Monday, August 17, 2009
A New Friend, New Discoveries
The rocks of the Hudson support all kinds of mosses and lichens (and Virginia Creeper, too).
Today it was HOT! If I hadn't had a date for a paddle, I probably would have stayed home with the AC cranked. But I am very glad I ventured out. It turned out to be a day of new discoveries for me. Including finding a new friend. A mutual friend arranged for me to meet Evelyn, a fellow botanizing Hornbeck paddler, who drove down from North Creek today to meet me at the river. And we had a grand old time. I showed her a few flowers she'd never seen, and she identified some mosses I see all the time but never knew the names of. Plus, we found a couple of plants we weren't exactly sure of, puzzles to solve, perhaps to add to life lists.
Evelyn's special interests are mosses and liverworts, plant forms the Hudson River banks abound with. She showed me a remarkable variety of them, but unfortunately, I took photos and notes of only a few. Here are three.
Feathery green Pleurozium schreberi covers the rocks in thick deep carpets, so soft and cool you just want to sink your fingers into it. Which I did.
Intermingled with the Pleurozium was this Bartramia pomiformis, equally soft and green but more grassy-textured and distinguished by these tiny "apples," the spore bearing organs. Evelyn told me the proper names of all the mosses' parts, but I didn't write them down. Obviously, I have a lot to learn about them.
Evelyn seemed to be quite delighted to find this tiny liverwort (without a magnifier, she wasn't quite sure of its name) and she gave me a little clump to bring home. I placed it in water on a white plate, the better to photograph it. Maybe someone who sees this photo will know exactly what it is. When I first saw it, I thought it was a moss. (As I said, I have a lot to learn.) The only liverwort I know is much larger with leaves that look like snake skin. But then, this group of plants is remarkably diverse in structure. I have read that they may have been the first green plants to diversify on land some 500,000 million years ago, making them the oldest living lineage of land plants. And lots of them grow right here, on my river bank.
Well, it's very good to have friends with good eyes. How on earth did Evelyn see this tiny bladderwort (Utricularia spp.) floating on the dark water? I can hardly see it against this white plate, although its tiny utricles -- minute creature-capturing bladders -- are in evidence. Since the flowers are absent, it's very hard to be sure of this plant's species, but its itty-bitty size suggests it might possibly be Utricularia minor. If so, this would be an unusual find, since USDA lists that plant as endangered or threatened in many states, including New York. I may never know.
Here's another plant we weren't exactly sure of, but plenty of evidence leads us to believe this is Eastern Joe-Pye Weed (Eupatorium dubium). We first noticed it because its flower heads were multiple and growing from the leaf axles, unlike the terminal, more flat-topped clusters of the more common Spotted Joe-Pye Weed (Eupatorium maculatum) that grows all around it. Also, its stem is not solid purple like E. maculatum's, but greenish with purple spots. And its leaf shape is slightly different. Trouble is, my Newcomb's guide tells me this flower grows near the coast. Hmm. Does a river bank qualify as a coast? But the USDA plant distribution website indicates it does grow this far inland. As I mentioned before, we found puzzles.
At least this one we were sure of: Tall (or Green-headed) Coneflower (Rudbeckia laciniata). These striking yellow blooms were towering over the Boneset and Cardinal Flower all up and down the river, adding a finishing touch to Mother Nature's splendid array of late-summer river-bank flowers.