Walk in the Woods

Oak woods are a cool place to hike on a hot day.

If you’re looking for a cool, peaceful place on a hot day, go to the woods. One recent morning, my husband and I walked in the woods of a Twin Cities nature center. Mature white oaks shielded the trail from the day’s growing heat. The woods were filled with birdsong and I “birded by ear” because the thick foliage hid their colorful bodies. I heard the songs of Baltimore orioles, rose-breasted grosbeaks, common yellowthroats, black-capped chickadees, house wrens, red-eyed vireos and many more. The only other sounds were the swishing of leaves and long grass in the steady breeze, and a few quiet “good mornings” from other walkers.

I love the lush canopy of green leaves untouched by any change of color. These trees are primarily white oak with an understory of dogwood, chokecherry, sumac and common elderberry. Though we hadn’t reached the peak bloom time of native wildflowers, a few species blossomed on the woodland edges: vervain, common yarrow, tick trefoil, water lilies, monarda and the year’s first black-eyed Susan’s. In the marshy areas, dragonflies hovered and darted like flashing jewels. We set our stride for a long, peaceful hike content to be still and absorb the quiet beauty.

Pointed-leaved trefoil (Desmodium glutinous) commonly grows along shaded woodland edges.

The tiny blooms of blue vervain (Verbena hastata) attract many native bees and small butterflies.

Black-eyed Susan’s (Rubeckia hirta) are a drought-tolerant and long-blooming species of coneflower.

Common yarrow (Achillea millefolium) was used to treat pain and inflammation in many cultures.

The red fruit of smooth sumac (Rhus glabra) feeds many birds and small mammals during the winter.

Widow skimmers (Libellula luctuosa) are large, slow dragonflies that can approach two inches in length. The white and black wing patches indicate this is a male.

Immature and female widow skimmers are brown and lack the white wing markings.

This dragonfly’s completely separated eyes indicate that it belongs to the clubtail family, possibly a lily pad club (Arigomphus furcifer) with its azure eyes.

An American water lily (Nymphaea odoranta) blooms in the shadows on a quiet lake.

In The Garden

Late afternoon; the August sun radiates its heat into my shoulders and back.  Ripe beacon apples hang on the tree in our yard bathed in sunlight and smell sweet.  Normally, cicada buzzing would be the main sound, but they are mostly absent this year.  Mourning doves coo, a young cardinal calls to be fed by its parents, and a few bumble bees drone in red monarda and Russian sage.

The showiest flowers today are garden phlox, black-eyed Susan’s and sneezeweed (helenium).  My favorite garden phlox is ‘Katherine’ with its lavender petals surrounding white centers, or ‘eyes’, as they’re called in the gardening catalogs.

phlox 'Katherine' and black-eyed Susan's

Phlox ‘Katherine’ and black-eyed Susan’s

I planted the sneezeweed this past spring.  The variety is ‘tie dye’.  The yellow centers are surrounded by petals that begin maroon and deep gold.  The older blossoms have chocolate-brown centers and the petals are fading to a lighter yellow and deep pink as they age.

Sneezeweed or helenium, variety 'tie dye'

Sneezeweed or helenium, variety ‘tie dye’

The perennial blue lobelia blossomed late last week and the first purple morning glory peaked through a tangle of daylily fronds and allium stems this morning.  Morning glories always signify late summer for me, and I heard my first cricket of the year a few evenings ago; another sure sign of seasonal change.

Perennial lobelia

Perennial lobelia

IMG_366morning glory

Morning Glory