Naked Mountain June Blooms and More Book Awards

It has been a long time since I last posted.  Much of that energy was put into book promotion and I am proud to say that the book has been well-received. I have won two awards and I am a finalist for two others. I am especially proud of winning a silver Nautilus Award.

This is the message the book awards team sent to their 2016 winners:

“It is our pleasure to welcome you to the honored and respected group of Nautilus Book Award Winners. You can be justly proud of your book’s selection as an Award Winner in the 2016 Nautilus season, which brought a record number of entries and a magnificent diversity of high-quality books.

On behalf of all the Nautilus reviewers, judges, staff, and volunteers, thank you for sending your book as an entry to the 2016 Nautilus program. May your book’s message bring hope, wisdom, healing, and joy to many people. We are proud that your book’s journey as a Nautilus Winner will contribute to Better Books for a Better World.

I also recently received a very nice Kirkus review which you can read in full here. It concludes with this summary quote,  “…intensely personal and compelling. An honest depiction of a courageous, difficult journey.” – Kirkus Reviews

While I am still attending book events, talking with book clubs, and displaying Naked Mountain at national events such as the American Library Association’s annual meeting, I am looking forward to a new challenge that will bring me back to the natural wonders of Naked Mountain.  I am learning to use a professional camera, a 5D Mark III.  I am using a macro lens. 100 mm, a tripod, and a cable release (remote). I have excellent help in this new endeavor with the on-site tutelage of my scholarly husband, David Hopwood. David is a committed hobbyist, but in the late 1970’s he also produced a television series on the history of American photography. He is constantly reading about the field.

I also have on-line advice and counsel from Gary Fleming, senior ecologist with the Division of Natural Heritage within Virginia’s Department of Conservation and Recreation Gary has taken many stunning photographs of some of Naked Mountain’s most iconic plants in full bloom.

And here are a few samples of my first efforts:

Matelea obliqua, Climbing Milkweed Vine. Shot with macro lens, tripod and cable release.

Ginseng buds. Shot with a macro lens, tripod and cable release. I have never seen this small group of Ginseng bloom before being eaten by deer. Ginseng grows in many places on Naked Mountain, but is a favorite snack of White-tailed Deer.  At least I got a chance to photograph buds!

Phemeranthus teretifolius. Shot without a tripod or cable release.  On this sunny afternoon about 100 blooms were waving in the strong breeze. I have never seen so many in bloom at once! This plant only grows East of the Blue Ridge Mountains on mafic barrens, and there is just such a site steps away from my house on Naked Mountain. I was delighted to capture a pollinator – Eastern Tailed-Blue butterfly. Charming! 

See you, and what’s blooming on Naked Mountain, next time.

Coming Soon — Naked Mountain, A Memoir; Here now — the Plant List!

As you can see, the Naked Mountain Blog has a new look. The sliding header features views from my house and nearby outcrop barren as well as some of the spectacular flora and fauna that dwell on the mountain. Every time I gaze at these photos I feel immense gratitude to the wonderful people at Virginia’s Natural Heritage Program (a division of the Department of Conservation and Recreation) for working with me to protect these species by establishing the Naked Mountain Natural Area Preserve.

You can read more about Virginia Natural Heritage here — and note on the home page that 2016 is their 30th anniversary! A very happy anniversary to all the wonderful staff at Natural Heritage!

There is a new page on the menu of the blogsite:  Plant List — just click it and nearly 300 ordered species will appear. The Naked Mountain vascular plant list was compiled by Natural Heritage (VNH) staff with some contributions from me. It’s a work in progress as Gary Fleming, senior vegetation ecologist with VNH, who has visited the preserve a dozen times for research purposes, feels there are a number of species yet to be identified and added to the list.  He feels, for instance, that sedges are likely underrepresented.

There is one species on the list that is globally rare, Torrey’s Mountain Mint (Pycnanthemum torrei). It is featured in the header, but here it is up close and personal.

Photo by Gary P. Fleming

Photo by Gary P. Fleming

This mint grows along with Narrow-leaf Mountain Mint (Pycnanthemum tenufolium) and Hoary Mountain Mint (Pycnanthemum incanum) in a grassy outcrop barren on the Southeastern slope. All three mints attract a beautiful green butterfly that lives in the barrens, Juniper Hairstreak.

Photo by Megan McCarty

Photo by Megan McCarty

Two other Naked Mountain species are on the watchlist:  American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) and one of the seven orchids that are known to date to grow on Naked Mountain — Crested coralroot (Hexalectris spicata). Here is a close-up of the coralroot.

Photo by Gary P. Fleming

Photo by Gary P. Fleming

Another new feature of the Naked Mountain Blog is the page, Naked Mountain, The Book.  If you click on it you can see the cover. It will be published on September 6, 2016 and I will be announcing where and when I will do a book launch event. You can also check back here for updates on media and other events.

How do you like the watercolor treatment on the book cover of the view on the header?

Coming soon will be a tab under “The Book” page for a gallery of photos that depict scenes described in the book.

Hope you are enjoying this beautiful spring season. I will be back soon…

 

 

Cardinal Flowers Galore!

When I returned to Naked Mountain from another summer family trip, this time to Cleveland, Ohio for a lovely wedding that took place on a bluff overlooking Lake Erie as the sun set and gulls soared overhead calling out their approval, another beautiful surprise awaited.  In a small seep right next to the road and measuring about twenty-five feet by eight feet, cardinal flowers (Lobelia cardinalis) were in full bloom.  As I photographed them I counted 87 plants in this small, wet space.  Most summers, this seep in August is damp, but not flowing.  This year much of the Eastern U.S. has experienced above average rainfall and the seep was running like it does in the spring.

Not so wonderful was the proliferation of Japanese Stiltgrass (Microstegium vimineum) in the seep.  For six years, I have diligently pulled every blade I could find of this horrible invasive in late August, just before it goes to seed.  I have frequently had help in this work from local Master Naturalists.  We were making good progress:  Every year the infestation was noticeably less.  But this year, maybe because of the excessive rainfall, it was like starting over again –an explosion of the stuff.  So, after taking the photographs, I began a four hour session of pulling microstegium and only finished half the seep.  I will work on this again until I am satisfied it is clean! You can read more about Japanese Stiltgrass here.

A special benefit of spending quiet time doing this not-so-unpleasant task in the middle of a natural area preserve is appreciating being in a natural place.  Three Spicebush Swallowtail butterflies (Papilio troilus) worked the cardinal flowers for nectar as I pulled out the weed beneath them that would harm the plants’ ability to thrive and so diminish a helpful food source for the butterflies.

Naked Mountain Spicebush Swallowtail butterfly sipping nectar on a Cardinal flower.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another one…

 

Spicebush Swallowtails are easy to identify because they have two rows of orange spots on the undersides of their hindwings and they are the only black butterfly to flicker its wings as it perches on a flower. That makes photographing them a special challenge!  Their host plant is spicebush (Lindera benzoin) and sassafrass (Sassafrass albidum) both of which are in abundance on Naked Mountain.  You can read more about Spicebush Swallowtail butterfies here.

Then, I heard the distinctive buzz of a hummingbird’s wings.  I looked up to see a tiny bird that looked more like a bee hovering — checking me out.  I guess it didn’t like dealing with a human in the middle of a favorite nectar spot – it flew off.  I am sure it came back for a good meal after I left.