Caterpillars Destroy Ferns But Life Finds A Way

Caterpillars destroyed the ferns that were growing so well all along the back of the house. How disappointing!

Sensitive Fern
Sensitive Fern

Since the nasty critters literally chewed the fronds down to the ground it seemed like the plants were gone forever. But wait! A couple of weeks later new growth appeared.

The Sensitive Ferns are growing beautifully now.

Hay-scented fern has taken over the space behind the garage over the years and now is extending its reach around the side of the house and past the concrete step at the garage door. Each year the area it takes up is expanded.

Hayscented Fern Can Take Over Spaces
Hayscented Fern Can Take Over Spaces

Although it’s pretty when it volunteers in small groups in the forest, beware that Hay-scented fern can take over spaces. To keep the fronds off the house I just walk next to the house with a weed-whacker and remove the closest foot or so of fern growth.

Sensitive fern is slow-growing compared to the hay-scented fern.

All of the Sensitive Fern fronds were eaten by these totally green, nondescript caterpillars about 2-3 weeks ago. Unfortunately, I didn’t capture the hungry-mothers in photo.

Looking at Caterpillars of Eastern North America by David L. Wagner, my best guess is they’re the larvae of the Common Wood Nymph, Cercyonis pegata, whose adult stage butterfly we regularly see around here. Even though the little tubular muncher was totally green its large round head stood out.

It was upsetting to see these beautiful ferns destroyed by those insects. After all it is a slow-grower and it took years for it to spread out over this area by the deck.

To my amazement new fern fronds are now emerging from the ground!

Was I wrong to be upset at the demise of the first fronds? It turned out to be a necessary food source for a future flower pollinator.

The adult butterfly may be involved in pollinating several kinds of flowers and in turn be a food source for a bird or other critter. You know, the web of life and all.

Both of these ferns are growing in area facing due North on the back side of the house. Moss and lichens grow on that side of the roof. Algae grows on the boards of the deck to about 8-10 feet from the house. An area that never gets the sunshine.

It’s a great place to retreat to in the heat of summer. When it’s really hot or when you’ve been in the sun too long the shady area next to the house is where you wanna be. The space is big enough to accommodate chairs, people and dogs, and a few potted plants.

Being the coolest spot on the mountain ridge, ferns like to grow in this shady place.

Elsewhere, there are probably a half-dozen different ferns growing in our little space in the forest. They like the shade of the trees and areas where springs and rainwater flow downhill.

Flower Poetry Fridays: Planting Geranium and Box on the Grave of an Aged Friend

Welcome back to Flower Poetry Fridays with Mrs. Sigourney. Each Friday a new poem will be posted from her The Voice Of Flowers.


Geranium Red
Geranium Red

FRAGILE plant, of slender form,
Fair, and shrinking from the storm,
Raise thou here, thy timid head,
Bloom in this uncultur’d bed :
Thou, of firmer spirit, too,
Stronger texture, deeper hue,
Dreading not the blasts that sweep,
Rise, and guard its infant sleep.

Fear ye not the lonely shade
Where the bones of men are laid ;
Short, like yours, their transient date, —
Keen hath been the scythe of fate.
Forth, like plants, in glory drest,
They came upon the green earth’s breast,
Spread forth their roots to reach the stream, —
Their blossoms, toward the rising beam,
Inhal’d the morning’s balmy breath,
And sank at eve, in withering death.
Rest here, meek plants, for few intrude
To break this silent solitude.

Yet should some giddy footstep tread
Amid the ashes of the dead,
Still let the hand of rashness spare
These tokens of affection’s care,
Nor pluck their cherish’d buds that wave,
In sweetness o’er a Christian’s grave.
— White were the locks that thinly spread
Their silver o’er her honor’d head,
And furrows, not to be effaced,
Had time amid her features traced,
Before my earliest strength I tried
In infant gambols by her side ;
But yet, no grace or beauty rare,
Were ever to my eye so fair.

Seven times the sun with swift career,
Hath marked the circle of the year,
Since first she pressed her lowly bier ;
And seven times sorrowing have I come
Alone and wandering through the gloom,
To pour my lays upon her tomb ;
Nor could I bear to see her bed
With brambles and with thorns o’er spread.

