A friend of mine was looking out her window this past week and suddenly saw a porcupine running out of the woods at high speed, at least it was high speed for this usually slow-moving creature. Every once in awhile, it would look back and then kept going in a rush across the wide lawn to the edge of a busy country road. The traffic kept it from going across the road, so it turned and headed up the long driveway and finally went back into the woods. My friend’s curiosity was pretty high at this point, so she went out to the edge of woods where she first saw the porcupine. As she stood there, she heard the growl of a bobcat and knew then what had happened to scare the porcupine into a run for its life.
In recent months, she and her family have had many sightings of bobcats, but she did not know that they ate porcupines. Not many predators will attack this prickly small mammal of our native woods. The fisher and the bobcat are two large mammals that will kill a porcupine by knocking it over and attacking it on its stomach where there are no quills. The whole scene was interesting to see from the farmhouse window.
My attention was drawn to a comment on Facebook one day recently about Queen Anne’s lace, a very common member of the carrot family growing all over Mount Desert Island, and water hemlock, also a member of the family, but one that is very rare here. They were worried about being poisoned by water hemlock and how they could tell the plants apart. The only way to be poisoned by the rare water hemlock is to eat the root. It is not like poison ivy, which gives you a bad rash. The two plants are quite different in appearance as well.
Both plants are in the Apiaceae family. Look online at the photos. The leaves on both are fernlike. Queen Anne’s lace has hairy stems with no purple blotches. Water hemlock has hairless stems and purple blotches on them. Flowers on the Queen Anne’s lace are white and bloom in an umbrella (umbel) shape in the center of which is a single, tiny, purplish-red flower. Water hemlock is more rounded and quite different. They’re easy to tell apart. Do remember that water hemlock is very uncommon here. Always remember, too, that only those who eat water hemlock roots have the problem. Don’t eat any wild plants unless you really know what you’re doing.
Good references for all this information are found in “The Plants of Acadia National Park” by Mittlehauser, Gregory, Rooney and Weber from the University of Maine Press. You also will find very helpful information at www.ravensroots.com.
You can always take a photo of the unidentified plant and send it to me, and I’ll have my experts identify it for you. Don’t worry about having the fate of Socrates! He was said to have been eliminated by poison hemlock.
One of my favorite June songs is “June Is Busting out all over.” New and beautiful flowers come into bloom every day. Rhodora is a pink delight to see along the roads now. Even from the car one day, I saw the large leaves of Clinton‘s lily, which will soon be in bloom in the wet woods. They have bell-like flowers. People are posting photos of gorgeous pink lady slippers in local woods. This exquisite orchid is commonly found all over MDI. The unusual blossom is shaped like a pouch, and local bumblebees going down inside for pollen sometimes have a bit of trouble getting back out again. I once found a lady slipper blossom that was buzzing and moving oddly, and that is what had happened. The bee got in but was having trouble getting back out again.
Labrador tea is blooming in lowland bogs and on moist mountain slopes. My first contact with Labrador tea was many years ago when I was a Girl Scout. We made tea from this evergreen shrub. The white flowers are small and in handsome umbrella-like clusters. The leaves are alternate, oblong, leathery, dark green above and rusty woolly below. This “wool” on its stems and the underside of its leaves is an adaptation so it can “hold its own” in a cold climate (like Labrador). When steeped, a fragrant tea can be made from the leaves. This plant has long been used for treating many ailments.
Fireflies were seen flitting and flashing over local ponds as May gave way to June. Seeing them flitting about on a summer’s night is a special treat! When warm weather arrives, the firefly, or lightning bug, emerges from its pupal shell. As they dry and harden, the outer wings develop their black color. They then glow brightly and are fully developed. They are a magical sight over the fields on summer nights.
Take time to enjoy the month of June, for “then, if ever, come perfect days; Then Heaven tries earth if it be in tune.”