Friday, May 28, 2010

Beautiful Aliens

Home again, home again, and happy to be here -- even if just for part of a day before I head up to Pyramid Lake in the Adirondacks. We northern New Yorkers who love native wildflowers really should count our lucky stars that we have so many in our woods and along our waterways. My four-day stay in Westchester County was quite a demonstration of what our flora will look like when the aliens take over. Here's the scene at a nature preserve called Marsh Sancturary in Mt. Kisco, NY. Admittedly, it sure looks lovely.

And smells lovely, too, with masses of Multiflora Rose blooming everywhere. Only other tough alien plants, like the Japanese Barberry pictured here in the foreground, are able to resist its smothering advances.

Here's another tough alien that seems to compete with the Multiflora Rose for covering vast tracts of ground. Covered with claret-red prickles, Japanese Wineberry is a raspberry species native to Asia, but once it arrived on our shores it decided to stay. And multiply. At least its fruit is tasty, and it feeds the birds.

Another beautiful alien, Yellow Iris, crowds many stream banks, shouldering our native Blue Flags aside. I must admit that they are spectacular. These were blooming in masses alongside a parking lot in downtown Mt. Kisco.

At first glance, I thought this unfamiliar plant was some kind of nightshade, but checking my Newcomb's, I found it's actually a milkweed -- and a nasty invasive one at that. Called Black Swallowwort, its resemblance to our native milkweeds attracts butterflies, who lay their eggs on it but whose larvae cannot eat it and therefore starve. Its tiny flowers are indeed almost black.

Another imposter, Indian Strawberry, looks so luscious with its bright red fruits. But taste one and Pah! Their color tempts, but their flavor is just insipid. I wonder if the birds eat them, at least.

At last, a beautiful native: dear Blue-eyed Grass. These little inch-wide flowers, related to iris, were starring the grass near the pond.

A closer inspection revealed that this is Stout Blue-eyed Grass, distinguished by its winged stem and the leaflike bract from which the long flowering stems branch.

Close by were some of the biggest and brightest wood sorrels I had ever seen. They looked just enough different from the common garden weed Yellow Wood Sorrel that I checked my Newcomb's to see if I could find a look-alike. And sure enough, I did. These are Great Wood Sorrel, and wonder of wonders, a native species and a new one for my life list.

Rivaling that wood sorrel for find of the day, this mama Painted (?) Turtle was laying her eggs in a pit she had dug right in the middle of the sunny path.

Don't get up, Mrs. Turtle. I just peeked in to say hello. It looks like you're busy today.

Back at my daughter's house, that 95-degree day we had on Wednesday caused the tight buds of the Venus's Looking Glass to open yesterday, just in time for me to admire them before I packed up to head home. You can see why she would admire her own beauty, can't you?

Now I've got to repack for a weekend in the Adirondack Mountains. Stay tuned for lots of photos of the flowers that grow up there.


Jens Zorn said...

For many years Fran and I would visit friends in Cross River, hard by Mt. Kisco, but we never really appreciated what we'd see on our walks. Thanks for this expansion of our vision!

Jules said...


Looks like your brown and orange butterfly may be an Arctic Skipper.
Nice find!

Found your site through the Swamp Things blog in NC

Jules said...


I posted my last comment on the wrong applies to the photo on "Disappointments and Surprises"