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Author: Elise

Sassafras (Sassafras albidum)

Sassafras (Sassafras albidum)

Sassafras (Sassafras albidum) is a small deciduous tree, that produces alternate leaves in three different shapes: a mitten shaped leaf with one large lobe and one smaller “thumb” lobe, a simple oval shaped leaf, and a three lobed leaf. All three leaf types can occur on the same branch. During the growing season, sassafras leaves are bright green above and glaucous below. The species name “albidum” is derived from the Latin word “albus”, which means white, referring to this lighter…

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Witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana)

Witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana)

Witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) is a tall deciduous shrub, with multiple arched, spreading main trunks, forming an irregular open crown. The leaves of witch hazel can be identified by their asymmetrical base, and their coarse, rounded teeth. It is native to woodlands, forest margins and stream banks in eastern North America; more often than not, the witch hazel shrubs I find are indeed along stream banks. Although rarely found east of Barnstable, witch hazel is fairly common in the rocky…

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Common Glasswort (Salicornia maritima)

Common Glasswort (Salicornia maritima)

While tall grasses, like Spartina alterniflora, dominate the more frequently flooded lower elevations of a salt marsh, the high marsh areas, which are inundated less frequently, are home to an entirely different and interesting set of plants.  Glassworts, in particular, are exceptionally colorful this time of year. Many people focus on the changing colors of the leaves of various deciduous trees as autumn arrives, but glassworts put on their own colorful fall display. Although almost completely green throughout the spring…

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Eastern baccharis (Baccharis halimifolia)

Eastern baccharis (Baccharis halimifolia)

Eastern baccharis (Baccharis halimifolia), also known as groundsel bush or sea myrtle, is a perennial deciduous shrub associated with the high marsh system, often confused with marsh elder (Iva frutescens), due to their similar growth form and placement in the landscape. One way to tell the plants apart is their leaves. Eastern baccharis has alternate, simple, thick egg-shaped leaves (up to 2.5” long), that are coarsely toothed above the middle of the leaf, although the uppermost leaves can have smooth…

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Fall Fungi

Fall Fungi

Sunday I participated in a fungi walk led by mycologist Dianna Smith at the Cadwell Memorial Park in Pelham. Despite a recent lack of rain in that part of the state, we still found over 25 different kinds of fungi. For this post, however, I will limit myself to four highlights that I found interesting or bizarre. Toothpaste slime mold (Lycogala epidendrum) Oddly enough, slime molds are not actually fungi, although they often catch the interest of mycologists anyway. These…

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Diamondback Terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin)

Diamondback Terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin)

There are fresh water turtles (e.g., snapping turtles, red-eared sliders, painted turtles, etc.), there are sea turtles (e.g., leatherback turtles, green turtles, kemp’s ridley turtles, etc.) that live in salt water, and then there are diamondback terrapins (Malaclemys terrapin). Terrapins are the only turtle in North America found brackish coastal tidal marshes, with Cape Cod marking the northernmost extent of their range. Terrapins can tolerate short periods of below freezing temperatures, but not for more than a week or two,…

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Eelgrass (Zostera marina)

Eelgrass (Zostera marina)

Over the past month, I have conducted half a dozen eelgrass surveys in support of various projects at work. The intent of these surveys is to locate and map the presence and extent of eelgrass beds to ensure that proposed projects in adjacent areas (e.g., beach nourishment, dredging for navigation, the construction of dock, etc.) take adequate steps to avoid adverse impacts to this ecologically important resource. My favorite part of conducting these surveys, however, is getting a rare glimpse into…

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Wild Edible: Autumn Olive

Wild Edible: Autumn Olive

Autumn olive (Elaeagnus umbellata) shrubs are a common sight along Massachusetts roads and at the edges of clearings and fields. These shrubs were commonly planted for windbreaks and erosion control in the 1940s before it was known how invasive they could be. The vast amount of fruit produced by each shrub, and the high germination success of the seeds, means that once there is one autumn olive in a location, there will likely be more. The high number of berries…

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Wildflower Wednesday: New England Blazing Star

Wildflower Wednesday: New England Blazing Star

The New England Blazing Star (Liatris scariosa var. novae-angliae), also known as the Northern Blazing Star, is the only native Liatris in Massachusetts. It is endemic to the northeastern United States and is only known to exist in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island, and prefers dry, sandy grasslands, barrens and clearings. However, because even within these states it is considered rare (it is listed under the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act as a species of…

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Nature Journaling: Mashpee River

Nature Journaling: Mashpee River

I spent some time on sitting along the bank of the Mashpee River today, enjoying the weather and studying some of the wildflowers growing at the river’s edge. There are multiple access points and conservation areas along the Mashpee River (click here to view the Town of Mashpee’s trails webpage). I accessed the river this morning through the Fitch Conservation Area, managed jointly by the Town of Mashpee and the Trustees of Reservations. While many non-aster wildflower species are no…

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