Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Where Have All the Flowers Gone?
Glaucous Honeysuckle, one of our native American honeysuckles
My flower journal told me Glaucous Honeysuckle (Lonicera dioica) should now be in bloom along Bog Meadow Nature Trail just outside Saratoga. This woody vine with orange-purple flowers and terminal leaves that grow together to form a cup is one of our native honeysuckles. It's often hard to see among the overbearing alien honeysuckle shrubs that line that trail. But for years I've found it in the same spot, between a beaver lodge and a wooden bridge. Not today. Not a sign of it. Maybe the beaver cut it down. That was the only one I ever found in Saratoga County. And now it's gone. Too bad.
Oh well. I consoled myself with a search for Buckbean (Menyanthes trifoliata), heading for a woodland pool where I've found this water plant for the past five years. And I did find it. But only two, where in past years I've found a dozen or more. It's quite a pretty flower, all fuzzy, the insides of its petals bearded with white hairs. Once again, this Bog Meadow Trail is the only place in the county I've ever found it. I hope it comes back next year.
I next went in search of Nodding Trillium (Trillium cernuum), a pretty white nodding flower with a pinkish center. And yes, I did find it. Two of them. Three years ago there were more than ten in an area near a bench, but a mower came along and cut them all down before their leaves could help them store up food for the following year. They've been struggling back, but I wonder if they will ever be as abundant as before.
So I was feeling kind of glum. Over the years, these plants have become like friends, friends I enjoy getting back in touch with each year. And just like in the rest of my life (where death and divorce and distance carry friends away), I feel sad when these friends disappear. (All three of these plants are classified as endangered or threatened in a number of states.) I headed home, deciding to stop at the farmers' market to cheer myself with some fresh asparagus. And would you believe?! -- a new vendor at the market this year was a nursery called "Wildthings Rescue Nursery," specializing in "Native woodland restoration and native gardens."
Well, you can imagine what fun I had, comparing notes with a fellow flower nerd named Dawn Foglia. (Yes, that's her name! Really!) And I bought some things, too: Tiny native iris (two blue, one white) and a trillium I've never found in the wild, Toadshade (Trillium sessile). I'm trying to create a native woodland garden in my back yard, attempting some tiny compensation for loss of habitat that leads to the loss of native flowers. I'm having trouble convincing my resident squirrels to go along with this plan. Which is why I'm smiling as I type the website of Wildthings Rescue Nursery: ThoseDarnSqurls.mswin.net
Toad Trillium, or Toadshade, although native to New York State, is not usually found in Saratoga County. But now it's found in my backyard.
Their place is in Valley Falls, NY, and they offer the "largest selection of North American native plants, including eight trillium species." I hope to visit their farm some day, but in the meantime I'm happy to scroll through all the great plants listed on the website. It's reassuring to know that as my wildflower friends disappear from places I used to find them, I can plant some of them right here in my own garden.
Not that a garden is any substitute for loss of natural habitat, with all its concomitant critters and fellow flora. We have to do all we can to save what's left. It's not just my loss that Glaucous Honeysuckle can't be found around here anymore.