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Wood Nymph Reverie

Friday, May 18, 2007

A perfect boreal forest floor: Canada mayflower in bud, two violets (there are people who know their violets, and I am not one of them), and partridgeberry, still bearing its mealy winter fruit.

Thirty-one years ago, I was hired by graduate student Sally Kleinfeldt at Harvard to assist with her study of herbivory in understory forest plants at the Harvard Forest, in Petersham, Massachusetts. I was pretty nubile then, and I and three to four other female compatriates, who spent our days crawling around Harvard Forest on our knees, painstakingly assessing herbivore damage to individual plant leaves, were immediately dubbed The Wood Nymph Research Team. I silk-screened us all T-shirts, we drove around from contra dance to contra dance, whooping it up and eating breakfast at 2 was a wild and heady time. I blew out the joint of my right big toe pivoting on it in my patented smooth swing, and it hurts me to this day.
I got to know boreal wildflowers pretty intimately, checking their leaves for holes. Coming to northwest Pennsylvania was like visiting old friends. Their names came swimming up out of my deepest memory, for I hadn't seen some of them since the summer of 1976 and '77. This could be hairy Solomon's seal, Polygonatum pubescens, but I wouldn't put money on it. I didn't check for pubescence. Continuing the theme of flowers under leaves is the mayapple behind it.Ah, starflower--Trientalis borealis. I love this little plant.
Foamflower, Tiarella cordifolia. It's related to the garden Heucheras, or coralbells--can you see the resemblance?
More foamflower, shaded by false hellebore, Veratrum viride. It's in the lily famly, but its leaves look like something so exotic, maybe an orchid.Trillium grandiflorum and Senecio obovatus, Trillium and golden ragwort, with a sprinkling of what might be swamp blue violets.
The bog was one big garden, just breathtakingly lovely, with everything arranged just so. It was raining lightly, and I struggled to get pictures, to show you what I saw. I took this walk on Sunday, all alone, and it was my reward for being "on" all weekend--just communing with the northern forest.
The marsh marigold Caltha palustris was all done, and so am I, for this post. Getting on a jet pland this morning. Packing my down parka. It's about 42 degrees here...what will it be on Lake Superior? See you Monday!
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