Full moon maples over 111 years old at Harkness Memorial State Park

“I cannot endure to waste anything so precious as autumnal sunshine by staying in the house.” – Nathaniel Hawthorne

The end of September is here- today marks the autumnal equinox- so we are past the point of no return as far as summer goes. To be sure, this summer was excessively hot and dry, and I am not going to miss it too much, but I do love the colors of flowers, foliage textures and bird and animal activity that make summer an especially lively time. A favorite place to visit for me is Harkness Memorial State Park- shoreline, marshes, gardens and interesting buildings and plants can be found here.

Salt marsh fleabane – a late summer bloomer in the salt marshes of Harkness memorial State Park

Recent rains have brought on the appearance of wild mushrooms and other fungi. On a recent hike in the deep woods, may sister and I came across several trees that had their trunks covered with icicle-like new fruiting bodies of some sort of toothed fungi. Perhaps they are the bear’s head tooth fungus Hericium americanum or the Hericium coralloides, also known as comb tooth or coral tooth fungus. Time will tell which ones they are when these fruiting bodies reach maturity. We will check on them periodically.

Hericium ssp. toothed fungus mass not yet mature on a living tree
Close-up of Hericium ssp. mushroom showing developing teeth

Boletes, that have pores rather than gills, and puffballs, which have neither structures, are good finds now. I bring a small mirror that I can slide under caps to see if the mushrooms have gills, pores or teeth. This is helpful when trying to identify most capped fungi.

Bolete showing yellow pores under cap and reticulated stalk where it joins the cap.

Tobacco is being harvested now, and the tobacco barns have opened boards on their sides that help the leaves to dry slowly. As the leaves dry and turn yellow, the smell of unlit cigars fills the air surrounding these barns, and it is actually not a pungent but rather a sweet aroma that almost makes me like cigars- long as they are not lit up.

Tobacco barn and water tower

While checking out one of my gardens last week, there was a not so sweet smell that led to the discovery of a stinkhorn fungus among some perennials. While they are distinctive looking and colorful those attributes cannot overcome the fetid aroma of these fungi.

One species of an aptly named stinkhorn fungus

In the same garden was a monarch chrysalis that should have a its butterfly emerge any day now. This is the first chrysalis I have found in any of my gardens although many monarch caterpillars have been  here. They just pupate somewhere else, except for this fellow.

Monarch butterfly chrysalis

On a trip to Milford, there were quite a few yellow-crowned night herons, most of which were juveniles. Normally denizens of the Southern areas of the Atlantic coast, they do stray north as far as Minnesota. Also in the area was a Jetson- era- like apartment complex for purple martins, which by now have flown the coop.

Jetson era- like purple martin houses in Milford

Apples are abundant at farm and fruit stands, as are pumpkins, winter squash and other wonderful things. The peanut pumpkin (Cucurbita maxima ‘Galeux d’Eysine’) is an heirloom pumpkin easily identified by its outward appearance that looks as if peanuts have been glued on its pink-toned rind. These growths are caused by the excess sugar that has built up in its flesh. The peanut pumpkin is believed to be a cross between the Hubbard squash and an unknown variety.

Galeux d’Eysine peanut pumpkin

Dragonflies that migrate will be gone as temperatures start to permanently drop. Day trips like going on the Chester ferry across the Connecticut River and seeing Gillette Castle on the hillside are fun. As foliage starts to change, hiking and country drives can get a little more interesting. Migrating birds give a little action to the landscape, especially where fruits and seeds are abundant. Soon it will be time for slowing down a little bit, but not yet.

Native Virginia creeper berries are a favorite of migrating birds
Dragonfly, perhaps Aeshna species
Gillette castle as seen from the Chester-Hadlyme ferry looks similar to a soupy sand castle

If you visit farms and farm stands, there may be some interesting signs- sometimes painted on an old pick-up truck.

