Friday, May 07, 2010

A familiar friend

A few evenings ago Dog and I wandered on a wooded trail down the mountain. The trail we followed stays wet longer after a rain than elsewhere, and I wanted to see if it was dry enough for a walk. This trail is one of the ones I use when I take kids from Roundtop’s Adventure Camp to explore the woods. Because the path had been so wet, I hadn’t been on this trail since the spring growth was well up, and now I wanted to see the changes.

Dog needed a decent walk, too, though taking both Dog and a camera is not always smart. Whenever I stop to photograph something, Dog tries to shove his way in front of me, sure that I’m looking at something to eat. Keeping him from stepping on the something I want to look at usually means I can’t use the camera with him around.

The path down the mountain is hilly but not rocky, with dense undergrowth and a lot of ferns. Last year, for the first time ever, I found a maidenhair fern right off the edge of the trail. I wanted to see if that particular fern was growing again this year, and the two of us headed down the hill to look for it. I wasn’t sure I’d remember exactly where to look, as finding something that’s less than a foot across and the same color as everything else in the woods isn’t always easy, especially without any major landmarks near.

As you can tell from today’s photo, the little maidenhair fern is still there this year. I found it easily and was happy that I remembered exactly where to look. I first photographed the fern in August of last year, though I’d found it in July. When I saw the fern this year, my initial impression was that it wasn’t any larger than before, but when I went back and looked at the original photo, I think it is larger. I couldn’t find a second fern of it, though, so it’s still an “only.”

The other ferns are starting to grow along this section as well, though many are still unfurling. The area boasts several species of ferns—long beech, Christmas, sensitive, oak, lady among them.

Ferns are notoriously difficult to identify because there are so many of them and because the differences between the species are often only discernable by looking at the spores. I do the best I can with a few field guides. I thoroughly enjoy finding a different one on my walks, and if I can’t identify it closer than its family, well, that’s just the way it is. So when I find one that I can identify, like the northern maidenhair fern, as well as one that doesn’t have 1000 more plants just like it in the woods, it really makes my day.


Cicero Sings said...

It is indeed tricky, trying to take photos with dogs around! Fortunately, I have D to hold Mingus back when I want to get up close and personal with some plant.

Cathy said...

Too funny about Dog!! Funny you mention looking for a plant. I did the exactly same thing on my walk, look for a couple plants. Have no idea what kind they are. I keep forgetting to check.

But it was nice to see one come after being eaten by the deer and a lawn mower last year.