Meeting Nature: A series about wild plants and creatures

The continuing discoveries of a 21st century artist and naturalist …

I notice things.

As a small child, I’ve been told, I would stand mesmerized whenever I saw a plane flying overhead.  No one could get me to move until the plane was out of sight.  I guess I’ve been a watcher all my life. Combine that with what I believe is my only spiritual gift – discernment – and I go through life seeing and feeling intensely. The things I notice take on not just a physical but a spiritual context.  Not a bad combination for an artist, poet, and photographer.

I notice little things – the pattern of a spider’s web covered in dew, a miniature flower at my feet, the unique tilt of a bird’s head.  I want to capture the spirit of those moments and sights either through poetry, a painting or a photographic image.  At one time my photography was just for capturing the moments I wanted to put on canvas but since moving to the mountains three years ago it has taken on a new purpose.  I still photograph scenes and brush them onto a canvas but more and more my photography has its own place in my visual and spiritual world.

This spring I’ve had a couple of days, while my husband Jim seeks his spiritual renewal courting trout, in which I’ve wandered streams, road sides and trails noticing.  With camera in hand I’ve created a collage of those days.  I see the nuances of green among the spring trees, the flowers in bloom, the soft dance of shadow and light on wood and water.  But there is more in these, for me, than just the physical and spiritual I noted above.

Being someone who loves a good puzzle I want to pursue these images and find out more about them.  At one time I thought it was a need for control or categorization.  Now I find that this searching for the names of and information about what I see is more like getting to know someone on a more personal level.   We ‘meet’ people all the time but only a few get close enough attention from us to learn their names, character and personality.  That’s how I feel about identifying the butterflies or wildflowers I get to meet.

Perhaps part of that comes from my Granny.  When we visited her in the spring and summer she would take us around and ‘introduce’ us to her many flowers and plants.  No visit was complete without a walk around the house and in the garden to see what was growing. I’ve often been asked how I know so many names of plants (house, annuals, perennials, garden) and I go back to those visits with my Granny.  She didn’t just show us the colors and patterns – she gave them names – tender plants, petunias, irises, tommy-toes.  So finding out a plant or insect’s name makes me feel like I know them better.

Whatever the genesis of this inquisitive exploration below are a few of the discoveries I’ve made in the last couple of weeks along with ‘personality sketches’ about each one.

First let’s meet the Deerberry:

This little guy, usually only about 20″ tall, is a relative of the blueberry (one of whom we’ll meet another day).  His genealogy, for those interested in the scientific side, is Family: Ericaceae; Genus: Vaccinium; Species: Caesium.  This is the Low Deerberry which is often said to be synonymous with its relative the Tall Deerberry (species – stamineum) but they are actually different plants.

While its common name would seem to make it a favorite of deer the Low Deerberry is a favorite of ruffed grouse, bobwhite (quail) and gray foxes.

Little Deerberry Blossoms
Little Deerberry Blossoms
Deerberry Bush in Bloom
Deerberry Bush in Bloom

While we’re on berries, here’s another type that I ran across.  I initially thought this was some kind of cottage rose but the leaves were wrong and it had no thorns.  Imagine my delight in finding out it’s a Purple-Flowering Raspberry!  The twigs are hairy but not thorny, the leaves are maple-like in form, and the flower reminded me of those lovely cottage, or heritage, roses growing wild in some areas of our state (and as you’ll see below it belongs to the Rose family).

But you should probably leave the berries for wild animals because according to the description in Peterson’s Field Guide Trees and Shrubs the “Fruits [are] red, rather dry and tasteless”.

Family: Rosaceae; Genus: Rubus; Family: Odoratus

Two blossoms - Purple Flowering Raspberry
Two blossoms – Purple Flowering Raspberry
Torn Petal - Purple Flowering Raspberry
Torn Petal – Purple Flowering Raspberry
Late Bloom - Purple-Flowering Raspberry
Late Bloom – Purple-Flowering Raspberry

And that’s just the start – there’s still wildflowers, ferns, mosses, butterflies and more.

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