Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Ghost of Winter Past ...

... epitomized by the skeletal remains of a leaf lying on melting ice.

For the benefit of the skywatchers among us, there's an eye-catching conjunction of Venus and Jupiter in the western sky at dusk. These two planets, the brightest in our skies, will be within about 3° of each other on March 12th to 13th. If you have a good view of the horizon you can catch a glimpse of Mercury, and Mars and Saturn will rise a little later in the east, so you can see all five planets visible to the naked eye ... what a show!

Harbingers of spring – the emerging flowers of Skunk Cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) photographed at the Stoco Fen. These are the hoods or spathes and they're not quite open yet. In about another week or so the spathes will unfurl a bit further to expose the spadix with its tiny flowers. This amazing plant's flowers get a head start on spring growth by actually melting their way through frozen ground, their metabolism produces enough heat to warm them 15°C to 35°C above the ambient temperature.

March 11th – an open spathe – my first flower photos of 2012!

A closeup of the spadix and flowers.

A look at the spadix ... I try not to interfere with or damage whatever I am photographing, and I didn't destroy the spathe just to get this picture. I found it this way, broken by an animal, probably a raccoon, they are common in this area.

The Stoco Fen in late winter (March 11th).

The catkins of Pussy Willow (Salix discolor) are another familiar early spring sight in our local wetlands. When the male catkins are fully mature and ready to release pollen they will turn yellow.

The melting ice and snow has exposed the lichens on an old stone fence along the Moira River near Stoco. The lichen in the first photo is probably a Rim Lichen (Lecanora spp.), the colorful orange lichen is likely Xanthoria spp., possibly X. parietina.