Monday, April 12, 2010

Rock Garden

I was clambering today among limestone boulders where Saratoga's broad and beautiful North Broadway peters out to a rutted dirt road, impassable to autos. Here's where I find all kinds of flowers that love that limey soil. Many, in fact, seem to sprout right out of the rocks, although I'm sure that their roots have wormed down through cracks and crannies to find enough soil to feed on. Here's what was blooming today, a good week or more earlier than in years past.

Wild Ginger. Not related to the ginger sold as a culinary spice, but the roots have a gingery smell and spicy taste that is similar. Usually, the flower is hidden under the leaves. This was my lucky day, to find one so exposed and easily photographed.

Early Meadow Rue. Here is the female version of this lacy-leaved early spring bloomer. All of the flowers on this individual plant are pistillate ones. The pistillate plants seem to occur less frequently than the staminate ones in this location. I have never found one until today.

Here are the staminate flowers of Early Meadow Rue, with pollen-laden anthers dangling down like wind chimes, set all aflutter with the slightest breeze.

Miterwort. I have never been able to capture both flowers and leaves of this plant in the same photo until today, when I found this very small specimen just starting to bloom. What a stunning little blossom, with spiky rays as delicate as those of a snowflake. Be sure to click on this photo to get a closer view.

Long-spurred Violet. It's pretty obvious how this violet got its common name. Paler than most other purple violets, the bloom shows darker purple toward the center.

Blue Cohosh. These brownish flowers are easy to miss in the spring woods, but they certainly rate a closer look. Those six pointed "petals" are really the sepals, and the real petals are those greenish little worm-shaped things nestled at the base of each sepal. The yellow things are the stamens, and the tiny green turnip in the center is the pistil. The early leaves and stems of the plant are greenish purple. So what's blue about this plant? It has beautiful blue berry-like seeds in the summer.

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I did not include the Latin names of these flowers, because I'm not sure if they still apply. Steve Young, chief botanist for New York's Natural Heritage Program, has recently sent me a list of updated scientific names for plants included in Newcomb's Wildflower Guide, with changes on almost every page. I confess I have not yet amended my Newcomb's. One of these days I will. In the meantime, though, I'm using the common names only. At this moment in taxonomic history, the common names change much less often.


catharus said...

Lovely shots! (and story).

Ellen Rathbone said...

I was going to write that the ginger flower is one of my all-time favorite, but then I scrolled down to the cohosh - what a beautiful bloom!

Hm...can I get a copy of that plant name list? :)