Thursday, April 23, 2015

A walk around Ponkapoag Pond

The pond is the southern corner of the much larger Blue Hills Reservation.

We met a few walkers and a couple on horseback on the trails.

A confluence of circumstances enabled my wife and me, accompanied by our youngest, to take a five-mile walk around Ponkapoag Pond yesterday afternoon.  The pond, part of the Blue Hills Reservation, is a prime nature destination for city folk hereabouts. 

After parking just off a highway exit ramp, we walked clockwise around the pond, encountering white pine forest, oak forest, moss-grown glacial erratic boulders, swamps, little streams, an old Appalachian Mountain Club camp, and the pond itself.  Along the way, I was able to do a little botany among plants preparing, or just beginning, to bloom and leaf out.  My wife particularly enjoyed the walk, since it enabled her to reconnect with marsh marigolds and columbines--among other old friends—she had not seen since walking this way years ago. With the pond as high as it is after a snowy winter and recent rains, we decided to skip the boardwalk through the bog that fills the pond's western end: most of the path is likely underwater. 

This glacial erratic (boulder left in place by ice movement in the last ice age)
is split along a plane that is almost mathematically perfect; how do they do that?

The lichens Parmelia (green) and rock tripe (gray) are growing on the rock.
Rock tripe is supposed to be okay as survival food, but I've never been tempted.

A little wind-blown columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) is preparing to bloom atop its mossy rock.

Maple-leaved viburnum (Vibernum acerfolium) is getting ready to bloom;
yellow birch (Betula allegheniensis) is already blooming.

Once the trees have begun to leaf out, the pond will no longer be visible from most of the path. 

My wife and son search for marsh marigolds growing in and near the water.

The marsh marigolds (Caltha palustris) are present, but we are too early to catch them blooming.

Someone has constructed a fairy  house by the bridge.

The skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) is in bloom.  The plant, named for the smell when bruised, was once a popular garden flower in England since it bloomed earlier than most others.  

The egg-shaped flower cluster is protected by a purple striped or mottled hood-like spathe. 

Spicebush (Lindera benzoin), a favorite shrub, is just beginning to bloom. 

Witchhazel (Hamamelis virginiana) still has the remains of last fall's flowers.
The bark of this fall-flowering shrub  is extracted to make the familiar drugstore product.

At the AMC camp dock, Stephen Considers Breaking a Rule.

“Fiddleheads” mark the unfolding of fern leaves.

At first glance, I thought I had a sundew plant, but it's really a fallen red maple flower.
Red maple is finishing its flowering, and the male flowers are dropping.

I had thought all the snow was gone.  It's not obvious why this has survived.

The path becomes a road leading to the bog at the west end.  An Atlantic white cedar bog
is rare enough at this latitude that a long boardwalk is maintained to give access from
the shore all the way to open water.  We skipped it this time, since the water is so high.

Alder (Alnus) has catkins like those of the birches, to which it is related.

 Cattail (Typha latifolia, foreground, with last year's ragged seed heads) is a native marsh species.  Phragmites australis, an invasive that is wiping out native vegetation, is the tall tan grass in the middle distance.  The tall reed waving  commonly lines marshy edges of highways.

Beatrice is ready to go back to Ponkapoag right now.  Whether we walk there again soon, we do plan to stay at the AMC camp again for a week this August.

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