Friday, August 28, 2009

Goldenseal Search Yields Treasure

I'm supposed to meet up with New York's chief botanist tomorrow, to show him where a few patches of Goldenseal grow. This plant (Latin name, Hydrastis canadensis) is classified as "threatened" in New York (as well as in many surrounding states), so this botanist likes to maintain a record of where populations of Goldenseal can be found. Obsessive woods prowler that I am, I've come across a few patches that have not yet been documented, so that's what we're going to do tomorrow. If I can find them again.

I went out today to make sure I could. And darned if they were not where I thought they should be! I was sure of the general area, but hey, these plants grow low to the ground, the same color as the ubiquitous Virginia Creeper and Poison Ivy, and they're way past blooming time and looking a little worse for wear this time of year. Boy, was I going to be embarrassed if this important botanist showed up and I couldn't show him the goods. So I started a systematic search, and what do you know? I not only found my original patch (right where I left it), but I also found two other new patches as well. Maybe we'll even find some more tomorrow. In the meantime, I marked my finds with downed logs I leaned against standing trees.

While thrashing about in the woods, I came across another state-protected plant: Walking Fern (Asplenium rhizophyllum). This fern (classified as "exploitably vulnerable") doesn't look at all like what we usually think of as a fern. When I first saw the mossy boulder it was growing on, I thought somebody had cut up a bunch of leaves with scissors: little snips of green like a tumbled mass of clippings.

Its blades are narrow with long pointed tips that arch to the ground and form new plants where the tip touches -- hence the name "walking." It usually grows on limey rocks, preferring the same kind of habitat as Goldenseal does. Although seldom found, it is not as rare as Goldenseal, but it sure was a new find for me.

There's another unusual plant that grows near the Goldenseal. It's called Green Violet (Hybanthus concolor), and like that un-ferny fern, it is a most un-violety violet. The plant is nearly two feet tall with long-pointed elliptical leaves, and this time of year its small, hidden, green-yellow blooms are long gone, having turned into these bulbous, pale green, tripartite pods.

These pods are perhaps the most recognizably violet-like parts of the plant, especially when they split open. Then they look like the typical violet seed-pod, filled with tiny "pearls."

In the midst of all that green stuff, this bright orange coral fungus sure stood out. I'm confident that it's one of the coral fungi, but do I know its specific name? No, I don't. I find several photos in my mushroom guides that could be this, but I'm not certain. Maybe New York State's Chief Botanist will know. I'll ask him tomorrow.


Ellen Rathbone said...

Treasures indeed! Happy hunting with the CB (Chief Botanist)!

Paul said...

You may not want to introduce another piece of technology to carry around during your walks/floats but a GPS device might be useful for fixing the locations of your special finds for future visits. Mine is about the size of a cell phone.

Woodswalker said...

Thanks for your comments, Ellen and Paul. As it turned out, the CB couldn't make it today, but we're planning on Thursday instead. Maybe the downpours will have stopped by then. And the race track traffic cleared.

Yes, I've considered a GPS device, but I'm intimidated by them. If I did more true wilderness exploring I'd get one and learn to use it. For now, I pile up stones and logs and make mental notes. Which sometimes lead me astray.