Tuesday 21 November 2017. A Brief but Restorative Fall Vélo to Mushrooms and Meadowbrook

It was 38 degrees F at about 6:40 this morning under a bright sky spread with some thin clouds.

At last got out of the house an on Shadow to touch the fall of 2017, which has been going really darned fast!

Stopped to see the Amanita muscaria mushrooms, growing slowly (or arrested in their growth) in the relative cold since last week.

The floor of the spruce grove was not covered with mushrooms, but there was a nice view looking out from it toward the outside.

Continued southward on Race Street and noticed a maple tree to which some yellow leaves still clung.

At Meadowbrook Park was unpleasantly surprised to see the path closed.

But saw no action of the type described on the barricade and disobediently proceeded along the path.

Stopped at the rabbit-statue bridge over McCullough Creek

Where there still was, somehow, a lot of green foliage, and turned back toward home.

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Sunday 12 November 2017. Velo Noir

It was 38 degrees F under cloudy (occasionally yielding light rain) skies at above 7:30 am as I took Shadow (also newly rejuvenated by the wonderful wizards of Neutral Cycle) out to Meadowbrook Park! At last!!

Passed the once mushroom-harboring grove of spruce trees without expectation of seeing any mushrooms, nor spotting any with a casual glance, but my eye was caught by a red balloon in a place where once Amanita muscaria mushrooms had been.

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Once stopped to photograph the “false mushroom,” decided to give a closer look to the area, just to be sure there actually was nothing there.

But to my surprise, there were mushrooms!

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They were not present in large numbers, but they were good-sized and robust, mostly in early stages of “fruiting.”

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And here, like a reverse of The Wizard of Oz, I fade to black and white.

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So, I fell for a Facebook challenge. (Thanks, Sheila!) It is a different perspective.

At Meadowbrook Park did not want to pass a little family with a stroller and dog to take my usual route so headed in a clockwise direction around the park.

Stopped to observe the already chromatically subdued landscape with the black-and-white modification of the iPhone camera.

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The black and white format was good for capturing the texture of mountain mint seed heads, which I’ve always liked but found hard to photograph.

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Saw seed heads of rattlesnake master.

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Got an extreme closeup of a little spider crawling (still awake?!) on a sculpture.

It made apparent how limestone is made of masses of tiny shell fragments. Also it kind of looked to me like a belly button.

Saw Baptisia pods, which are always good for a little drama in the fading prairie landscape.

Curled compass plant foliage showed its prickles.

Goldenrod seed heads were like a layer of foam.

At the Marker statue searched for any remaining bottle gentians; there was only this:

a Halloween version of the flower, which didn’t look much different in color. Ah, the yearly passage to winter.

Stopped at the rabbit-statue bridge over McCullough Creek.

It looked especially dense and tangled, especially the reflections, even with fading vegetation.

On the way out of the park found a scene that actually did not look so sinister in the mandatory black and white.

Don’t know if I’ll continue this black and white approach, but this time it was fun.

Saturday 14 October 2017. Patience Rewarded with the Last Bottle Gentians

It was about 64 degrees F at about 7 am under clouds that were breaking up, occasionally letting the sun through.

My schedule lately has prevented me from biking much, alas, but today there was nothing to stop me from riding to Meadowbrook Park to catch the last of the bottle gentian bloom, if, in fact, there were any flowers left.

So headed off on Rhododendron, riding south on Race Street.

Stopped at the place where Amanita muscaria mushrooms had been abundant for the last three years, at least. But did not see a single one.

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And one of the spruce trees looked quite bad. It seems like yet another result of stress from recent droughts. This blog is documenting a little piece of a larger phenomenon. Alas.

At Meadowbrook, there was about to be a walk/run to raise money for breast cancer research and support; pink signs were posted about the trail.

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But did not run into any crowds.

Saw water again (at last, rain) in McCullough Creek below the rabbit-statue bridge.

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Then rode along the path toward the Marker statue and the bottle gentian site. Looked on the way among the willows where I saw some bottle gentians last year, but today there was no sign of them.

The prairie was still green underneath, and above the tree leaves had not turned color, but overall it was somber. Many goldenrod plants were snowy with seeds and their vehicles .

Saw a deer out where the Liatris had earlier bloomed.

Then at the Marker statue looked for the gentians. At first, there seemed to be nothing but dry grass and flowers gone to seed. And I felt sad; could they really have left no trace after two weeks?

I lingered and kept looking, even though it seemed unlikely that more looking would produce any gentians.

Then spotted a single worn bloom, and was grateful for that.

Keep looking, and in a while found a cluster of blooms, worn but still beautiful, as old gentian flowers are.

