Sunday, May 17, 2009

Wading Through the Watery Woods

My canoe has a leak in it.  Not enough to swamp it, but enough to keep me mopping it out with a terry rag.  Darn!  I wanted to paddle to Juniper Point, the only place I know of where Bastard Toadflax (Comandra umbellata) grows. (What a strange name!  I wonder if it's a contraction of "be-starred," since the calyx looks like a  tiny five-pointed star).  It was too cold today to sit on a soggy bottom, so I hiked through the woods instead.

The river was way up into the woods.  The Saratoga County bank of the Hudson between Rippled Rocks and Juniper points (two promontories about a half mile apart) is scalloped with coves and bays, the back of each leading into springy seeps and outright streams, all of them well flooded today.  Kind of hard going.  I don't mind wading through knee-deep water, but slogging through ankle-deep muck is really unpleasant.  And all for Bastard Toadflax?!!  It's not really much to look at, small (1/4 inch), kind of greenish (no petals, just five pointed sepals), and wouldn't you know, not even in bloom today!  But close enough, with well-formed buds, to add to this year's flower journal.  I'm sure some of my readers must think I'm nuts, wading through muck to find some flower that's not even very pretty.  But hey!  It's a native plant, and I've never found it anywhere else but Juniper Point.

Bastard Toadflax was only in bud today, but I caught it in bloom last year.

Besides, there was other neat stuff along the way.  The neatest was this gorgeous Eastern Garter Snake, bigger and more yellow and more checkered than any garter snake I've ever seen. And boy, was he bold!  Instead of zipping away the way snakes usually do, he coiled up in strike position and stood his ground.  Which gave me lots of time to take his picture.  Thanks, dear snake. Happy to have met you.

This is one big gorgeous garter snake!
If you click on this photo, you can see another critter in the left coil.

Another neat thing was a whole bunch of Marsh Blue Violet (Viola cucullata), which lives up to its name by growing in soggy places.  Like where I had to walk today.  So how do I know this is not your ordinary Common Blue Violet?  Well, if you have a magnifying glass, you can tell by the thickness of the hairs on the inside of the side petals.  But it was too mucky today to get that close (I used my zoom to get the photo).  You can also tell by how tall the flowers are in relation to the leaves.  They really stand right up there.

Marsh Blue Violet stands tall above its leaves.

If I'd paddled to Juniper Point, I'd never have seen the snake or the violets.  But I'd still rather go by canoe.  I'm taking it Tuesday to Hornbeck Boats in Olmsteadville.  They'll fix the leak while I wait, then I'm heading up to Pyramid Lake in the Adirondacks for several days.  No computers there.  So I won't be blogging for a while.  But I'll be back.  I hope with lots of great photos.

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