Pamm Cooper

pearl crescent on aster Early fall 2019

Pearl Crescent butterfly on aster

“The crickets still sing in October. And lilly, she’s trying to bloom. Tho she’s resting her head on the shoulder of death, she still shines by the light of the moon.”
― Kevin Dalton – Faubush Hill

As we leave summer behind and head into the cooler weather with shorter days and falling leaves, there is still a breath of life left in the landscape. Crickets and katydids are still singing at night, and an occasional note from a tree frog may be added to the mix. Dawn and dusk can offer a brilliant color just before sunrise or sunset, and the constellations of the autumn sky make their appearance once again. It is a time of peanut pumpkin, the reappearance of winter constellations like Orion and the raking of leaves.

peanut pumpkin Galeux D'Eysines copyright Pamm Cooper

The aptly named peanut pumpkin Galeux D’Eysines

sassafras fall color

Sassafras leaves in autumn

There are still flowers blooming for the butterflies and bees that are still around. Annuals like lantana, salvia, and Mandevilla vine will die out as we get some hard frosts. Asters, obedient plant, some goldenrods and other perennials are still in bloom for a little while longer. I have an annual balloon milkweed, Gomphocarpus physocarpus, that still has flowers, and little ants visit them daily.

green Agapostemon. bee 2019 Mt Rd

Agapostemon bee on goldenrod

Trees like oaks and crabapples are loaded with fruit this year, which is great for the animals and birds that eat them. Turkeys are especially found wherever seeds and acorns are in abundance.

young male turkeys Mt Rd 9-13-2019 blue necks and heads

Young male turkeys passing through

Butterflies are still active, and those butterflies that migrate, like painted ladies, monarchs, buckeyes and sulphurs, can be found visiting any flowers that have sufficient nectar to fuel their flights south. Bumblebees and many other native and non-native bees are also active, and may be found on the same flowers.

buckeye 2019

Common buckeyes are migrating

One of my favorite caterpillars, the strangely named turbulent phosphila, is found only on greenbrier (Smilax sp.) in late September through October. The caterpillars feed in large groups and later are found feeding in pairs or alone. In the last instar this black and white caterpillar is decorated with what appears to be a maze running along its back.

early instar phosphilas 9-30-2019

Early instar turbulent phosphila caterpillars feed together

turbulent phosphila final instar

Late instar turbulent phosphila

Paniculata hydrangeas, named for their cone-shaped flower panicles, are late bloomers that remain attractive they age, some changing their flower color as they age. Bobo™, Little Lime® and Little Lamb are a few of these varieties of panicle hydrangea that have a nice color change.

Bobo® Panicle Hydrangea hydrangea paniculata 9-30-2019

BoBo hydrangea flowers in early October

Migrating birds are coming through and can often be wherever there are berries or insects available. Check out cedars and poison ivy for yellow-rumped warblers that love the berries of both these plants. They will also eat seeds of goldenrods and other native plants as they travel south. The elegant great egret can sometimes be found inland at this time of year hunting in wetlands. This bird is the size of a great blue heron, but is white with black legs.

great egret Airline swamp Pamm Cooper photo

Great egret

Fall is a great time to travel to scenic places in our small state. The historic Gurleyville grist mill on the Fenton River near the UConn campus features all the original grinding equipment used there until the 1940’s. It is the only stone mill of its kind in Connecticut. The West Cornwall covered bridge and Bulls’ Bridge in Kent are the only two covered bridges in Connecticut that accommodate cars, and both span the Housatonic River. The Cornwall bridge offers spectacular autumn views of the river and surrounding hills.

Gurleyville grist mill

Gurleyville grist mill

Cornwall covered bridge

West Cornwall covered bridge

Enjoy the fall, already a warm one so far, and remember to look up as clouds and darker blue skies contrast nicely in the cooler days of autumn. Even raking leaves, although a chore for many, may bring an abstract moment of delight as a brilliantly colored or patterned leaf is happened upon. As A.A. Milne wrote  ‘The end of summer is not the end of the world. Here’s to October…”

raking leaves abstract Pamm Cooper photo

Pamm Cooper


































Lots of squash and pumpkins, P.Cooper photo

Lots of squash and pumpkins, P.Cooper photo

The farm stands and farmer’s markets have been abundantly overflowing with multiple varieties of winter squashes and pumpkins this year. Was it the beautiful and colorful fall that lingered unceasingly this year that made me want to get out and visit many produce places, or was it the autumn recipes and foods which included pumpkin everything that sent me seeking different types? I don’t care, just glad I took some time to ‘go squashing’ with a friend. I like this new verb phrase. We went in search of a cornucopia of different varieties, hoping to find a new favorite and quite possibly a new addition for next year’s vegetable garden.

