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Stacey Cole's Nature Talks: Reader fortunate to have seen a white lady's slipper


Pink lady's slipper, also called "moccasin flower" is a member of the orchid family (Orchidaceae) whose blossom displays a distinctive, deep cleft, pink pouch. Mrs. William Star Dana in her book, "How To Know The Wildflowers," published by Charles Scribner's Sons in 1900, quoted Elaine Goodale's tribute to the lady's slipper:

"Graceful and tall the slender, drooping stem,

With two broad leaves below,

Shapely the flower so lightly poised between,

And warm her rosy glow."

Their lovely blooms are probably as well known as any wildflower that grows in our woodlands and, that occasionally, are found along roadsides.

In late May, one of our readers wrote in part: "I walk most mornings on the Lane Road, in Chester, where I live and know where things will be blooming. These lady's slippers (photos enclosed) are right beside the road but, as you can see, there is a large group of them. Imagine my surprise when right next to a pink one was a white one. I had never seen a white one before. My brother, who is in South Carolina, says they are prevalent there. I did read in my book of wildflowers that 'moccasin flowers' includes flowers that are the color of what the author calls 'from magenta to white.' I think that explains the white one. Anyway, I thought you might enjoy these pictures. You may have another explanation."

The photos were excellent, and I did enjoy seeing them.

In his book "Field Guide to Wildflowers," Roger Tory Peterson wrote with respect to the moccasin flower: "Rarely white."

Two yellow lady's slippers, are known as "large" (Pubescens), and "small" Parviflorum). These members of the orchid family grow in bogs, wet woods, and shady swamps.

Sorry to say, I never have seen a yellow lady's slipper in the wild.

Our reader certainly was fortunate to have seen a white lady's slipper. Only once have I seen and photographed one. That bloom caught my eye as I was travelling south out of Bartlett along the Bear Notch Road.

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A former "wildlife rehabilitator" and long-time Milford reader, Lorraine Carson, recently wrote in part: "Do bluebirds eat suet? Yes, they do!!! I raised bluebirds when I was able to do wildlife rehab but never fed them suet. They got better quality food than that. We have had two bluebird nest boxes in our yard for years and have bluebirds all summer and winter flitting through, but never has any nested in one of the boxes until this year. They raised three babies as far as I could tell. During the time of feeding the nestlings, I began to notice first the male going to the suet feeder and then to the nest box. Then the female began going to the suet feeder. They were both eating the suet themselves and also feeding it to their young. Even during winter, I noticed them at the suet from time to time.

"This spring they were in the nest box just outside my office window. I had a grand time watching her building the nest, incubating, and then both birds feeding the nestlings. I knew about when they would be fledging. The first fledgling out of the nest lived maybe three seconds. It was caught by a hawk! Horrible! The parents went away with the other two, but then followed rain and cold weather, and I do not think they survived at all. Soon after I saw the male in the yard and without any fledglings. Then the female began to appear at the suet feeder! The pair are now raising a second brood (she is now sitting on the eggs). They chose a dead tree in a neighbor's yard, but I often see them foraging in our yard. I hope they have better luck with their second brood and that I will get to see the male with their babies, while she starts a third."

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A note from Greenville read: "Four great blue herons were seen adjacent to the Abenaki Ski Area on Route 109-A in Wolfeboro on May 20. In recent years there have been nests in the Marsh area. I enjoy your articles."

We still have one great blue heron that visits our old beaver pond fairly frequently. Years ago, right after we had the original pond dug by a contractor using a clam shell, we successfully raised trout purchased from a fish hatchery in Nashua. A few years passed and, thanks to a number of great blue herons, a pair of green herons, and several belted kingfishers, it has become impossible to raise either brook or rainbow trout in the pond ever since.In the "days of yesteryear" we called on our good friends Warren and Belle Wheeler at their farm in North Branch, Antrim. Warren had created a small brook-fed pond and stocked it with brook trout. It was fun to visit.

Unfortunately, over time, the fish became heron food.

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Stacey Cole's address is 529 W. Swanzey Road, Swanzey.




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