Thursday, November 3, 2011

Autumn Snow

Sawkill stream and one-lane bridge

This past weekend, the Milford woods saw its first snow of the cold weather season, the clouds dropping almost a foot in about 12 hours time. The trees still holding onto leaves, displaying their color show of red, yellow, and orange, were suddenly laden with a heavy blanket of icy wetness, some of which bowed easy and limber, while many cracked and snapped, dropping limbs on roads, power lines and across trails.

It was a perfect opportunity to venture out, seeing in real time the abrupt change of seasons. Now it may still be a lengthy 7 weeks until winter, but to me, this time of year always symbolizes the end of one cycle and the quiet slumber that must preceed the flourishing of the new marked by the lengthening of days after the Winter Solstice. The snow offered silence and weight and stillness, while at the same time, in all its bright whiteness, a hint of the light that will come out of the dark.

Unknown shrub - opposite leaves with very pointed tips (acuminate apexes) and true berries (many seeds).

If anyone knows what this shrub might be, please comment at the end of this post! I have checked all my guides on local trees and can find nothing matching the description. It is not Dogwood which though it has opposite leaves bears drupes (a single stone seed) not berries nor is it Holly which has alternate spiny toothed leaves. I am leaning towards a non-native naturalized honeysuckle, as it lines the road along with other once cultivated and now escaped non-natives such as Autumn Olive.

Unknown fern about 1' tall, northeast PA.
Come on fern people! This appears to be a very common fern in these parts, growing roadside along the embankments. If you know your ferns, please do comment at the end of this post - I'm just beginning to get to know this community of ancient greenies.
White Pine (Pinus strobus)
 Gives a whole new meaning to "White"Pine, eh? White Pine can be identified by its fascicles of  5 needles, each with a  white stripe along one edge. The needles are also actually toothed or scaled which can be seen with the aid of a hand lens. See the characteristic bark on the tree just behind the snowy needles - deeply and coarsely furrowed. To determine the age of a White Pine, simply count the whorls of branches, each whorl equals one year. These trees grow very large very  quickly. See my previous post: for info on White Pine's medicinal properties. Pine needle tea makes for an excellent winter Vitamin C supplement as well as a stimulating expectorant for stubborn mucus in the lungs!

This coming winter, my first in the northeast in 10 years, will no doubt, provide some challenges to plant viewing and investigation. However, even if I must make homemade snowshoes, strapping garbage pail lids to my feet with bungee cords (then again...I could just make a trip to the outfitters and buy some- but what fun would that be?) I will be continuing my hiking ventures. And when most all of the plants have finally settled in for slumber, the pouring over of plant books will begin.  

During this time of early morning fog and crisp night-time starry skies, drying leaves, and chill air, thank you for the opportunity for contemplation, quiet, and the building of reserves.


  1. The red-berried shrub (probably IDed by now) appears to be a bush honeysuckle, Lonicera tatarica. It's a non-native (introduced in the mid-1700s) and no longer much sought after in the trade. I'm not a fern person but there aren't many ferns that are evergreen in PA, so I'll take a stab and say blackstem spleenwort (Asplenium resiliens). Have you given up on the blog?

    1. Thank you CLT! So nice to still get comments on my blog:) I am presently concentrating all my writing energy on my plant guide for the MST and so, unfortunately, the blog is temporarily on hold. But I am hoping to get on here and do some posts this spring and summer as the green begins to again appear here in the northeast. You can add sign up by email at the top of the blog to receive posts by email -I'd love to be able to keep you posted on the book and further writings:)

    2. Hi, Heather--I went ahead and signed up for your blog. Good luck with the guide! I'm almost afraid to ask in case I should have known or guessed (I'm horrible with acronyms) but what is the MST?