Ranunculus repens, perhaps a day or two; channelled peduncle and spreading calyx and conspicuously spotted leaves. The leaves of the tall buttercup are much larger and finely cut and, as it were, peltate. Pickerel are not easily detected, - such is their color, - as if they were transparent. Vetch. I see now green high blueberries, and gooseberries in Hubbard’s Close, as well as shad-bush berries and strawberries. In this dark, cellar-like maple swamp are scattered at pretty regular intervals tufts of green ferns, Osmunda cinnamomea, above the dead brown leaves, broad, tapering fronds, curving over on every side from a compact centre, now three or four feet high. Wood frogs skipping over the dead leaves, whose color they resemble. Clintonia. Medeola. The last may be earlier. I am surprised to find arethusas abundantly out in Hubbard’s Close, maybe two or three days, though not yet at Arethusa Meadow, probably on account of the recent freshet. It is so leafless that it shoots up unexpectedly. It is all color, a little hook of purple flame projecting from the meadow into the air. Some are comparatively pale. This high-colored plant shoots up suddenly, all flower, in meadows where it is wet walking. A superb flower. Cotton-grass here also, probably two or three days for the same reason. Eriophorum polystachyon var. latifolium, having rough peduncles.
It is evident that the virtues of plants are almost completely unknown to us, and we esteem the few with which we are better acquainted unreasonably above the many which are comparatively unknown to us. Bigelow says: “It is a subject of some curiosity to consider, if the knowledge of the present Materia Medica were by any means to be lost, how many of the same articles would again rise into notice and use. Doubtless a variety of new substances would develop unexpected powers, while perhaps the poppy would be shunned as a deleterious plant, and the cinchona might grow unmolested upon the mountains of Quito.” Sayer regards Nux vomica among the most valuable. B. says (1817): “We have yet to discover our anodynes and our emetics, although we abound in bitters, astringents, aromatics, and demulcents. In the present state of our knowledge we could not well dispense with opium and ipecacuanha, yet a great number of foreign drugs, such as gentian, columbo, chamomile, kino, catechu, cascarilla, canella, etc., for which we pay a large annual tax to other countries, might in all probability be superseded by the indigenous products of our own. It is certainly better that our own country people should have the benefit of collecting such articles, than that we should pay for them to the Moors of Africa, or the Indians of Brazil.”
Sunday. The F. hyemalis, fox-colored sparrow, rusty grackles, tree sparrows, have all gone by; also the purple finch. The snipe has ceased (?) to boom. I have not heard the phœbe of late, and methinks the bluebird and the robin are not heard so often (the former certainly not). Those tumultuous morning concerts of sparrows, tree and song, hyemalis, and grackles, like leaves on the trees, are past, and the woodland quire will rather be diminished than increased henceforth. But, on the other hand, toads and frogs and insects, especially at night, all through June, betray by the sounds they make their sensitiveness to the increasing temperature, and theirs especially is the music which ushers in the summer. Each warmer night, like this, the toads and frogs sing with increased energy, and already fill the air with sound, though the bullfrogs have not yet begun to trump in earnest. To this add the hum and creak of insects. These still herald or expect the summer. The birds do not foretell that.
I see and hear the yellow-throated vireo. It is somewhat similar (its strain) to that of the red-eye, prelia pre-li-ay, with longer intervals and occasionally a whistle like tlea tlow, or chowy chow, or tully ho (??) on a higher key. It flits about in the tops of the trees. I find the pensile nest of a red-eye between a fork of a shrub chestnut near the path. It is made, thus far, of bark and different woolly and silky materials. The arums - some of them - have bloomed probably as early as the last I saw at the Miles Swamp. Viola pubescens must be about out of bloom (??). Actœa alba fully out, the whole raceme, say two days.
As I am going down the footpath from Britton’s camp to the spring, I start a pair of nighthawks (they had the white on the wing) from amid the dry leaves at the base of a bush, a bunch of sprouts, and away they flitted in zigzag noiseless flight a few rods through the sprout-land, dexterously avoiding the twigs, uttering a faint hollow what, as if made by merely closing the bill, and one alighted flat on a stump.
On those carpinus trees which have fertile flowers, the sterile are effete and drop off.
The red choke-berry not in bloom, while the black is, for a day or more at least.
Roadside near Britton’s camp, see a grosbeak, apparently female of the rose-breasted, quite tame, as usual, brown above, with black head and a white streak over the eye, a less distinct one beneath it, two faint bars on wings, dirty-white bill, white breast, dark spotted or streaked, and from time [to time] utters a very sharp chirp of alarm or interrogation as it peers through the twigs at me.
Dragon-flies have begun to come out of their larva state in numbers, leaving the cases on the weeds, etc. See one tender and just out this forenoon.
Meadow fox-tail grass abundantly out (how long?), front of E. Hosmer’s by bars and in E. Hubbard’s meadow, front of meeting-house.
The Salix petiolaris is either entire or serrate, and generally, I should now say, was becoming serrate, the later leaves, e. g. that one, a fertile one, nearly opposite the Shattuck oak. The river is quite high for the season, on account of the late rains. Hear within a day or two what I call the sprayey note of the toad, different and later than its early ring.
What that brilliant warbler on the young trees on the side of the Deep Cut? Orange throat and beneath, with distinct black stripes on breast (i. e. on each side?), and, I think, some light color on crown. Was [it] Blackburnian? or maculosa??
Hear the wood pewee.
Sand cherry flower is apparently at its height. I see (the 9th of June) that its fruit is an abortive puff, like that of some plums.
At the Ministerial Swamp I find the spruce leaf-buds have not yet burst their envelopes except at the tops of the trees where they have pushed out and are perfect handsome cones containing a bundle of leaves. The large staminate blossoms are now dry and effete, and the young cones more than one half inch long. Perhaps they should come between the red cedar and the larch. Put the first the last of May; the spruce, both white and black, end of the first week of May, and larch directly after, till I know better. It is glorious to stand in the midst of the andromeda, which so level and thick fills the swamp, and look up at the blue spruce trees. The edges of the scales of the young cones, which are at the tops of the trees (where the branches make light and open crosses), seen against the sunlit sky or against the light merely, being transparent, are a splendid crimson color, as if the condensed fire of all sunsets were reflected from them, like the richest damask or ruby-throated hummingbird’s breast. They glow with the crimson fires of the sunset sky, reflected over the swamp - unspeakably rare and precious rubies as you thus look up at them; but climb the tree and look down on them, and they are comparatively dull and opaque. These are the rubies of the swamp. Already the just bursting leaf-buds emit that rare strawberry fragrance. It is one of the most glowing, beautiful, brilliant effects in nature, exactly like the reflections from the breast of the ruby-throated hummingbird; as if a hundred ruby-throated hummingbirds sat on the topmost crosses of the trees, their breasts turned to the sun. The dwarf andromeda is for the most part just prepared to leave out, though some twigs have grown an inch.
I see many young and tender dragon-flies, both large and small, hanging to the grass-tops and weeds and twigs which rise above the water still going down. They are weak and sluggish and tender-looking, and appear to have lately crawled up these stems from the bottom where they were hatched, and to be waiting till they are hardened in the sun and air. (A few, however, are flying vigorously as usual over the water.) Where the grass and rushes are thick over the shallow water, I see their large gauze-like wings vibrating in the breeze and shining in the sun. It is remarkable that such tender organizations survive so many accidents.