Monday, May 9, 2011

A Fine Day, A Good Friend, and Lots of Flowers and Ferns

Just look at that sky! That beautiful light filtering through those translucent spring leaves! A perfect day for a walk in the Skidmore Woods with my friend Ed Miller, to check on what's blooming today. One of the first flowers we found was this whole row of Columbine, blazing away at the top of a mossy boulder.

We usually look down on Wild Sarsaparilla, ubiquitous bloomer of the forest floor, but today our path took us below a ridge and gave us a different perspective on this plant, now starting to bud.

I was happy to show Ed my secret stashes of Goldenseal, a plant that's nearly extirpated from Saratoga County. Ed knew another place where they grew, and let me in on his secret.

I'm always glad to have Ed help me ID ferns, although I didn't need any help to identify this Walking Fern, the fern that doesn't even look like one.

And it was easy to know this zig-zaggy juvenile frond was Polypody, since its evergreen adult fronds were lying right below it.

This juvenile fern, however, was not such a cinch to identify. Ed guessed it was Fragile Fern and I'll take his word for it. I was able to recognize the little Maidenhair Spleenworts growing out of the moss behind it.

I also knew that this was Rattlesnake Fern, although Ed would prefer that I call it by its scientific name, Botrychium, since too many plants have the word "rattlesnake" in their name. OK. Botrychium. Also called Grape Fern because of its round clustered spore cases, which somewhat resemble a bunch of grapes when they grow from the center frond later in the summer.

Could this be Broad Beech Fern? It has the right triangular shape, but as Ed remarked, juvenile ferns are notoriously hard to identify. Cute, though.

A couple of weeks ago, I posted an entry showing the dark purple flowers of a species of Blue Cohosh, Caulophyllum giganteum. Today we found some plants that had yellow, not purple, flowers, but otherwise the plants all looked exactly alike. Could this be the species C. thalictroides that Newcomb shows in his wildflower guide?

Here's another bloom to puzzle those of us who depend on flower color to help us identify a species. It's no doubt a Common Blue Violet that couldn't make up its mind whether to be white or purple and so chose both.

And speaking of violets, the Common Blues were carpeting the banks in Saratoga's Congress Park today, right next to masses of Cuckoo Flower blooming in the grass. I couldn't resist picking a small bouquet, they are so pretty together.


Anonymous said...

amazing - being able to tell one fern from another - the goldenseal is a pretty little flower! - while loving the idea of herbal healing, its sad that some folks who subscribe to the idea don't take more care in it's 'harvesting'.

as for the Wild Sarsaparilla - do the deer eat them - we found a small patch of tall stems with no leaves or flowers, but there were a few smaller 'pom-poms' below?

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Hi hikeagiant, it IS hard to tell some of the ferns apart. That's why it's great to have a friend who knows them. I have learned a few of the most distinctive ones. Do deer eat sarsaparilla? I don't know, but they sure eat just about everything else. But the pom-poms on a separate stalk should be diagnostic.