Thursday, May 26, 2011

Hiking to Wildflower Heaven

For wildflower lovers, there are certain places on this planet that deserve a big star on the map. It was one of those very special places that Ed and Nan took the Thursday Naturalists to visit today: an old marble quarry high on a mountainside near Dorset, Vermont. Ed and Nan have been hiking this mountain for ten years or more, and so they knew what was in store for the rest of us on this splendid spring day. Aside from the spectacular view.

Lucky for those of us getting on in years, we were able to drive most of the way up the mountain, so our hike was probably less than a mile to reach the abandoned quarry. Our trail passed through a beautiful sunlit woods . . .

. . . and around some impressive cliffs.

The woods and cliffs were adorned with many species of lime-loving ferns, including this pretty clump of Slender Cliff Brake that had found a home in a seam of the rock. The short chubby fronds are sterile, and the long slender ones are the fertile fronds.

Canada Violets are a sure sign of a woods rich with lime, and the plants here had grown to a very healthy size.

Miterwort joined with those violets to grace the rocks with their beauty.

Showy Orchis was very happy here, too. These plants were growing high on a bank, so that we could see right into their beautiful throats.

Nan found this healthy clump of Yellow Lady's Slippers, the first of many we would see in the woods today.

The most abundant lady's slippers we found were these Smaller Yellow Lady's Slippers, which carpeted an area of the woods with their dainty blooms capped with dark purple petals. In one place, they were so thick on the ground, we had to walk very carefully to avoid trampling them.

Well, those lady's slippers were kind of small, but they sure were large in comparison with this really minute little orchid, Early Coral Root. I do not know how Nan ever managed to see it, especially since its green flowers blend in with the rest of the greenery.

We have almost reached our destination now, as we make our way around the walls of the long-abandoned quarry, being careful where we put our feet among the jumble of fallen rocks.

Just breathtaking! The quarry walls were corrugated by the drills used to break up the marble, and the tiers and striations are occupied now by a rich array of mosses and ferns. We felt like we were sitting in some ancient temple, with the flutes and trills of a Winter Wren echoing off the stone walls.

Click on this photo to see the bright red accents of Columbine growing out of the rock.

Near the edge of the quarry we found the dainty pink flowers of Rosybells (also called Rose Twisted Stalk or Rose Mandarin).

Here's more of that Columbine, glowing like little Japanese lanterns against the rich green moss.

We met some other botanists on the trail, who were very excited to have found these baby Moonworts of a very rare species, growing in an open area near the top of the mountain. They had marked the location with little flags, so we were able to find them when we arrived at the spot -- and avoid trampling them unknowing. This was one of the larger ones; some were barely in inch above the ground. How on earth did they find them? That's plant people for you: passionately single-sighted in pursuit of the rare. And these Moonworts are really rare: the botanists told us that is the only known site for them in the eastern United States.

A wonderful day to a wonderful place with wonderful folks, including Ruth Schottman, seen standing here looking over the landscape below.

Thanks, Nan and Ed, for sharing this remarkable place with us.


Andrew Lane Gibson said...

Yet another homerun of a post! Love the Early Coral-root, yet to get the chance to make that one off the life list. Also love the picture with all the Small Yellow Ladies! You have more in that one picture than may still exist in the entirety of Ohio (there was only 6 in bloom this year). I got to see them in their last consistent spot a couple weeks ago, they have such a lovely fragrance!

June said...

Mayan temple!

Carolyn H said...

Oh my gosh, I am completely and irrevocaly jealous of this trip. What a wonder array of plants and flowers and ferns and other great stuff you found. Well, at least I got to read about it and see your photos. Lucky you!!

Anonymous said...

What a marvelous excursion! What to comment on first - the ferns growing from the ridges, amazing. So many beautiful flowers: the Rosy Bells, the Orchis, the Yellow Lady Slippers! Great shot of the columbine brightening the shadowed trail!!! Such a pleasure to read your blog. And BTW thanks for all the help identifying 'finds' on my Thursday post!

threecollie said...

Wow, fantastic! Thank you for the trip.

Ellen Rathbone said...

Had I only known! This isn't too far from where I used to work there in VT (Merck Forest, over the hill in Rupert). What a delicious find, that moonwort!!! And the showy orchis - wasn't that the one Evelyn pointed out to us (past bloom) last year over in the back woods of Minerva?

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Dear friends, Sounds like you all are as much in awe of this site as I was. I can hardly believe my good fortune, to have friends who freely share such treasures with me. What a joy it is to share them with all of you. Thanks for letting me know how much you enjoyed the trip.

anon said...

Wow, beautiful showcase of nature!

Daniel Wall said...

Wow! I dont know if you know lynn benevento, she's an adirondack explorer that used to know evelyn that I hike with, looks like it would be fun to hike with you, those lady slippers are so impressive- never seen them in clumps!

Katrine said...

Hi Ellen! Nice to see your name after all these years. I worked with you at MFFC back in 2000. I just lead a bunch of kindergarten kids through the woods for a discover spring field trip in Hollis NH. We found lots of good wildflowers, but nothing like this report. Maybe someday I'll find some of these! Hope you're well!