On Today’s Bike Ride: Beware the Poison Hemlock

Poison hemlock plant
Beware!

Despite seasonal allergies, a slightly sore back, and the need to report to work this afternoon, I got out on my bike for a short ride this morning. I ended up at a wetlands area I frequent because there’s a nice shelter house, yet it’s at a spur off the main trail, so few people seem to stop there.

Thanks to a recent Facebook post from a friend, I realized this morning that there’s an abundance of poison hemlock growing there, and not harmless Queen Anne’s lace as I had always thought. I used the Seek app to verify the species. Since I don’t aspire to die like Socrates, I’m glad I never touched any back when I was misidentifying it!

One clear way to tell the difference between the two plants is the stem. Poison hemlock has smooth stems with purple spots. Queen Anne’s lace has hairy stems with no purple. I found a helpful article that provides more information.

Now you know. If you see this plant, make like anyone who is not Socrates and avoid it.

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On Today’s Walk: Wildflower Challenge Complete

The goal is to find and identify ten varieties of flowers…

Seek badge for iNaturalist wildflower challenge.
I’m a winner!

My son accompanied me on today’s walk. We’d just received a good amount of rain, so we didn’t seek out any trails, but simply stuck to ambling about the neighborhood. I was able to hear how his work is going and also find enough flowers in bloom to complete the iNaturalist Wildflower Challenge on the Seek app.

The goal is to find and identify ten varieties of flowers, and I had already done seven before setting out. On our stroll, I found three more.

Challenge complete.

Completed: wildflower challenge. Seek, April 2022
Completion.

Woohoo!

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On Today’s Walks, Plural

The last time I posted, I’d been looking at some fake skeletons. This morning, I found a real one. Some work colleagues and I participated in a city-wide cleanup effort. We were picking up trash along a busy roadway that had a line of brush a few yards back. In the midst of blown plastic grocery bags and other debris caught in the scrub, I stumbled upon some bones.

Animal bones, possibly possum, in brown leaves.
Fake skeletons last week, a real one this week.

I sent the photo to my oldest son, who knows quite a bit about wildlife. He believes this was an opossum once upon a time. I’ll go with that, as on first glance, I thought it was someone’s little family dog that had probably been missing for a long time. I left the bones in place. It seemed like the natural order of things.

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My second walk took place this evening right before sunset and was dedicated to enjoyment rather than civic improvement. How about these magnolia blossoms creating a perfect frame for the moon?

Half moon framed by magnolia flowers
Magnolia moon: photographic alliteration

My little phone camera always shows the moon a little blurry, but I like the shot anyway.

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On Today’s Walk: Photos and Verse

I haven’t been taking many walks due to days of cold, drizzly rain and a hurt back. All has improved now, though. The son and I went out for a two-mile stroll on this fine spring day, and I was so revivified I wrote a little poem about it.

First the photos:


Late Spring Walk

Forsythia and daffodil
Hellebores, Siberian squill,
Yellow, yellow, pink, and azure
After winter, winter, and winter
White and gray and gray
Spring returns one day
As we have faith it always will.
    

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On Today’s Walk: Visitor to the Neighborhood

I nearly didn’t take a walk today. It’s cold and I had to work yesterday, meaning I’m behind on weekend household stuff. But see what I would have missed. This is the reward for my effort.

Great blue heron
First time seeing a great blue heron in this park

I went to the park near my house, the one I’ve walked through hundreds of times. As I approached the footbridge over the creek, something with an enormous wingspan flew down to the water. I’ve seen a variety of birds around here over the years, but never before a great blue heron.

I watched it for a long time as it waded down the length of the creek, bobbing its head into the water occasionally, once coming up with food it swallowed. The Audubon Society website says this is its normal mode of feeding. After a while, I moved off the bridge and, using all my stealth, made my way down the path wending by the water. I stalked that heron like I was David Attenborough.

Eventually, a couple of other walkers came by, one with a dog and the other playing an audio book out loud. The heron decided to take its leave. Ah well. It was time for me to go home and do something about dinner, anyway.

I’d like to thank the world for the fun surprise today.

On Today’s Walk: Rowing Out of My Rut

Park path
For anyone wondering what filter I used, it’s called Smudge on Lens

Well, I’ve gone and done another 2022 goal. I explored a path I don’t usually traverse on my walks. It’s not brand new to me. In fact, it’s in my old neighborhood, where I used to live twenty years ago. But I haven’t walked over there in a minute or two.

For some bonus exercise I got a bit of rowing in.

I’m not sure if I followed all advisories. ???

