Sunday, April 5, 2009
On the Trail to Trailing Arbutus
Today, the snow is ALL gone, even in the deepest woods. And the ice is all gone too. Or so it appeared. Mud Pond is clear, as is Lake Moreau (remember that ice-gripped shore just five days ago?), and the Hudson River is flowing fast and full and free of floes. Maybe it's time to get back out on the water in my canoe. So I went to check my favorite launching site: a sheltered bay of the river with high rocky banks and ready access to quiet marshy streams, out of the roiling current and buffeting winds. Ah well. Looks like I'll have to wait a little longer: some of the ice chunks here are still a foot thick.
At least the woods are all clear for walking now. I headed through woods to Rippled Rocks Point on the river, where I know some trailing arbutus grows. I had to keep taking detours from my usual route to the point, because many hollows are filled now with vernal pools. Of course I had to poke around in them, searching for frogs and salamanders. No luck. But I did find arbutus in flower. Just barely. Lots of buds and just this one little cluster of blooms.
For years I looked and looked and looked for this flower and never found it. About five years ago I found it for the first time. Turns out, I went looking too late all those years. This is one of our earliest bloomers. But for all the sturdy bravery of the flowers, which come through frosty nights just fine, the plant itself is quite fragile. Disturb the root while picking the flower and the whole colony up and dies. So DO NOT PICK THESE FLOWERS! (In fact, I think there might be a fine for doing so.) But do get down on your hands and knees to smell them: Divine!