Monday, December 09, 2019

Soaked leaves

Under the shelter of bigleaf maples and Douglas firs, where the sunshine never reaches, the forest floor becomes a layered bed of wet leaves, broken twigs, leaf skeletons, fir cones, fir needles. In the winter, it never dries out, even on sunny days.

In the rain yesterday, its colours (brown, dark brown, red-brown, and brown) were intensified, glowing.

Mushroom hiding under wet bigleaf maple leaves.

Slug dinner, with springtail, surrounded by leaves: salal, alder, fragments of bigleaf maple. And maple seed "wings". Douglas fir needles and cones.

A small mushroom makes a good umbrella.

Sunday, December 08, 2019

So bright

The morning was cloudy and cool, but above freezing. I went down to the museum woods to collect fallen fir branches for my Christmas decorations. It's only a block away, but by the time I got there, it was raining, and I tramped along the gloomy trails, watching my step on the slippery bigleaf maple leaves gently blending into the mud. And then, — a light on the side; a big patch of glistening yellow witches butter! I went back to get my camera, rain or no rain.

Witches butter, with rainy streaks, growing like a shelf mushroom on a fallen log. Douglasfir needle shows the size.

Farther down the same log.

And there has been almost no wind, but along the edge of the woods, I collected a big armload of fallen branches. My entry-way smells like an evergreen forest now.

Saturday, December 07, 2019

To cause the heart to become merry

My garden always has at least one lemon balm plant. I never plant it, and I often rip out large armfuls when it gets too enthusiastic, but it always comes back. Now, as the rest of the garden lies sad and frozen, the lemon balm is fresh and strong. I just picked a couple of leaves, highly scented, enough to make a good cup of lemony tea.

A few stems, brought inside, produced flowers at the end of October.

Lemon balm, Melissa officinalis.

The flowers are tiny, less than 1 cm. long, growing in the axils of the upper leaves.

Pink flowers, reddish corollas.

Nicholas Culpeper (1814)... suggested it to be used for weak stomachs, to cause the heart to become merry, to help digestion, to open obstructions of the brain, and to expel melancholy vapors from the heart and arteries. (Wikipedia)

Thursday, December 05, 2019

Bee and pale flowers.

A few more of my stored photos: These are from a couple of springs ago, growing on the museum lawns.

Unidentified Brassica, unidentified bee.

This one is developing its siliques.

I think I put these photos aside because I was stumped, trying to identify them without looking at the basal leaves or the rest of the plant. Foolish of me.

Monday, December 02, 2019

Volunteer mushroom

When it froze hard two days ago, I brought a few pots of succulents inside. Today, a tiny mushroom has sprouted in the soil of one pot. Thinks it's Indian summer, maybe.

Cute, isn't it? 1 cm. tall.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Winter warmth

And it's December already. And winter is upon us. I saw thick ice on roadside puddles here in town today; lawns are frosted white; my nasturtium plant, that yesterday was stretching out new leaves to the sun, lies dead. I brought in my potted succulents, too late to save one.

We get 8 hours of daylight now, bright, cold daylight. And clear skies in the long night, with sparkling stars overhead and Christmas lights on house fronts.

Longjohns and tuque weather. A good time to look at old photos from warmer days.

October hydrangeas, half dried. With maple "wings".

And with stink bug with orange rim spots. Holcotethus sp.

Friday, November 29, 2019


I'm always intrigued by those snags and logs that are twisted in a spiral, like hand-washed clothes wrung out and ready to hang. What giant hands wrung these out, I wonder.

An uprooted stump, long dead, on Baikie Island exposes spiral-grained roots. And comes with an extra: a lizard and a snake howling at the sky.

Looks like the central cores of the roots grew straight, but the outer layers are wrapped around them on an angle. Why?

Thursday, November 28, 2019


Habitat matters. On the ground, surrounded by dead leaves and stalked puffball mushrooms, an old log, burned black and half rotted, half buried in mud, is home to a batch of any-shape-will-do mushrooms.

