Saturday, August 1, 2009

Lost and Found

Wow! Another beautiful day! That makes two in this otherwise rainy week, and lucky me, I was free to enjoy both beautiful days with a paddle on the river. And today I was doubly lucky: I found two flowers I'd been seeking for years and thought I would never find again. And both of them were growing on my beloved stretch of the Hudson.

I'd set out to search for a third lost flower, called Creeping Spearwort, and I headed to what should have been a likely spot: a damp muddy shore where a creek runs into the river. A beaver-cleared low-lying spot, the whole area blazed with Cardinal Flowers, glowing-red spikes towering above the hip-high sedges and Royal Ferns.

My hopes for finding the spearwort weren't high. Looks like the same old same-olds, I thought, as I pushed through Cardinal Flower and Boneset and Monkey Flower and Joe-Pye Weed (the same old same-olds here, I must say, are pretty gorgeous!). So I almost missed this low-growing weed with the plump little yellow-green flowers. Why, bless my stars, that's Ditch Stonecrop, I cried, amazed to find a flower I last found about 12 years ago along these same shores but never again until now. None of my wildflower sources list this plant (Penthorum sedoides) as rare (although it is listed as of "special concern" in Rhode Island), so I don't know why I hadn't found it. Maybe because it's so small and plain, I just didn't see it. I know where to look for it now.

I also saw two beautiful bugs while prowling that place. Here's a little brown beetle whose colors remind me of houndstooth tweed, sampling the wares put forth by Water Parsnip (Sium suave). This flower looks almost exactly like that of Water Hemlock, but its leaves distinguish this plant from its deadly poisonous Parsley Family cousin. Although bugs seem to eat that one, too.

This gorgeous dragonfly put me in mind of Rhonda Fleming (guess that dates me, doesn't it?). I seem to remember a long-ago photo of her in a red satin slip that was trimmed with black lace. And if you click on my photo you'll even see long black eyelashes. Get the picture? (Anyone know this one's name?)

I don't know what possessed me to paddle across the river and mosey along the Warren County shore of the Hudson. I just felt the urge. Maybe it was this Canadian Burnet (Sanguisorba canadensis) calling to me across the water. On long thin stalks that waved in the breeze, its feathery white flower spikes curled like beckoning fingers. "Here I am, Jackie, come here, come here."

Now, this plant is listed as threatened or endangered in at least nine eastern states, but not in New York. It's not very common here, though, since I haven't seen it since at least 1998 (that's when it stopped showing up in my wildflower journal). I wonder if I'll find it again next year.

I would have stayed longer along that shore, but once again, Jet Skis were tearing around on the river, creating wakes that sloshed over my gunwales at times. So I headed home, hauling my boat and my soaking wet rear up a hill through a hemlock woods. A couple of finds along that trail offered some compensation for being chased off the water. Here's Pinesap (Monotropa hypopithys), a tan-colored cousin of Indian Pipe that usually grows under pines. I guess hemlock was close enough.

And this Gomphus floccosus was glowing like a coal in the dark conifer woods. It's commonly known as Wooly Chanterelle, and its bright orange interior is usually covered with wooly scales. Today, however, those scales were slicked down by the water collected inside. Another name for this fungus is Vase Chanterelle. For good reason.

By the way, I never did find that Creeping Spearwort. But the day's discoveries convinced me I should never give up hope.


Tom said...

Jackie- Your red dragon is one of the meadowhawks in the genus Sympetrum, possibly a ruby meadowhawk.

I'm not sure if you caught my answer to your question about the red prairie wildflower, but it is Royal Catchfly, Silene regia.

I see ditch stonecrop quite a bit in open marshy situations, especially along the coast of Lake Erie. I'm guessing you don't have too much of that habitat in your area of New York?



Trillium said...

I remember reading about some indigenous people who believed their prayers of thanks helped each day unfold. I can imagine that your doting appreciation helps these plants thrive. I love seeing how intimately you know what grows along your river's banks from season to season. Beautiful photos!

Woodswalker said...

TOM, it was you I was thinking of when I asked that dragonfly question, and sure enough, you came through with the answer! Thanks

We used to have a lot more open marshy areas along the river, but upriver rafting companies petitioned the dam operators to keep the water levels high all summer. Because of this, I haven't found Marsh Speedwell or Creeping Spearwort -- or Ditch Stonecrop -- here for years.

TRILLIUM, what a beautiful comment! Yes, I do have a doting relationship with the plants along "my" river. By learning their names I have come to regard them as friends I'm delighted to meet again each year as their seasons come around. And oh, I do miss them when they disappear!

Squirrel said...

I think your beetle in the brown tweed is an Oriental Beetle - Anomala orientalis. I have only seen one once before. Thanks for the lovely blog and the beautiful photo of the Ruby Meadowhawk.

Ellen Rathbone said...

Jackie - was the Canadian Burnet the one you were talking about in the sandy area that the state dug out due to PCBs? I know you mentioned it, and how you wanted to see it again, but that the water levels had be come so high that you had given up for a lost cause! I'm glad you got to see it again!

catharus said...

Yeh, it's been an equally cool wet summer here in central PA. 'Still hoping it my dry out a bit before my 120 mile trek from Upper Benson to Lake Placid...