Thursday, February 18, 2010
Wandering Along the Rocks
Snow? What snow? We had some two days ago, but the ground is bare again. Oh well. At least the walking is easier without it. I headed out to Skidmore today, to where the paved part of Broadway ends and the deeply rutted remains of an old dirt road continues on through a woods. There are steep rocky banks both above and below this road, and the rocks are covered with lichens and mosses and all kinds of limestone-loving plants in the spring and summer. I wondered what I might find growing there in winter.
All kinds of cool stuff, it turned out. First of all, there's the moss itself, in various shades of lovely green, and viewed up close, in many different shapes. Here's feathery and spiky.
Here's some that looks like tiny green dahlias. In all the expanse I searched, maybe a quarter mile of mossy rocks, I found this flower-like form in only two locations. (Update: My moss-loving friend, Evelyn Greene, has identified this as Rhodobryum roseum. )
There was one small patch, about three inches across, of this bright orange fuzzy stuff. Is it a moss? A fungus? A lichen? A slime mold? I just have no idea. But it certainly caught my eye. You can see it in the first photo above, down near the lower right corner of that rock wall.
Tucked in the crevices of the mossy rocks were many plants of Maidenhair Spleenwort. This evergreen fern is considered "exploitably vulnerable" in New York and is thus protected by state law. It seems to have made itself quite happily at home among these rocks.
There were other evergreen plants, as well, including this clump of Plantain-leaf Sedge. It looks like new growth is sprouting up there in the center, getting a jump on spring.
Likewise, this Herb Robert looks to have put out little new leaves, ready to start making food for the plant when warm weather comes. See how its stems and leaves are covered with fuzz, as if they were wearing warm woolies to protect them from winter's cold.
The rocks where I found all these plants are pretty interesting in their own right. Here's a boulder that appears to have been sheered off, revealing the complex and convoluted texture of its makeup. Some parts are rough and gritty and much eroded, others smooth and hard and shiny, including those parts that are colored a steely blue.
I found a bagel-sized slice of that rock lying along a ledge, so I brought it home to examine it further. Now I've got to find a geologist who can tell me this mineral's story. I'll bet it's a good one.