Friday, June 4, 2010

Ice Meadows Adventures

One nature adventure after another this week! Tomorrow, I have to don grown-up lady clothes and go down toward the city to celebrate with my daughter and her husband, who are being honored by the Boys and Girls Clubs for their service to young people in Westchester County. I'm mighty proud and happy to be doing that, but in the meantime I've been packing in as much time in the woods and on the water this week as I could (before I have to manicure my nails). Today I picked up my friend Sue and headed north to explore the Ice Meadows along the Hudson River. Sue had never been there, so I had much to show her.

And much to show myself, as well, for today I found all kinds of floral surprises. I had never seen Rock Sandwort before, but there it was, starry clouds of small white blooms among fine-needled leaves, sprawling all over the marble rocks just north of Warrensburg. We New Yorkers should count ourselves lucky to find this pretty flower, since the USDA shows it as threatened or endangered in much of the Northeast.

I sure puzzled over this next one, thinking at first it was some kind of tall strawberry. But no, it was Tall Cinquefoil, a new flower for my life list and one that I learned is hard to find in many surrounding states. It was growing abundantly here along the river, and I also saw it two days ago, growing along the road where we carried our boats to the Arethusa bog.

We were truly surprised to find Rose Pogonia starting to bloom. This sweet little orchid usually comes into bloom in July, so this was the earliest I have ever found it.

I had seen the Dwarf Sand Cherries in bloom in May, and today we found the hard little green developing fruits decorating the sprawling branches. They will turn red by the end of summer, if the critters don't eat them first. This is another rare species that has found its niche along this stretch of the Hudson, where massive deposits of ice each winter help to drive out its competitors.

Because my neighbor's Shrubby Cinquefoil is blooming this week in his garden in Saratoga, I expected to find this native shrub blooming along the river. And I was not disappointed.

The same goes for the lovely wild iris called Blue flag. Its elegant blooms were easy to see among the tall grasses.

This baby grasshopper had found an iris a good place to perch on.

I was a bit surprised to find dainty Harebell. I think of this pretty purple flower as blooming much later in summer and lasting well into the fall.

I had found this rare plant called Spiked Nut Rush last fall when its seeds looked like tiny white pearls. Today those tiny round balls looked as if they were carved out of jade.

Sue and I weren't the only creatures enjoying this beautiful day along the river. This blue-spiked caterpillar was enjoying his lunch of leaves. Update: a commenter to this post suggested that this is some species of fritillary caterpillar, so I searched the web and found a look-alike in the Variegated Fritillary.

This skipper butterfly was taking a rest on Wild Strawberry.

Update: If you check the comments, you'll find that Jules, of the Carolina Butterfly Society, has suggested that this is a Hobomok Skipper (Poanes hobomok). Thanks, Jules! It's so great to have experts share their extensive knowledge with us.

And this large dark spider was taking a stroll across the expanse of marble.

The rock formations along this stretch of the river are simply amazing. In previous blog entries I have posted many photographs of the marble and magma, and today I found this split-open rock with orange insides that reminded me of a giant-sized sweet potato.

We crossed over the Hudson at a place called The Glen and visited two seepy areas along the west bank of the river. Numerous springs wet the ground along here and collect in pools among the rocks, creating a marsh-like habitat for plants that don't mind having their roots all wet. Like the sedges (could these be Buxbaum's?) standing here in a pool of dark water. Update: Steve Young, chief botanist for the NY Natural Heritage Program, has offered his guesses as to what all these sedgy plants could be. These, he believes, are Wooly Sedge (Carex pellita).

We found all kinds of sedges and other grass-like plants that I certainly can't name. If anyone knows what to call this plant with the yellow clusters crowding together in the crotch of the leaves, I hope you will leave a comment. Steve thinks this is Black Girdle Bulrush (Scirpus atrocinctus) because of the black band visible just below the inflorescence.

The same goes for this marvelous plant (I think it may be a spiked rush) with the mop of flowing white hair. This is Alpine Bulrush (Tricophorum alpinum), according to Steve.

Or this sedge that looks like a couple of vegetable hedgehogs. This is probably Northeastern Sedge (Carex cryptolepis), although Steve says it has a close look-alike in C. flava.

While hopping about among the rocks, we detected the smell of something dead and looked about for where the carrion might lie. But would you believe that the stench was released by the almost invisible blooms of this Carrion Flower? Only a few of the buds were in bloom, but that was enough to have us move on away from where they grew.

We had to move on anyway, since the day grew late. It sure was easy to lose ourselves for hours in this marvelous place, with so many rare and beautiful plants, many of which neither Sue nor I had ever seen. But as fascinating as these rare plants are, we still were struck dumb with delight when we came upon this patch of wonderful weeds by the railroad track near where we had parked the car.

Not a native among them, these Oxeye Daisies and Maiden Pinks and Birdsfoot Trefoil, but oh what a riot of beautiful shapes and colors!


Ellen Rathbone said...

I need to make some time to visit again. With possible gov't closure looming next week, I may make it sooner than expected!

swamp4me said...

I enjoyed the Ice Meadows...your caterpillar looks like it may be one of the fritillaries. I am not familiar with which species are in your area.

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Ellen, I thought your job was to last until January. How awful to just be thrown out of work. The one bright side is more time to explore our amazing habitats. Just give me a call.

Thanks, swamp4me, for the fritillary suggestion. Looking over the possibilities, I think we might have a Variegated Fritillary.

Virginia said...

I can't believe how many flowers you are seeing! That first photo looks so quiet and serene--lovely.

Thanks for becoming a "follower" on my blog. Fun for me to hear, too, about your childhood strawberry shortcake tradition! Hope you had a good trip to the city.

chinnb said...

Your blog is FINALLY allowing me to post a comment! I don't know how it happened, but I am delighted. All of the photos are ravishing (as usual) but I especially like the iris. Great job!

Jane B said...

Love the baby grasshopper on the iris photo, mom!
Wanted to comment on Mt Kisco posts but no option to do so on those... maybe it expires after a few days? anyway, i love reading your words and seeing your wonderful photos. And i loved seeing YOU this past weekend.

Jules said...


You certainly are posting some beautiful pictures of outings

I think the skipper on the strawberry plant is a Hobomok (male)Poanes hobomok


Carolina Butterfly Society

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Hi Virginia, I'm very happy to follow your lovely blog. In some ways, too, it's a way to indirectly keep in touch with your dear mom. Say hi to her for me.

Hello, chinb! Thanks for keeping trying. I don't know why the "Comments" gizmo acts up. I've heard from others that they can't leave comments, in fact, can't even find the comments word. But others can. Go figure. Thanks for stopping by.

Always great to hear from you, dear daughter Jane. See my note above about the comments problem. Hugs and kisses to you and all your dear ones.

Jules, you will note that I have added your information under the skipper photo. I feel so very grateful to you for adding your expertise to my blog. There's so much to learn about nature, and I love expanding my knowledge. With a little help from friends.