Tuesday, June 18, 2013

At the corner of summer

Common mullein
Summer is about to officially appear, arriving after the year’s longest day and shortest night. Roundtop already has the look of summer. The tiny first buds of spring are long gone. The summer flowers are beginning to appear. Common mullein is beginning to bloom, though the plants are still no more than 3 ft. tall, not yet reaching their full height of 4-5 ft.

The blooms appear slowly on the cone stalk, rising from the bottom to eventually reach the top of the cone. By the time the blooms reach the top, the stalk will be at its full height. I always thought it would be pretty spectacular if the entire cone was blooming at the same time, but mullein doesn’t work that way. Several rows bloom at the same time, but the lower rows are done by the time the blooms appear higher on the cone. So a few rows of small yellow flowers blooming at the same time is the way of this plant.

I saw my first snake of the summer on Sunday. It was a black snake, moving under a bush too quickly for me to even snap a photo with my phone camera. The chickens were nearby and either didn’t see it or didn’t care about it. I tried looking under the juniper bush, behind the juniper and around the juniper bush but never saw more than the back half of the snake. I’m guessing it was about a 4 ft. long snake, not one of the larger black snakes.

Generally, I don’t see many snakes here. I’ve seen water snakes, ribbon snakes, garter snakes and a milk snake, a few or several snakes a year. Black snakes are the most common. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that a few copperheads are around, but I’ve never seen one here. I hope that continues, and especially I hope that continues during my sessions with the kids at camp. Last year a boy momentarily caught a brightly colored juvenile eastern water snake in his minnow net, and until it escaped and I got a good look at it (moving faster than any snake you could imagine), I wasn’t completely sure he hadn’t netted a copperhead. I was greatly relieved to see he had not.

Copperheads like rocky areas and wetland areas; a stone-covered stream bank would fall into their preferred habitat. When I’ve seen copperheads on hikes, they have been in rocky areas with no water nearby. But all land-based snakes will head down to streams in dry times, because that’s where dinner is likely to be found.


The Furry Gnome said...

Great picture - but we don't have any in bloom here at all yet.

Rachel said...

Snakes are the last creature I'd like to see or encounter especially when hiking.. I'm happy seeing flowers blooming around me.

Carolyn H said...

Gnome: I just saw the first blooms a day or so ago. The stalks came up pretty fast.

Carolyn H said...

Rachel: I rather like snakes, as long as they aren't the poisonous ones. Those can keep their distance.

Pablo said...

That mullein is a non-native invasive in my books, and I'm trying to eradicate it in the open areas of my land. I'm not winning that battle.

Carolyn H said...

Pablo: When I started paying more attention to plants, I was shocked at how many were non-native invasives or non-native immigrants from early settlers. If we managed to eradicate all of them, it would be interesting to see what replaces them. Sometimes it seems to me as though I have more non-native plants than native ones.