Winter at Jacob’s Hill

Jacob’s Hill is a Trustees of Reservations property in Royalston, Massachusetts. There’s a wetland on one side of the property and a steep dropoff of several hundred feet on the other. It’s the site of Spirit Falls, where the outflow from the wetland plunges down through boulders in a series of cascades.

There was a little snow on the ground, and some ice in the cascades when I visited this week.

Here are a couple of views:

I found the area for the second image soon after walking in, but couldn’t find an workable angle on it on the side of the stream where I was. As I started walking back, I found a place where the stream was shallow and a trail crossed the stream. I walked over to the spot and took a few images at sunset. The stream passes through a narrow crevice lined with boulders. I had to hustle back through the woods as the light faded.

More from the seed season

A few fall seed clusters – most of the seeds of have left this gaillardia:

A composite I need to identify:

And a portion of a Joe Pye seed cluster:

The gaillardia is a stack of a number of images. I found the composite after exploring milkweed a few weeks back, it was beneath a tall Joe Pye weed stand. It was bright and strikingly symmetrical.

Bluestem grasses

For seed season this year, I’ve been paying closer attention to grasses – in particular sorting out different bluestem species. Big Bluestem (Andropogon gerardii) is taller than I am, well over 6 feet:

In the fruiting phase, the seed heads are less interesting than other bluestem grasses. But the flowers are a fascinating combination of brushes and bright yellow anthers:

I’ve only found Broomsedge Bluestem (Andropogon virginicus) in one meadow, mixed with Little Bluestem:

The Broomsedge seeds and filaments are less regular than Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium):

Little Bluestem is the most common in my area, and it’s the prettiest.

Milkweed bugs (again)

I went back to the swamp milkweed patch, and found the milkweed bugs all grown up, and multicolored:

Looks like they’ve eaten most of the seeds. Curious that they stay together like this. Most groups of gregarious caterpillars and insect nymphs disperse before they are full grown, not this species.

Milkweed (again)

A group of milkweed seeds in a pod:

Winter is coming – we’ve had our first frosts. There are a few flowers in sheltered spots, but most flowers have withered. It’s seed season!


Two views of Common Milkweed seed pods:

I’ve been photographing milkweed seeds for a long time. It’s a challenge to do something different. The first pod presented me with something new – the symmetrical cluster of seeds radiating from a common center, pinned to the end of a pod. The second one uses selective focus.


Two views of an orange mushroom:

It’s a shelf fungus (polypore-like), but it has gills unlike polypores. It circled the base of a oak tree in my yard, the color was a delight to see. These abstractions are a fairly small part of a really large mushroom, in lobed sections all around the base of a large tree. It’s been a good year for fungus, this one was by far the most attractive one I saw.


A flower from my recent visit to Maine:

The tiny flower was in a cluster that crowned a stem dense with fine foliage. It’s probably Euphrasia nemorosa or Euphrasia stricta. Like Agalinis species, it’s a hemiparasite that attaches to the roots of grass. I found it in a grassy meadow on Mt Agamenticus, a hill not far from the coast, just 700 feet above sea level, but the tallest spot in the area, so the view of the coastal plain is panoramic. Agamenticus is an Algonquian description for the site; “the hill beyond the cove and river” is one of many translations. The name Agamenticus was used for other sites viewed from the coast in Massachusetts as well.

Maine sunrise

The seacoast at sunrise:

It was a cloudy morning, the only color was that thin red line along the horizon, and briefly a little red higher up. Then the clouds obscured the sun. Here’s the rocky coast at another spot not far from the place where I took the first image, in black and white:

I used a filter to lengthen the exposure in both images, each was around 20 seconds or so. The second image was long enough to capture more than one incoming wave. It’s a beautiful place.

Asters from Maine

From a seaside walk, two very different asters:

This aster was a creeping species, forming an irregular low mound about a foot or so across. There was one upright spike, shown here. The flowers are very small. It was planted in a restoration area with native plants, so it may be a native aster.

Another group of asters:

Just two of the many asters in bloom along the shoreline – there were so many, including New England Aster.