Friday, September 3, 2010

A Hudson Morning, Woods Hollow Afternoon

What?! Another trip back to see that Grass of Parnassus? Well sure, when you find a floral treasure, you like to share it, and my friend Ed Miller told me he sure would like to see those flowers, so that's what we did this morning. We took Ed's canoe to the Hudson River at South Glens Falls and had a great time exploring the river banks just below the Feeder Dam. Here's Ed searching the shallow water for Quillwort, a plant he keeps hoping to show me if he ever finds it again. Not today.

Of course, we did find that Grass of Parnassus, since the cliffs along the river just teem with it. And among all those five-petaled flowers I found this unusual four-petaled one. I wonder if it will bring me good luck -- although I already feel pretty lucky, having such good friends as Ed to wander the woods and waterways with.

Here was another unusual find: a yellow-berried Winterberry.

We saw a beaver swimming right toward us, and I got my camera all focussed to take its picture when WHAM! it slapped its tail on the water and dived. I did get a photo of the splash.

While paddling the river in the morning, Ed was telling me about the plants we might find in the sandy pine barrens he's taking me to next week. I wondered if I might find some of the same at Woods Hollow Nature Preserve in Ballston Spa, which offers a similar habitat. So after Ed dropped me off at home, I got in my car and headed over to Woods Hollow to check it out. Here's a meadow in glorious late-summer array that leads right off the parking lot.

That curving red path in the photo above was colored by thousands of Slender Gerardia growing there. I had never seen this plant with such red leaves. I've certainly never seen this much Slender Gerardia growing in one place, either.

The trail soon led to an open sandy area that, from a distance, seemed hardly to support much plant life at all.

But soon I discovered all kinds of plants that just thrive in such sandy poor soil. Among the showiest I came upon was this Horse Mint, whose red-speckled yellow flowers are almost hidden by the large pinkish bracts that surround them.

Much harder to see but equally at home in the sand, the Sand Jointweed was abundant in this habitat. I had to really peer close to see those tiny pinkish blooms growing on wiry, scaly stems.

Blue Curls love this hot dry sand, but they drop their flowers each day by early afternoon. You can see the blue curly flowers lying on the sand around this plant. If you click on this photo, you might also see the cute little seed heads, with four tiny balls tucked into small green cups.

I didn't have to look to find Sand Bur, because I first felt it stabbing my ankles with its prickles. Ouch! The worst thing is, the sharp-spined burs get caught in your shoelaces and pierce your fingertips when you try to get them out.

There was so much beauty all around me, I quickly forgot that little run-in with the Sand Burs and just marveled at such sights as this Canada Goldenrod, set off so prettily by the surrounding Boneset.

Pokeberry, too, was a sight for sore eyes, with its glossy blue-black berries hung on hot-pink stalks and pedicels.

But the crowning beauty today was New England Aster. There's never a doubt about which aster this is, since no other aster around these parts has flowers this deeply and vividly purple.

Among the least beautiful plants at Woods Hollow today were the Sow Thistles, a Dandelion-like plant now gone to seed. I was walking over to a patch to admire the silky seed tufts when I almost ran into a spider web that had caught some Sow Thistle seeds in its sticky strands.

And then I saw the maker of that web. Wow! What a gorgeous Argiope! Just hanging there in the midst of her zigzag signature. And she was BIG!

It must take a lot of prey to feed a spider that size, and her web held many remains. In fact, it looks like I caught her right in the midst of her meal.


threecollie said...

It is such a delight to visit you...every single post...and to learn something new and fascinating every single time. Thanks! You have me looking more closely at the plants around me whenever I go out.

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

threecollie, your VERY kind comment had me beaming from ear to ear. I can't tell you how happy it makes me to learn that my delight in nature pleases other folks as well. And here's back at you: I love how your own blog lets me in on the daily delights and dramas of running a dairy farm. I grew up in Michigan farm country, my grandparents had an apple orchard, and many of my childhood friends belonged to 4-H. I spent many hours among farm animals with them. Your blog sure triggers lots of memories for me!

Ellen Rathbone said...

Mmmm - another wonderful post. And another place to visit! Horse mint is one of my favorite flowers.