Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Pyramid Lake and Oliver Pond

Well, it wasn't the best day for a paddle: cool and cloudy and then a misty rain. But I sure had the best of companions. And some wonderful places to paddle. Plus, I saw a new flower to add to my life list. My friend Ed and his fellow botany-enthusiast friend Nan met me today at Pyramid Lake, a wilderness lake in Essex County that Ed last laid eyes on 50 years ago. Back than, he'd had to hike in from some distance, but today we could drive right up and put our canoes in the water, since I am a volunteer at the retreat center that occupies the northern shore of the lake.

Although we eventually paddled completely around the lake, we spent most of our time moseying along in the marshy eastern end. Here, long-ago-fallen logs serve as nursery beds for a fascinating variety of flowers, and the warm shallow water provides a home for numerous emergent plants, including a rare bur-reed (Sparganium natans) that's included on New York's list of endangered species. There actually wasn't much in bloom today, but the water was just teeming with masses of Nostoc balls, little jelly-like balls that enclose whole colonies of cyanobacteria.

I first learned about these Nostoc balls last year, when my friend Ellen noticed them while we were paddling this same marsh at Pyramid Lake. I eventually took samples to a biology professor at Skidmore College, who let me examine them under a microscope. To see what I saw and learn what the professor told me, go to my blog post for September 23, 2009 by clicking here.

The rain held off while we circled the lake, paddling close under massive cliffs where heaps of boulders have tumbled down to the shore.

We were treated to the sight of a Bald Eagle soaring just over our heads and landing in a tall pine tree. (It was hard to capture much more than a silhouette of the eagle against the sky.)

After a picnic lunch we headed next to Oliver Pond, which lies up in the mountains a dozen or so miles east of Schroon Lake. Ed and Nan knew of an unusual bladderwort that grows there, and I had begged them to show it to me. Here, Ed and Nan head out across the pond while I figure out how to climb into my canoe from a very mucky shore.

As soon as we started across the pond, a pair of loons started sounding their loud yodeling calls. Although I didn't see any young loons, they may have been trying to warn us away from their offspring. (If you click on this photo, you can see a fine rain has started filling the air.)

It didn't take us long to find that bladderwort, snowy white with a yellow throat.

What's really interesting about this plant is that it is actually a Purple Bladderwort. A white Purple Bladderwort. Utricularia purpurea var. alba. I'm just guessing that that's what its Latin name is, because when I type it into my Google search bar, nothing of that name comes up. But that's what Ed was calling it. And Ed would know.

That bladderwort may be unusual, but I can't believe it is rare, since the entire pond was circled with thick mats of its underwater structures. There was the Purple Bladderwort (White variety) and Fragrant Water Lily and another floating water plant I believe is Watershield. And just about nothing else. Those three plants completely dominated the water's edge, making it difficult to push through the growth and actually reach the shore. Here's a photo of that Watershield, with its ropy stems colored a vivid pink.

After circling the pond and heading back to the put-in spot, I was startled to see this solitary dot of bright yellow: a single stalk of Horned Bladderwort.

Then another dot of bright yellow close by: a single bloom of Humped Bladderwort, very tiny. I wondered how these two yellow species of bladderwort had managed to escape being shouldered aside by that dominant purpurea species.

Update: I got a note from Ed reminding me that these two yellow bladderworts are both rooted, rather than floating, species, and so would not compete with the Purple Bladderwort, a floating species, for the same habitat.

And right where I pulled my canoe from the water, this Water Smartweed seemed to be thriving, adding another welcome note of diversity to the flora of Oliver Pond.

Ed and Nan had to hurry directly home, but I, rather than catching the interstate south, chose a wandering route toward Saratoga along Troutbrook Road. I assume the beautiful stream pictured here must be Trout Brook. I pulled off the road and got out of the car just to stand and admire this view of mountains and water and spruces and shrubs and wildflowers. This landscape just epitomizes all that is lovely about the Adirondacks. Even when it rains.

Along the shore of Trout Brook, bright clumps of Orange Hawkweed were still in flower.

Now that's a bloom that will brighten the darkest day!


Bill said...

That's my dad who took you around Pyramid Lake.

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Bill, thanks for stopping by to leave a comment. Let me tell you, I'm mighty glad that I've come to know your dad, a partner in botanical passion and just plain fun to hike and paddle with. And learn from. That man knows so much!

Louise said...

I enjoy these canoe posts of yours so much, because I get to see things that I would never, otherwise, experience.

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

You're right, Louise, there sure are a lot of beautiful flowers and fascinating creatures that we would never see except while paddling the river. I'm glad you come along for the ride through my blog.

Virginia said...

Ooh, how lovely. I don't think many places are more beautiful that this on the day you were there with the mist, the plants, the bird life, and the water.