About 320 species of flowering herbs, shrubs and trees have been recorded as occurring here in Deering the Conservation Commission.  I have seen most of those plants.

It is unusual for me to find a wildflower that I have not previously seen in town. Today was one of those unusual days!

On this day, early in August, I met a Forest Society land steward on  Clement Hill at the old town sand pit, now know as Petrecky Lands. This superficially unpromising piece of land was part of the old Ernst Johnson farm, which dates from way back in the early 20th Century. Like most of the land in Deering,  it was forest when the first settlers cleared land for farming late in the 18th and into the mid 19th Century. It was agriculturally poor land, and in the mid 19th Century the first wave of Deering’s settlers left town for, literally, fertile pastures in the west. The old Johnson farm has been parceled among the various Johnson children, and today much of it is protected by conservation easements.  The Petrecky land was owned by Ernst’s daughter Florence Johnson Petrecky, from whom the town acquired it for use as gravel pit. In 2011 the land was protected by a conservation easement, which is held by the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests.

petrecky DSC_7380
Petrecky Land Conservation Easement, sand pit

The Petrecky Lands easement consists of at least three components. What you see from the road is the old, flat and treeless gravel  pit. Behind that to the right is an extensive wetland that was transformed from pasture by beavers. To the left is a wet forest.

Petrecky wet forest in spring



While the old gravel pit does not look all that inviting from the road, quite a lot of interesting flowering plants can be found growing there, plants that are adapted to life in poor sandy soil.

Hypericum gentianoides, orange grass
Lechea intermedia








Nuttalanthus canadensis, blue toadflax

Some of those plants include the natives orange grass (Hypericum gentianoides), blue toadflax (Nuttalanthus canadensis) and Lechea intermedia, a type of heath. At this time, early in August, orange grass is abundant and in full bloom.



In 1987 a group of Deering’s residents recorded all the plants that they could find on one day. It’s not a long list, but ‘forked blue curls,’ Trichostemma dichotoma, is on it. I have not previously seen this species.


Trichostemma dichotomum, forked blue curls
Trichostemma dichotomum, forked blue curls
Trichostemma dichotomum, blue curls

Trichostemma dichotomum is native to North America, found in Easterm Canada and the US as far west as Texas. It is a denizen of sandy, so called waste, sites. Like the Petrecky Land. It is a low growing annual plant, reproducing by seed, and one of the mints. You can see the ‘mintiness’ of the plant from the square stem and, especially, the lower ‘lip’on the flower that is a good place for pollinators — native bees — to land. The stamens, the male parts, curl over the lip in such a way that the pollinator can get a good dose of pollen.

Go out to the Petrecky Land, on Clement Hill Road. As you walk across the ‘waste’ sandy area you might be pleasantly surprised at the pretty things you will see!


Entoloma abortivum: a mushroom parasite

One of the first mushrooms I learned to identify was Entoloma abortivum.  It is readily recognized because the typical mushrooms — with a stalk and a cap — are accompanied by aborted (hence the species name) mushrooms. The aborted masses are white and up to 3″ in diameter.

The aborted mushrooms are variously known as  ‘ground prunes,’ hunter’s heart,’ ‘shrimp of the woods,’ and, in Mexico, totlcoxcatl.  Back then, in the late sixties, we thought  that the aborted masses were an expression of the Entoloma mushroom, but in the mid 1970’s it was determined that two mushroom fungi are involved. Later it was determined that the Entoloma was parasitizing another mushroom, a species of Armillaria — the tree parasite called ‘honey  mushroom’ that is always found on wood long after the tree-host is dead.

Armillaria mellea, the honey mushroom
Armillaria mellea, the honey mushroom

The Entoloma is a decomposer. It breaks down litter in the forest and it is not mycorrhizal with trees or other plants. At least around Deering the Armillaria is more common than the Entoloma.



The Entoloma is one of the ‘pink spored’ mushrooms. It occurs on  soil, and its gills are decurrent (that is, they run down the stalk from the cap).

There is a literature about the edibility of this mushroom. Both the Entoloma and the Armillaria are edible. However, I will only emphasize that some of the pink-spored Entoloma species are toxic, and some species that have brown spores(Pholiota species) look like honey mushroom but are also toxic.

The only  constant rule with mushroom hunting is: never eat what you do not know for 100% certain.

You can read more about Entoloma abortivum at:

For me, the interrelationship of these two mushrooms is one of the fascinating stories that we find in our forests.  Finding Entoloma abortivum after all these years is a treat for me.


First, allow me to orient you with a little bit of Mycology 101. Specifically two basic sorts of mushrooms.

