Monday, May 16, 2011

Rain, Rain, Won't Keep Me Away

Thank God for Goretex! Otherwise, I'd be spending this whole rainy week indoors, which would just drive me nuts. I did stay in yesterday, but by today I felt like I had to get out, even though it was really pouring. I could see a little lightening-up to the southwest, however, so I donned my raincoat and wellies and headed in that direction to Woods Hollow Nature Preserve in Ballston Spa. Where it was still pouring hard. (Click on photo above.)

Under the pine trees it didn't seem quite so wet, although it sure was dark -- too dark to take photos of the Canada Mayflower and Lowbush Blueberries blooming along the trail. But see how the little Black Birches seem to add light to the otherwise dismal woods with their bright-green young foliage. (I confirmed my suspicion that they were birches by scraping a twig to smell the tell-tale scent of wintergreen.)

I was mystified by what looked like little patches of snow at the base of many pines in the woods. Hey, it was a little chilly today, but our snow is finally all gone. Was it some kind of fungus?

A closer inspection revealed that the patches were foam. A whole bunch of bubbles. I could see some bubbles on the bark higher up, as well. But the foam collected in just one spot, not all around the base of the trunk. I wonder what could cause this phenomenon. Anyone know?

Update:  Thanks to an interested reader, who left an explanatory link in the comments, we now know the cause of this harmless foam: 
"This foam is caused by the formation of a crude soap on the bark from fatty acids in pine sap/resin. Over a drought a mix of sap salts and acids accumulates and coats the bark surface to form the basics of a rough detergent. When it rains, these ingredients mix with the water and start sudsing up. The froth (foam) is from the agitation of the mixture as it runs down the rough bark during its flow toward the ground.

So it’s perfectly normal when your pine suds up in the rain (although if it does so excessively, it may indicate that there is some insect or other damage that is causing it to “bleed” more sap)."

It's a good thing I wore my rubber boots, because there were places the trail was very wet. The Sweet White Violets and Sensitive Fern didn't mind.

I came to Woods Hollow specifically to check on the progress of Pink Lady's Slippers, which thrive by the hundreds there under the pines. Today, I found many dozens budding, but only one clump where the buds had any pink tinges.

Driving home along Geyser Road, I annoyed a tailgating driver behind me by suddenly braking and whipping my car to the side of the road, where a sandy bank was just covered with this spectacular Blue Lupine. If anything, this dark rain-soaked day just intensified their color. (I bet that jerk who gave me the finger never even saw them. Hah!)

I would have stayed out longer, but my camera case was getting soaked, although I managed to stay warm and dry beneath my raincoat. Wish I could give a little raincoat to this soggy mama squirrel, pleading at my back door for a few more seeds. Well, how could I resist? You can see from her polka-dot tummy that she has many tiny mouths to feed back home in the nest.


Andrew Lane Gibson said...

Wild Lupine! Another lifer for me I've yet to see. Another excellent post. I love seeing the wonderful flora of another state vicariously through your camera and blog!

Emily said...

I also saw these bubbles today at the base of a maple, and am very curious about their nature!

Anonymous said...

Possibly the tiny critter referenced here -

as for that driver - imagine how bleak his/her life must be - no time to stop and admire the lupines

Wonderful photos - good for you

catharus said...

Yeh, I have to say the same thing as A.L. Gipson: Wild Lupine!!??
I sure didn't think they were native to your area. Can you enlighten me on this? I've only seen them wild further northeast in New Hampshire & Maine (granted, you're not far from there).

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

To A.L. and catharus, regarding Wild Lupine: Believe me, it grows wild around here, loves dry sandy areas, even those right along the highways. In geologic times, a vast inland sea called Lake Albany extended up into Saratoga County, accounting for many areas of upland sand plains and pine barrens, Wild Lupine's natural habitat. One local preserve in Wilton plants it to attract the endangered Karner Blue Butterfly, whose larvae eat only lupine.

Hi Emily and Hikeagiant, thanks for stopping by to leave your comments. I couldn't access that exact site on garden web, but I doubt this foam is caused by a critter like spittlebugs. The mounds were just too big.

Ellen Rathbone said...

HM...that foam is a mystery. Keep us posted! I'll check with my sources, too.

Backyard Urban Gardens said...

I'm a little late to the party, but here is a good explanation of what the foam is. It's normal and harmless: