Ahhh…. A wonderful hike yesterday, Thanksgiving, to the fire tower( fartar) at Frozen Head State Park with my furry friends. Did not see a soul in all of the 6 or so miles. Amazing. But they were understandibly home enjoying a feast, so maybe they’ll be on the trails today to try and lighten their load?

It’s been another busy week, but got out several times as work or play so not complaining. Pretty much all the leaves are down now, doing their part for protecting the soil and keeping the soil temps moderated. (DO NOT throw your leaves on the street – MULCH them!) It always amazes me how the landscape changes so completely and rapidly from verdant green, jungle-like conditions to…apparent nothingness. A brilliant strategy. But we all know there’s still plenty going on and lots to learn.

Trying to identify plant remains is always a fun challenge over the winter months. So if you are lucky enough to get outside after the tryptophan wears off, take the challenge of winter plant ID and keep the trails interesting.

Winter botany is pretty easy to do in your own garden since in theory you knew what was there and over time you learn to recognize the dried leaves and stalks as still failry unique to each plant. If you regularly get out to certain wildish places, you probably know what plants are where and you can still recognize them. It’s surprizing to most folks that you can even get close to identifying plants from such scant remains, but a little experience is all it takes. Like you need another excuse to get outside?? Make some dried arrangements to help you get your search image ingrained.

So test yourself through the winter and see how long before you get stumped. And take someone else along when you can, especially youngsters. Where else are they going to learn this stuff if we don’t show them how fascinating the real world is?? No batteries required. You will amaze them with your brilliance!!

Here are a few winter plants I’ve seen lately, most that stay green and are easy. Then some shots of my Thanksgiving outing.

Xmas fern

Christmas fern, Polystichum acrostichoides .  Our most common fern of somewhat more upland sites and so one of the more adaptable ferns for many gardens.

lycopodium 2

I was rusty on the species and here’s what I found:  Fan Clubmoss, Runningcedar, Groundpine (Lycopodium digitatum, Diphasiastrum digitatum, Lycopodium flabelliforme, L. complanatum var. flabelliforme).   I’m still unsure…but it’s runningcedar to me.   I see these often in disturbed woods or areas that may have been severely eroded in the past.  Guessing they prefer fairly sterile soils to get established?  Don’t bother trying to transplants these.  They are known to be very difficult. 

Hepatica 2

Sharp-lobed Hepatica, Hepatica acutiloba .  It’s always a pleasure to see the painted foliage peeking thru the leaves.  The flowers are very early and quite brief, but the leaves aren’t too shabby the rest of the time.  Yes, it’s evergreen.

S speciosa

Showy Goldenrod, Solidago speciosa.   Alright.  I agree that goldenrods are intimidating to identify even with all the parts.  But not that bad at all after you’ve grown a few in your garden.  This is a very common one in our area and it is distinctive this time of year with the very neat, compact plumes of seed, and plants are usually found in large numbers along the roadside and in old fields. There is probably still some basal foliage that is smooth and roundish to oblong (I know there are better botanical terms for the shape, but they tend to confuse my simple mind). You could easily scatter some of these seeds on some bare, sunny spots and expect them to prosper.