The mushroom is the result of sexual reproduction. The process? Not sexy. A couple of nuclei get together in a special cell and the process cascades: nuclear fusion and meiosis —  where basically the genes get sorted — and finally a spore containing the recombined genes forms. What you see in a mushroom is the launching platform for the spore. The spores of all mushrooms are born externally on specialized cells. How and where those cells are placed distinguishes two major groups of mushrooms.

In one group the cells line thin sheets, or gills. So, if you look on the underside of the cap of one of these mushrooms you see the edges of a lot of gills radiating from the center, the stalk. The common supermarket mushroom is one of these, so is matsutake.

In another group of mushrooms the cells that bear the spores form inside tubes. If you look on the underside of one of these mushrooms you will see tiny pores. These are colloquially called boletes and the most famous bolete is the Cep.

This story is about one kind of bolete.

Many boletes and other gilled mushrooms form associations with the roots of trees and other plants to share nutrients — called mycorrhizae. It’s a  mutualism wherein all partners get — and give — something. Some people think that the fungus body,  filaments radiating through the substratum that you never see, connect trees and mushrooms in a kind of messaging system. These are good guys.

The ash-tree bolete — Boletinellus merulioides — is not a good guy.

At least not good for the ash trees.

Boletinellus merulioides is not mycorrhizal. It is in a symbiotic relationship with the ‘leafcurl ash aphid’ or ‘wooly ash aphid,’ Meliarhizophagus fraxinifolii. An ash pathogen.

This aphid has a complicated life, but it is inextricably tied up with several species of ash trees. Eggs, which overwinter in laid in cracks of the bark, hatch in the spring. After hatching, the aphids feed first on shoots, and then a new generation feeds on newly developing ash leaves. The leaves become distorted and ultimately form ‘pseudogalls,’ within which there is another generation of aphids. Eventually, as early as August, some of those aphids fly off and lay eggs. During summer  some of the females change their behavior. They begin to feed on roots of ash trees. A new generation of males and females develops from those root-feeding aphids to complete the cycle.

But some of the root population remains in the soil all year, feeding on roots. They form a symbiotic relationship with the ash-tree bolete.  The mushroom’s mycelium protects  aphid by producing little knots of tissue around them. In return the honeydew produced by the aphid nourishes the bolete.

The ash ash aphid is native to North America but it has become a problem on European ash trees.


Black Swallow wort: a nasty invasive in our zip code!

A bunch of invading plants that no walls can keep out are living in our town of Deering, a small rural community located in south central New Hampshire/the  Monadnock Region,.

We have been successful thanks to a Lake Hosts boat inspection program and an active group of Weed Watchers, in preventing the introduction of highly invasive Variable Milfoil into our lake, and — unlike most towns in our area — Japanese Knotweed is not a conspicuous feature of our roadsides because members of the Conservation Commission  cut the stuff back each year.

But this year I am noticing a whole lot of black swallow wort in town. This plant — Cynanchium louisiae — is disastrously invasive. It grows thickly on the ground and quickly covers everything, preventing the growth of other plants. Even covering street signs! Like all successful invasive species, black swallow wort has no local  parasites or browsers to limit its development. And, like milkweed, the seed come out of the pods in a fluff that is easily scattered by wind.

There is a dense growth of this invasive in the Tom Rush meadows, but few go up there to see it. Where it is most conspicuous is along roadsides, probably in front of your own home. Lurking in rock walls or around your mail box.

Black swallow wort is a native of Europe that was introduced into the United States, through Massachusetts, in the mid 19th Century. The plant is widely distributed in eastern USA and Canada but is not common west of the Mississippi River. A second swallow wort, Cynanchum rossicum, was introduced into New England from Europe as an ornamental late in the 19th Century. Its distribution is limited to the New England states. I have not seen it in Deering.

Black swallow wort is easily recognized. It’s a low growing herb with dark green leaves; the plant tends to vine. The leaves are paired, opposite each other on the stem, narrowly heart-shaped, and drawn to a fine point. The have a strongly developed central vein that causes the halves of the leaf blade to form a kind of V-shape down the length of the leaf. Flowers form at the tips of the vine and are small, dark purple. Kind of pretty actually. The fruit is a twin capsule. The roots are white and thick, forming a mat in the soil; there can be a tap root.

Apart from its invasive nature, black swallow wort and other swallow worts, which are related to milkweed, are toxic to Monarch butterflies, deer and cattle. The plants themselves contain the toxin, and they put toxins into the soil that prevents  growth of other plants.

