Monday, June 1, 2009
The Sun-lovers Start to Bloom
The woodland flowers have put on their show and gone, and now it's time for the sun-loving plants of roadside and meadow to take center stage. I took a drive to Ballston Lake today, which should have taken 15 minutes, but every few minutes I had to stop to admire what was growing beside the road, or off in the fields I was passing. My trip took at least an hour.
There was Birdsfoot Trefoil and Oxeye Daisy and Field Hawkweed all along the way, with Dame's Rocket blooming profusely in shadier spots. Yellow Sweet Clover and Yellow Bedstraw are just coming into bloom, and washes of rusty red across the grass signal the presence of patches of Sheep Sorrel. And there's clover everywhere: Red Clover, White Clover, and my favorite, Alsike Clover, a pretty, pale-pink bloom whose fragrance sweetens the air. I stopped to just stand amid clover and breathe it in.
Sweetly fragrant Alsike Clover is pretty and pink.
Bright yellow Cinquefoil blooms in a field of clovers of every kind.
Little patches of Ragged Robin grow here and there in damp ditches, but along East High Street near Ballston Spa was one spectacular swath of this Pink Family plant, a cloud of soft pinky-purple.
There's a cemetery along East High Street that was carpeted with bright yellow Mouse Ear. This single-headed hawkweed defies the mowers and blooms on stems cut to no more than two inches. It adds a sunny note to a somber site.
Next to this cemetery I found a big patch of a plant I had never seen before. And now that I know what it is, I'm glad I don't find it that often. It's called Black Swallowwort (Cynanchum louiseae), an alien invasive that tends to displace our native plants, especially our milkweeds, whose family it belongs to. But unlike our native milkweeds, Black Swallowwort can't provide food to Monarch butterfly larvae, although the butterflies don't know that and lay their eggs there anyway. I think I'll call the county extension service and tell them about this patch. Then I'll pull it up whenever I come across it again.
Black Swallowwort, an alien Milkweed Family plant that is driving out our native milkweeds and threatening our Monarch butterflies.
I realize that none of the plants I mentioned today is a native species, but most were introduced long ago and seem to have come to terms with their native neighbors. But maybe not. At least they are lovely to behold. But then, so is Purple Loosestrife.
Postscript: I got a note from Troy Weldy of the Invasive Species Project informing me that this swallowwort is not Cynanchum louiseae but a related and also invasive species, C. rossicum, commonly known as European Swallowwort. This internet is really grand for learning new stuff. Thanks, Troy!