White water lily

Water lily lures the eye

Pickerel weed is especially beautiful this month on island ponds as spikes of blue-violet flowers surrounded by large green arrow-shaped leaves rise above the water. Clearly visible, too, are the handsome white flowers of white water lily blossoms. Canoeists and kayakers actually get the best views of interesting water plants, for they can glide right up to them. Anyone out on freshwater ponds now should watch for the three native carnivorous plants that are quite easy to find. The three are pitcher plants, sundew and bladderwort.

The last named bladderwort plants float freely in the water and show small pealike blossoms. If the bladders are black, the plant has caught something. If they are green, they’re still waiting for food in the form of tiny frogs and fish, waterbugs and the like. Leading into each submerged bladder is a “door” that opens inward but not outward. Insects and other food creep in easily but find it impossible to escape. The insect or other food is gradually absorbed by the plant.

Sundew is very tiny, only an inch or two high, and it has another interesting way of catching its food. The leaves are covered with red hairs, and at the end of each hair is a gland that exudes a sticky gluelike substance looking like a drop of dew in the sunlight. If any small creature lands on the glue and gets stuck, the plant curls over it and slowly digests it with the help of plant juices.

The tall reddish-purple blossoms of the pitcher plant stick up noticeably from the sphagnum in local boggy areas on the island. You often can see them from your car if it passes close to a bog. At the base of the plant is a large, green, hollow pitcherlike leaf. This is reddish and green on the outside and pale green streaked inside. The leaves are broadly winged and hooded and partially filled with a watery liquid. The raw meat appearance and the decaying odor of the plant attract insects to come and quench their thirst. Once inside, however, escape is impossible. The footing is insecure and the bristly hairs pointing downward inside prevent it from climbing out. The insect ends up falling in the liquid and is gradually absorbed by the plant juices. Pitcher plants seem to have more need of nitrogen compounds than most flowers, so they get these compounds from the decaying insect bodies. The maroon blossoms are strikingly beautiful.

Lightning bugs make summer nights magical with the males blinking their lights in the air and the females answering them from hiding places on the ground. These interesting beetles winter over as larvae in the soil, and in the spring, they come out and feed in swampy areas. As summer commences, they go into a pupa stage for a couple of weeks and then emerge as the adults we see blinking in the air on warm summer nights.

The female usually stops blinking after she has mated, but in one species of fireflies, the female signals to males of other species and when he comes near, she eats him!

Resist the impulse during the nesting season to pick up baby birds. Of course you should move them out of immediate danger in the road or such places and keep your pets in until the parents and young have gone into hiding. Parent birds are most often nearby and know best how to care for them. Trying to raise a baby bird is a very difficult task and often does not end well.

I have often encountered spruce grouse families along the Wonderland Trail in other years. They are usually quite tame and enable you to see them well. Spruce grouse and ruffed grouse are the two types we can see here on Mount Desert Island. Of the two, the ruffed grouse is most common. Wildlife creatures and blooming plants are abundant this month. Make sure you take time to enjoy them all. Ruby-throated hummingbirds are frequent visitors to local gardens. Blueberries are getting ripe. Catbirds can be heard making their musical calls. Wild raisin, or witherod, a common shrub on this island is in bloom and nice to see.

Ruth Grierson

Ruth Grierson

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

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