Then, for the sake of revisiting a spot where I’d seen gentians before, I checked it, and amazingly found one plant, then another.

Then went back to the first place I saw them and as if by magic, there were more, and fresher flowers.

It was comforting and uplifting to see them all. The end was coming but had not yet arrived.

Then walked Rhododendron onto the soft path (where bikes and dogs are prohibited but where I recently saw both a guy riding a wide-tired bike and a guy walking a handsome chocolate Labrador retriever. At low volume it might not actually be a problem. I walk my bike; maybe that doesn’t count, I don’t know.

Along the soft path were wintry manifestations of flowers: rosin weed,

compass plant

the curled leaves of which were like illuminated manuscript decorations,

stiff goldenrod, I think,

with clouds above, and Baptisia

with black pods but still plenty of green foliage.

Even found an outlying remaining cream gentian bloom.

Note the cropped stem.

Got a closeup of a dry, prickly compass plant stem.

Then crossed the little wooden bridge over McCullough Creek and headed back,

feeling a sense of impending conclusion but still nourished by the short- and the longer-lasting forms of the landscape.

Saturday 9 September 2017. The Late-Summer Prairie, Featuring a Magnificent Cream Gentian Display

It was 62 degrees F at 7:30 this morning as I smoothly made my way on Rhododendron toward Meadowbrook Park. Destination was the wet area a little east of the rabbit-statue bridge to look for late blooms.

McCullough Creek was dry under the bridge (one couldn’t help thinking of the precipitation recently deposited by Harvey and Irma) and no red petals of cardinal flowers were visible. May have been able to locate the last ones by getting into the creek bed but moved on.

Noticed it was goldenrod time.

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Thistles provided complementary accent.

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On top of the yellows of goldenrod was the yellow of tickseed

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and of sneezeweed

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Remembered abundant turtleheads from last year but today saw only a few sparsely blooming plants.

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Mountain mint was especially fragrant here though the plants are common all around the park. What releases the smell?

img_3483Sneezeweed was delightfully abundant here, and set off nicely by what I’ve decided is tall boneset.

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The vervain had senesced beautifully.

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Got a better shot than previously of a goldenrod I haven’t been able to identify precisely.

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Still haven’t figured it out. Is it actually a goldenrod?

Over the small arched bridge was still blue sage, in that rare, heavenly light-blue color.

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Nearby, viewed the roll of the beautiful late summer prairie spread.

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And then located, just a few at first, unlike yellow flowers they don’t jump out at you, cream gentians in front of the Marker statue.

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Then found some pink-blue ones, probably hybrids (or soapwort gentians?) rather than bottle gentians.

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Looked and looked and finally found the tiniest hints of bottle gentian (maybe) buds.

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Walked on into the goldenrod-lined soft path,

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which, in spite of the lovely masses of goldenrod, struck me with a feeling of loss: the high-perched golden faces of the compass plants had lost their extroverted rays and become somber seed-heads.

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The sadness took me by surprise.

Moved on trying to admit and absorb this while hoping for consolation from the cream gentian bloom.

Indeed, there it was.

In profusion.

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And many flowers were open, indicating that bees had visited them.

It was hard to stop photographing them!

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Eventually moved on and noticed stiff goldenrod, which was not as abundant as in some previous years, but was able to get a decent closeup.

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Near the end (beginning) of the path, abundant (yellow!) wingstem decorated the little wooden bridge over another dry stretch of McCullough Creek.

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Before leaving Meadowbrook got a view of light through the young trees and undergrowth next to the pavilion.

No longer felt desolation but more a sense of the maturity of the year. Which now, reflecting in November, seems especially sweet.

Saturday 2 September 2017. A Little More Late Summer Floral Drama

It was 49 degrees F at 7:32 am as Rhododendron (which practically goes by itself since the wizards at Neutral Cycle worked their magic on it) headed toward Meadowbrook Park.

A yellow rose among purple hibiscus flowers caught my eye

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As did the apples.

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There were plenty of them, though the tree had some stressed areas.

But, farther along, saw no mushrooms under the spruce trees.

At Meadowbrook Park, along the dry beds of McCullough and Davis creeks,

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were still some cardinal flowers.

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In spite of the drought (because of it?) it’s been a good year for them.

Farther along the path, near the Marker statue and camouflaged from the casual observer, below the median height of the prairie vegetation, were lots of cream gentians.

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Also there were some that were a light blue-violet, paler than and too early to be bottle gentians.

