Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Happy Trails Today!

Rejoice with me, for what was lost has been found!

Well, sorry to get so dramatic, but I do get emotional about my flower friends and miss them deeply when I don't find them again each year.  One of these long-lost flowers was One-flowered Cancerroot, a pale little ghost of a plant I found three years running in the Skidmore Woods, and then never again.  It had been at least ten years since I'd seen it, when my friend Sue told me, oh that grows along the bike trail near Glen Lake (Warren County).  And she told me exactly where it grew.  So I went there and I found it.  

One-flowered Cancerroot: Rare native or noxious weed?

Now, what comes next is sort of odd.  Excited about this find and wanting to know more about it, I Googled its Latin name, Orobanche uniflora, and got incredibly conflicting information.  The USDA site lists many states that classify it as a "noxious weed,""prohibited," or "pest."  Huh?  I know it's parasitic, taking its nutrients from surrounding plants, but obviously it doesn't grow around here in such numbers it could be considered a "noxious weed."  Does it?  I mean, I've been looking for it for ten years!!!  Looking on the internet for further information, I found other sites that call it a "rare native."  My Newcomb's guide indicates it's a native plant and parasitic, but doesn't comment on its noxiousness  or rarity one way or another.  Do you suppose they're all talking about the same plant, Latin name notwithstanding?  It's a puzzle.

Glaucous Honeysuckle, one of our natives that still finds a place among the alien honeysuckles

Anyway, this bike trail proved to be a site for another flower friend I thought I'd lost, Glaucous Honeysuckle (Lonicera dioica), a native honeysuckle with pretty orange-red flowers and terminal leaves that grow together to form a cup around the flower cluster.  The alien Tartarian Honeysuckle has mostly taken over the habitat where our natives used to grow, so it's cause for celebration when I find one.

Whorled Loosestrife is pretty even before it comes into bloom.

Some native loosestrife also grows along the trail, Whorled Loosestrife (Lysimachia quadrifolia), which is just about to come into bloom.  The leaves are as pretty as flowers right now, a dark red that will later turn green as the blossoms open.

Unlike the blossoms of most other maples, those of Mountain Maple stick straight up

I was happy, too, to find Mountain Maple (Acer spicatum) abounding along the trail.  I've found this tree in the Adirondacks, and it really puzzled me the first time I saw it.  Its slender weak branches sprawled kind of like a vine, and for a moment I thought it might be a grape, but the flower clusters stuck straight up from the branches, rather than dangling down.  And the leaves sure looked like maple.  We don't find it all that often down here in Saratoga County, so I was pleased to find some growing a little closer than up in the mountains.

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