Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Further Adventures Along the Ice Meadows

I found it! I found it! After years of searching for Creeping Spearwort (Ranunculus reptans) I nearly stepped on it today, as I was teetering among the rocks along the Hudson Ice Meadows north of Warrensburg. As the photo below shows, this flower is mighty small and easily missed, hiding among the rocks as it does, so I thank my lucky stars I happened to see it. I had actually given up my search and started toward home when Voila! Right before my toes! A perfect end to a grand day touring this fascinating habitat with ice-meadow expert Evelyn Greene.

Evelyn has asked me to sub for her, leading a group of elderly former scouts along these shores, so I asked her to tour the route with me, indicating the points of interest. The first thing she pointed out today was the marble along the banks, great shining white slabs overlaid with swirls and eddies of black magma. These rocks are not only beautiful, but they also contribute to the alkaline condition of the soils here, creating a habitat for many rare plants.

Spiked Nutrush (Scleria triglomerata) was one of the rare plants we found today. Classified as "threatened" in New York State, it appears to grow abundantly here. Distinguished by a three-angled stalk, it also has pearly-white, ball-shaped seeds when ripe.

We also found this tiny green rush, which at first we thought might be the rare Clinton's Club Rush.  But after consulting Steve Young at New York Natural Heritage Program, my guess is that it is a Common Spike Rush of the genus Eleocharis.  I can't be sure of the species.   A very small and very pretty rush, it's only about six inches high and as fine as grass, with a top as intricate as a Faberge Easter egg.

Another really tiny plant was this liverwort, called Asterella tenella. Evelyn loves this plant so much, her granddaughter is named after it. This photo is an extreme close-up, and it shows another really interesting-looking plant alongside the liverwort, that leaf-lettucey stuff with the white-stalked, black-ball-topped lollypops growing out of it. I bet Evelyn will know the name of it and will tell me when she sees this photo. (Click on the photo to see the detail.)

Update: Evelyn believes that lettucey stuff is another liverwort, Fossombronia foveolata, one of the few that fruits in the fall. She says all liverworts have similar round black spore capsules, the stalks of which are translucent and ephemeral.

We stopped to explore five different sites on both banks of the river, including a little wetland along a railroad track that was loaded with Royal Ferns and Large Cranberries. Cranberries galore! It won't be long before these blushing berries will turn bright red, and Evelyn will be back to pick a full winter's supply.


swamp4me said...

Congratulations on your find! I would love to take a walk along that path. It looks very interesting indeed.

Ellen Rathbone said...

Hooray! Creeping spearwort! And it looks like you found lots of other very nifty plants as well.

Kenton and Rebecca Whitman said...

What a find! When we first saw the Spearwort photo of the flower, we were amazed -- not only did we not recognize the plant, but it held a crisp beauty that was simply enchanting. What an experience to see it in 'real life'! Those stones are also lovely, with their curves that look so gentle . . .

Jaime said...

Great job on the photography and the blog Jackie! I hope I get to see you this Thanksgiving.

Trillium said...

Stunning and exquisite as usual. You never disappoint!

Woodswalker said...

Thanks, dear friends, for your kind comments. I wish I could show all of you this remarkable habitat, a genuine ecological treasure, with rare plants in three seasons and amazing ice in winter. I feel like I've been give the key to Wonderland! And now I have a photograph of Creeping Spearwort for my files.

Jaime, what a kick to hear from you! All these years I've known you and had no idea you were into Airstreams. Aren't we all full of surprises? Yes, I hope to see you and yours at Thanksgiving.