for the gentians, but I stayed much longer than planned … for the monarch butterfly caterpillars! There’s lots of standard milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) as well as a few butterfly weed plants (Asclepias tuberosa) in the two largest meadows. Both host monarch larva (aka caterpillars).
Here’s the butterfly weed; I can’t get enough of the orangeness:
Can you see how its pods — in the top and middle photos — are similar, though more slender, than the pods of regular milkweed?
(For comparison, this is a standard milkweed pod, taken at Knights Hill in August 2015:
I didn’t notice any caterpillars on the butterfly weed yesterday, but there were a few big ones on the standard milkweed, in the main meadow and in the birdloop meadow:
I hope the caterpillar can get all the nutrients it needs from these yellowing leaves.
There was also a caterpillar on some bramble leaves —
— so spouse moved him/her to a nearby green-leaved milkweed plant. When we came by about 1.5 hours later, the caterpillar seemed to be right at home there.
The other commonly found caterpillar on milkweed plants is the milkweed tussock moth (Euchaetes egle) larva. In past years, I’ve had scads of them on my garden Asclepias incarnata (swamp milkweed … usually pink, sometimes white), but not this year so far. So I was happy to see this little one on a milkweed plant in the birdwatch loop:
Doesn’t it look like a 1970s crochet or macrame art project?
Speaking of tussock moths, as one does, there were several hickory tussock moth (Lophocampa caryae) caterpillars in the park, on various leaves (maples, black cherry) and one was on a bare stem near the ground. They look a little different from each other, the black spots more or less significant from individual to individual, and I understand from the helpful folks in the Facebook insect ID groups that these are the varied looks of different instars, or caterpillar stages.
The hickory tussock moth itself doesn’t bear much resemblance to its larva, I don’t think.
I was excited to see dozens of these common ringlet butterflies (Coenonympha tullia) flitting around the main meadow; I hadn’t seen one this year until now.
Another caterpillar, that of the American dagger moth (Acronicta americana), was crawling underneath a beech leaf. Bug was small, leaf was moving, spot was shady, thus photo is a bit fuzzy but I did my best.
Before we leave animals entirely, two on the red spectrum, a meadowhawk dragonfly —
— of which there were dozens that day, and, surprisingly (we thought) for this time of year, since we commonly see them in the spring, an Eastern (or Red-spotted) newt eft:
It turns out this is perfectly normal: “After the eggs hatch, Eastern Newt larvae spend the summer in the pond and at the end of the summer transform into terrestrial salamanders. At this point they crawl out of the water, and for the next three to five years live on land and are referred to as Red Efts, due to their coloring (initially they are a dark bronze color, but eventually turn orange-red). After several years of life on land, they return to the water, no longer red, but olive green. … Young Red Efts can be found wandering on land in August and September looking for a protected spot such as under a log, rock, leaf litter or in the burrow of a mammal in which to spend the winter hibernating. (Mary Holland, Naturally Curious)
This eft was atop a log and smack-dab in the middle of the trail when we came across it,
so we moved it just a little to the side to avoid foot traffic. I hope it finds the right log or other hibernation spot.
Now on to fungi. I don’t know most of these but I like their looks.
Speaking of Christmas, someone has decorated a small hemlock tree on the Core Trail with one gold ball ornament:
You never know what you’ll find on a walk in the woods.
For instance, these beech drops (Epifagus virginiana). They’re an obligate parasitic plant that subsists on the roots of the American beech tree (“obligate” means that the beech drop needs the beech tree to enable it to reproduce). They are sometimes hard to notice in a brown woods, and even harder to photograph.
Here they are with beech nut husks laying around them:
And these are the flowers, which are often sterile and always hard to capture on film:
Looking somewhat similar and about the same height are Indian Pipe plants (Monotropa uniflora, aka ghost plant, corpse plant). Though it might appear to be fungal, it’s actually a herbaceous perennial plant that lacks chlorophyll. Another way to say it is the way Go Botany does, “Indian-pipe is a mycotroph, which is to say it is a parasitic plant that obtains all its nutrients by stealing them from a tree. It does this not by entering the host directly but through a fungal intermediary.”
There were, of course, lots of goldenrods in bloom at this time of year, and I can’t begin to tell them apart.
This variety, with reddish leaves and stem, was striking, though:
Asters, mostly white but a few purples, also dominated the landscape.
The purple bramble berries were good eatin’, as spouse can attest.
A few leaves:
Fall is coming.
Some fern love.
And a little landscape love, too.
Hope you enjoyed it! Come back again.
‘Harvest Home’ by Arthur Guiterman
The maples flare among the spruces,
The bursting foxgrape spill its juices,
The gentians lift their sapphire fringes
On roadways rich with golden tinges,
The waddling woodchucks fill their hampers,
The deer mouse runs, the chipmunk scampers.
The squirrels scurry, never stopping,
For all they hear is apples dropping
And walnuts plumping fast and faster;
The bee weighs down the purple aster-
Yes, hive your honey, little hummer,
The woods are wavering, ‘Farewell Summer.’