It is Labor Day Weekend and the summer is coming to an end. I know plenty of people that claim that summer is not over until September 22, life in the natural world does not follow such a rigid calendar. The vibrancy and thrill of summer is fading to the warmth of Autumn gradually tucking everything in for the winter. It begins with the night insects changing guard and then the Goldenrod starts to bloom and the Sycamore and Tulip poplar leaves turn yellow to brown. I may be anthropomorphizing, but I see the panic in the insects and birds, frantically trying to get the last bit of nectar and fruits before their migration and breeding is over. The mosquitos frenzy to get their blood meal before the first frost kills. This time of year is so beautiful, yet I always dread it. I start to to feel anxious because I know summer is coming to an end and there were still so many things I wanted to do.
I had originally planned to go out for this hike with my Wild Boys, but the forecast called for 80% chance of thunderstorms and I didn’t want to be a mile out with two kids and a storm coming. My boys LOVE going on these hikes and would have a conniption if I tried to cut it short and head back to the car. Though it didn’t rain or thunder, I had a lovely walk on my own through Thompson Preserve. I do love taking the Wild Boys with me, but I am not going to lie and say I did not enjoy this walk alone.
I am pretty sure this is a Michaelmas-daisy, Symphyotrichum novae-angliae, a native with beautiful showy flowers. These flowers are great for pollinators and can add a great burst of color to your garden!
Touch-Me-Not, Impatiens capensis, in flower and in fruit. If you look to the left of the flower, you will see two seed pods. Those are the fruit of Touch-me-nots and why I presume they were given their name. If you gently squeeze (or even touch) these little pods, they explode (ballochory) sending their seeds flying through the air. I loved doing this as a child and I equally enjoy doing it as an adult!
Gone to seed…. The ostentatious colors of summer are fading now that fertilization has taken place and the expectant seeds are starting to disperse and await their gestation period until next spring.
Woodland Sunflower, Helianthus divaricatus, a beautiful native that often grows on the edge of fields right next to a forest. If it wasn’t for the guilt of cutting plants meant for pollinators, I would have made a bouquet to take home.
Boneset, Eupatorium perfoliatum, a native with a lot of herbal history. I reached out to the trusty Sourland Stewards for help with this identification and as per usual they did not disappoint! This plant has a long history as a medicinal plant, used to treat fevers, flus and other maladies. I have read that this plant was also used to deal with the pain from broken bones however I have also read that the plant got its name from being a diaphoretic used to treat an influenza called Break Bone Fever.
Showy Patridge Flower, Chamaecrista fasciculata, a beautiful native in the Pea Family! Another common name for this plant is “Sensitive plant” and apparently the leaves fold when touched, similar to the Mimosa tree. This is a great plant to have on your property because it is not only beneficial for pollinators, but tasty for wild game and songbirds that eat its fruit.
Arrowleaf Tear Thumb, Polygonum sagittatum, a native with the same common weed as an invasive, Mile-a-Minute/Tear Thumb, Persicaria perfoliata. I had asked my friend, Dr. Julia, for help with identification and she had told me its the same common name for the same problem, there are small recurved thorns that “tear your thumb”.
Oriental Ladysthumb, Polygonum cespitosum, an invasive that I have known for years, but never bothered knowing their name. I see this weed everywhere and I am a little embarrassed that I never knew what it was called.
I am not really sure why this is happening. It is the carcass of a deer, hanging from a branch about 10-12ft up in a tree. There is a stream bed close to this, but this was definitely not left there from flooding. There haven’t been mountain lions spotted in this area for a very very long time, and even if there were, I don’t think a branch of that diameter could hold the weight of a mountain lion and a deer carcass. The next predator would be a bobcat, which have been known to take down a deer, but I highly doubt that it would be strong enough to drag it up into the tree. So…. a weird person put it there? Maybe? I really don’t know… Just another strange sight in the Sourlands!
Sassafras, Sassafras albidum, a native with beautiful fall foliage. I love the texture of this leaves and I always need to take a whiff of the leaves.
Poison Ivy, Toxicodendron radicans, berries. As despised as this plant is, birds everywhere love to eat these berries and spread this plant all over.
Tulip Poplar, Liriodendron tulipifera, looking worn and ailing. These leaves put their time in, growing, photosynthesizing and now returning to the Earth to become next year’s fertilizer.
Flat top goldenrod, Euthamia graminifolia, a native goldenrod that is not a Solidago! This is another Dr. Julia special, because it looked like a Solidago to me but not like a Solidago I had ever seen (Solidago is the genus name for Goldenrod). Similar to other Goldenrods, this plant is great for pollinators and birds.
The sky looked so foreboding, but it was all talk. Not a single rain drop all morning!
Sycamore, Platanus occidentalis, one of the first trees to surrender their leaves.
A predator stalking its prey! Red sunflower aphids, Uroleucon helianthicola, and I believe an Asian Lady bug, Harmonia axyridis. I used this dichotomous key to figure out what type of lady bug this is. The Asian Lady bug was released in New Jersey (Go Jersey!) in the 1980’s as a biological control for aphids, mites, scales and many other pest insects. This lady bugs (actually they are beetles, Coleoptera) have been able to decrease our dependence on pesticides. Biological control organisms go through rigorous trials before being released, but in my personal opinion, I’d much rather see the use of bio control than the blanket spraying of pesticides that wipes out the good “bugs” as well as the bad. Biological control organisms are selected because they specifically target the pest organism and supposedly have very little affect on other species. While there have been times that the biological control agent goes rogue and doesn’t do what they were released to do, it is rare.
Canada Thistle, Cirsium arvense, infected by the bacteria, Pseudomonas syringiae. The bacteria causes apical chlorosis causing sterility in the plant. Here is an article that goes in depth about this disease. A trusty Sourland Steward/farmer helped with the identification of this plant. Apparently it is a pest of many farmers and this bacterial infection has been a benefit to them!
Showy Tick Trefoil, Desmodium canadense, a pretty native with a pain in the butt method of seed dispersal….
Caught #InTheSourlands ! Showy Tick Trefoil seed dispersal in action.
My “souvenirs” that I removed once I got back to the office.