Honey Nut Butternut Squash, A new find! P.Cooper photo

Honey Nut Butternut Squash, A new find! P.Cooper photo

We did find a new squash we love! Honeynut Butternut, (Cucurbita moschata), is a mini squash,  developed by the Plant Breeding and Genetics department at Cornell University.  Honeynut squash is a combination of butternut and buttercup squash types. It is only about one to one and half pounds, dark tan and adorable. The inside is darker orange than standard butternut and a bit denser and sweeter like a buttercup squash. Being smaller in size, it bakes more quickly than a larger three-pound butternut. It is still a butternut, which the squash vine borer pest avoids, which is good news for me. I will be growing this variety next year. Seed is available through Harris, Rene’s Garden and High Mowing seed catalogs and online. Probably other companies will be selling this wonderful squash also.

Peanut Pumpkin aka Galeux d’Eysines. P.Cooper photo

Peanut Pumpkin aka Galeux d’Eysines. P.Cooper photo

Another unusual find was the Peanut Pumpkin. (Cucurbita maxima “Galeux d’Eysine”).  It was developed in France in the Eysine region during the 19th century. The peanut looking growths on the outside skin are formed from hardened sugars that weep out of the skin. It is very decorative and is very edible with a rich pumpkin flavor. The more warts on the outside, the sweet the flesh will be on the inside.

Blue Hubbard and Waltham Butternut. P.Cooper photo

Blue Hubbard and Waltham Butternut. P.Cooper photo

Blue Hubbard Squash,(C. maxima)  is an odd, large shape and uncharacteristic grey color. They are best baked in the oven, as they tend to be watery when peeled and boiled. They are hard to cut open, even dangerous to attempt. We heard the best way to open them is to drop out of the car onto a driveway and they split right into pieces. The person passing on this tidbit of advice didn’t plan it that way, but it works. Blue Hubbard plants are highly attractive to the pest cucumber beetle. The plants have been used as a perimeter trap crop surrounding the field or cash crop of other species of squash. When the cucumber beetles fly into a field of  squash, they will stop at the blue hubbard first for a glorious feast. The farmer or grower can then spray only the blue hubbard to kill the cucumber beetle since almost all will be feeding there, and keep the other squash inside the perimeter beetle free. The blue hubbard squash was not intended to be harvested, only used as a sacrifice crop. Blue Hubbard plants are fast growing and strong, quickly replacing any leaves damaged by the cucumber beetle’s feeding. I am glad some farmers grow blue hubbard as the intended crop and do harvest their fruits. Perhaps these farmers do not have many cucumber beetles in their fields. Lucky them!

Acorn and Butternut Squash, P.Cooper photo

Acorn and Butternut Squash, P.Cooper photo

Traditional and commonly found Butternut(Cucurbita moschata) and Acorn (Cucurbita pepo var. turbinata), squashes are ripe and plentiful. A great starchy vegetable filled with vitamin A. Acorn squashes are perfect vessels for filling with sausage stuffing or grain mixtures.

Spaghetti and Buttercup Squash. P.Cooper photo

Spaghetti and Buttercup Squash. P.Cooper photo

Spaghetti squash is a thin-skinned winter squash with flesh the pulls apart into strands resembling spaghetti once it is cooked. Microwave or bake, then top with favorite sauce or seasoning. The taste is rather bland, reminiscent of zucchini to me, but a good base to carry other flavors. It is not a great storage squash, but easy to grow.

squash 2014

Baked Winter Squash. Photo P.Cooper

Have a squash tasting party to share your finds and new recipes tried. Perfect way to celebrate the fall.

-Carol Quish