November 29, 2011

Great Meadows Calendar 2012

Photographer Larry Warfield created a beautiful wall calendar with images of memorable encounters at Great Meadows NWR in Concord. The calendar measures 8.5 x 11" (closed), is spiral bound, and is available for $15 while supplies last.  To see calendar images and arrange a purchase, go to

November 20, 2011

Ode to Milkweed

Nothing in the plant realm catches light and wind quite so magically as milkweed fluff.  As the autumn days shorten and shadows lengthen, I'm drawn to the light that radiates out from these beaky pods.  A slow release of gossamer strands warms chilling days with a soft glow and grace.

An abundance of both Common and Swamp milkweeds grow at Great Meadows NWR, getting ever more numerous thanks to the exuberant releases of seeds that many of us encourage.  As the twinkle of these travelers subsides, the season turns toward colder days and ice covered landscapes where light will again lure us in.

November 17, 2011

Dr. Lawrence Millman Presents Northern Fungi Talk

I ran into Dr. Millman this evening at the Concord Public Library and he passed along this invitation.
Fungus man - a drawing of a carving by Charles Edenshaw in the late 1800s 
depicting the Haida myth of the origin of women
Courtesy of the Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago
"How to Banish Evil Spirits:
Uses of Fungi by Northern Peoples"

Friday, November 18, 8 pm
 (7 pm cash bar and social hour) 

Doubletree Guest Suites Hotel, Allston, MA
Hosted by the New England Chapter of the Explorer's Club
$10 donation requested

Explorer, author, and mycologist Lawrence Millman will talk about the various ways northern indigenous people use mushrooms - as fire starters, smudges, disinfectants, tobacco substitutes, but almost never as food.  The talk will include an introduction to ethnomycology (the cultural uses of mushrooms), a display of various mushrooms important in northern cultures, and a demonstration of how the Siberian Chukchi use polypores to rid their homes of evil spirits.

November 9, 2011

Monthly Great Meadows Walk - November

Saturday, November 12, 2-4 pm

A continuing series of monthly walks exploring the landscape, plants
and seasonal wonders of Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge in Concord 
We'll focus on the season's turning point, when luscious swaths of color and liveliness yield to muted tones and subtler stirrings.  It's time to shift perception, 
as we welcome in the November landscape.

Led by Cherrie Corey, local naturalist and photographer

No pre-registration required.  A $5/person voluntary donation
will be gratefully accepted.

Co-sponsored by Musketaquid Arts and Environment
and Friends of the Assabet River NWR

November 6, 2011

Witch Hazel - Symbol of Eternal Life

Witch hazel grove in October
In late autumn, when most of the landscape is having its last blush and preparing for a long winter's nap, golden groves of American witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana L.) quietly burst into bloom, festooning damp wooded hillsides with yellow, spidery blossoms.

This humble shrub has a rare multi-generational lifestyle.  Its delicate flowers share their zigzaggy branches with the ripened pods from the previous year and the dried empty seed capsules from the year before that.  On warm sunny days, while the fragrant blossoms are attracting bees and various other insects, the ripened pods pop open and fire their seeds across the forest floor making a soft rhythm on fallen leaves.

It's a long road through the next twelve months to grow and ripen those pods.  I recently learned from Charley Eiseman's latest post on his BugTracks blog,, that fertilization of these late bloomers doesn't take place within the flowers until the following May, after several months of dormancy in the cold months. Eiseman also details the many pollinators that are now known to visit witch hazel blossoms.

Witch hazel's overwintering calyx and leaf bud