Friday, August 7, 2009

Slasher Along the Trail

Two beautiful days in a row! I hope this trend continues and we get a little high summer before summer ends. To celebrate, I headed to Bog Meadow Trail, just east of Saratoga Springs. I'd had my eye on a pretty little orchid, Downy Rattlesnake Plantain (Goodyera pubescens), that grows in a couple of spots along that trail. Last year I found about ten spikes of these waxy white flowers on furry stalks rising out of beautifully patterned evergreen basal leaves. But this year it looked as though only one plant would bloom. Orchids are like that. You just never know when they're going to go into a snit and refuse to set flowers. At least I knew where one was growing, and I wanted to try to get a good photo of it.

I came down to the trail on a new spur that leads from a housing development, descending through an open woods and crossing a swampy spot before it reaches the main trail that follows an old railroad bed. There in that woods was this big clump of mushrooms, the orange cluster of caps as bright as any pumpkin. Appropriately so, since I believe these mushrooms are Jack O'Lanterns (Omphalotus olearius). That's a good scary name for a species we should be afraid to eat, since they're poisonous. And they also glow in the dark.

As soon as I reached the main trail, I got a sinking feeling. Just last week this trail was lush with lovely ferns and overarching flowers like Showy Tick-trefoil. But today all that beautiful growth lay slashed on the ground, as if some semi-sized giant weed-whacker had ground its way down the path. O cripes! I said, they've done it again! Two years ago, I asked the folks who maintain this trail to hold off mowing until after frost, and I'd walked the trail with the man who mows it and showed him where to avoid the vulnerable flowers. We even tied bright pink surveyor's tape to mark the spots where plants of special interest grew. Like the state-protected orchid, Downy Rattlesnake Plantain.

I hurried to the spot where I knew it grew, and there it was, just as I feared, slashed by a blade and left lying on the ground. The flowers were not yet withered, so I managed to take the close-up photo at the top of this post, then laid the spike back down on its bed of evergreen leaves. The mower missed slashing the low-lying leaves, so at least there's hope the plant will recover in time. How ironic, though, that the blades did knock over the stick with the bright pink tape, the tape that was left to show where not to mow. There's a fine for damaging plants like these, but it's not very much, hardly worth filing a formal complaint about. But boy, is somebody going to hear about this! I am really mad.


Ellen Rathbone said...

You go, Girl! Champion of wildflowers! Mowers beware! Read 'em the riot act!!!

Carolyn H said...

Geez, what it is with people and that weed whacking thing? some people think anything that isn't grass must be cut down. I hate that.

Carolyn H.

Woodswalker said...

Well, I did make a stink about mowing that orchid, and learned that the Bog Meadow Nature Trail, despite its name, is supposed to be more a "historical" trail along an old railroad bed, than a genuine "nature" trail. And the widely-mown swath is to encourage school groups and other casual hikers to use it, since most folks, it is claimed, don't like to wade through weeds on their walks and are fearful of snakes and ticks and poison ivy. But still, all agreed, the mowing down of protected orchids and other sensitive plants is to be avoided, so we're all working on ways to protect them and educate the public -- not just to appreciate these unusual plants, but also to not be so afraid of our lovely resident snakes.