Ah ! surely round her place of rest
I should not let the coarse weed twine,
Who every path by sorrow prest,
With pure benevolence hath blest,
And scattered such perfumes on mine ;
It is not meet, that she should be
Forgotten, or unwept by me.

My plants, that in your hallowed beds,
Like strangers, raise your trembling heads,
Drink the pure dew that evening sheds,
And meet the morning’s earliest ray,
And catch the sunbeams when they play ;
And if your cups are filled with rain,
Shed back those drops in tears again ;
Or if the gale that sweeps the heath,
Too roughly o’er your leaves should breathe,
Then sigh for her, and when ye bloom,
Scatter your fragrance o’er her tomb.

But should ye, smit with terror, cast
Your blighted blossoms on the blast,
Or faint beneath the vertic heat,
Or fail when wintry tempests beat,
There is a plant of deeper bloom,
Whose leaves shall deck this honor’d tomb,
Not blanch’d with frost, or parch’d for rain,
Or by the wrath of winter slain,
But every morn its buds renewed,
Are by the tears of evening dewed,
— The deathless plant of gratitude.

* This tribute to the memory of a kind benefactress of
childhood, though written in early years, seemed not inappro-
priate to the present selection.

We leave offerings to those who have passed before us in the way of flower bouquets, favorite foods, gifts, and even small stones — depending on your upbringing.

It must be a very sacred and timeless thing to plant a flower on an old friend’s grave. Sorrow and tears at the grave can be replaced with good memories as one beautifies the grave with a lovely flower or bouquet.

With the vines and brambles removed from around the grave, a pretty flower was planted to mark it as a place of honor.

The person who plants a geranium on her friend’s grave feels better for knowing that a beautiful and sturdy flower will mark the grave and keep the spirit high.

The one who lost a friend realizes that one day the geranium will meet its fate just as her friend had. A transient lot we are, for sure.

She feels gratitude for having known her friend and honors that friendship every year by tidying up the grave site and planting another geranium. If gratitude were a flower, it would mark her grave forever.

Come back next Friday for the next installment in our series of flower poems from Mrs. Sigourney’s The Voice of Flowers, “Forgotten Flowers to a Bride”.

Whorled Loosestrife Flowers in Forest Openings

Forest openings are great places to look for interesting plants and animals. One of the interesting plants we see in open areas is the yellow-flowering Whorled Loosestrife, Lysimachia quadrifolia.

Whorled Loosestrife Blooming at the Forest Edge
Whorled Loosestrife Blooming at the Forest Edge

Whorled Loosestrife seems to grow in abundance in places like the edge of woods and fields and next to trails or travel lanes with canopy openings above.

The edges of different habitats turns out to be a mixing place, a place for opportunity.

Another great place to look for activity and interesting plants is where the woodlands meet an open field. It doesn’t matter if it’s a bare field or one filled with planted crops. The point is that the forest has particular characteristics, like tall trees, lots of shade and leaf litter, that make it a different habitat than an open field.

Where two types of habitat blend into one another, you’re likely to find plants and animals that occupy both habitats. So, by looking at the edges of fields we can see some forest plants and some plants that prefer the open sky. A great place for bird watching, by the way.

Forest openings are sort of like the edge of the field. There’s more light in the open areas and that will let new plants grow there that otherwise wouldn’t grow in the deep of the forest where there is total shade.

Yellow and Red Flowers of Whorled Loosestrife
Yellow and Red Flowers of Whorled Loosestrife
(Photos taken 12 June 2015. Click to see a larger image!)

In whorled loosestrife the yellow star-shaped flowers have red dots around the center that are quite noticeable. Each long-stemmed flower seems to lay out over a leaf just below.

The insects near the top of the plant appear to be nymphs of some type of assassin bug. They will likely predate on caterpillars and others who might consume their plant.

Look for whorled loosestrife at the edges of woods. Plants that grow in the same areas include sassafras and blackberry.

What Do You Mean It’s Just Now Summer?

“Spring Quickly Jumps Into Summer”

The afternoon heat and almost daily downpours complete with thunder and lightning make us think we’re in the deep of summer. The truth is that Summer is just here — by the calendar anyway.

We have different ways of measuring summer or telling when it begins. School kids will say summer starts when the last school bell rings in May or June. Old-timers might say that summer really beings with eating the first ripe homegrown tomato.

On the calendar we note that summer officially rolled in yesterday June 21 at 12:38 P.M. EDT. June 21st marked the Summer Solstice or the beginning of Astronomical Summer.