Layered stubby hand shape. With a fat springtail.

This was the largest, the neatest, the closest to a shelf fungus shape. About 3 inches side to side.

Some of the mushrooms were blobs. Some looked like glue squeezed out of a piece of joined wood under pressure. Some were more like droopy fingers. None seemed to have stalks.

The underside of the one above. To get this, I had to hold the camera down on the mud, facing up, click and hope. At least I could see this way that they are gilled mushrooms.

Unidentified, of course. I looked through hundreds of photos, and gave up.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Polka dot spider

I have such great landlords! The husband turned up at my door with a fat spider in a jar for me.

Here she is, in my big spider jar (2 litres), on a Chinese lantern plant pod.

She's a Steatoda, but I don't know what species. I've kept Steatodas in the big jar before, and they did fine, but this one was not happy. In three days, she barely moved except occasionally to try to break through the glass. She wouldn't eat the food I provided: a delicious fly and two sowbugs. Previous Steatodas liked sowbugs. She didn't. Or she was sulking.

I let her out and she ran behind the flowerpots on my window sill. I haven't seen her since. I hope she's doing well.

Interesting pattern on her abdomen: stripes on top, polka dots underneath.

I searched through BugGuide's photos and couldn't find her match. And I noticed that they have identified most of these spiders down to genus level only, so I'll not send her photo in.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Winter decorations

When the deciduous trees have shed their last leaves, when their glorious reds and yellows have faded to brown on the ground, the understory puts up its bright winter lights.

Red. Wild rose hips.

Yellow. Blackberry leaves. The trees protect the plants from the first chilly nights, but once those leaves have fallen, the blackberries start to lose theirs. Some of the green leaves will persist until the first hard frost.

White. Waxberries, aka snowberries. These shrubs have lost all their leaves, but the berries are tough and will last all winter.

Common snowberry is an important browse for deer, antelope, and Bighorn Sheep; use by elk and moose varies.  The berries are an important food for grouse, grosbeaks, robins and thrushes.  Bears also eat the fruit. (Native plants, PNW)

And yes, green. The grass and next spring's flower seedlings will stay green all winter, even under the snow.

Another mushroom, like the one above, tipped over, showing its gills.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Catching a few rays

And still more mushrooms; it's the season.

I didn't see any slugs, but they've been there, munching away.

Fallen leaves and needles make a blanket holding in the moisture and warmth; perfect mushroom habitat.

A smaller mushroom.

A forest of tiny parasols.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Polka-dot ladybug

And another lifer among the mushrooms on Bailie Island. Not a mushroom, though.

A pair of mushrooms in dead leaves. But look at the stalk.

A small black and white beetle.
Zooming in still more. Looks like a ladybug.

I think it is a twenty-spotted ladybug, Psillobora vigintimaculata. I found a match on BugGuide, just across the border in Washington state. I'd never seen one before.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

A pair of lifers. Mushroom lifers.

I've never seen mushrooms like these before. Puffballs, I see often, in parks, in the woods, in lawns; they're easy to identify, new or old or long gone. At first glance, I thought the first batch of these were old, burst puffballs. But different, somehow.

They have an open pore at the top; our usual puffballs break all at once, usually along the sides.

There were hundreds of these along the shore trail, all about at this stage.

They acted like regular puffballs; when I stepped on them, they released clouds of brown spore dust.

Huddled together in the grass, under dead leaves.

Farther along the trail, I came across more apparent puffballs, but without the top central pores. And when I looked more closely, I realized that they have strong, thick stalks.

The stalks were mostly hidden under the leaves and the soil.

But a few had been exposed, by wind, probably. Not by me.

Cracked and somewhat shrunken cap. And yes, they released spore dust, too.

And these caps have collapsed in on themselves, leaving mainly stalks.

My guide (Audubon) has one photo of a mushroom that looks like the first batch, with the pores at the top: the Buried-stalk Puffball, Tulostoma simulans.