We all know by now that milkweed is the preferred medium for development of Monarch butterflies. The butterflies mate, most famously in Mexico, but in other western sites as well. They then migrate north and east looking for a place to lay their eggs. In March and April they lay their eggs on milkweed and, lamentably, black swallow wort .  About two days later the eggs hatch to the distinctive caterpillar, which feeds on milkweed.

However Monarch caterpillars that hatch on swallow worts are not able to feed. They avoid the toxin in the plants, and thus do not survive. From an ecological point of view, they are wasted.

After two weeks, the caterpillars on attach themselves to a stem or leaf of milkweed and begin the process of metamorphosis that leads to the beautiful Monarch butterfly.  The emergent butterfly will fly away to enjoy about two weeks of feeding on all sorts of flowers but, just before dying, they lay their eggs.


Clearly, black swallow wort is a bad actor. But you can help to control it.

Cutting it back is not good because that will only encourage more growth. Most of what I see in town along roadsides can maybe controlled by digging. You can dig it out, but dig deeply so as to get as much root as possible. You will have to return and dig out what you have missed but eventually . Glyphosate is effective.


It is impossible not to notice shrubs with white flowers growing alongside Deering’s roads in the spring.

I know of three species that are more or less common, all of which are native to Eastern North America, extending from New Brunswick to  the Gulf states.

The most common, and conspicuous, of Deering’s flowering roadside shrubs is hobblebush, Viburnum lantanoides.

Hobblebush inhabits the understory of cool forests. It produces flat-topped clusters of white fowers in two forms: 1) an outer ring of 3/4-inch wide, showy white flowers that are sterile, but may attract pollinators; and 2) an inner cluster of small greenish, fertile flowers. This shrub is a host plant for the caterpillars of the spring azure butterfly (Celastrina ladon). [from Native Plant Trust Go Botany]. Clusters of red berries form late in the summer.

Hobblebush grows densely in the understory. If you have ever tried to ‘bushwhack’ through a patch, you would understand and appreciate the aptness of its name, hobblebush.

Chokeberry and serviceberry are easily distinguished from hobblebush at 40 mph, but you will have to slow — to a stop — and get out of your vehicle to determine which of these the small-flowered , spindly-trunked bush is.

Eastern shadbush, Amelanchier canadensis,  is a 6-20 foot (2-6.5m) tall tree that produces white flowers in March and sweet, edible berries in June (around the same time as the annual shad run in New England). The smooth, light grayish-brown bark has vertical dark stripes.

With a graceful, arching growth form that resembles alder, as well as reddish fall color to the leaves and edible fruits, this species makes a pleasant backdrop planting for the garden. [from Native Plant Trust Go Botany].

Black chokeberry, Aronia melanocarpa, is also a small tree, similar in stature to eastern shadbush and, like shadbush, is a member of the rose family.

I have only seen black chokeberry  in the wetlands of  Deering’s Longwood Road. I am not 100% certain that this is A. melanocarpa because I have not yet seen its fruit.





It is said that the ‘pink earth lichen,’ Dibaeis beomyces, can be identified from a car at 40 miles per hour.

Dibaeis beomyces on a roadside

I don’t know about that. But, this lichen is distinctive for its cushion-shaped, pink caps that top short, pale stalks.  The pink cap is where the sexual spores form. They are spread by water splashing. The stalks arise from a thin crust, the crustose thallus, where cells of the photobiont — the green algal partner of this lichen — are found.

Dibaeis beomyces occurs on clay soils, often on road banks, and that is where these photos were taken.  The species has a wide northern distribution in Eastern and North America, Europe and Arctic regions generally.



Yesterday – a mid March yesterday in New Hampshire – I planned to make my (semi) regular morning walk. Usually I walk along the road and back, a distance of 2 miles. but yesterday I decided to put on the spikes and tramp through the snow we’d had a few days earlier up to the Hedgehog Mountain Overlook.

The day started out cold, near 25 degrees. The surface of the snow had frozen overnight creating a shining crust and an audible crunch as I walked.Shards of crust, dislodged by my size 14’s, skittered along in front of me. While, because of the depth of the snow, snowshoes might have been the preferred footwear, the back edge of the snowshoes was likely to have caught on the crust, causing me to tip forward onto my face. If you have ever tried to right yourself after falling while wearing snowshoes you might understand that I was just as happy not to be wearing them.


Thick snow on rock walls.

The forest was quiet. I was alone. A perfect combination. The bright sun cast long shadows of trees and their branches on the smooth white crusty surface of the snow: intersecting black lines, crossed without any obvious design or purpose but from pure joy of a glorious day. Animal tracks, made a day or so earlier, had been dimmed by melting but the game of guessing which animal had passed that way was fun.  The display was all mine.

