A Bit of Botanizing

After twenty years in the state of Pennsylvania I suppose it’s time to recognize that I might be settling in for a longer haul.  A job originally brought me here but my wife grew up in the area and now as my kids become older they’re about at that point where they will forever wear that label of being ‘from here’.  So I guess it’s time to start learning the lay of the land.  The lay of the local land that is, not the hours long journeys, just the trips up the street and into the woods.  This morning was beautiful, I had a few hours free, I knew a place where lady slipper orchids grow.

tadpole puddle

A dirt road puddle with some tadpoles.

It was too late for the lady slipper orchids so I headed up into the mountains looking for mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia).  Too early for them.  No problem.  I took the long way home and stopped to explore a clearcut area.  I had planned on going a little further and making this a plant tour, but a few tadpoles stranded in a mudpuddle on the road distracted me.  The pond I filled last fall is still disgustingly empty of amphibians, so in a bid to rescue the from their rapidly evaporating home (and bring tadpoles to suburbia) I picked up some roadside trash and began filling it with tadpoles.

tadpole rescue

Tadpole rescue.  About two dozen came home in my cup holder.

On the way out I also managed to find a few plants worth photographing.  They’re not lady slippers, but Pixterbloom Azalea (Rhododenron periclymenoides… I think) are nice enough as well.  My research to identify them came up with the word “common” but that shouldn’t matter.  They’re amazing, and the color and form are perfect, and for all the work I do in the garden these plants just spring up on their own and it’s a little humbling.

R. periclymenoides

Pinxterboom Azalea? (R. periclymenoides) doing well in a damp area.  They had a nice sweet fragrance, and the scent carried quite a distance.

The azaleas seemed to be enjoying the full sun of the recently cleared area.  I know people love trees and trees do a lot to bail us out of our global warming future, but some sunlight on the ground is good too and these plants seem to appreciate it.

R. periclymenoides

For a minute I thought of coming back for seed and starting a few at home but then laughed at my delusional ambition.  Enjoying them in the mountains will be just fine.

There’s another park I haven’t been to in a while that has been doing some burns in order to increase the plant diversity.  Maybe I should add that visit to the to-do list.

R. periclymenoides

The beautiful day was almost as nice as the azaleas.  It’s good to know these things still go on year after year in spite of us.

So it was an entirely unsuccessful botanizing trip.  Maybe I’ll catch the lady slippers next year and the mountain laurel in a few weeks, but in the meantime I have tadpoles to watch.  That’s not bad either, and it’s a good distraction from the endless daffodil digging and trudging around the garden with a water hose… rain would be nice just about now.

Have a great week.  Mine has started out just fine, but I can’t help but laugh at the fact that no one questioned me about being gone for hours and returning with a dirty cup full of tadpoles.

23 comments on “A Bit of Botanizing

  1. Well, you weren’t going to come home with a lady’s slipper, were you?

  2. Sounds like it was a satisfying jaunt into the mountains even if you didn’t get to see the Lady Slippers. This is how I introduced toads into my garden. I had never seen a toad or frog in my garden, this was back 25 years ago. I went to visit a friend that lived way out in the country. When I was driving up her lane there were hundreds of tiny toads hopping along the lane. I found a cup and scooped up quite a few of them and released them in the garden. I have had toads ever since. I hope your frog experiment goes well. I wonder what kind of frogs they are?? I guess you will soon find out.

    • bittster says:

      I’m still hoping the tadpoles I took home are toads. Frogs would be fun as well but based on their size and where I found them I’m thinking toads. Toads were sort of common here a few years ago but something changed and I don’t see them as often. Oddly enough I find salamanders though, and I would have thought toads would be the hardier of the bunch but…
      That said, maybe this will be one of those summers I’m always fishing toadlets out of the pool filters. We can hope lol

  3. johnvic8 says:

    I sure hope you will enjoy the singing of the frogs.

    • bittster says:

      We do have a few tree frogs that belt out a song every now and then. It’s kind of random and can be a little startling when it’s right near you, but I still enjoy it.
      I didn’t feel the same way when we were down in Florida and there was some invasive Cuban treefrog that was bigger and louder, and would sing all night!

  4. Not for nothing, but I don’t question it when my husband disappears for a couple hours and returns home with nothing much to show for it. I just appreciate the alone time, which is in mighty short supply around here since March! I’ll have to check for Lady’s Slippers next time I take a walk along the road where I saw the trillium and dog tooth violets earlier this spring. It’s supposed to rain today, isn’t it? I hope so. We have one working hose, no working nozzles, and no working sprinkler attachments right now. (That last sentence *may* be part of the reason I don’t question the husband’s unexplained absences, LOL!) Good luck with your frogs!

