On the Road is a weekday feature spotlighting reader photo submissions.
From the exotic to the familiar, whether you’re traveling or in your own backyard, we would love to see the world through your eyes.
Good morning everyone,
Let’s get this week started well!
These were taken in February and March this spring, yes spring started last Feb when the first Wood Frog eggs were laid in our newly rebuilt tiny pond right outside the front door. These are the earliest frogs to wake up from winter hibernation around here, and are really shy, so I have no photos of them so far. They’re medium sized, brown and when stretched out floating on the pond surface about 4 or 5 inches long.
I’m sure multiple frogs laid these eggs over several nights, and there is one more egg mass that sank deeper into the pond, which is nearly 18 inches deep in the center. Those eggs will hatch later on since it’s colder down there. There are also some ferns and flowers in this set of photos.
All photos this time taken with a Panasonic Lumix FZ-1000 camera with a fixed Leica Vario-Elmarit 9.1-146 mm lens, 35 mm equivilent is 25-400mm so pretty long effectively.
This is the first frog egg mass laid in the newly rebuilt pond of last August. We were thrilled to hear the Wood Frogs chirping and splishing in the pond back in early February, it wasn’t until we heard that music again after years without that we realized how much we missed the frogs and toads outside the front door.
When the weather is good (not too cold, not too hot, not too many bugs) we leave the front door open to hear the froggy action while surfing the innertubes and snarking on Balloon Juice. There is a second egg mass deeper in the water, and I think they have all hatched as there appear to be hundreds of tiny tadpoles swimming near the surface of the pond in the sunshine.
This is the egg mass seen above as the tadpoles eat and thrash their way out of the eggs. By the next day they are spread out across the pond, which is maybe 8×12 feet, or 10×14 something like that.
Right now the chorus frogs and tree frogs (aka spring peepers) are the big sounds in the pond, as the woods frogs scampered off into the woods after they laid their eggs. Chorus frogs make a sound like drawing your thumbnail along a small comb, r-r-r-ribt, kind of.
A single wood anemone flower, not quite the size of a quarter. We have lots of these in spring all over the forest floor. Pretty in every case.
The fiddle heads of a sprouting ostrich fern. The two stiff brown branches were shoots that came up last fall, spore-carrying reproductive branches. Our power just dropped out, heavy winds last night and today, so probably a tree blew down onto the power lines.
Ostrich ferns are native to Eastern America, but these were planted with plants from a nursery in town. They evidently can get to be several feet across, but given our poor topsoil these guys are planted in, that will take a while. Under the little bit of topsoil I carried up, it’s essentially clay subsoil, so poor in nutrition.
We’ve planted autumn ferns between the house and the stone steps and ostrich and Japanese painted ferns on the other side of the steps, which have a lot of moss on the outer edges of the steps.
First spring fronds of the Japanese Painted ferns in the bed with the Ostrich ferns. They’re pretty fragile, but tend to sprout more fronds when the original fronds are damaged. We have these pretty ferns in several shady spots out front usually with other plants or ferns.
I’m hoping we don’t get down near freezing, both of these ferns, the Ostrich and Japanese Painted ferns, are really sensitive to freezing, unlike the Autumn Ferns which stay out all winter and will start putting out new fronds pretty early. The Autumn Fern fiddleheads are really like a fiddle, being brownish bronze in color.
These yellow Dog-Tooth Violets, hundreds of them, started out with 4 or 6 tiny roots that came in tiny plastic bags with a pinch of peat moss in there to protect the roots. I planted them in front of one of the handy boulders, they all came up, and spread with runners to become a 8 foot wide patch of hundreds of these spotted leaves.
After the leaves all come up, a few brightly colored yellow flowers will sprout up 3 or 4 inches as you can see. Then in a couple more weeks, the leaves will wither and you won’t see any sign of these pretties until next spring. I plan to take several shovels full from this patch to try to start several more patches around in the woods, so wish us luck with that.
In the foreground are some pots not in use and a nice concrete sculpture of the wonderful Morel mushroom, AKA locally as Molly Moochers. These mushrooms are plentiful in the woods, especially around old orchards or forest giants long gone. They live underground in symboisis with root systems, and put up these odd hollow spore bearing reproductive bodies.
This is a big morel, but one spring visiting friends up in Athens OH at a big potluck picnic one of the guests, about 4 or 6 years old, found a morel perhaps bigger than this… if it hadn’t been typically hollow, she wouldn’t have been able to carry the little forest giant ‘shroom. They took it home, probably for breakfast sliced into an omlete.
Behind the pots and mushroom are some fancy daffodils in bloom, and behind the fancy daffydills are fall crocuses. Their green leaves will die off pretty soon, and then come fall pink flowers will come up, all alone, with nothing but the leaf litter around. Soon there will be a lot of trillium and maidenhair ferns along and above that wall.
This is the most mossy green set of boulders out front. If you look at the middle of the left edge you can see the fall crocus foliage, and below the nearest boulder is the patch of dog-tooth violets. The maidenhair ferns will come up in front of the more distant boulder, along with various native trillium I’ve planted.
Nearly all these plants are native, we’ve just acquired them and planted them in the woods around the house.
Another great thing we have coming up is ramps, the wild leeks of the mountains. Every spring people will drive into the mountains, dig wild ramps, bundle them with rubber bands, fill several coolers with those bundles, and sell them on wide spots on the roadsides. I buy several bundles, eat a mess or two, and plant the rest around the woods near the house.
I’ll even dig two of three messes of ramps from our own patches to cook with potatoe lattkes, or an omelet with bacon, etc. They’re good minced in butter for mashed potatoes, also too. Pics of wild ramps next time, they’re up already, but still quite small green blades just thrusting up through the leaf litter.
