Rose pogonia

June brings parade of flowers



“What is so rare as a day in June? Then, if ever, come perfect days; Then Heaven tries the earth if it be in tune, And over her softly her warm ear lays.” This famous quote always comes to my mind as June begins. I often even think of it as I tune my violin. Look up this poem, called “The Vision of Sir Launfal,” by James Russell Lowell and enjoy it all.

Flowers dominate the landscape this month as each steps “on to the stage.” Rhodora has been showing pink along roads and trails, but soon sheep laurel’s pink blooms will be seen. This flower reminds me of the mountain laurel seen everywhere in my home state of Connecticut. Way back when I was a child, it was the custom to go riding on a Sunday afternoon to look at the laurel blooming on the Merritt Parkway.

Our sheep laurel here in Maine is also called “lambskill.” The pink blossom appears near the top of the plant with green leaves above them and below. Rhodora has pink blossoms at the very top. You can find sheep laurel anywhere from Canada to Georgia!

Both wild and cultivated iris plants vie this month for high honors in beauty. Both have similar blossoms and are readily recognized. Blue flag is our wild iris here in New England.

If you go tramping about in and around bogs now, be on the lookout for native orchids. Some exquisite orchids are found on this island. Rose pogonia is found in open and semi-open sphagnum bogs. Calopogon or grass pink also is in wet places and one to look for especially. Grass pink’s blossom looks as if it is on the plant up-side-down. You will be well rewarded if you find one. As with all such plants, never pick them. Just take lots of photos.

A friend was working in his garden this week and found a nice little ring-necked snake in a pile of leaves. This small and gentle snake is really quite beautiful. You can easily pick it up, and it immediately curls gently around your fingers and doesn’t bite. Its name fits its well, for the black body color makes its golden “necklace” very noticeable. It wears a yellow “ring” around its body near its head. Old wood piles and leaf piles are where you usually find them. They are quite secretive. None of our local snakes are poisonous. Some will try to bite if they are scared. Garter snakes will do so, and they often release a foul-smelling liquid to encourage you to drop them so they can get away. Garter snakes are, however, very useful to have living in your garden, for they eat slugs. Leave them alone, and they will reward you.

Since we have had such a wet spring, I think we can expect what is known as “tar spots” on the leaves of maples in late summer. Tar spots appears on the leaves of maple trees and look just like the name suggests. They start to show up in mid-June, but they are very small and probably unnoticed. By mid-July and in August, however, they start to look like spots of tar on the leaves and attract your attention. They truly look like a spot of tar on the maple leaves.

The fungi that cause tar spots overwinter in the infected leaves that fell to the ground. Spores of the fungi are carried about by the wind and spread in that manner. Experts say it does not do long term damage to the trees. Mulching the fallen leaves will destroy many of the spots before they mature. Just be sure to cover or turn the mulch over before new leaves begin to emerge in the spring. Look up “tar spots” on the Cornell University internet site to learn more.

This is prime time for watch alewives on their yearly migration from the ocean and into our freshwater ponds to spawn. There are actually many festivals going on at this time for people to enjoy watching them move by the hundreds, perhaps, thousands, up fish ladders and special culverts for them at Maine dam sites.

A ruffed grouse or partridge often uses my dirt driveway to take his dust bath. Whenever he gets disturbed as he bathes, he gets up and struts off with his ruff raised. On warm days, grouse will hollow out a saucer-shaped depression in some dry and dusty place and take a bath to rid themselves of lice. Ruffed grouse are chicken-like in their appearance and actions. Their feathers are quite beautiful shades of red, brown and black.

Grouse have a reputation of waiting until the last minute when you come upon them in the woods and then bursting forth from the ground close to you and into the air on rapidly beating wings. Sometimes you find them sitting in a young tree. Here on Mount Desert Island, we also sometimes see the spruce grouse, a very handsome bird with similar habits. Ruffed grouse usually move off when people come near, but spruce grouse often seem very tame.

Ruth Grierson

Ruth Grierson

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

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