    • It took trips to two stores yesterday to buy and new hose nozzle and sprinkler, so of course it rained just about all night long! 2 1/2 inches in the gauge this morning. I hope it soaked in well enough to make my long overdue weeding chore easier!

      • bittster says:

        I was out today in the pleasantly cool weather doing some digging, and let me say it was so much nicer to have some damp soil to cut through…. rather than pick my way through some crusty dirt clods that act more like rocks! The rain came in just the nick of time for the lawn and most of the other things. There are a few spots where it must have come down too fast or been too crusted for the water to soak in, but for the most part it’s a relief. I’m not a big fan of watering so hate those dry spells… and I feel like the gnats are worse when it’s dry and humid!
        Heh heh, for all the times I’m sitting around doing nothing in the yard, it’s a rare day when anyone comes looking for me.

  5. Eliza Waters says:

    You saved those tads lives… they were vulnerable in that puddle, either to a crow, raccoon or evaporation. I’m sure they will adapt to your pond quite well.
    I love swamp pink azalea – the fragrance is wonderful. I have a couple on my property that have grown to a good size. They have pretty much gone by at this point. Too fleeting!

    • bittster says:

      Lucky you to have a few wild azaleas on your property! I see these and another native azalea (which is earlier) quite often alongside the roads and embankments. They’re so cool to see, but unfortunately there have also been a few sections where the highway crew “took care of things” and sprayed the entire roadside to oblivion. Now instead of blueberries, mountain laurel, and azaleas there’s prickly lettuce and garlic mustard.
      The tadpoles are doing well, and a rainstorm gave the the puddle a new lease on life, and maybe bought their siblings enough time to also grow up.

      • Eliza Waters says:

        Just today, when we were speaking of the horror town crews do when ‘working’, my friend suggested that they all should have environmental training. That would be money well spent!

  6. It has taken us years to finally get toads in our garden. A friend brought us a bagful from his pond and now we’ve had them for a few years. Not a crowd but you don’t need many to get a chorus of sound. Normally I would stay away from a big pink shrub but those Azaleas are beautiful, esp. compared the the PJM Rhodies which everyone plants around here. Ugh. Raining here like mad. 1.18″ in the last half hour or so. Thought it was over so I went out to check the gauge and empty it. Now it has started up again. I would not mind so much if I didn’t have a pile of things waiting to get put in the ground.

    • bittster says:

      The cooler weather following the rain is probably perfect for planting. I hope you’ve been able to get out there! Most of my purchases are in the ground except for two magnolias. I swore I would just jam them in and not dilly dally for weeks trying to figure out the best spot… while they fade away… but instead I keep overthinking it.
      Ok, so that’s my goal for tomorrow. Just get them in the ground and then worry about where they’re planted later. I have so many other things in bad spots, what’s two more!! 😉

  7. Cathy says:

    It‘s nice to get out into the countryside for a few hours and just see what you can find. I am always looking out for wild flowers… I think I would have given the tadpoles a miss, although you must be commended for saving them! That pretty azalea probably knows exactly where it wants to grow, i.e. not in your garden, so maybe wise not to try and collect seed. 😉

    • bittster says:

      I always imagine your home to be surrounded by mountains covered in quiet forests and flower-filled meadows, with hiking trails all over and endless perfect summer days. Am I right!? I’m sure the reality is different, but even here for all the countryside there is it’s not all accessible or as well protected as it should be. Invasives are such a problem as well…

      • Cathy says:

        We are on the edge of the Bavarian Forest, which is actually not all covered in forest! And the mountains are just a bit too far away to be seen except on a very clear day on a certain stretch of the motorway! LOL! But the local countryside is pretty farmland with hills and curving country lanes, patches of woodland (mostly conifers) and small villages (often just a few houses). You can hike almost everywhere and a long-distance cycle route passes by the bottom of our hill. 😃

  8. pbmgarden says:

    Never heard of Pinxterboom Azalea. It’s gorgeous. Glad you had fun exploring.

  9. Plants are always late or early, or we are. Lovely azaleas.

  10. Indie says:

    A nice haul to bring home – I love seeing frogs about the garden. How nice to get out there and explore! I’ve been in Massachusetts for about 7 years now, but I’m not sure where to go where there won’t be other people about.

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