Thursday, August 27, 2009
A Return to the Scene of the Crime
Oh my, did it feel like fall today: clear, dry, a bit of a nip in the air. A good day for a hike and I even had one all planned. I'd agreed to meet with Geoff Bornemann, the volunteer who has done such a marvelous job maintaining Bog Meadow Trail, just east of Saratoga Springs.
Geoff has laid boardwalk over mucky spots, dug channels to direct water flow away from the trail, terraced the trail where it crosses steep banks, and regularly keeps the brush mowed back. Yes, he's also the one who mistakenly mowed down that orchid I mourned in my August 7 post. Much to his, as well as my own, chagrin. But all is forgiven. How could I stay annoyed with the guy who works so hard to make that trail so pleasant to walk on?
Our project today was to walk the trail and mark off those spots where plants need to be protected. So that's what we did. I showed Geoff the place where Downy Rattlesnake Plantain grows vulnerably close to the trail, and he pounded sturdy stakes into the ground around it. The lopped-off spike of this little white orchid still lay on its bier of beautifully marked, elegantly curving leaves. And there, on almost exactly the spot where this flower had met its demise, was a fitting memorial: one tiny blood-red mushroom (Vermilion Waxcap?) poking up through the orchid's evergreen leaves.
We continued along the trail so I could show Geoff where Nodding Trillium grows (he staked a whole length of trail to remind himself to mow carefully here), and I also pointed out a single Poison Sumac tree. Despite this plant's noxious effect on human skin, it's a valuable wildlife resource and also not very common around these parts. It's not in any danger of being mowed, but we staked it to caution trail workers not to handle its branches without protection when trimming brush. Growing right next to this sumac tree was an elderberry bush in glorious fruit. Elderberries are relished by all kinds of birds, and I've heard they make a tasty jam if you add enough sugar. The rest of the plant, however, is poisonous to humans. I'm happy to leave it for the birds. Foxes love it, too.
Our common project completed, Geoff went off to continue building up a section of mucky trail, and I continued wandering the trail a bit. Lots of mushrooms are popping up this time of year, including this little clump of what I'm pretty sure is Spindle Coral (Clavulimopsis fusiformis).
And here's one that looks at first glance like that Spindle Coral, except that it's branched at the tip like tiny tuning forks. Perhaps this is the fungus called Yellow Tuning Fork (Calocera viscosa).
I also found these baby buds of what I believe are some kind of Pholiota. Many species of this genus have spiky little points all over their caps. This one has loose scales all over its stalks. It's really hard to ID mushroom species, especially immature specimens, unless you take them apart to analyze their structure. So mostly I just look and marvel -- so many lovely colors and intriguing shapes! (There's a really cool-looking moss in that photo, too.)
For the time being, I'll stick to trying to name the flowers. Here's a thistle I found along Bog Meadow Trail just a few weeks ago, a new one for my life list. It's called Swamp Thistle (Cirsium muticum), and I don't know how I missed seeing it all these years. Today it was blooming all over the swampy spots, its brilliant purple glowing like jewels. The bees seemed to really love it.