Instructions
Not suitable for people with general health conditions.

I only have specific health conditions, so I’m probably okay.

I survived to continue my journey, and encountered a majestic tree.

Leafless tree

Oh, I can never resist a wooden pedestrian bridge! I wonder what’s around the curve on the other side.

pedestrian bridge

Uh oh!

Into every life path, a little ice must appear.

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On Today’s Walk: Rock Bridge

I’m using up some holiday and vacation leave this week while my oldest kid visits. Thanks to climate change probably, the weather is warm enough for many long walks.

Today we went to Missouri’s Rock Bridge State Park. There were a few other walkers there, but very few. We had most of the wonders to ourselves. Of course, the first thing we had to see was *the* rock bridge for which the park is named.

Rock Bridge
That’s my cohort there in the distance.

Here’s another view of the rock bridge, this one from above:


We made our way down the Devil’s Icebox Cave, but the water was up too high for us to explore it much. We also neglected to bring flashlights.


Next, it was off on the trail that leads to a disused stone grain silo built 100+ years ago. As evidenced by the artwork, plenty of people have been here before us.


I found a friend inside.

Toad
Howdy, friend!

Silo interior
View from inside the silo

A little research told me this festively colored fungus is called fulvifomes robiniae.

Fungus

It is nice to get out of my own neighborhood occasionally. Missouri is a state with a lot of natural beauty, so I don’t have to travel far to find a pleasant hike.

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On Today’s Walk: Talk of Sycamores and Ancient Greek Sculpture

Son the younger, who is currently living with me and the hubs, accompanied me today on my walk. We stopped to marvel at some large American sycamore trees, notable for their size and the fact that the bark sheds off, revealing stunning white wood underneath.


According to the Missouri Botanical Garden site, the American sycamore “is generally regarded to be the most massive tree indigenous to eastern North America. It is a deciduous, usually single-trunk tree that typically grows to 75-100’.” Indeed, I left the houses and cars in two of the photos for scale. The trees looked especially magnificent against the vivid blue, cloudless sky.

I know what you’re wondering about now, dear reader. When does Ancient Greek sculpture come into this story? The answer is, right now.

Son II commented that the peeling bark and white wood reminded him of some articles he’s been reading about statues from Greek antiquity. I learned some things from him during this conversation, notably that for centuries, scholars believed said statues had always been white. However, new scientific examinations reveal traces of pigment ingredients, showing the sculptures had originally been painted.

He also told me he believed from the images he’d seen imagining the original colors were off the mark. He thought artists who were so skilled and took such great care when carving wouldn’t have then made their creation garish. When I came home and looked on the internet, I saw what he meant. But I guess we can’t really know. Still, it’s fascinating to read about how a misconception is being revealed after all this time. Here’s a good article I found. The authors must know about culture, because they use British spellings, right?

Anyway, today’s walk was educational in more ways than one.

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On Today’s Walk: Down But Not Out

Tree
Down but not out

This tree is in a park near my house. Maybe someone else can identify the kind for me. I like to think of it as a survivor tree. At some point in the past, it fell over on its side. But did that make it give up? It did not!

It pushed some roots down from one side of its trunk and branches up from the other. It’s thrived like that for years now. I like to visit it for encouragement when things get difficult. It reminds me that life can knock you down, but that doesn’t always mean you can’t survive or even flourish. It reminds me not to give up, but to look for new alternatives, to adapt when faced with changes beyond my control.

Incidentally, the branches on the right side of the photo were propped there by someone recently. There’s a nice space in the middle, the right size to for a small child to sit in. Hmmm.

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On Today’s Walk: Arachnid Sighting

Marbled orb weaver

It’s an unusually warm and idyllic day for November, and I have to work. The silver lining is that I get an hour for lunch and live close enough to walk home. I encountered one of nature’s wonders casually crossing the street. The iNaturalist “Seek” app on my phone informed me this critter is a marbled orb weaver spider. I almost said “guy” instead of “critter” because further research revealed that the females tend to stay hidden in piles of leaves, except when retrieving food from their webs. However, even more research tells me the size of this one indicates it’s a female. I’m going with “I don’t know.”

According to the Insect Identification site, these spiders are common in wooded areas near water.Aha! The road I was on runs alongside a park, and the park has a creek running through it. Common or not, it didn’t look familiar to me. Maybe because they’re usually hanging around in the brush and not out on the asphalt. It sure is eye catching, isn’t it? And nothing to worry about. They are neither aggressive nor venomous.

This one was trucking right along and seemed to have an agenda. Whatever its destination, I hope it arrives safely.