Footsteps through snow.
A bright sun casts long shadows. Intersecting lines on the smooth crust of the snow.

The trail to the overlook first crosses Manselville Brook which, following the recent snow, was completely hidden by snow. Just last year, during the early drought, water was barely passing along on its way to the Contoocook river to the north. Now I knew that there was a steady flow beneath the snow and, hopefully, we will have a good soaking to keep the Manselville flowing through the year.

Further along, the trail crosses a small, unnamed stream that also flows to the  Contoocook. The little stream was running quite happily, and I could imagine that even now, with the cold, ‘things’ were happening in the soil through which the stream flows.

An unnamed stream. Things cooking in there, getting ready for Spring!

The trail to the Overlook is not very long, but it is, in part, steep and follows through a stream bed. When there is no snow, going is slowed a bit because of the need to pick one’s way over the rocks in the steam bed. But, yesterday all this was filled in with snow, and I could follow in the old footsteps without worrying about tripping over boulders.

A hole in the snow. Is anybody down there?

I have walked on this trail many times over the past several years. It is a part of my ‘backyard,’ so close is it to home. This year, though, I have slowed. It is no longer as easy to climb up there as a few years ago. Could I be ageing? What I do know is that now while hiking, I set goals: that tree, a trail marker, something 20 or 30 yards uphill. Just get to that point, and maybe a little beyond, and I can take a breather. Lean on my stick and take stock of where I am. I hope this is transient, this weakness, this being out of breath-ness. What I do know is that even though I know that the climb will be taxing, the payoff of being on the summit, at the outlook, makes all the puffing and associated butt-dragging worthwhile.

I love to sit on the rocks at the overlook and – – look over. It is peaceful there.


The view is grand.

Cars beetle along Rt 9, across the Contoocook River, and along airport road. Sometimes one can see a small plane taking off or landing at our airport. Whatever their goal or task, or business it is not mine. Whether the drivers are crabby or grim, it is not my worry. I am on my own time and that is time under the sun, sitting on a rock and being perfectly happy.

Just below the summit is the McAlister conservation easesment. A large block of land set aside for conservation — perpetual protection — by the McAlister family several years ago. A large part of the easement comprises a working farm bounded by the Contoocook River, where beef cattle graze. I know the farmer a bit and I respect him and his farming. No cows grazing now. The pasture is covered by snow and as the season advances, the snow melts and the river rises, part of the farm will become a lake. Part of the cycle. It comforts me to know that this working farm is preserved and I am thankful for those folks who made the conservation of this, and other lands in our town, possible.

Further, to the southwest, stands Mt Monadnock — our own monadnock, the original monadnock that gave its name to those isolated mountains that so strongly influences local weather, wherever they might be. Mt Monadnock dominates our southwestern sky line, a sign of home.

By the  time I began my descent, the day had progressed. It was nearly eleven and the temperature had climbed. Still skittles of icy crust raced before me as I moved down the trail, but snow had softened. It was clumping on the spikes making my feet heavy, each step more difficult. Footing was more difficult and at times I walked with my legs spread widely, a drunken sailor dance – – or the lurch of the subway rider. Might have made an amusing show from behind.  But, there was nobody to record it.

The trail dropped below in front of me. Carefully, step by step downward. Through – or over – the stream bed.  Still my tracks the only recent ones but leading me home. I suppose this will be the last snow hike of the season. I hope so. Soon the evergreen ferns will emerge from the snow, then tree buds. And then the full-on craziness of Spring.

I’m ready.


Deering residents compiled a list of the biggest trees in town in 1980 and 1985.   The list was compiled well before the era of Global Positioning, and the locations given for individual trees were imprecise.  Refinding the trees included in that list after 35 or so years has been a real challenge. However a few of the trees were recorded from cemeteries, and that considerably narrows the search range.   I found big tulip poplars at the north end of the Appleton Cemetery at the entry to Deering on Deering Center Rd.

Tulip poplar,  Liriodendron tulipifera, is one of the tallest trees found in eastern North America. On average these trees reach 70 to 100 ft, but occasional trees grow to 190 ft tall.  Here in Deering we have two amazing tulip poplar trees, both in Appleton Cemetery, and both readily visible from Deering Center Rd at the north end of the cemetery.  One of the trees is about 140 ft tall; the circumference of its trunk at 4 ft is 122″ and its diameter is 39″.  In 1985 the circumference of this tree was 90″ and its diameter was 29″. Thus it’s increased by by about 10″ in diameter over the past 33 years. This tree has a single, straight trunk that is unbranched for almost half of the tree’s height. The trunk remains distinct and straight for the entire height of the tree, with large branches  arising at right angles along the length of the trunk. The second tulip poplar is not  as tall, but it has three trunks that seem to have a common origin, although they are not conjoined at the base.  Like the single trunk tree, these three trunks are also unbranched for a considerable distance, and then branches arise at right angles to the trunk. Each has a circumference at 4 ft of about 90″, thus they are very large trees as well.  The architecture of these trees is stunning once the leaves have fallen.

