Notes From the Field

Notes From the Field: What’s Making Me Happy

May. 08, 2020
New England Forestry Foundation

This is the third post in NEFF’s new blog series, Notes From the Field, which is designed to bring nature to you at a time when many people are sheltering at home. When it is safe to do so, staff members will offer a behind-the-scenes look at their current work and document interesting natural phenomena from forestlands protected by NEFF. We will also share retrospective stories.

Writing and photography by NEFF Stewardship Associate Beth Gula

Spring is really coming into full bloom across eastern Massachusetts! Based on the weather forecast all week, I anticipated overcast skies and some rain for my planned field work this past Thursday. But the day turned out unexpectedly bright and beautiful, and being outside to watch the forest emerging from dormancy really raised my spirits. I noticed some familiar flowers and new growth, as well as some that had me reaching for my dichotomous key, always fun. Hopefully you’ve been able to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine too, whether just outside your front door or at a local conservation area. Here’s what’s making me happy:

Emerging Mayapples


Mayapples (Podophyllum peltatum) grow in a garden bed outside NEFF’s office door. In the first photo, which I took April 14, I caught them just emerging. By my next visit on May 7, I had missed the flowers, which were already maturing into a berry fruit that looks a lot like a plump green grape. Perfect for a meandering turtle to reach up and munch off! They’re a native species typically found in forests, meadows and river shores across the eastern United States. They are also known as mandrake. Note: see the bottom of this post for a mayapple correction.

I found this violet on a conservation easement in Union, CT. Native Plant Trust’s Go Botany online plant identification guide lists 30 species of violet in New England, flowering in white, yellow, purple and sometimes blue. I see the purple and white ones all over lawns in my neighborhood right now too. I think this is Viola blanda, sweet white violet.

Dwarf ginseng (Panax trifolius) on a conservation easement in Ashby, NH. The delicate white flowers and distinct leaves caught my eye.

New red maple leaves (Acer rubrum) glow in the sunshine. With more light and warmth over time, these young leaves will produce chlorophyll to make them appear green.

Fern in Ashby, MA

Young ferns in NEFF’s Rocky Pond Community Forest

A whole lot of ferns getting ready to unfurl (unidentified species)…

And finally, some cheerful cultivated tree flowers—this magnolia as well as the photo at the top of this blog post.

Correction: On a subsequent visit to NEFF’s office, I realized I had not missed the mayapple flowers after all! The round green growth below the leaves must have been the flower bud. By May 27, the flower had already dropped a few leaves and is now on its way to maturing into a fruit. I also learned from additional Go Botany research that native occurrence of mayapple is actually rare in New England, limited to far western Massachusetts and Vermont. Across the rest of New England, mayapple populations were introduced by humans and have naturalized, growing wild in places it was not naturally occurring.

Read More

Notes From The Field: Rocky Pond Community Forest | April 17, 2020

Notes From The Field: Early Signs Of Spring | April 28, 2020