Nearly a month has gone by without any new posts, despite my recent statements about blogging in earnest. I'm finding that teaching writing classes not only involves lots of time grading papers but also focuses my interest on writing. I'm actually writing a lot in various journals and notebooks, but not focusing in the short run on material I want to post here. We'll see what develops. Let's just say, my cessation of blogging is not due to deterioration of my health. I might be back soon. It probably depends on how spring unfolds - wildflowers, lizards, interesting insects, etc., usually fire me up and prompt me to keep my camera batteries charged.
I have been teaching since 1965 and have recently joined the English Department as an Associate Faculty member at Feather River College. Recently taught Nature Literature in America and am currently teaching Interpersonal Communication and Basic Reading and Writing.
For a couple of weeks I've been checking on the area near Oakland Camp where I'm accustomed to find the Mountain Lady's Slipper around this time of year. Over a week ago, I thought I spotted a young specimen that had not yet produced a bud. Yet several years ago when I first discovered these beauties, there were a couple dozen in bloom by May 18. A couple of days after finding that first one of this year, it was gone. Well, today I was lucky. I wandered over an area of a couple of acres on which I found an abundance of blooming False Solomon's Seal, several Spotted Coralroots, and a few other species of spring wildflowers. I was about to leave the area when I spotted the first bloom of the year (for me) of the Mtn. Lady's Slipper. It's not fully open yet, so there are many days of fun photography ahead. I'm expecting some out-of-town guests soon who will travel across the state to see these orchids, and now I won't need to disappoint them. I wonder if I should camp out there to ensure it doesn't disappear like the one I saw last week.
Here's a closer view, and you can click on either photo to get even closer. Tomorrow I hope to find time to post a number of photos of the Coralroots and other wildflowers I saw while searching for the Lady's Slippers.
We still have this secluded little spot on campus, only a few feet from pavement, in which the weed eaters have not yet discovered the Wild Ginger. I stopped on my way to the parking lot, hoping to find a few that had dropped their petals. I've never seen what these flowers look like in their post-bloom stages.
Often, when I stop to photograph these, curious passers-by stop to ask what I'm doing. Most of the time it's people who recognize the Ginger leaves, but have never seen the flowers, or even realized they had flowers.
So, I decided to photograph the reason why. Usually, stands of Wild Ginger form a continuous mat
of leaves so dense that one doesn't see the rgound beneath them, thus, they don't see the flowers either. I usually have to part some leaves and held them out of the way to get good photos of the flowers, and also hold the flowers up at an angle in order to view the insides. In the above photos, I've cropped my cheating fingers out of the field.
Last week I went out by Oakland Camp to check on the condition of the Mountain Ladyslippers. In the area where I'm accustomed to seeing maybe a dozen plants just a few feet from the pavement, I saw only this one. Maybe more have broken ground by now. I hope to go out there again some afternoon this week. Maybe there will be some buds. I can hardly wait for their annual appearance. This time I hope to be patient enough to get some photos of bugs inside the bulbous petal.
I took about 20 photos to get this one. With no telephoto or tripod, I aimed at the dozens of blues fluttering around damp spots on the gravel by Spanish Creek. The many splotches of blue moving around are beautiful. But within a fraction of a second after landing, they fold their wings over their backs and disappear. They disappear because the undersides of the wings are speckled grey and brown and are perfectly camouflaged with the gravel. Occasionally I can spot a landed one in one of the photos, but usually not. I got lucky just once. Click on the photo for a closer view.
The Western Dog Violets are starting to bloom on the FRC campus. Two of the yellow species have been blooming for a while, and this is the only local species that is actually violet in color. There's also a whte species.
The second photo (above) shows how the leaves of this species are quite different from those of the Fan Violet I posted a while back. The leaf in the lower right quadrant is that of the violet.
Click on these for closer views. I love looking straight into the blossoms. Colorful patterns and often interesting insects and spiders may be found. One has to be motivated to get down and look because violet are pretty small and usually hidden amongst other plants, especially grasses.
Lemmon's Wild Ginger, Asarum lemmonii, is blooming in a spot on the FRC campus where I thought they might have been wiped out by a weed-eating and stream-clearing operation this past school year. The area looked so cleared of vegetation, I had got out of the habit of leaving the trail to check on the Ginger and the Corn Lilies and the various insects, spiders, and other invertebrates that lived there. Just an impulse, on this last day of April, to check out the spot. The top photo shows one of the blossoms that was visible as I approached. Before all the weed eating, the area was covered by a carpet of interlocking leaves with the blossoms hidden beneath. One could not see if there were blossoms without pushing leaves aside. The family name, which is the title of this post, is a word I love to pronounce and to hear other people try to. The photo below is from around 8" away. Both were taken with my iPhone. Generally, I'm not pleased with my iPhone photos because I have trouble focusing on tiny things and I'm pretty sensitive to the glare off the screen. This afternoon the weather was cloudy so that wasn't a problem. Although the blossom is the subject of the photo for most people, I love looking at the hairy stems.
Not only is the Henbit Dead Nettle a beautiful flower, but it is clever enough to stay below the blades of the weed eaters and mowers. Much like the response of many grasses to grazing animals, if the blades do cut off the flowering tops, it quickly blooms claser to the ground. They'll be beautifying the roadside well into summer.
Another low-flowering beauty on our roadsides is th Filaree, AKA Stork's Bill.
I've forgotten the name of this tiny white one, but up cloase it reminds me of Meadow Foam. Will post an ID as soon as I rediscover it.
I hope I can find this exact spot again today because the Henbit will have bloomed next to the little white one. Should make for a good photo.
FRC buys lots of ball-point pens for advertising purposes. I wonder how many visitors saw this one.
I made a stop at the junction of Hwy 70 and the road to Butterfly Valley hoping to see the first shoots of Umbrella Plant (formerly known as Indian Rhubarb) and maybe some Milkmaids. None yet, but I did get fascinated by the willow buds, especially when I found this pair of bugs courting.
I'm not sure if these bugs are going after just the pollen, but this photo make it look like they're going after the entire flowers. I didn't have time to stay for closer observation, but found the scene photogenic. I'll be checking this spot often after the anticipated rains this weekend.
The hated thistles are among the most beautiful weeds. Their peak season for blooming comes after most of the spring wildflowers have gone to seed, so this spot provides interesting photography opportunities well into the summer.