What do the seasons have to do with the stars, you ask?

So-called astronomical seasons are based on the position of the Earth in relation to the equator and the tilt of the Earth. Although the exact dates may differ from year to year, the movement of our globe is predictable.

The Summer Solstice for the Northern Hemisphere marks the time when Earth is at the most northern point from the equator. (Summertime here happens in concert with Autumn for the Southern Hemisphere, and vice versa.)

This is the way that our forefathers told the seasons – by looking up at the heavens. Early peoples would look to the heavens to determine many things, like when the best crop planting and harvesting times were to be.

Our modern calendars say that summer arrives on June 21-22, but this year it feels like summer’s been here for weeks. Thus, a different way of noting the seasons is used by most of us who don’t rely on the stars for our daily bread. And that is temperature.

Seasonal calendars, based on the annual temperature cycle, might interest people who study weather (meteorologists), climate (climatologists), and even plant flowering (us!).

In the Northern Hemisphere the warmest three months are June, July and August, and we call that quarter of the year Summer. Winter, or the coldest three months, is made up of December, January and February.

At we use the following calendar to represent the seasons, adding an early, middle or late qualifier:

January – middle Winter
February – late Winter
March – early Spring
April – middle Spring
May – late Spring
June – early Summer
July – middle Summer
August – late Summer
September – early Autumn
October – middle Autumn
November – late Autumn
December – early Winter

So, when we say we’ve seen Poison Hemlock blooming in late Spring to early Summer, you’ll know that means May to June.

By the way that rotten-smelling Poison Hemlock has been blooming white in the fence rows for a couple of weeks here in Central Pennsylvania.

Flower Poetry Fridays: The Tears of April

Welcome back to Flower Poetry Fridays with Mrs. Sigourney. Each Friday a new poem will be posted from her The Voice Of Flowers.


Flower Queens with their Sparkling Smiles
Flower Queens with their Sparkling Smiles

"He who goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed,
shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him."

QUEEN of the opening year, who weep’st to take
Thy slender sceptre o’er a loyal clime,
Fearing a lot of royalty must wake
The wrinkle and the thorn before their time;

Be firm and hopeful ! for the sparkling smile
Shall kiss the transient tear-drop from thy
And in thy foot-prints spring with gentlest wile,
The blushing primrose, and the violet meek.

The snow-drop pure shall don its mantle green,
And balmy skies awake their favoring ray,
And heralds, bright with plumage, bless the
Who joins a tender heart to regal sway.

So go thou forth, with tears, thy precious seed
Sowing in lowly trust, for Joy shall crown the

The tears of April must refer to the April showers that bring us May flowers. But who is the Queen?

The Queen is likely a “mother plant” that provides seed to be sown for the next generation with her sparkling smile.

The last line I like the best where “Joy shall crown the deed” of sowing precious seeds. It reminds us of how flowering plants have their colorful “plumage” to look forward to as the plant is growing up. And then there will be seeds anew for bringing on future smiles!

Come back next Friday for the next installment in our series of flower poems from Mrs. Sigourney’s The Voice of Flowers, “Planting Geranium and Box on the Grave of an Aged Friend”.

Flower Poetry Fridays: The Constant Friends

Welcome back to Flower Poetry Fridays with Mrs. Sigourney. Each Friday a new poem will be posted from her The Voice Of Flowers.


O SWEET soul’d flowers, with robes so bright
Fair guests of Eden birth,
In changeful characters of light,
What lines of love divine ye write
Upon this troubled earth !

Man sinn’d in Paradise, and fell —
But when the storm arose —
When thorns and brambles sow’d his path,
And gentlest natures turn’d to wrath,
Ye leagued not with his foes.

Ye sinn’d not, though to him ye clung,
When, at the guarded door,
The penal sword its terrors flung,
And warn’d him, with its flaming tongue,
To enter there no more.

Forth by his side ye meekly far’d,
With pure, reproachless eye,
And when the vengeful lion roar’d,
A balmy gush of fragrance pour’d,
In hallow’d sympathy.

Ye sprang amid the broken sod,
His weary brow to kiss ;
Bloom’d at his feet where’er he trod,
And told his burden’d heart of God,
And of a world of bliss.

