Warm weather and rain have finally melted much of the snow at the valley level in this area and at long last I was able to visit a place, which for some reason hosts the first Spring bloom of buttercups in this whole region. A week ago there was a foot of snow on the ground up there, but today hundreds of buttercups were in full bloom on the tiny top of “Buttercup Ridge”.
On a short hike this afternoon I encountered several dozen groups of Indian Pipes. They are not rare, but live in forested areas in deep shade and can be easily overlooked. It was unusual to see so many along a short (perhaps half a mile) piece of trail. They usually grow in groups and have many attractive poses. And so I got carried away with photos.
The common name ‘Indian Pipe’ refers to the pipe-like flowering stalks. It is also called ‘Ghost Flower’ and is in a leafless, saprophytic subfamily of Monotropae. They do not have chlorophyll or green leaves and do not manufacture their own food, obtaining food instead from decaying material in the tree litter and humus. They do not depend on the sun and are usually found in the deep shade of coniferous forests. While their pretty little faces always point straight down (and therefore are very difficult to photograph), the fruit eventually points straight up!
Most often the photos in my posts are taken in the course of a hike, typically eight to ten miles or so, but this one was taken on a hike of less than fifty yards; in my own back yard.
Many years ago when we first moved to this place we decided that we would leave nearly all of the property in its original natural state, and so it has been, with a few minor exceptions. Down below the house there is an area one could call a “thicket”, mostly full of hawthorn trees and other shrubs and with all of the sharp spines, a rather inhospitable place. Over the years I have created and maintained a couple small paths (about 18 inches wide and six feet tall) through it as a courtesy to the deer, giving them a hidden route to follow and a friendly place to hang out, where they can be out of sight and out of danger. I periodically clip out the dead branches that infringe on the trail and in doing so the other day I discovered some plants that I had never seen there before; White Bog-orchids. I suspect that it was Nature’s way of rewarding me for my kindness to Her deer.