Saturday, July 24, 2010

Steamy Day, a Few Rewards

Usually, a day-long rain like the one we had yesterday signals a change in the weather. But not this time -- unless what is meant by "change" is even muggier than ever before. Ugh! A truly horrible day it was to trudge through the woods, the very earth seeming to belch up heaves of sweltering heat with every step, clouds of biting insects circling my head, sticking to my sweaty face and gagging me as I snorted them in with each breath. As I said: ugh! So I guess I have truly descended into the very depths of nature nuttitude, since I just HAD to go to Bog Meadow today to check on those Downy Rattlesnake Plantains.

Longtime readers of this blog will remember my outrage at finding these orchids mowed down last year, just as a single stalk was about to bloom. Well, I'm happy to report that this particular patch of plants has rebounded with stunning vigor. I counted ten blooming stalks today where a year ago there was only one. Orchids are like that. Sometimes they seem to thrive on a bit of crisis.

Anyway, I was very, very happy to see them. Just look at this cute little blossom.

I know, I know, they're pretty small and not at all showy, so some folks might wonder what all my fuss was about. Sometimes I wonder, too. Especially as I sit here tonight scratching all my bug bites.

There were a few other rewards along the trail, such as this bright pink Swamp Milkweed bloom. My eyes were drawn to its beautiful color, and it looks like a bunch of flies were drawn to it, too. They'd better be careful, because sometimes flies get their legs trapped in milkweed flowers and they can't get free. (You can see a photo of just such a trapped fly if you check out my post for June 26, 2009.)

Those flies had better look out for the dragonflies, too, who love to eat other insects and who were darting all over the open water along the trail. A couple of them perched long enough for me to take their photos. I don't know their names, but maybe some of my readers do and will tell us. One was a rich velvety brown with yellow specks behind its violet eyes.

The other was a rich velvety red, with lacy black wings and coffee-colored eyes.

I was kind of surprised to see Flat Top Aster already in bloom. Hey, it's only July! There's a whole week left before August. But everything's blooming early this year.

The Virgin's Bower was also in bloom, but it seems to be right on schedule, according to my flower journals from previous years.

I had hoped that yesterday's rain would have brought us lots of mushrooms today, but this yellow jelly fungus was all I could find. I confess I didn't look very hard, since the heat and bugs were chasing me back to my air-conditioned car.

Once I got in my car and cooled off a bit, I worked up the stamina to go in search of another treasure, a big patch of Great Lobelia that for several years I'd found growing in a wet ditch along a nearby road. But when I arrived at where I remembered them growing, this is the sight that met my eyes: muddy ruts and heaps of dead grass instead of masses of radiant blue.

Dismayed, but not that surprised (there seems to be some horrid compulsion toward tidiness among most folks), I pulled over anyway. Maybe some plants had escaped the mower's blade and were hiding further back in the woods. And so they were! Oh joy!

Here's a closer look at one of those lovely blue flowers. See how the stamen arcs up through a slit in the upper petal and positions itself in readiness to plunge down on the back of the pollinator that lands on the lip below?

Such cleverness! Such beauty! How on earth could that mower bring himself to cut it down? I'll bet he never even saw it. Or thought it was just some common weed that might creep into his monoculture of a lawn. How I wish it would creep into mine! I actually planted some I obtained from a wildflower nursery, but my ground is too dry to suit the needs of this plant. I had always hoped to be able to find it safe along this roadside. Guess I'd better find the person who mows this spot and put in a plea for Great Lobelia's life.


Louise said...

You're a braver woman than I am, for sure. I have been cowering inside for the past couple of weeks, my only walks in meadows where the sun at least keeps many of the miserable bugs away. I even neglected those, when the humidity hit the roof last week.

I found your blog through Adirondack Naturalist, and I think I'm going to enjoy it very much. Saratoga has always meant Thoroughbreds and the Arts to me, so it will be very interesting to see what new things the area has for me to learn.

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Hello, Louise, I am so glad to meet you. Thanks for stopping by and giving us a chance to visit your fascinating blog. Yes, indeed, horses play a big part in all things Saratoga -- especially this time of year. As for my bravery in facing the bugs and heat: I think some might call it crazy, rather than brave.

Steve Young said...

I saw Goodyera pubescens in bloom on Schunnemunk Mountain on Tuesday for the first time. I always see the leaves and was surprised by how big the stalk is compared to the leaves.