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From up on the footbridge, it looks a little like chaos, but we can see a commuter rail train leaving North Station, the Zakim bridge, Boston Garden (which changes its name every few years with the change of corporate sponsorship), and some tall apartment buildings over the frosty river.

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3:00 snapshot #1444 plus bonus sumac

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Children's Zoo main barnyard.

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Trying out a macro with the pns camera.
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A little staghorn sumac grows among the bamboo. It was invisible until it put on its autumn fireworks display.

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The needles of the larch, one of the relatively few deciduous conifers, turn orange before dropping off for the winter.

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Sugar maples flank the "Giraffe Entrance" of the zoo.

Urban Nature Pictures 12/26


Olmsted Woods. One of the things I will miss when we move is this patch of forest, walking distance from our home. Our new house has other woods in walking distance, and I will grow to love them as well, but Olmsted Woods will always be special.

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Urban Nature Pictures 11/27


Staghorn sumac, Webster Conservation area.

Starting to look pretty wintry out there.


Springtails on Hammond Pond.

Urban Nature Picture 4/23



Unidentified ant on staghorn sumac.

The Charles

Sometimes we do visit other rivers, including the big ol' Charles. These pictures are from Christian Herter Park in Allston.


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Jamaica Pond



Charlie and I walked around Jamaica Pond today, while Alexis and Maggie were at dog school.
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Photos by urbpan. Location: Olmsted Park, along the Jamaicaway. This photo depicts smooth sumac.

Urban species #287: Staghorn sumac Rhus typhina. Urban species #288: Smooth sumac Rhus glabra.

If a vacant lot or other cleared area is left unmowed long enough, it almost inevitably grows sumac. At least that's the case in eastern North America, where several species of this genus of weedy shrub grow. Sumacs prefer disturbed soil and bright sunlight. Often Ailanthus trees are confused with sumac, because both types of plant have similar compound leaves, and both aggressively colonize open areas in the city. Ailanthus will grow in shadier areas and in lower quality soils, and also tends to grow very straight, while sumac stems grow at angles, looking quite shrubby. Also the margins of sumac leaves are usually saw-toothed, while Ailanthus leaflets are smooth along most of their edges.

Staghorn sumac is named for the fuzzy upper stems of the plant, which resemble antlers in velvet. Smooth sumac is very similar in appearance to staghorn, but lacks the coating of small hairs. Staghorn sumac is more likely to grow in marshes, river edges, and drainage ditches, while smooth sumac tolerates only dry soil. According to Duke University, smooth sumac is the only shrub or tree that is native to all 48 contiguous United States. Staghorn sumac is found mainly in the eastern states and provinces. The fruit of both plants is a cone of hairy bright red berries (botanically speaking, they're "drupes," in case you're keeping track) that are attractive to birds, who will eat the seeds and spread them in their droppings. Humans can put these fruits in water, and strain and sweeten the result, for a lemonade-like drink. Native Americans apparently used sumac in conjunction with tobacco, using the fruit and the leaves for this purpose.

Sumacs spread by rhizome (underground stems) and can form dense stands. This attribute leads some authorities to consider sumacs to be invasive, but they generally are not invasive outside of disturbed areas. More often sumacs are praised for their amazing fall colors. Sometimes they are called "flamingo trees" for their color and posture. Their bright scarlet colors can be dramatic, and when the red leaves drop away, the red fruits persist, held up high for all to see (and for the birds to feed on) in winter.


Staghorn sumac.
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