Marbled Orb Weaver (Araneus marmoreus)

Marbled Orb Weaver (Araneus marmoreus)

I have a love-hate relationship with spiders. I’m semi-terrified of them, especially when they appear in unwanted places (e.g., the shower), but I find watching them build their webs fascinating, and many, like this marbled orb weaver (Araneus marmoreus) are showy, brightly colored, and beautiful in their own spidery way. In addition to the bright colors and pattern, this marbled orb weaver is also striking because of its size. Her abdomen alone was larger than my thumbnail. Let’s just say,…

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Ferns of Mount Toby

Ferns of Mount Toby

Yesterday I attended a guided walk within Mt. Toby State Forest, with the goal of finding, and learning about, as many species of fern as possible. Due to the varied habitats, soil types, and pH measurements (an important environmental component for ferns) found throughout Mt. Toby State Forest, there is exceptional fern diversity at this location. All told, we found 23 species of fern (listed below), with at least 3 others likely present at the site. Fern identification can be…

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Northern Bush Katydid (Scudderia septentrionalis)

Northern Bush Katydid (Scudderia septentrionalis)

Last night I left the porch lights on longer than usual in hopes of attracting interesting moths. The light did attract a number of moths, but most were small, tan, and less exciting than I was hoping for. But it also attracted this charismatic northern bush katydid (Scudderia septentrionalis), a species native to the northeastern and north central United States. Because the northern bush katydid prefers to spend most of its time in the tops of trees and shrubs, they are…

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Nature Journaling: Red Brook

Nature Journaling: Red Brook

This morning I spent a couple hours observing the plants, birds and insects along the banks of Red Brook in the Lyman Reserve in Plymouth. Normally, when I see something interesting I take a picture or two and continue on my walk, but today I took the extra time to sit and journal my observations. I spent most of my time with two plants in particular: Monkey flower (Mimulus ringens) and common blackberry (Rubus allegheniensis). The first, monkey flower, which…

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Wildflower Wednesday: Swamp Rose Mallow

Wildflower Wednesday: Swamp Rose Mallow

Last weekend, while exploring the John H. Chafee Nature Preserve in Rhode Island, I encountered a large tropical-looking flower. It seemed out of place in a New England marsh.  However, the first specimen I noticed was tucked so far back in the vegetation that there was no way for me to get close enough to identify it. I only knew that it was big and pink. Luckily, slightly further along the edge of the marsh was another patch of this…

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Downy Rattlesnake Plantain (Goodyera pubescens)

Downy Rattlesnake Plantain (Goodyera pubescens)

The downy rattlesnake plantain (Goodyera pubescens) is one of eastern North America’s native orchid species. It occurs in the entire eastern half of the U.S. and Canada from Ontario and Quebec south to Oklahoma, Mississippi and Florida. Commonly found growing in dry to moist upland forests, the downy rattlesnake plantain has a circular arrangement of leaves close to the ground, called a basal rosette, and a single flowering stalk that rises up from the center. The green oval leaves are…

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Wild Indigo (Baptisia tinctoria)

Wild Indigo (Baptisia tinctoria)

Wild indigo (Baptisia tinctoria) is a low shrub-like herbaceous perennial, which grows 2 to 3 feet high and has small (approximately a half inch long) yellow pea-like flowers. The gray-green leaves are somewhat clover-like and trifoliate (divided into three leaflets). Perhaps the most widespread Baptisia species in the eastern United States, it occurs in sandy dry areas, open woods and fields from New England to Florida and west to Minnesota. The flowers bloom July through September and are just now…

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Indian Pipe (Monotropa uniflora)

Indian Pipe (Monotropa uniflora)

Indian pipe (Monotropa uniflora), also known as ghost plant or corpse plant due to its uniquely white color, is a herbaceous perennial plant native to temperate North America. These single-stalked plants often grow in clusters and can extend up to 12 inches high. Each waxy stem is covered in small scale-like leaves and has one white five-parted flower at the end. Flowering occurs between June and October, and indian pipes are a common sight throughout oak and pine forests on…

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Massachusetts Appalachian Trail Section Hike

Massachusetts Appalachian Trail Section Hike

I’ve always toyed with the idea of someday hiking the entire 2,185-mile Appalachian Trail (A.T.) as a thru-hike, but life, a job and various other responsibilities have accumulated such that taking off for the required ~6 months to complete the trek no longer seemed feasible. However, it occurred to me this year that I could still hike the A.T. – I just needed to do it in pieces, referred to as section-hiking. Given that I live on Cape Cod, the…

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Black Raspberry (Rubus occidentalis)

Black Raspberry (Rubus occidentalis)

We are now entering my favorite time of year: berry season. While exploring the Mineral Hills Conservation Area in Northampton, MA this weekend, I noticed ripe black raspberries (Rubus occidentalis) for the first time this year.  While I enjoy red raspberries and blackberries as well, black raspberries are undoubtedly my favorite.  So this was quite the treat for me. Wild raspberries are generally smaller and sweeter than the cultivated varieties.  Mature, ripe raspberries will readily separate from their white-coned hulls,…

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