Friday, February 4, 2011

Trails Around Town

Another cold morning, but bright sun poured in my kitchen window. The pot of daffodils on the sill glowed with the promise of spring.

Outdoors, though, the thermometer read about 10 above zero. On my neighbor's house, even the icicles had icicles. Maybe I'll just stay inside today.

Good idea, my big tom Finn seemed to say. Finn's strategy for making it through the winter is to find as much warmth as he can and hunker down. He prefers a steaming radiator, but this basket of laundry, warm from the dryer, would also do.

I had to go out after all, since the body shop called to say I could pick up my car (I'd had a little fender-bender last week on an icy road). On the way home I stopped by a couple of wooded trails in town. First was the Spring Run Trail, where a well-packed trail made for easy snowshoeing. I stood on a bridge there, enjoying the sound of this little singing brook. Too bad those Japanese Knotweeds are so invasive. Their ruddy twigs add a reddish wash of color to winter's drab landscape.

Next stop was Yaddo, a woodsy artists' retreat at the eastern edge of town. No packed trails here, but I waded through deep snow by a stream to take a photo of this pretty bridge.

With all the leaves of the underbrush gone, I could see through the woods, where I spied these Rosebay Rhododendrons still holding their leathery green leaves. I had never noticed them here before, for in summer they would be camouflaged by surrounding greenery.

I had stopped at Yaddo to see if I could find the American Bladdernut shrubs I had first discovered there last fall. Do they hold their papery seedpods all winter, I wondered. Sure enough, they do. I saw several bushes hung with the little Japanese-lantern-shaped "bladders," but their pedicels broke at a touch when I examined them. Here's one of the pods, lying where it fell on the snow.

Neither Rosebay Rhododendron (Rhododendron maximum) nor American Bladdernut (Staphylea trifolia) is a common shrub in Saratoga County woods. One large Rosebay grows at the Orra Phelps Nature Preserve, but I always assumed that Orra had planted it, as she did many other rare plants. I suppose it's possible somebody planted these Yaddo Rosebays as well, but they do seem to be well naturalized at this site. The bladdernut shrubs were growing along a stream, which is their expected habitat. I haven't found them anywhere else in the county but here at Yaddo, but that may be because I wasn't looking.

I went to the USDA plant profiles site to learn about the distribution of these native shrubs, and there I discovered that the USDA has no record of either shrub in Saratoga County. I next checked with the New York Flora Association's plant atlas for Saratoga County, and didn't find either one of them there either. I'll have to ask NYFA about including these plants in their atlas.


Louise said...

I've been to Yaddo, it's a beautiful place. Of course, when I was in Saratoga, I was more interested in the horses. It was many years ago and they still let people wander all over. I still remember standing by the saddling area and drooling over all of the beautiful horses I saw before me.

Enough of the horse crazies. I just want to say, also, that Finn is a magnificent beastie.

Anonymous said...

The pictures are pretty, gosh those daffodils lit up my morning! I laughed at Finn because my 2 pugs used to do the same thing, got hair all over the!

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Louise, I remember when you could walk right up to the thoroughbreds in the saddling area. Such beautiful animals! Now they fence them off well away from the crowds. And of course I agree that Finn is magnificent. He was a shelter stray, but sure looks and acts like a purebred Maine Coon.

Thanks, Rain. Yes, nothing says spring quite like sunlit daffodils. Finn, too, leaves hair all over the clothes, but we figure it just helps to keep us warm.

Dave Behm said...

American Bladdernut can be found at Vischer Ferry Nature & Historic Preserve along the trail to Clute's Dry Dock. (It is listed in my wildflower guide for this preserve.) I'd be happy to show it to you next year when it is in bloom!

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Hi David, so good to hear from you! By all means, let us get together to explore the V-F Preserve this spring. And I know that the NY Flora Association will be glad to learn that bladdernut is growing prolifically in this part of Saratoga County.