Saturday, May 1, 2010

May Day on the River

The first of May. Sweet May. Mary's month, and the month when all mothers are honored. The month of my birth and the month when I first became a mother myself. The month when Mother Nature wears her prettiest dress and adorns herself with the loveliest flowers. I just love May. So to celebrate I went to the river, so warm and peaceful and calm today, with the banks all abloom with one beauty after another.

The legend has it that blue is Mary's color, so I fantasize that these Bluets are turning their azure faces to heaven to honor the mother of God. They certainly seem to spread the color of the heavens across the grass.

And beautiful Starflower does the same for the stars, spreading a firmament across the forest floor. Masses of them were blooming in the woods along the water.

Fringed Polygala: what a funny name. Almost as funny as the flowers are pretty, so vividly pink and curious of shape, like tiny single-engine airplanes with propellors all a-spin.

Here comes one flying right at you.

Paddling along a steep rocky bank, I passed right under this Round-leaved Gooseberry shrub, its long-stamened blossoms dangling in front of my nose. How I wish I could find their fruit so easily, but the critters steal it away long before it's ripe enough for my taste.

Scurrying across the face of that rocky bank, this fishing spider came to a halt as I drew near. How nice of him to hold still while I took his picture. Actually, it might be a her. The light was not right to check out the pedipalps. Males have swollen ones, like tiny boxing gloves, while females' pedipalps just look like a pair of feelers.

Moving into a marsh, I encountered branches of Sweet Gale ablaze, their ruby pistillate blossoms lit up like fire, with the sun shining through them.

The marsh was also full of unfurling ferns, some fuzzy pale green, some shiny dark red, some a soft pale orange. I can't identify ferns until they're full-grown and raising spore stalks, but I sure wish I knew this one's name. That skinny green hand clutching that wad of green pebbly stuff could be the spore stalk of Cinnamon Fern, but I'm not sure.

This tree bud has not yet unfurled, but it's easy to guess that it's hickory. Such big fat buds, the color of apricot satin, no other buds look like them.

I found two different white violets today, which, at first glance, looked the same. But a closer look revealed their distinctions. These Lance-leaved Violets grow close to the water and don't seem to mind if they get their feet wet. What distinguishes them, along with their damp habitat, is that their leaves are shaped like lances, long and skinny, and grow directly from the base of the plant, instead of off the flower stem.

On the other hand, these Cream Violets share their flower stem with their heart-shaped leaves.

I found these Cream Violets on my way home, when I stopped at the Yaddo shade garden. My photo doesn't really show the luscious cream-color they are, nor does it reveal the diagnostic stipules that sheath the leaf and flower stem, which in this species are long and sharply pointed.


Caroline said...

Jackie, Love all the Adirondack wildflowers, beautiful photos!
The first one of the canoe is sublime, the essence of the North Country. :o)
Caroline in the Black Hills

Woodswoman Extraordinaire said...

As usual, great photos. I've never seen the Fringed Polygala before - what a cool flower!

Steve Young said...

I think the fiddlehead is more likely royal fern since cinnamon has a separate fuzzy brown spore stalk. In any case it is a beautiful photo!

Jens Zorn said...

An elegant, thought-provoking blend of photos and text... Thank you for this joyous welcome for May!

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Greetings, Caroline! How nice to make your acquaintance and to visit your own great blog. I was told we lived in Sioux Falls when I was a baby and my dad was in the Air Force training to go to the South Pacific in 1943. But I don't remember it. So it's nice to revisit the Dakotas through your blog.

Thanks, Woodswoman. You're right, Fringed Polygala is quite a cool flower and a rather common one in dry woods. It's pretty small, so you might have walked right over it without seeing.

Thanks, Steve, for the fern info. I should have known that. (I did, but I forgot!) The Royal Fern's spore stalk will turn brown and fuzzy, too, but it shares its stalk with some fronds.

Hi Jens, thanks for your kind words. It's always good to hear from you. Did you get to hear President Obama at Commencement? Brings back memories of my own graduation from Michigan in 1964 when President Johnson gave the address, his "Great Society" speech.

Wayne said...

A bit late to the party, but I wanted to say how much I enjoyed your writing, as well as your usual unusually beautiful photos. It's interesting that you find most of the flowers before I see them. This time of the year, I seem to spend more time in higher habitats. Just Sunday I found my first wild ginseng of the year at my usual spot at 800 ft. elevation. But I think the Hudson must be an influence, too. I live 5 miles east of that bend of the Hudson where we launch, on the other side of the Palmertown Range, and even though my home is 150 ft. LOWER than the Hudson, I won't see Polygala in my yard for at least another week.

Wayne said...

OOPS. Did I say "wild ginseng?" I meant DWARF ginseng, which you photographed on April 21. (There -- that was bugging me last night.)

Wayne said...

Ever wish you could retract a comment? (Three comments in a row. Is that a record?) First I misnamed dwarf ginseng, and now I discover that the Polygala are blooming -- obviously since yesterday -- in my yard. I guess it's just the local higher elevations where the blooms are more than a week behind the valleys.

Bird said...

What a gorgeous evocation of the season. The wildflowers are so varied! This post just sings with beauty. Thank you for showing us these lovely things. :)

Sue said...

Hi Jackie - I just love looking at your beautiful photographs and reading your running commentary. The uncoiling fern is Royal Fern, Osmunda regalis. It will grow quite large near water. The tips of the fronds are concentrated sporangia that will eventually produce the spores. The "Toad Lichen" is Lasalia papulosa I think. The smaller smooth one I believe is a Dermatocarpon, but alas my lichen book is not at home. I'll check these ids soon. Sue

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Thanks for stopping by, Wayne. The more visits the merrier! I'm glad you found your Fringed Polygala.

Bird, I have missed you and your blog from all the way across the Atlantic! Thanks for stopping by with such kind comments.

Sue, I do thank you for being my resource on all things fungal and lichenous. And for being so much fun to walk in the woods with.