Thursday, November 29, 2012

Photo Haiku - California

orange and blue headdress
avian spectacular
bird of paradise

late winter vineyards
await the spring renewal
eager for new buds

awesome span of steel
magnificent Golden Gate
engineering feat

(Click on photos to enlarge)
Photo Locations:
1. Coronado,  (Coronado)  California
2. St. Helena, (St. Helena)  California
3. San Francisco, (San Francisco)  California

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Journal Entries

November 11, 1982     High 53,  Low 50,  Rain= .80"

"I took a walk in the wet and weedy fields just as it was becoming dusk. This November evening is misty gray and wind is whisking through the trees overhead; their wet, barren branches like bones  clacking against each other.

I hear a roll of muffled thunder in the southwest."

November 17, 1982     High 53,  Low  27

"It may appear to most people to be a bleak and barren time of year, but I like it; trees baring their branches, exposing squirrels' nests, birds' nests, Bald-faced Hornets' nests, and exquisite tree skeletons."

Note the year of these Journal entries.  Thirty years later, you will see the same, if you go out to look.

Please refer to previous post: ("Keep a Journal - Preserve a Life")

(Click on photos to enlarge)

Photo Locations

Cascade Township,   (Cascade)  Kent County,  Michigan

Murray Lake,  (Murray Lake)  Kent County,  Michigan

Home Woods

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Enter the Picture

Enter the Picture

Don't you feel invited
to walk into this place,
to feel the space
open around you,
absorb and surround you?

Can you picture yourself
with a hiking friend,
with a loyal dog,
or on a steady horse?

Wandering over
yellowed grassland
scattered with sage
and pockets of pine?

Planning a route,
finding a way,
changing direction,
enjoying the journey?

With hours to spend
exploring ravines,
and time to roam
these buffaloed hills?

Enter the picture.

Where are you now?
(Click on photo to enlarge)
Photo Location:  Theodore Roosevelt National Park,  (Teddy) North Dakota  (NoDak)

Friday, November 23, 2012

white sun

white sun of morning
works to penetrate gray fog
crow call pierces calm
(Click on Photo to enlarge)
Photo Location:  Home woods

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Earth Exhales

Earth  Exhales

A cold, quiet air mass
pushes through bare branches,
down through the canopy,
through the understory,
and settles upon leaves
deep, thick, and brittle brown;
gathered upon the ground
only two weeks ago.

Leaves settling
and compacting.
Finding the place
where they will spend
a deep, long winter.

Now in November
beginning their long,
slow, decomposition.

Moist air, soil and leaves
combine to offer this
mildly pungent scent
of rich autumn woods,

as we walk through
evening's last light
and inhale
what the earth

(Click on photos to enlarge)

Red Oak  (Quercus rubra)

Photo Location:  Home Woods

Sunday, November 18, 2012



I always look forward to this time of year, very late fall, when the brilliant fruit of the Bittersweet begins its show-off season.

During the summer months this mass of green leaves goes mostly unnoticed, as just another wall of vegetation. These leaves, now turning yellow, are alternate, smooth on both sides, and about 2" X 4" (5-10cm).

Earlier still, (May - June) you may overlook the small, greenish flowers. That's to be expected, since all my Botany books call them "inconspicuous". The tiny flowers (not shown) are only 1/8" (4mm) wide, with 4-5 petals, growing in tight clusters.

Later, about mid-October (in southern Michigan), the leaves begin to drop. The fruit is maturing. If you are outdoors then, and if you are looking, you are likely find these pale orange capsules,  1/2" diameter (4mm) , still closed.

Do you think they resemble miniature pumpkins?

Little gourds?

This is a good overall view of leaves, vines, petioles, and some fruiting capsules beginning to open.

Here, more capsules have dried enough to split open, curl back, and reveal the glossy,
berry-like interior; actually fleshy seeds, in clusters at the stem tips.

As the thin outer shell opens, it usually splits into three parts, and folds back to expose the showy, reddish-orange center. Now is when they call it a bi-colored fruit.

In this view you can see a portion of a small, hard seed, barely exposed from within the deep orange flesh. Also notice how the shell and the interior fruit is divided into thirds, most of the time.

Other names for this plant: American Bittersweet, Climbing Bittersweet, False Bittersweet, Waxwork,, and Staff Tree. The Burning Bush is a close relative. If you have one in your landscape, you may see the resemblance of its berries to Bittersweet.

It is moderately shade tolerant, but prefers the full sun, and will climb an average of 20 to 40 feet (7-13m) to get it. Up to 56 feet (17m) maximum. They may also sprawl and drape over the ground or low shrubbery, or even use its old self for support.

