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Searching for hepatica March 11, 2015

Posted by Jenny in hiking, Life experience, nature, Smoky Mountains.
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Textures of the forest.

Textures of the forest.

Warning!  This post does not feature any exciting adventures. It addresses micro-aspects of the forest.

We had a bout of bad weather the second half of February, and then I was laid up for about ten days with a knee problem. This week I’ve been getting back into my routine of exercise hikes. Today, rain was falling through the morning with a steady patter. It was hard to motivate myself to get out, but I decided on a goal: I would go to the Newton Bald trail in search of hepatica in bloom. In past years I have seen it along that trail in early spring.

Well, I found hepatica, but it wasn’t blooming yet. Ha, ha! Now that I think about it, I realize this post could be considered an essay on the experience of an anti-adventure… But those of you who are still with me will find here a small photo gallery of things not always noticed in the forest.

As I drove to the trailhead, the rain came down harder and harder. However, the temperature was in the upper 50s, and I knew I wouldn’t mind getting wet if I didn’t get chilled.

The rain tapered off as I climbed. I went up the trail only to a point that I have previously measured as a 1400′ elevation gain. The hepatica zone is below that point, so I turned around there to give things a more careful look.

I found that I had indeed walked past a sprinkling of hepatica. No blossoms, but the leaves are pretty.

The hepatica leaves are green with stripes and have three lobes. The previous year's leaves last through the winter, and new ones start to form in early spring.

The hepatica leaves are green with stripes and have three lobes. The previous year’s leaves last through the winter, and new ones start to form in early spring.

The rain clouds were dissipating into the smoke-like streamers that give the Smoky Mountains their name.

"Smoke" drifts across the mountains.

“Smoke” drifts across the mountains.

I discovered a small Moss Tribble. (Humor me on this one…)

Juvenile moss tribble.

Moss Tribble.

You have to compare it with the Frost Tribble I encountered on a very cold hike in New Hampshire.

Frost Tribble.

Frost Tribble.

The leaves of rattlesnake plantain are just as pretty as the hepatica leaves.

Rattlesnake plantain leaves.

Rattlesnake plantain leaves.

A small cascade upstream of the trail can be reached with a short bushwhack. Although it doesn’t amount to much in dry weather, it was pretty today. One of the nicest features is the assortment of rocks where the little rivulet intersects the trail. They are stacked up in such a way that they form an echo chamber, magnifying the sound of the water.

A wet-weather falls.

A wet-weather falls.

Twining vines.

Twining vines.

Sprouting acorns.

Sprouting acorns.

And so a pleasant, low-key hike came to an end.

Partridgeberry.

Partridgeberry.

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Comments»

1. rickywscott - March 11, 2015

Hey there. I just wanted to let you know that I really enjoy your blog and so I have nominated you for the Liebster Award. Check it out here: http://unfairfallacy.com/2015/03/12/liebster-award/

Jenny - March 12, 2015

Thanks so much, Ricky. I appreciate it. However, due to the requirements for receiving the award, I will not pursue it. I enjoyed reading your answers to the Liebster Award questions.

2. Tom - March 13, 2015

Jenny you have an incredible gift of seeing patterns. I think the sprouting acorn picture is my favorite although all of them are wonderful observed and caught.

Jenny - March 13, 2015

Thank you, Tom!

3. Gary Howell - March 16, 2015

nice pictures, plants look quite happy in the rain when you slow down enough to look at them. Glad your knee is better.
Gary

4. Barbara Johnstone - March 16, 2015

Lovely pictures. I like details. Is the plantain edible? I understand that some kinds of plantain are. The kind that’s common here has similar shaped leaves but different colors — just green.

Jenny - March 16, 2015

“Plantain” is one of those common names that gets applied to unrelated plants. In this particular case, the plants with that name are wildly unrelated! Rattlesnake plantain is genus Goodyera and a member of the orchid family, though the blossoms are so tiny that you can’t see the orchid aspect with the naked eye. Weed plantain is genus Plantago, and it is edible. It’s the broad-leafed weed so common in yards. Then there is the banana-like plantain eaten in the Caribbean, which is genus Musa (the same genus as banana, but a different species).


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