Hope you all enjoy seeing a small slice of spring erupting in the Appalachian hills. I always enjoy the maple trees blooming, tiny pontillistic bits of scarlet tree tops in the forest, to spice up the more regular dozens of variations of green on the early buds and leaves
Be careful, take care, keep in touch, everyone!
Nice stuff, thanks! I had a nice crop of salamanders this year (found cleaning up the yard corners and edges); redback and dusky (I think). Haven’t seen spotted in a year or 2. Not clearing all fall’s leaves provides cover for all sorts of critters. I have a basic urban lot, easy to clean up to sterility if I wanted, but patches of undeveloped land here that allow some nature to ‘intrude’.
I like it. Nice eye, JR.
My mother also called the Dogtooth Violet > Trout Lily. Do you have Dutchmans Britches, my grmothers favorite? And May Apples ?
When I was a kid my mother and I wandered the woods on our Illinois farm and she taught me all the woodland flora and fauna. The woman was amazing in her knowledge. This post bring those wanderings back. ?
Wonderful stuff! Thanks for the peek into the woods near your place.
I’ve always wondered why a lily got the name “Dogtooth Violet”, but they are wonderful to see nonetheless.
Moss always adds a nice color to the environs. Thanks for sharing.
Please send pics!
Very nice. I’m missing my WV cabin right now.
Thank you for the lovely images of renewal, JR.
@MagdaInBlack: They are Trout Lily around these parts. We have Dutchman’s Britches up in the mountain and May Apples, too.
I miss the peepers that used to be in the pond next to my old house in Michigassipi (my version of “Michiana”). The neighbors there said it wouldn’t be true spring until the peepers froze three times. I think they didn’t really freeze, just burrowed down into the mud until it warmed up again a day or so later. Then when it was finally over freezing at night, they were insanely loud.
Edit: J R, do you ever harvest the fiddle head ferns? Had some last year for the first time, delicious! And I have ramps growing back behind my garage, thanks to you telling me they can transplant well.
Mike S (Now with a Democratic Congressperson!)
Nice woods! I love dog-tooth violets (a.k.a. trout lilies). The ones in my yard, like yours, are Erythronium americanum which is known for not blooming much, but rather spreading vegetatively underground which is a characteristic of the tetraploid species in this genus. So I get one flower/100 leaves or less. There are diploid species that usually have a much higher flower/leaf ratio. Here in the east this includes the yellow species E. umbilicatum and E. rostratum.
A really lovely way to start the week. In honor of the wee peepers:
Great pictures and commentary. Thanks.
@laura: Ah memories. Our Dad used to sing that for us when we were little. Thanks for sharing your neck of the woods, J. R.
After a few weeks of warmth here, 72 degrees Saturday, we now have 6″ of snow, it’s still snowing and it was 15 degrees overnight, will be again tonight. I put up fabric tunnels and used every bucket and large pot we had to cover the various daffodils. Maybe by weds I can uncover them. One of the reasons why we are moving to a new state next year is the whack weather here but mostly it’s the overcrowding. Now I’m realizing we aren’t going anywhere if there’s no vaccine by May, 2021.
I grew up in southern Indiana; morel hunting season was usually in May and my parents would go out every year. I was a finicky eater and wouldn’t touch them. They would come home with big grocery bags full of them. We had a few dozen acres of woodland and they were everywhere.
J R in WV
HI, guys, laid in bed late listening to Samuel Barber. Retirement / quarantine can be OK.
I will do another set in a month or so with ramps and if we’re lucky salamanders reproducing in the pond. There are tiger salamanders in these woods, big banana sized critters with black spots. They’re hard to get a photo of as they mostly stay on the bottom of the pond, but they have to come up to catch a breath of air, and if you’re lucky you can snap a shot of them right when they hit the top of the water.
I used to have a Nikon CoolPix which delayed the shot after you pressed the shutter button and that delay drove me away from the CoolPix to a DSLR, then some years later I decided to move to the Lumix superzoom, which is nearly foolproof, and takes the picture RIGHT NOW when you push that button.
We do not eat the fiddleheads. I’m a crappy identifier of plants, and some ferns are not good to eat, plus we want all the foliage we can get around the house.The local native ferns sprout new growth about now, and are the brightest green on the forest floor this side of the new moss.
It rained a lot last night, and I will need to lay some rocks into the pond, because in heavy rain the bottom liner tends to float up. Right now all you can see is leaves because the liner is just under the top of the pond. ;-( Not really a big deal, I intended to raise the mower edge by squeezing more flat rocks under the edge, making the pond 3 or 4 inches deeper. The tiny creek beside the house runs full after a good rain, and there are rushing waterfalls behind the house where the water pours over the rocks back there.
WE used to have a ton of Jack-in-the-pulpit plants. They put out a little seed head in late summer or fall, and those seeds are how they stay in your patch. But our patch is steep, and they move downhill every year. So not so many now. The Helleboros Lenten rose (ours are really way before lent, they all bloom in mid winter) are spreading like mad, and may choke out natives around front of the house… may kill some off this summer.
I wish I had been able to drive around with the camera to get some shots of maples in bloom and such… the spring leaf show is to beat the fall show in some ways, nothing is better than a maple tree with every branch covered in tiny scarlet blooms! And all the leaves budding out are different shades of pale green, from bright lime to deep kelly green. But being a hermit this spring, into town every 3 weeks now, when we run out of essentials, like tonic for the rum and gin and half&half for AM coffee.
Glad you guys enjoyed these snapshots of early spring. Thanks for the interest!
Thanks for this wonderful presentation of my favorite place southern West Virginia. Been here for 30 years and have lived all over the country till coming here. The beauty of the mountains, wonderful climate, nature and the clean air where I reside is really special. Great pictures by the way.