Distinctively shaped leaves of tulip poplar

Tulip poplar is native to eastern North America, extending west to the Mississippi River and Ontario, but  it is rare in New England. Large trees are common in the eastern Smoky Mts, as are the related Magnolias. The name ‘tulip poplar’ may come from the peculiarly shaped leaves, which resemble a tulip flower.   Although Liriodendron is not related to poplar, like poplar the leaves of tulip poplar are brilliant yellow in autumn. Unlike most trees, flowers of tulip tree are conspicuous, quite  large, and vaguely tulips. Here in the north the tree flowers late spring into June.  Liriodendron is one of a few genera in the primitive plant family Magnoliaceae, which includes Magnolia species – – trees with equally showy flowers.

Tulip poplar is commonly sold as a horticultural plant and I know of two trees in Deering that have been planted within the past ten years. The trees in the Appleton Cemetery were planted a long time ago! Just how long is difficult to tell. The Appleton Cemetery is Deering oldest and largest burial ground, established in 1809. I have not seen records concerning the planting of trees in the Appleton Cemetery,  but by comparing our tulip poplars with trees with a known history it might be possible to estimate the age of our trees.

There is a wonderful ‘grand allée’ of tulip poplars leading to the museum building of the New York Botanical Garden. The several trees that form the two rows of the Garden’s grand allée  are similar in size to the Deering trees.  They were planted as  ten-year-old seedlings in 1903, and five years ago they were around 90 ft tall and the diameter of the trunk was 33″.

Based on their size differences, Deering’s trees might be  older. Our trees are bigger than those in the Bronx, while growing under  somewhat colder climatic conditions than found there. If the trunk increased in diameter at a constant rate, and over the past 33 years it added 10 ” in diameter,  our trees could have been planted around the time of the Civil War. While the graves closest to the trees date from early 20th Century, there is sufficient space between them and the bases of the trees to suggest that the trees were present when those graves were dug, maybe marking the northern boundary of the cemetery. The oldest graves in the cemetery are some distance from these trees.


The Burke Family Wildlife  Preserve is a 59 ac parcel  in Deering on Pleasant Pond Rd, on Old Francestown Rd., just off  Rt 149.  The parcel, which is owned by the Piscataquog Land  Conservancy, consists of open forest and marshlands. An informal trail (marked with blue diaonds) makes a short loop through the dry, forested part of the property.  Dominated by hemlock and oak, this is a great trail for mushrooming! However, the largest part of the Burke Preserve is an extensive wetland with open water.

Entrance to Burke Family Wildlife Preserve. Photo by Gary Bono

The Eversource power right of way that crosses Deering passes through the middle of the Burke Preserve.  In 2016 Eversource undertook to replace the power poles in Deering. In order for them to cross the many wetlands in Deering between the Weare town line and Deering center they had to place a boardwalk across the wetlands that would support heavy vehicles. It was actually fun to walk across the wetland on the boardwalk, which gave good access to the otherwise inaccessible middle of the wetland in the Burke Preserve.

Eversource boardwalk through the Burke Preserve in November, 2016

Eversource has since removed the boardwalk and vegetation has returned. At least to my untrained eye the wetland is unaffected.

Eversource right-of-way in the Burke Preserve in August

While monitoring the  Burke Preserve late in August  I found Agalinis tenuifolia — slender leaved false foxglove — for the first time in Deering. It was growing in a dry, exposed part of the Eversource right-of-way.

The plants stood out for their pink flowers on plants that stood no more than a foot high.

Agalinis tenuifolia is a native of North America and is widespread over eastern half of the USA and  Canada. It is a member of the plant family Orobanchaceae, the broom-rape family.  All members of this family, which includes nearly 150 genera and 3,311 species, are parasitic on other plants either entirely or, like A. tenuifolia, they have chlorophyll and can produce their own food at the same time that they parasitize nearby plants.

Two other members of the Orobanchaceae are common in Deering. Melampyrum lineare, cow wheat, is a small, inconspicuous herb that has small white flowers. This species has chlorophyll but is parasitic on roots of pine trees. Another common, and conspicuous member of the Orobanchaceae is beech drops, Epifagus virginia, which can be found in Deering’s forests where it parasitizes roots of beech trees.   Agalinis tenuifolia is not specialized as to host.