Ye bow’d the head, to teach him how
He must himself decay ;
Yet, dying, charged each tiny seed
The earliest call of Spring to heed,
And cheer his future way.

From age to age, with dewy sigh,
Even from the desert glade,
Sweet words ye whisper, till ye die
Still pointing to that cloudless sky,
Where beauty cannot fade.

Constant friends in life are the flowers around us. They share their bright colors and gush their fragrances upon us teaching us about life and death, and eternal life.

It’s like Mrs. Sigourney is telling us to look toward our flowery friends for companionship and friendship. She points out that it’s like they’re right along side us experiencing life and casting smiles everywhere.

Sow your seed and make your mark. Be of cheerful heart and love one another for our time on this Earth is short!

Come back next Friday for the next installment in our series of flower poems from Mrs. Sigourney’s The Voice of Flowers, “The Tears of April”.

Easy Trail Walk Near Harrisburg at Grandon Farms

We found a very nice place for a trail walk near Harrisburg, PA. It’s actually located inside the loop in Mechanicsburg, called The Grandon Farms Walking Trail.

Grandon Farms Walking Trail
Grandon Farms Walking Trail

You can reach the trail by parking at the Creekview North Park Entrance and walking across the street – look both ways! – to the trail head just south of the intersection of Creekview Road and Grandon Way.

The paved trail is easy walking, unless hills or walking on slants is a problem. I call this kind of asphalt-paved trail easy as I can walk along without paying too much attention to foot work. Others might call it a moderate trail due to the inclines in places.

The wide asphalt-paved path runs through a wooded area adjacent to a small creek, called Sears Run, that runs between housing developments and eventually empties into the Conodoguinet Creek.

While we were there we saw a couple of other walkers and one guy walking his dog on the trail.

Most of the path runs through wooded areas which provided some cool relief from the hot sun. A section of the trail followed a power line right-of-way and that part of the trail was in full sun.

The trail was nicely maintained and the grass near the trail’s edge had recently been mowed. Not one single downed tree was left on the path. We saw several had been cut down or were torn down by vines and these lay in a steep gulley between the path and the creek.

It was delightful that there was no trash left behind by previous walkers.

Unfortunately, there were plenty of invasive plants like garlic mustard and especially multifora rose, which was in bloom during the last week of May.

Other more interesting plants we saw:

  • stinging nettle
  • wild aniseroot
  • false Solomon’s seal*
  • cut-leaved toothwort
  • mayapple
  • blackberry*
  • black raspberry*

*Plants were in bloom on 25 May 2015. The others were in fruit or seed, except for the stinging nettle.

Trail Bench Made From Logs
Trail Bench Made From Logs

The trail has several benches along the way and some of them made from logs. An Eagle Scout project, for sure. Also, a half-dozen markers are posted to help the curious identify and learn about trees on the trail.

Trail Quiz Station - Learn Your Trees!
Trail Quiz Station – Learn Your Trees!

We did see a pair of Mallard Ducks on the creek. They flew up or down the creek when we got too close for comfort.

Surely this wooded lot is a great place to see other birds or have a peaceful lunch in a nature setting.

Flower Poetry Fridays: The Evening Primrose

Welcome back to Flower Poetry Fridays with Mrs. Sigourney. Each Friday a new poem will be posted from her The Voice Of Flowers.

PALE Primrose ! lingering for the evening star
   To bless thee with its beam, like some fair
Who, ere he rests on Morpheus’ downy car,
   Doth wait his mother’s blessing, pure and
To hallow his gay dream. His red lips breathe
   The prompted prayer, fast by that parent’s
Even as thou rear’st thy sweetly fragrant
   To matron Evening, while she smiles on thee.

Go to thy rest, pale flower ! The star hath shed
   His benison upon thy bosom fair,
The dews of summer bathe thy pensive head,
   And weary man forgets his daily care :
Sleep on, my rose ! till morning gilds the sky,
And bright Aurora’s kiss unseals thy trembling

An ode to the Evening Primrose paints this pretty flower as one who is quite different.

As its name suggests the Evening Primrose opens her flowers at dusk or sun-down while most other flowers are closing up for the day.

The delicate yellow primrose blossoms will be wilting by noon the following day as the sun’s rays intensify.

Come back next Friday for the next installment in our series of flower poems from Mrs. Sigourney’s The Voice of Flowers, “The Constant Friends”.