Monday, April 25, 2011

The Woods Are Warming

Little by little, the woods are warming, and every day a few more flowers dare to poke their heads above ground and show their faces. Even though it was cloudy and a bit drizzly today, Bloodroot was open wide all over the Skidmore Woods. No matter how many I see, I have to stop and gaze at each cluster of blooms, they are so breathtakingly beautiful.

The Trout Lilies were not so brave, although I caught them lifting the curtain of their sepals, as if they were trying to judge if it was safe for their petals to come out. Tomorrow should be the day, dear lilies, with temperatures predicted in the upper 70s.

Leatherwood's been taking the air for at least a week now, so the shrubs are about as showy as they will ever be.

Spicebush, though, is just waking up, with only a few open blossoms studding the twigs of this low-growing shrub that likes to have wet feet.

I almost overlooked Blue Cohosh today, its folded-up leaves and stems so dark they could be mistaken for winter-weary twigs. But there's no mistaking that deep purple color, once your eye happens to light on it.

And as soon as you can see stalks, start looking for the flowers. The species of Blue Cohosh that blooms in the Skidmore Woods is Caulophyllum giganteum, which opens its blossoms even before its leaves -- unlike the species C. thalictroides (the one listed in Newcomb's), which blooms at the same time or after the leaves are open, and it also has yellow flowers.

As we can plainly see, this species has brownish-purple flowers, or to be more accurate, it has brownish-purple sepals. The actual petals are those browner worm-like things immediately beneath the bright yellow stamens. The little purple turnip right in the center is the pistil.

Here's another brownish-purple flower, Wild Ginger, and one that's also easy to miss, because it clings to the ground, hiding under the leaves. It's rare to come across one as exposed as this one.

These little wild-haired puffs are the flowers of some kind of sedge I don't know the name of. Its leaves are as narrow as grass, but I do believe it is a sedge, since its leaves have a triangular cross-section. Perhaps a reader can supply us with a name.

Hepaticas were in their glory today, and nowhere more so than along this ridge, where masses of them rose above moss-covered boulders. I've noticed this year that almost all of the Hepaticas I've found have been very pale or white, and nowhere have I found any of the bright purple or deep rose colors that Hepaticas can come in. All those that were growing along this ridge were very pale.

Closer inspection, however, did reveal some blushes of color, although not particularly vivid. Some were slightly rosy.

This lavender was about as pale as lavender can be.

This white was so translucent, the green of the bracts showed through.

The sepals of a vividly colored Hepatica are often outlined in a paler color, which gives the flower a luminous quality, as if the blossoms were haloed. This cluster of pale purple Hepaticas shows just the opposite coloration, with the paler sepals outlined in a deeper shade.

The color of these baby Wood Betony leaves will change from purple to green as the plant matures. My friend Sue told me that new leaves often contain a red pigment that serves as a sun-block, protecting the tender young leaves from damage. I must say, though, that these crinkly little leaves look pretty sturdy, tiny though they may be. The entire cluster was less than two inches across.

I just love this moss. It looks like little flowers -- dahlias, maybe -- and it keeps this spring-green color all year round. It's called Rhodobryum roseum, and it seems to love the limestone boulders that underlie much of the Skidmore Woods.

It's this limey substrate that supports the growth of many remarkable plants, some of which can be found nowhere else in Saratoga County. The season for their blooming has just begun, so keep watching for what will come next.


Andrew Lane Gibson said...

Great post! Loved being able to go back in time a few weeks and reminisce about what I just enjoyed. I love the Leatherwood shot, one of my favorite woody plants :)

Anonymous said...

Your posts always give me something new to search for ... a true delight!

swamp4me said...

I really enjoyed my virtual walk with you. Your spring flowers are beautiful. Our woods are starting to look and feel like summer here.

suep said...

oh I you don't mind going to Skidmore twice in one week, I would love to go -- several of these plants are new to me --
I saw lots of that narrow-leaved sedge in Moreau - and was going to ask YOU what it was !

Adirondackcountrygal said...

Beautiful, I will have to take a walk in there. I have a plant growing in my backyard which I believe to be a wildflower. Can you go to my page and tell me what it is if you can?

Adirondackcountrygal said...

I think it is a Siberian squill

Wayne said...

What a glorious day you had! And I used the sunshine for yard work. But after seeing alll you found in one day, I'll be sure to get back to Skidmore woods soon -- probably on a nice wet day. That's OK with me, "bad" weather makes good pictures. As always, thanks for the botany lessons!

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Dear blog friends, I thank you kindly for all your comments. It pleases me much to know you are coming along with me on my spring discoveries, just as I enjoy following your adventures on your own blogs.

Yes, ADKcountrygal, those are indeed Siberia Squill. I hope their pretty blooms help to cheer you as you recover from your surgery.