We’re finally seeing more signs of spring in the Bangor area. Here are two early spring plants found this week that are often growing along roadsides or other waste places.
Field Horsetail, or Equisetum arvense, are sending up their fertile stems through the soil right now from underground rhizome systems. Horsetails are very old plants - over 136 million years old! The fertile stem arrives first in early spring. The dark brown areas around the stem are whorls of small scale leaves. The cone at the top contains reproductive spores. Green sterile stems with whorls of green branches will grow after the fertile stems have wilted.
Coltsfoot, or Tussilago farfara, was also sighted this week, though the flowers weren't open because of our cloudy weather. This photo was taken last year near the entrance to Central Penjajawoc Preserve. The flowers only open on sunny days, when pollinators (insects) are more likely to be collecting.
A short hike in NE Penjajawoc last week really lifted my spirits. Two types of tree lichen greeted me at the head of the trail. Bright green mosses on the soil, rocks and trees were dramatic against the white snow and brown of the leaf litter. White Pine, Hemlock and Balsam Fir added their green to the mix. Cones and other tree litter were scattered across the top of the remaining snow. A small trickle of water from melting snow ran down the sloping trail near Section 2. Then, further in, rushing water - increasing in volume with each step. The water action really began on the other side of the dam. It flowed fast and furious through two openings, down the stream and under the bridge. Foam from the waterfall accumulated in an inlet just beyond the bridge. It was good to see sign of recent beaver activity and, with ice remaining, it was easy to get a good picture of the lodge. The water was really cold! (Got a little too far out and went through, soaking my shoes.) Deep in the woods I could hear Black-capped Chickadee, a Mourning Dove, Woodpeckers drumming and another noisy bird in a treetop near the stream that I couldn’t see to identify. Near the marsh a pair of ducks flew overhead. Returning to the trailhead I could hear Northern Cardinal and Eastern Phoebe song. Looking closely at lichens and mosses, I spied a beetle in a tree stump and not far away a thread of spider silk that traveled from the stump to a nearby branch. Our wild back yard is alive and full of action right now. Enjoy the show.
On Saturday, April 4, eighteen interested contributors gathered in the Bangor Land Trust conference room to learn about a national citizen scientist program called Nature’s Notebook. Volunteers track the various stages of plants and animals as the seasons change and add their observations to a national database network (the National Phenology Network).
There was a record number of people in the BLT conference room that day. Thanks to all who participated and to Elissa Koskella with the UMaine Cooperative Extension/Sea Grant for explaining how the program works. Now that the temperatures are warmer, our various species are or will be “doing their thing” and tracking the phases will keep us busy.