Monday, May 23, 2011
Calcareous Talus? Where is it?
What's a calcareous talus slope? Well, it should be a steep slope where blocks of limestone or dolomite have broken off and tumbled down a mountainside. According to documents in the Moreau Lake State Park's Master Plan, there's a stretch of these rather rare kind of geological formations on the Warren County side of the Hudson downstream from Lake Luzerne, just before the river takes a sharp bend to the northeast to head toward Glens Falls. That's where Sue and Evelyn and I went today to explore the woodlands that grow on just this kind of substrate. But we aren't quite sure we found it.
To be sure, there were chunks of rock lying in heaps on a steep wooded slope, but the rocks looked like granite, not limestone, and most of them looked as if they had broken in place, like the ones in this photo, rather than having tumbled down a mountainside. Also, we found here some Pink Lady's Slippers, which prefer acidic soils, not limey ones. Maybe we were in the wrong place.
But never mind. It sure was a beautiful place, with ferns of many kinds proliferating under stands of White Pine.
We followed a trail that led into a woods that was almost completely Hemlocks. Here, Hemlock pollen had dusted the forest floor with a pale yellow cast, revealing the sheet webs of ground-dwelling spiders. They looked like a litter of doilies laid out in the woods.
I peered down into the hole of one, expecting to see its owner at home, and I wasn't disappointed. As soon as I touched the edge of the web, this little spider darted forth and took up its stance on the surface of its web. (You might have to click this photo to see it, since the spider, too, is dusted with yellow pollen and blends right in.)
A Hemlock woods can be dark and creepy, especially when you come face-to-face with monstrous burls like this one.
After a while, we moved from the dense dark Hemlocks into the greener, airier light of a mixed hardwood forest. We found stone walls where a road had long ago been cleared, and we also discovered sure evidence of once-upon-a-time human habitation. Near by this old foundation were the remains of what once was a well.
We found many fungi, including this grey-and-white stuff circling the base of a rotting stump. Of course, there is nothing that looks like this in any of my mushroom books.
I did find Brown Cup Fungus in my books, though. As well as along our trail today.
But here was THE FIND of the day: Showy Orchis. Such a lovely little plant. But hardly "showy." Evelyn recognized the leaves first, then searched until she spied a few in bloom. Well, here was some evidence of calcareous substrate at last, since Showy Orchis will only grow in a limey woods.
As we rounded the bend of the river and found a road that led us out of the woods and back toward our car, we came upon these giant anthills, crowned with Hay-scented Ferns.
On either side of the road, stretches of bedrock and heaps of boulders were covered with many different kinds of mosses, lichens, and liverworts. Lucky for Sue and me, we had an expert teacher in the person of Evelyn along.