Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Lunchtime nature walk

Almost every day on my lunch hour I make a short pilgrimage to my favorite local coffee house to get a fancy caffeine fix. It's a short walk, about 30 minutes round trip, unless I happen to get distracted by the local flora and fauna along the way. I know many of you out there reading this are also fond of "taking in" nature during lunch breaks and after work, so I'm sure you can relate.

I've walked this route for several years now, so I know when to look for certain things (like keeping an eye out for the blooming of the huge Catalpa tree in spring, and then the Mimosa tree in summer), but there are also many things still to discover.

I took my camera along during a couple of recent walks to capture some of what I see.

One of the main things I wanted to photograph was the beautiful flowers of the Catalpa tree. Very often these flowers are pretty high up in the air, and it's hard to see all the amazing detail contained in them. Luckily there is a Catalpa along my route that has some shoots that grow very low to the ground.

The leaves are huge!

A progression of flowers

Not only are the leaves huge, but the tree itself is huge. And the bean pods that they produce in the fall? You got it, huge (10" long maybe?)!

On to the flowers... (The street I travel is largely filled with student rentals, so no well-kept lawns here. Makes for good "weed" watching!)

I'm guessing this is something in the Morning Glory family, but I can't pin down an ID.

Yellow Stonecrop

Yellow sweet clover. Red clover and white clover grow in abundance along here as well.

Bittersweet Nightshade

This one is a stumper! I'm quite sure it's a member of the Geranium family, and the closest thing I can come up with is Herb Robert, but I know that's NOT what this is. The whole thing seems to start off green (with the little white flowers), but then...

Things start to turn red and black. If anyone can pinpoint an ID on this one, I would appreciate it, because it's unlike anything I've ever seen!

Clockwise from upper left: Field Garlic, Grapevine leaves, and two unknown beauties.


A 15-foot (approximate) section of "wildness" along the side of the road that so many walk and drive by every day, without so much as a thought to the diversity of life contained within. Probably at least 25 different species of flowers, who knows how many species of grasses and sedges, lots of trees and shrubs, countless bugs (most noteably, snails galore!), not to mention micro-organisms.... And I can't help but wonder how many of the flower species are edible by humans.

And then... the destination for my fancy coffee fix, Donkey Coffee and Espresso. I love this place, and I love the employees. They serve only fair trade coffee, awesome sweets and pastries made by local bakers, and they're even trying to make the "fancy" stuff like syrups good for us, with no high fructose corn syrup and light on the sugar. If you're ever in Athens, be sure to stop by 17-1/2 W. Washington St!


Monika said...

Heather, this year I have definitely started noticing the variety and abundance of plants in the little swath of green along the road where I walk to work. It's amazing how many flowers and such people just walk right by every day! That's one thing I love about blogging, is you connect with other like-minded souls across the country/world and get to see the little treasures that grow in THEIR neighborhoods. Like that chicory....the third shot you posted has absolutely brilliant colors!

Ginnymo said...

Nice walk and the flowers are so pretty. I have some kind of white flowers on a big bush here but I don't have any idea what they are. They smell nice though!! I love your little coffee shop..Ha! Up till 12 years ago I was in a local coffee bar every day. I enjoyed the chatting with people. Now I'm a recluse. And I don't drink coffee. It's very hard to find places that have green tea. I can't figure that out.
There was a time I'd go walking along a country road to look at flowers. I find it so peaceful.
Great post Heather!!

Heather said...

Monika - Yes, it is amazing how much we miss that is right under our noses! I'm glad that there are folks out there like yourself who can appreciate a little walk such as this. Thank you for coming along!

Ginny - Maybe you have some honeysuckle on your bush - that certainly smells divine! You would like my coffee shop, because they DO serve green tea! And herbal tea, too, because they understand that it's not all just about the caffeine. Glad I could give you a trip down memory lane!

Kathiesbirds said...

A nature walk and then coffee and pastries? What could be better than that!

NW Nature Nut said...

Great "weed" photos! I might have to get out a book and try to ID the unknowns! Flowers and coffee....what fun!

RuthieJ said...

Wow, you're very good at getting so much done during your lunch break Heather!

Heather said...

Kathie - Yes, it is a heavenly combination, to be sure!

Michele - Thanks. If you come up with any ID suggestions, let me know! I've scoured my books with no luck.

Ruthie - Yeah, well, I wasn't so good on the days I took my camera with me. Let's just say I went over my allotted time by a little bit on those days!

Gabrielle said...

Nice photos. Thanks for taking us with you on your break (too bad we can't taste the pastries or coffee...). I remember being on a bird walk in eastern PA one time and seeing a ruby-throated hummingbird feeding from the catalpa flowers!

Jim McCormac said...

Hey Heather,

The morning-glory looks to be Hedge Bindweed, Calystegia sepium; the little geranium is Carolina Cranesbill, Geranium carolinianum, and the black and white unknown photo is something in the mint familt. Not ringing a bell; probably an escapee from captivity.


Heather said...

Gabrielle - Thanks for your comments. Since you mentioned the taste of the coffee/goodies, it occurred to me that this is a walk that engages ALL of my senses! Wow, I would love to see a hummingbird feeding from a catalpa flower - that must have been pretty cool to see.

Jim - Thanks for stopping by and helping me out with the IDs. I'm glad I was at least on the right track! Thanks again.