Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Home Turf Search for Spring

My hunger for signs of spring has sent me driving far afield this week, and, what with the price of gas, it was getting kind of expensive. So today I stuck close to home and stayed on foot, hoofing it up North Broadway to the Skidmore Woods and what I call The Violet Path. Here's where a very early white violet grows, one whose species had me mystified for years until just last year, when New York's Chief Botanist Steve Young put me in touch with the nation's foremost violet authority, who promptly identified it as Viola odorata alba, or White English Violet. I wrote a post about this violet exactly one year ago today (see it here), so I wanted to check its progress, even though I know that this cold snowy weather has put spring flowers on hold. As this photo shows, the woods is still mostly covered, but at least the side of the path where the violets grow is now open to the sun.

Oh brave little beauties! See, they are putting forth buds. Note, too, how the leaves and stems are all furry, which seems to be a common trait among early-blooming plants. Perhaps these warm woolies protect them from the cold. Maybe we'll even have blossoms by next week.

The Skidmore Woods provides a remarkable habitat for many rare species of flowers because of its limestone substrate. Evidence of this limestone is everywhere, including in this old stone wall that encircles one of the college's buildings.

Making a home for itself in that wall was this fuzzy orange stuff called Trentepohlia aurea, a green alga that is known to love limey rocks. I know it's odd that an orange organism would be called a green alga, but this alga contains a chemical that masks the green chlorophyll.

Walking home, I found a few more signs that spring is on the way. This patch of sidewalk was wet not with rain nor with melting snow, but rather with sap dripping from the maple branches above.

Yes, I know we've had robins all winter, flocks of them foraging in crabapple trees and berry thickets. But this one was running across the grass, cocking its head to spy for worms, and actually grabbing some. Definitely springtime behavior!

And then I found Snowdrops and Crocuses. Normally, I would consider them beneath my notice, since they are garden plants and not true wildflowers. But this year, I am really starving to see ANY flowers at all.

This, too, was a garden plant. I don't know the name of it (some kind of anemone?), but I do know I was pleased to see its sunny yellow bloom.

Update: One of the commenters to this post has correctly identified this flower as Eranthus hyemalis (Winter Aconite), a buttercup relative native to Europe that is one of the earliest flowers to bloom. It's also a very aggressive spreader and hard to control once it escapes from gardens.


Bill and dogs said...

This has indeed been a long, hard winter and it's great to see some flowers. I hiked in Grafton on Monday and it is still winter there with snow and ice covering everything. Thank you for providing some hope that spring really is coming.

catharus said...

I believe that yellow flower is an aconite (Eranthus hyemalis).
My freind, a professor emeritus of botany, just told me the other day, that they spread profusely and can be hard to get rid of

Louise said...

I'm with you on the hunger for Spring. I'm off today to the Whiting Road preserve, to see if I can see any signs of flowers.

It's strange, though, how Lake Ontario influences the weather just south of its shores. In the Summer and Fall, it's great because it makes it more temperate. Summers are cooler and Fall comes a little later.

But, in Winter, it dumps snow on us, and, now, in Spring, we're later than places just a few miles South of us because the wind blows over the water and picks up its chill. The violets in my South facing garden, for instance, haven't even started to leaf up yet.

Anonymous said...

FYI- Post Star

Two receive rabies treatment after fox bites in South Glens Falls

Two receive rabies treatment after fox bites in South Glens Falls

Posted: Wednesday, March 30, 2011 8:26 am |

SOUTH GLENS FALLS -- Two women are undergoing rabies treatments after they were bitten by a rabid fox last week while walking on the Harry Betar Bike Trail, police said.

One woman was bitten March 20, the other on March 21, South Glens Falls Police Chief Kevin Judd said. Both were bitten on a foot, Judd said.

The fox that was suspected of being to blame was located and shot and killed near the trail by police because it was still acting aggressive, the chief said.

It was tested for rabies, and found to be rabid, Judd said.

Judd said there has long been fox activity reported along the trail, but they generally avoid people.

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Hello Bill and catharus and Louise, so good to hear from you all. Thanks for your comments and information. Thanks, too, to Anon., for that story about the rabid fox. Since I walk that byway frequently, I'm sad to learn that rabies is infecting the wildlife there. We will have to be extra vigilant when we walk there.