Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Around the Lake at Woods Hollow

Finding Leatherwood yesterday set me to thinking that Leatherleaf might be in bloom, too.  In the Woods Hollow Nature Preserve in Ballston Spa, there's a little lake where it grows, so that's where I went today.  It's a lovely preserve, 130 acres, sandy, piney, where Pink Lady's Slippers run riot next month and masses of Sheep Laurel lean over the water in June.  I found the patch of Leatherleaf in a boggy spot at one end of the lake, but it had no flowers as yet.  It will.  Little white bells, all in a row, hanging down from a curving stem with small leathery leaves.

What Leatherleaf will look like when it blooms in early May

Just walking around the lake was quite a pleasure, sun glinting off the water, breeze sighing in the trees, the fragrance of pine like incense on the air.  Hundreds and hundreds of tadpoles sped off at my step, squirming their mud-colored bodies into the mud-colored muck as they tried to hide.  (Too bad I can't speak their language.  I could have told them I'd never have seen them if only they'd just held still.)  Then a flash of bright orange startled my eye: somebody must have emptied their goldfish bowl into the lake some years ago.  This fish was as big as a trout.  I know that goldfish are related to carp.  Can they grow as big as carp do?

Then I found a flower that's a first for me: Beaked Hazelnut.  I've found the shrub before, and waited, waited, waited for the nuts to ripen, only to have them disappear long before I could harvest them.  I think every creature on earth wants to eat hazelnuts and many (not me!) are happy to eat them while green.  So I know the bush and the fruit but I'd never seen the flower.  I mean, flowers.  The tiny little fluffy red tuft is the female flower,  the little tan caterpillars drooping down are the males.  And here's a photo of the fruit, as well.  See how it got its name?

Beaked Hazelnut flowers, female (red) and male (tan)

Beaked Hazelnut fruit in July

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