The guide describes them like this: Spore sac: ... roundish to acorn-shaped, with small, tubelike mouth projecting at top; sand-covered, dark reddish-brown. (Their photo shows pale beige mushrooms, no reddish-brown anywhere.) ... Stalk, ... thick, scaly, fibrous rust-brown, often entirely buried.

I didn't know about this, so I didn't see the stalks. I will have to go back tomorrow to dig some up.

The second batch of mushrooms were larger; compare them to the leaves in the photos. I haven't found photos of these anywhere. I'll send photos in to INaturalist and some mushroom identification sites, to see if anyone can id them.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Meanwhile ... some flowers

The sun came out today, and I went to Baikie Island and found a ton of mushrooms. (Slight exaggeration, I know.) I'll be busy processing them for a bit, so meanwhile, here's a batch of flowers from my "round tuit" file, some old, some older, a few recent.

A real oldie. The last photo of Laurie's garden in Delta.

And the newest, a few weeks ago. But the flowers are old. Or fake. Pearly everlasting, saved from last summer, with a bit of colour from an old decoration.

Such a beautiful, horrible weed! Cat's ear or hawkweed, I can never tell without looking at the leaves.

From my indoor "garden". The spathe of a variegated Diffenbachia

A welcome sight in the spring. Salmonberry flower.

Gumweed in the snow, Tyee Spit.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Black and blue

It's raining and blowing and grey out there these last few days. But not so long ago, the skies were blue, blue, blue. Cold air seems to bring out the colour.

Crow and bare branches, Oyster Bay.

Another crow, with the last of the yellow leaves.

Friday, November 15, 2019


I like scree. I like the word; it sounds sharp and jagged, like the stone and rocks it refers to. Scree. The crumbled bones of the earth.

Sometimes the stones are small and gravelly. Sometimes they're mixed with broken branches. Sometimes they're almost square-cut and too heavy to move. On a hillside where I lived some years ago, the cliff face was clay, which oozed in rainy season; after the spring thaw, round rocks pushed their way through the clay and piled up at the bottom.

I stop often to poke around at the bottom of cliffs, cautiously, because the stones are usually unstable, and more overhead are just waiting to fall. Sometimes I bring home a stone or two in my pocket, only to abandon it later. A few end up in my garden.

I liked the pattern on these two rocks at the base of a cliff beside Buttle Lake.

The black stuff looks like tar; shiny, blue-black. But solid, welded to the rock.

Another one.

Scree is a collection of broken rock fragments at the base of crags, mountain cliffs, volcanoes or valley shoulders that has accumulated through periodic rockfall from adjacent cliff faces. (Wikipedia)

Wikipedia gives a list of processes that give rise to scree. Weathering, thermal and topographic stresses, biotic processes (burrowing, etc.). But they forgot this very common one; road building, blasting through rock to make a ledge. Unless that falls under biotic processes, actions by living creatures, in this case us and our earth-moving machines and dynamite.

Most of the scree at the side of the Buttle Lake road is man-made. Down on the shore, the stones are smaller, more uniform in texture and shape, a bit worn down; they've been there since before our time.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

View from Highway 28

Someone ripped up a bit of forest and left a mess. And for once, I'm not complaining. They left a view that wasn't there before.

Upper Campbell lake, distant peaks, nearby cottonwoods, November, 2019

The bare trees are maples; they've already lost most of their leaves. Now it's the cottonwoods' turn to warm up the blues and greens.

When Google went by, in 2011, the area closest to the highway had been logged off, but the shoreline and the lake were still masked by trees.

Google map photo, 2011, slightly tinted to render the mountain peaks visible. Taken by Google from the roadside point where I stood to take my photo.

I spent several hours trying to identify those two distant peaks. I think the one on the left may be Kings Peak. Google Earth let me get close, but refused to give me a name.

Google Earth view. Rocks and ice.