Sunday, July 11, 2010

Sunday Afternoon on the River

Since church takes up most of the morning on Sundays, I rarely plan any ambitious adventures for Sunday afternoons. And today was perfect for a lazy paddle around the rocky islands and quiet coves of the Hudson River at Moreau. How lovely and shimmery the river appeared as I slipped my canoe into its cool and welcoming waters.

I did have a quest that took me on foot through some difficult terrain, but I tolerated the sweaty effort because I knew I could jump in the river to wash off the mud and sweat. My flower journal told me it was time to go looking for Green Wood Orchids where I've found them for several years' running. Unfortunately, they like to grow in mucky ground where fallen trees create a shin-scratching obstacle course for a bare-legged hiker. But sure enough, I had my reward: at least six specimens of this small, kind of unpreposessing plant. There may have been more, but their almost translucent green color makes them hard to see in the surrounding vegetation. A beam of sun poked in through the canopy to reveal this one to me.

My camera kept refusing to focus its macro lens on the individual flowers unless I blocked the background with my fingers. But that's okay, because the fingers provide some scale to reveal how small these flowers are. This photo also reveals the long, curved spur that is one of this orchid's distinguishing features.

I should have stuck my fingers in this photo, too, to show how extremely small these Water Pennywort flowers are. Maybe an eighth of an inch. They like the same kind of mucky ground that the orchids do, and they're even harder to find than those orchids because they hide beneath their leaves.

Here's what the leaves look like, rather pretty in their own right, with those delicate scalloped green discs.

Well, there's no problem at all spotting the Cardinal Flower, since it's easily the flashiest flower that grows. This stretch of the river just teems with them, and the show has just begun.

Smaller and somewhat more subdued in color, Marsh St. Johnswort flowers are just as pretty, but they open for only a short span of time each day, so it's easy to miss them. It was my lucky day to find them fully in bloom.

This Swamp Milkweed is long past its flowering time, but its graceful, slender pods are still a delight to see.

Did you notice the bonus critter in the photo above? This yellow and black striped Monarch caterpillar eats only milkweed before it metamorphoses into the beautiful orange and black butterfly. I'll have to check back later to see if I can find the pale jade-green chrysalis, touched with dots of bright gold.

This Tiger Swallowtail butterfly was enjoying its lunch, sipping the nectar from each tiny floret of Buttonbush balls.

Another bug was feasting on Buttonbush, but it scurried away when I poked my camera at it, so all I captured was its little red and black spotted butt.

Tying my boat back onto my car, I noticed these charming little Mint Family weeds edging the roadside where I had parked.

This is Hemp Nettle, and I realize that they're just a common alien plant and not very showy, at that. But just take a closer look at those tiny blooms, with their fuzzy pates and purple-striped lower lips. I think they're as pretty as any orchid. Certainly prettier than that pale green one I encountered today. And a heck of a lot easier to find.


Wayne said...

Nice to see the familiar view of that pretty bay on the river's edge. It keeps getting better in the Fall, too. Thanks for telling me the names of so many familiar plants that I never bothered looking up before. Was that a ladybird beetle looking for aphids on the buttonbush?

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Hi Wayne, good to hear from you. Yes, that part of the river is as pretty as any place I've ever paddled -- in every season. And exceedingly rich with varieties of flowers. That beetle was a longer oval shape than a ladybird, but colored much the same.