Saturday, June 12, 2010

Vineyard Wildflower Volunteers

The nature walk I was supposed to lead today got cancelled because of rain, and I can't say I'm all that sorry. I don't mind sloshing around in the mud, myself, but I expect the turnout would have been pretty small. Too bad, though, for the good folks at Sartoga P.L.A.N. (Preserving Land And Nature), who worked hard to organize this event, intended to showcase one of their conservation easement projects, the Kayaderosseras Vineyard in Greenfield and the surrounding M. W. Carver Nature Preserve. Under the terms of this easement, the 146-acre vineyard and surrounding woods and fields cannot be developed for anything other than a farm. No suburban sprawl and shopping malls will be allowed in this bucolic setting, a former sheep farm set among lush and lovely woods, along a very rural road sparsely settled with homes built nearly 200 years ago.

Luckily, I had a chance to enjoy the property, since I met with vineyard owner Mike Spiak yesterday to prepare for today's cancelled walk. The late afternoon sun shed a golden light across the grapevines and the meadows that were all abloom with the kind of wildflowers that just love agricultural land and its often-disturbed soil. None are natives, but many are lovely without making too much of a pest of themselves. Well, Wild Madder was being kind of pesty, Mike said, since this weak-stemmed and profusely blooming bedstraw likes to lean on upright growth like trellised grape vines.

Vivid colors make many introduced species of wildflowers a genuine pleasure to come upon. For example, what could be more brilliantly colorful than Maiden Pinks?

And what could match the intense color scheme of royal blue and hot pink that Viper's Bugloss presents us with?

Motherwort's pale-pink furry blooms are so small they are easily overlooked. But they certainly reward a closer view. But be careful! They're kind of prickly.

Here's a close-up of that furry flower. They make me think of pink bunny slippers.

Like Motherwort, Common Comfrey used to be cultivated in herb gardens for its medicinal properties. (I confess I don't know what they are.)

Birdsfoot Trefoil was introduced to North America as a fodder crop like Alfalfa, and it does contribute nitrogen to the soil, as other clovers do. And its cheerful and chubby bright yellow bloom is worth a close-up look.

The same could be said for Butter and Eggs, with its pretty bicolored blooms of butter yellow and egg-yolk orange.

A few native species still hold their own among the sea of introduced plants, and Common Elder is one of them. Their wide flat blossom clusters are delightfully fragrant, and their later crop of blue-black berries are favorites of the birds.

Coming back across the meadows after my tour of the fields and the woods, we marveled at the clouds of small orange butterflies that flew up at our every step. I have never seen so many butterflies of one kind in one place.

I did manage to take a photo of one, and searching the web, came across a photo that looks just like this. It appears to be a European Skipper (Thymelicus lineola), which, like its favorite flowers, the clovers, is an introduced species that just loves it here. And who could blame it? Lots of other Europeans did the same.

1 comment:

Ellen Rathbone said...

Comfrey is a great plant! You can make a terrific healing salve fromr the roots. Dig in the fall, chop into bits and stick 'em in a jar of olive or almond oil. Cover and set in a warm place to steep for a few weeks. Shake occasionally. Then strain out the roots and heat the oil slowly, melting in some beeswax. Pour into containers and let cool. This is wonderful for healing bruises and cuts. I've seen it work miracles on severe bruises.