Brookside Wildflowers

I enjoy the boardwalk between Brookside Gardens and Brookside Nature Center in the spring. Earlier this week the boardwalk was my short walk before by shift in the Wings of Fancy exhibit. There are many native plants in this area that are looking good this spring. The plants are growing luxuriantly at this point – many in bloom.

Clumps of columbine


Jack-in-the-pulpit (but they are green…sometimes hard to see)

Mayapples (the flower is sometimes hidden under the umbrella of leaves)

Skunk cabbage (with cypress knees poking up among the leaves)

Several kinds of ferns

Forest azaleas

And others.

Of course there are birds too….red-winged blackbirds are calling everywhere and robins are searching leaf mulch for a tasty worm!


It was a productive 10-minute photo shoot!

Skunk Cabbage

Every winter, I hike the trail to a wet area at Howard County Conservancy’s Mt. Pleasant Farm to see the Skunk Cabbage coming up. I was a little later than usual this year, but it’s been a cold February and the skunk cabbage was still blooming last week. I found all stages of its early development after slogging through the muddy trail to get to the location. Some of the plants appear damaged (outer part black or brown) but the center might still be alive and able to continue development. Most were near or in water; it’s been a very wet winter and these plants like to be wet. They come back year after year from a rhizome; this stand appears to be about the same size as previous years which caused me to wonder if the plants are producing any viable seeds.

The best picture of the morning was a bloom (like a golf ball (spadix) inside a purplish hood (spathe)). I’d read that the inside of the spathe is warmer than the surrounding air and may be attractive to insects/spiders. Sure enough – there appears to be a spider web inside this spathe!

Ready for Butterflies

Last week, I went to the hour-long class for volunteers for Brookside Gardens Wings of Fancy. It was a refresher about how to handle the containment of the butterflies in the conservatory and the stations within the exhibit. The exhibit opens on April 18th and opens one hour earlier than it did last year – taking advantage of the cooler temperatures in the morning during the hot summer. The exhibit was under construction during our training, but it was already obvious that Wings of Fancy is going to be as wonderful as it has been in past years.

As I walked out to the parking lot, I noticed that the skunk cabbage blooms are finished, and the green leaves are all around the bald cypress…which is still bald.

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There were grackles all through the woods near the parking lot…making a lot of noise on the spring day. They use their whole body to make their call!

Zooming – February 2018

I use the zoom on my camera a lot to get the picture I want. What’s not to like about a photograph of the moon that is better than I can see with my eyes!

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These water droplets were on the top of a tall pine…and I took the picture from the comfort of my office!

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I’ve posted a lot of the bird pictures but not this one. I like it because it shows more detail of the flicker’s feathers…..where the down fluffs to keep the bird warm on a cold day. Without the zoom, the feathers have a sleeker look.

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I appreciated using the zoom for the skunk cabbage since there was standing water or mud around them…and it was too cold to risk getting my feet wet if my boots leaked.

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The ice crystals were so delicate I did not want to get close and risk breaking them before I could get the photo I wanted. The zoom also makes it easier to avoid working about casting a shadow.

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Of course – the squirrel would have run away very quickly if I had been closer. As it was, the pose seems like something Beatrix Potter would have used for one of her characters!

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Skunk Cabbage – Take 2

Yesterday I was at Howard County Conservancy’s Mt. Pleasant Farm and hiked down to take another look at the skunk cabbage. It had progressed a little since I saw it three weeks ago (post with pictures here) but it wasn’t a far along as it was on February 11th last year (post here). There were spathes (hood structure, wine with vertical lighter speckles) but I didn’t see any with visible spadix (looks like a golf ball inside the spathe).

When I first got to the location where I always see the skunk cabbage, I had a hard time spotting it at first. They like to grow near the water and this time a year, they can be some of the more colorful things around although one ‘color’ I spotted turned out to be a wet rock and oak leaf with the sun shining through – glowing. Then I started seeing them everywhere!

Sunk cabbage is one of the earliest ‘wild flowers’ and in some cases will pull itself deeper in the muck if the weather becomes really cold. With the amount of muck around some of them – I think our weather recently might have been slowing down their development – they had to deal with cold rather than bloom!

Earlier this week, it rained a lot and there were plenty of deer tracks on part of trail where it had been very muddy. Unfortunately, there were some deep ruts made by a vehicle that closed one of the trails…very sad that someone was so thoughtless, and it is not the first time it has happened. Hope the person is caught and prevented from doing it again.

Skunk Cabbage

Last week I hiked down to the marshy area where the skunk cabbage usually grows at Howard County Conservancy’s Mt. Pleasant Farm – and it was already coming up out of the muck. There were no blooms yet; those will be left for February. I used the zoom to get pictures since the area was muddy both from rain the previous day and the usual water from the small spring. It was warm enough that there was no ice in the area where the skunk cabbage was sprouting.

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In other areas there was more ice – further from the spring (the water that emerges from the ground must be a little warmer) or where ice got thicker when the temperature was very low and it takes longer to thaw. It wasn’t freezing on the day I was hiking so part of the stream that has accumulated more water and the flowing more rapidly was entirely melted.

Other highlights from the leisurely hike: the stump for the elementary school hiking groups to climb and count tree rings is surviving the winter…will still be good for the spring field trips,

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Shelf fungus group just about everywhere – even on stumps of invasive trees (these were probably Callery pear).

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The bird feeders in the Honors Garden were active: nuthatches, downy woodpeckers, and goldfinches beginning to get their spring plumage were the ones I managed to photograph.