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I’m guessing they were the hybrid gentian Gentiana x pallidocyanea, a cross between G. alba (cream) and G. andrewsii (bottle). There also is a pale blue non-hybrid species (G. saponaria, soapwort gentian) but the fact that both of the former two species occur together and that the cream outnumber the bottle by so much, it’s possible that bottle gentians got some cream gentian pollen. Just speculating. On the other hand, the bloom of the bottle gentians is much later than that of the creams, it’s hard to imagine how the cross-pollination would happen.

Also saw some, presumably cream gentians, with just a tinge of purple at the tips of the flowers.

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Gene flow? Environmental stress?

Also nearby were thistles in full fuzzy purple bloom, with about-to-bloom goldenrod behind to set them off.

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There were some Bidens (tickseed) near the statue,

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but noticed more of them, more in their characteristic golden yellow (so handsome against a blue sky, no matter how common) profusion,

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on the way back out of the park and toward home.

Sunday 27 August 2017. Falling and Rising in Late Summer

It was 59 degrees F at 7:15 under party cloudy skies as I finished yoga practice (wish I could do everything first thing in the morning!) and headed on Rhododendron for Meadowbrook Park. Wanted to get a close look at the cardinal flowers as their bloom was concluding.

Stopped at the rabbit-statue bridge; the bed of McCullough Creek was dry even with heavy rain one night last week.
The cardinal flowers are just barely visible here, with a little imagination.

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Since the bloom would be done soon, I climbed down to the creek bed, and actually encountered the red bird-flowers on the close side of the stream.

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Saw many cardinal flower plants, their red flower-spikes distributed more widely around the creek bed than I ever remember seeing them!

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The contrast of goldenrod gave the red flowers even more intensity.

Noticed also sneezeweed, another lovely yellow counterpoint for the red cardinal flowers.

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Was happy to see the last, top blooms above the stack of spent flowers: the process of growth and decay.

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Down the path a little way were the annual Bidens, or tickseed, another species of photogenic Compositae.

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Got a shot of the beautiful blue sage near the little arched bridge over Davis Creek.

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This white flower with handsome dark green foliage, which I’ve decided is tall boneset, was abundant.

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The thistle hosted a bumble bee as well as several small beetles.

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Saw some handsome bush clover,

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with its blue-green leaves and contrasting rusty flowers.

There was rosinweed with a cricket in its center,

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Gaura,

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compass plant holding forth,

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prairie dock above and cream gentian down low,

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and lots of invasive but gorgeous goldenrod about to burst into golden yellow,

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Fall approaches.

Saturday 19 August 2017. First Cream Gentians, Last Royal Catchfly

It was about 64 degrees F, the sky spread with a diaphanous but ragged sheet of cloud this morning at 6:03 as I guided the newly re-born Rhododendron (which has been riding “like butter,” thank you, Neutral Cycle!) toward Meadowbrook Park.

August has been dry and wondered whether any royal catchfly or cardinal flowers would remain. So my quest was to see what they looked like at this stage of summer.

At Meadowbrook walked Rhododendron toward the Art and Billie Spomer Prairie. To the east, the wooded area looked parched and damaged,

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reminding me of some recent events in my life and in the world at large. Is this the direction of everything? Is entropy winning already?

But walked on, over the little wooden bridge spanning a dry bed of McCullough Creek.

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As I walked in, there were wingstem,

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thistle,

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wild senna,

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ironweed,

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delicate big bluestem flowers,

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the last Baptisia flowers,

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Physostegia,

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compass plant,

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Gaura,

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tick trefoil,

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cup plant

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the ever-handsome false sunflower,

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rosinweed.

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And then, cream gentian.

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And then, lots of cream gentian!

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Just under the “vegetation line” they were in recent abundance, the clusters of pointed white flowers, pristine and vigorous. Wondered whether the recent lack of rain was especially favorable for them.

Wondered whether there were any royal catchfly left; did not see any from the path. But walked in a little where I knew they’d been and looked carefully and there they were, the last of the bright red stars.

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Saw a lovely cluster of wild quinine flowers lit by the rising sun

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The prairie was resplendent with the early sun slanting through the mist on this floral array! Thoughts of damage were banished.

Close to the end of the soft path, encountered a deer (maybe more than one; it’s getting hard to remember), a frequent, but because of their size always noteworthy, occurrence at Meadowbrook Park.

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At the end of the soft path where it joined the paved path near the little arch bridge over Davis Creek were blooming wild sage, in their striking shade of light blue.

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On the way to the rabbit-statue bridge saw cardinal flowers, advanced in their bloom, at the recently discovered easy-access location.

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Stopped on the rabbit-statue bridge and saw still several spikes of red!

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Did not go in; was glad at least I’d been close to the red flowers a little earlier.

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They were marvelous, even at a distance.

Then home.