Friday, May 15, 2009

Birds and Bellworts and Other Woodland Beauties

Oh, what a beautiful morning!  And afternoon and evening, too.  Clear and sunny and warm after a dark rainy yesterday.  The forest seemed so clean and refreshed and sparkling, with a Wood Thrush singing its sweet, sweet song in the Skidmore woods.   It brought to mind some lines of a poem called "Spring" by Gerard Manley Hopkins:

Nothing is so beautiful as spring --
  When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;
  Thrush's eggs look little low heavens, and thrush
Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring
The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing . . .

Perfoliate Bellwort.  See how the stems seem to perforate the leaves?

I went to Skidmore to look for Perfoliate Bellwort (Uvularia perfoliata),  the last of the bellworts to flower around here, after Sessile and Large-flowered have dropped their blooms.  And yes, I did find a nice big patch of it, even more than I found last year.  It's nice to know not all my old friends are disappearing.  Like Yellow Lady's Slippers seemed to have, the last two years.  So you can imagine my joy when I found that beautiful native orchid (Cypripedium calceolus var. pubescens), blooming way off the path in the woods, surrounded by Canada Violet and Maidenhair Fern.  A happy reunion, indeed!

Yellow Lady's Slipper is much less common than its pink sister.

If Yellow's in bloom, then Pink must be too, I thought as I tooled on over to Ballston Spa to Woods Hollow Nature Preserve.  These two lady's slippers like different soils, and Woods Hollow has the acidy soil the Pink Lady's Slipper (Cypripedium acaule) loves.   And I mean REALLY loves, to judge by the numbers coming into bloom today over there.  Dozens and dozens.  Only a few were as yet fully colored, but I managed to find a really pretty one.

Pink Lady's Slipper, or Moccasin Flower, grows abundantly in Woods Hollow Nature Preserve.

There was something else pretty along the road between Ballston and Saratoga:  a glorious patch of Wild Lupine (Lupinus perennis), its spikes of blue blossoms the favorite food of the endangered Karner Blue Butterfly.  I didn't see any butterflies, but I did see a big, big Bumblebee, busy, busy, busy among the blooms.  Too busy to sit for his picture.

Wild Lupine likes sandy soil, and Blue Karner Butterflies love it.

One last stop on this flower-filled day:  I swung by the wildflower garden at Yaddo to see what had come into bloom:  Lots of Columbine and Bleeding Heart, Solomon's Seal, Blue Phlox, and Celandine Poppy.  Masses of tiny Crested Iris and dark-leaved Labrador Violet.  One little mound of lacy-leaved Squirrel Corn.  Large-flowered Trillium still going strong, and Lily-of-the-Valley just coming on. 

I discovered Cream Violet growing at Yaddo today, where I had never found it before.

How I love the fragrance of Lily-of-the-Valley, so I knelt down to breathe it in.  Wait a minute, what's this?  A creamy white violet, very well camouflaged in the lily patch.  Much larger than Northern or Sweet White, growing on a stem with its leaves,  no purple back like Canada Violet, its stipules long and sharply toothed, almost like Dog Violet's.  Out comes the Newcomb's Wildflower Guide, and sure enough, on page 56, I learned its name: Pale or Cream Violet (Viola striata).  Another new flower for me this year.

Note the sharply-toothed stipules that sheathe the stems of Cream Violet

So it wasn't just the weather today that made it a very good day.  I made a new flower friend.


Ellen Rathbone said...

OH - yellow lady's slipper! I've never seen one - how delightful.

Our pinks are buds right now, but soon will be full-fledged slippers.

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

The Yellow Lady's Slipper is pretty rare in Saratoga County as well. I've found it in Skidmore woods (Limestone soil) but it doesn't reliably bloom in the same spot each year, as the pinks tend to do. Unless someone digs them up, mistakenly thinking they'll bloom in their own garden, where the slipper's necessary fungus is absent.

Chuck said...

OH...What a pleasure to read your blog..I have in my wildflower garden many of the flowers your photograph and talk about. Wish I were there.