Thursday, August 26, 2010
Signs of the Season's Close
The crisp, cool, cricket-chorus nights. The sun setting soon after supper. That sighing sound in the trees that means the leaves are completing their cycle. So many signs now are telling us that summer's about to end. The goldenrods are going strong, and the asters have made a good start. Witch Hazel may yet hold off for a while, but I'll bet the gentians and gerardias are already starting to bloom. Maybe I'll even find some Spiranthes, I told myself as I headed up to Moreau Lake State Park for a walk along the shore. The beach that edges the lake's back bay is truly a garden for most of the flowers that fill the last page of my annual wildflower journal.
First, though, I had to make a stop at the Orra Phelps Nature Preserve, the only place I know of in Saratoga County where Fringed Gentians grow. A year ago, I had feared that this population was starting to diminish, as pines and poplars began to encroach on the sunny sandy site where these radiant blue flowers had flourished in the past. The folks at Saratoga PLAN organized a work day to remove those trees, and I'm happy to report that the gentians are once again burgeoning. I counted only six plants last year, and today I found nearly two dozen. Most are still in tight bud, but a few are starting to unfurl the petals that give this gentian its name.
Another gentian that's blooming now is Closed (or Bottle) Gentian, whose never-opening flowers yield their nectar to only the strongest of bees. Today, I found a patch of them growing along the shore of Moreau Lake.
Small-flowered Gerardia also seems to love the shore of that lake. This dainty magenta flower thrives in the sandy area just above the waterline, but only along the back bay of the lake. As soon as I leave the swimming area and cross over the path that leads to the bridge, I begin to find this gerardia just everywhere.
Here's a closer look at its pretty blooms.
I wasn't really expecting to find these Nodding Ladies' Tresses (Spiranthes cernua) along the shore, but there they were! These little orchids love damp sandy spots in the sun, so the beach provides them a perfect habitat. But this is the first year I've found them in this place. A nice surprise.
I always expect to see asters here. And I'm never disappointed. I am disappointed in myself, though, since I can't figure out just exactly which species these are. They don't quite fit the description of Calico Aster or Small White Aster or Heath Aster, but share some characteristics of each. Maybe they are a hybrid. For sure, they're very pretty.
Here's one more piece of evidence that autumn is closing in.