Found in the Fells – September

 

The message in The Fells for September is – ‘summer isn’t over yet’.  For several members of the daisy family (Asteraceae) this is their moment in the sun, particularly asters – that are either mauve, blue or white - and goldenrods with bright yellow clusters of tiny flowers. There are ten different types (species) of both aster and goldenrod in the Fells, differentiated by color, where the flower heads are positioned, and the shape of the leaves, but between them they provide the main burst of color in the woods at this time of year, usually along the paths where they can get a bit of sun.

 

But these are not the only flowers in bloom. A tall pink goldenrod-like plant, Joe-Pye-weed, is in bloom. The delightful member of the snapdragon family called Butter-and-eggs is an introduction from Europe found in sunny spots alongside paths; but deeper in the woods by streams can be found a native relative - Turtlehead - with pairs of white flowers looking, yes, like the head of a turtle.

   Aster and GR    Turtlehead

        Aster and Goldenrod  9-28-05                 Turtlehead   Chelone glabra   9-20-06

Don't be surprised if you see some flowers on Blueberry bushes. The main flowering time is of course in May with ripe blueberries in July, but by late August and through September, if conditions are right, Low-bush Blueberries will attempt a second crop. This happened reasonably successfully in 2004. Few flowers were to be seen in early fall 2005 most probably because it was so very dry.

September is also a great month for woodland mushrooms but you have to know your subject well before you start taking them home to cook and eat. For those who do know, there’s some good harvesting to be done. What some might mistake for a fungus, because of the ghostly white appearance of the plants, are Indian Pipes, common in the Fells this month especially after some rain, bursting up through the leaf-mould in stands of often several close together about five inches tall. Examination shows a stem with small leaves on it and topped by a flower with overlapping petals to form a bell, sometimes on a bent-over stem at other times looking straight up. The anthers inside the bell are sometimes pale yellow, giving the only hint of color in this otherwise colorless saprophyte that lives off of decaying matter in the woodland floor.

 

But my favorite flower of this month has the fabulous name of Nodding Ladies’ Tresses. It is one of the few orchids that we have left in the Fells and sadly nowhere near as common as the Pink Lady Slipper. Standing about six inches tall, it is a slender spike containing between ten and twenty small white florets, their short stems twisted around each other on the stem to look like tresses or plaids.

 

            Ladies Tresses                         Blueberry 2nd                

Nodding Ladies' Tresses   Spiranthes cernua  10-02-04               Low-bush blueberry, second blooming  09-20-06           

                                           toad & snake
                                A garter snake attacking a large toad. Photo taken in Lawrence Woods, 9-13-07