June blooms are busting out

“June is busting out all over” keeps coming to mind these early June days, with blossoming plants showing their beauty everywhere I look. Spring is a happy, beautiful time in the natural world. Be sure and take time to take it all in every day. Marsh marigolds are in blossom in wet places, at least in Bar Harbor and Northeast Harbor areas. Sometimes there is a delayed blooming on the Southwest Harbor side. My lilacs here in Bass Harbor are still in bud, while those in Bar Harbor are in full bloom. There is a big difference in the time of blooming from one side of the island to the other.

Spadderdock is showing its bright yellow, globular blossoms on the surface of my small pond these days. This plant also is called “yellow cow lily” and “bull-head lily.” The name “spadderdock” always appealed to me. This plant is a favorite of mine, for it is not only colorful, but it can thrive in water that might be too stagnant for the glamorous white water lilies. The leaves of the spadderdock usually float on top of the water, but at times when water levels drop down, the broad, rounded, lobed leaves stand erect. The large leaves of this lily help keep the waves from splashing in the opened blossoms until they have been fertilized by aquatic insects. Native Americans used the lily rootstocks as a vegetable; they were boiled and roasted. Moose and beaver enjoy the rootstocks.

There are two yellow lilies that are quite similar, Nuphar variegatum, with its leaves held erect on the water, and Nuphar advena, with its leaves held erect above the surface. The latter is a more southern species and is found in coastal New England but not in Maine. Watch for it on your travels.

The large leaves, often a foot wide, are not really strong enough to hold up a frog in spite of children’s book illustrations to the contrary. In Peru, however, I have seen lily pads strong enough to hold up an object weighing up to nine pounds! Our local pond lily is not capable of such a feat.

In May and June, the flower to find blooming is the painted trillium. It may be when the birds have finished courting and are busy with family life, as now. The painted trillium grows in the coolness of the evergreen forests of the island. It likes acid soil at middle and high elevations. Its height varies according to the richness of the soil in which it grows.

At the summit of a slender stem, rising perhaps only 8-inches, this charming flower spreads its long, wavy-edged, waxy-white petal, veined and striped in deep pink or a red-wine color. Three broadly oval pointed leaves grow in a whorl just below the flower. In August, a bright red berry forms where the flower once was.

The painted trillium should be found in woods and bogs from eastern Ontario and Quebec south throughout the northeastern states. Two flower-loving friends and I like to go out in the spring and count them on a piece of land on the western side of the island. It is a wonderful treasure hunt as we spread out in the woods and count the colorful blossoms. We have many times counted well over 100 painted trilliums.

A good friend of mine lives in a rural area just off island and encountered a wild turkey hen and her young ones on her driveway. She almost didn’t see them at first for the birds were trying to hide. The hen had given them a signal to crouch low and “disappear” from danger, and they did just that. The young birds were almost invisible. When my friend tried to see where they had gone, she almost missed the little ones hunched together in a slightly trembling mass not far away. My friend stood very still, and after a few moments, the hen gave her brood a signal to move again, and they hurried off. It was a wonderful sighting.

A bike rider on the carriage road got to see a nice big spotted salamander this week. He was astounded to see such a creature. At first sight, people might think “lizard,” but we do not have any lizards here on Mount Desert Island. The salamander is an amphibian, and the spotted salamander, black with yellow spots, is one of six kinds of salamanders living here on MDI. Of the six, the spotted is the largest and most colorful. They are perfectly harmless. Once in a while, they even appear in a damp cellar. If that happens to you, just moisten your hands and carry the salamander to a nice, damp, shady spot outdoors. They need to be wet and damp at all times.

June is the month for wild creatures to be busy with family cares. They may have a family of young ones to feed, or they may be waiting for eggs to develop and hatch, or in the case of some snakes and mammals, they are waiting for young ones to be born. An especially heartwarming and funny sight on a warm spring or summer night is the sight of a family of skunks moving along in line. The mother leads the way, and the smaller babies follow, exact replicas. When they are out at night searching for food, it is quite a funny procession.

Send any questions or observations to [email protected] or call 244-3742.

Ruth Grierson

Ruth Grierson

Send any questions or observations to [email protected] or call 244-3742.
Ruth Grierson

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