This one near Pickerel Lake (see: Pickerel Lake Loop) climbed 18 - 20 feet (6-7m) up this Red Oak.
Bittersweet grows in a variety of habitats -- in rich soils along roadsides, thickets, riverbanks, and woods. It seems to prefer edges; you will rarely find it deep in the forest.
Here's a nice swirling, twirling  batch hanging out over the Grand River, east of Ada, Michigan. This vine was climbing another vine; Wild Grape. Do I see an almost heart-shape in there?
Range: From Quebec to North Carolina, west to Manitoba, Kansas and New Mexico. In the southern parts of its range, it is found at higher elevations.
Unlike many climbing vines, (see my posts: Virginia Creeper, and Virgin's Bower) Bittersweet has no tendrils to cling with. Instead, it spirals tightly around host stems, mainly saplings, and tree trunks. Its grasp is so snug, that it may strangle its own tree or shrub support.
It is common to see two, three, or more vines climbing up one support. It seems the higher up the trunk they go, the tighter they cling.
Bittersweet fruits are mainly dispersed by birds, through their droppings, but it is not a favorite food of wildlife. Seeds are occasionally eaten by game birds, songbirds, and squirrels. The primary consumer of seeds and buds is probably the Ruffed Grouse.

Because of the beauty and ornamental appearance of this vine, and the durability of its fruits, it was once widely collected for decorations.

A generation of stern warnings against cutting it has perhaps saved it. In my personal observations over the past 30 years; not only is it surviving, it is absolutely thriving in our area.

I remember my Grandfather collecting it. I remember my Father collecting it. I've been collecting it for years to give away to friends and family to use for decoration on Thanksgiving Day.

I want to give you these two posters of Bittersweet. Please share them with family and friends.

Have a happy Thanksgiving Day. We have so much to be thankful for.

(Click on photos to enlarge)

Photo Locations:

Cascade Township, (Cascade Township) Michigan

Grand River,  (Grand River)  Ada Township , Michigan

Pickerel Lake Park,   (Pickerel Lake Park)  &  Cannonsburg,  (Cannonsburg)  Michigan


Forest and Thicket - John Eastman (Eastman)

National Audubon Society Field Guide to Wildflowers (Eastern Region) c 2011 (Audubon)

Fieldbook of Natural History - E. Laurence Palmer c 1949 (Palmer)

Friday, November 16, 2012


weeping softly,
gathering the glow
of evening sunlight.
Dark branches
supporting slender twigs,
dangling golden sprays
above calm lake.
Cirrus and stratus
painting with pastel
brushstrokes of
lavender and pink.
Ever changing,
time draining
the delicate color
from thin clouds.
Thanking God
for the gift of sight,
for this moment
of comfort, contentment.
Wanting it to last.
 Wanting to stay,
knowing each
precious moment
soon fades
 Lingering still
in the deepening dusk;
gratitude expressed
through a prayer
whispered, and
I believe,
(Click on photos to enlarge)
Photo Location:  McCarthy Lake,  Kent County,  Michigan

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Virgin's Bower

Virgin's Bower

The annual leaf drop (Leaf Drop) is over. Branches are mostly bare. We are left with a view of Autumn's stripped trees show.

Visibility into the woods has dramatically improved. With this new vision, we can see new things exposed. Details that were once hidden in the dense curtain of summer's green foliage, now catch our eye.

A perfect example is Virgin's Bower, with its silvery, silken plumes.

You may have noticed these twisted, spiralling, patches of feathery fluff.

Virgin's Bower is a slender, climbing vine that sprawls over shrubs and low trees, walls and fences. It often occurs covering riverbanks or streambanks with an intertwining mass of vines and stems.

The photo above was photographed hanging over the Provo River in the Provo Canyon, in Utah.

The next several photographs are taken in Michigan.

 These are found growing in moist places, lowlands, and damp thickets.

"Attractively conspicuous" is a good way to describe this plant.

Other names from older days:  Devil's Hair, Wild Hops, and Devil's Darning Needle.

 Thoreau called it Woodbine...

and "Old Man's Beard"

Vines average six to twelve feet (2-4 meters) long.

This one stretches 15 feet (5 meters) as it climbs up the branches of this young Poplar sapling.

It is the pistils that develop into these slender structures with long, curved, feathery tips. 



The seed, eventually, is carried by these plume-like, curved tails.

Here, the seeds begin to disperse; a process that continues for several weeks.

The Virgin's Bower native to the Eastern U.S. (Clematis virginiana)  has small, creamy white flowers (not shown) in clusters growing from the leaf axils.

This yellow-flowered variety I discovered in the West.

It's probably a species that has escaped into the wild, but is still in the same Genus (Clematis sp.)

Elongated pistil structures just beginning to sprout silvery hairs, and blowing in a stiff breeze.

Virgin's Bower hanging tough in mid November in southwest Michigan.

When you take your walk, or run, outdoors this week, maybe you will see the exquisite, the beautiful

Virgin's Bower.

Virgin's Bower  (Clematis virginiana)

(Click on photos to enlarge)

Photo Locations

Grand River Drive,  Ada Township Park,  (Ada Township Park)  Ada,  Michigan

Provo River,  Provo Canyon,  (Provo Canyon)  Utah