Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Lilies Along the Line

Remember all those Wood Lilies we found a couple of days ago? Well, then, you can imagine my surprise when my friend Sue learned that there was no official record of Wood Lilies (Lilium philadelphicum) growing in Saratoga County. Knowing that the state botanists can't document this lily's presence in the county without having a vouchered specimen, I set out to collect one today. Normally, I have a very strong inhibition about picking any wildflower, but at least I knew there were lilies to spare where we'd found them two days ago.

After safely pressing my lily specimen between two sheets of corrugated cardboard, I decided to explore other parts of the same power line under which we had found all those lilies. That line stretches for miles in the hills above the Hudson River, carrying power from the hydroelectric dam at Spier Falls. I drove to another access point and hadn't walked ten feet from my car when I began to see other lilies. That was also the case at the third site I explored. I wonder what there is about power lines that lilies like? They certainly seem to enjoy the company of Hay-scented Fern.

As for me, I enjoyed very much exploring the open rocky terrain under the lines, always curious to see what might be growing there. And because the maintenance crews keep the area clear of brush, the walking was really easy, despite the ups and downs.

Of course, lots of nice ripe blueberries added to the pleasure of my walk. There were also Red Raspberries.

There's always lots of clubmoss growing on these rocky, sandy spots. This Tree Clubmoss looked especially charming today, with its sprightly spore stalks just forming and surrounded by starry Haircap Moss.

This Bristly Sarsaparilla seemed to be already celebrating the Fourth, with flowerheads like exploding fireworks. Here's another flower that remains undocumented in the official flower atlas for the county. But I didn't collect it, since there were only two plants. What truly astounded me, though, was discovering no record either of the far more common Wild Sarsaparilla, ubiquitous in nearly every Saratoga County woods!

I was really pleased to find quite a large patch of Wood Betony, always recognizable by its crinkly leaves even long after its flowers have faded. I could still see the numerous flower stalks, now gone to seed. Come spring, I'll be curious to see if these flowers are yellow or red. The only other two patches I know of in the county bear yellow flowers.

I had many dragonfly companions along the power line. But only two sat still long enough for me to take their photos. They almost seemed negative images of each other. Anybody know their names?

A very helpful reader, Wayne Jones, has identified these dragonflies as both newly emerged, the top one a Widow Skimmer, the bottom one a Common Whitetail. Check the comments to see what he had to say about them.

On my way between power-line access sites, I stopped at the boat launch to stare in amazement at the Hudson below Spier Falls Dam. Somebody pulled the plug! I haven't seen the river this low in probably 15 years. You can see the normal water line above that nearest rock.

Here's the view looking upstream. Two weeks ago, this catchment between Spier Falls and the Sherman Island Dam was full, while the one above Spier Falls was very low. Now the upper catchment is full, while this one is lower than it's been in many, many years. Where's all the water from all the rain we've had lately? If the water level stays this low for some time, it will be fun to see what wildflowers quickly carpet the mud.

This shrubby wildflower was leaning out over the bank. It's called Meadowsweet. Pretty name for a pretty Rose-family flower.

This is Silky Dogwood, the last of our dogwoods to bloom, I believe. Red Osier is first, then Alternate-leaved and Round-leaved about the same time as Flowering, followed by Panicled Dogwood, and finally, this. Their four-petaled flowers all look pretty much alike, but their berries are different colors. Silky's are the most beautiful deep blue.

Silky Dogwood gets its name from the silky hairs that cover its flower stalks.

Here's a beautiful flower that I believe deserves a nicer-sounding name -- although maybe the name Viper's Bugloss suits its coarse and prickly stem, if not its radiant blue blooms with their startlingly hot-pink stamens. An introduced species that nicely decorates our "waste places," it's lovely to look at, but difficult to pick, because it's really prickly.

Here's a closer look at those very colorful blooms.

I pulled my car over as I approached Spier Falls Dam, eager to examine the spring-dampened boulders close to the road across from the dam. I'd been enchanted by the rock-garden beauty of mosses and spring flowers that adorned those boulders in May. What would I find in mid-summer? Unfortunately, masses of Oriental Bittersweet now curtained the boulders nearly completely, but here and there, this remarkably red moss could be seen, often in very intriguing mixed company. Do click on the photo, the better to see all the shapes and colors.

Have you ever seen a moss so richly red? I mean, other than red sphagnum? I was just delighted! And I'd be even more delighted if some of my moss-expert friends could tell me what its name is.


Andrew Lane Gibson said...

Great post! I absolutely love Wood Lilies and saw plenty of them up on the Bruce. I love the first picture with some Comptonia peregrina in the background. I just some some of that in NW Ohio yesterday. A very cool plant!

Anonymous said...

Lovely as always. How cool that you could 'prove' the existence of the wood lilies up your way!

Louise said...

I've never seen a wood lily. What a treat it must have been to see them. I'm glad you were able to get a specimen to prove their existence. And, the moss is beautiful. I've never seen any that deep red color.

Wayne said...

Congrats on updating the range of the wood lily. It's amazing how scant the range records are of many conspicuous flowers, but you are helping to correct that.

Your first DF, with the dark wing patches close to the body, is a Widow Skimmer. I don't know enough about them to tell the sex of this one. It looks like an immature (freshly emerged) male, even though it does not have the white wing patches typical of males. The second DF is also a bit different because it is freshly emerged, but it is unmistakable. It's a male Common Whitetail skimmer, but it doesn't have any white on its tail yet.

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Thanks, A.L. I'm glad to know you like Comptonia (Sweet Fern), too. I often pinch off a few leaves when I pass a patch, just to breathe in its delicious fragrance.

Thanks, hikeagiant. I like knowing my finds can add to the botanical record. I'm no botanist, but I am out there looking.

Hi Louise, yes, Wood Lilies are one of our most beautiful native wildflowers. Some day I hope to obtain some seeds to try them in my own garden.

You're right about those range records, Wayne. I've found about 7 or 8 flowers just this past year for which there is no record in Saratoga County. And only a couple were rare. Just hadn't been collected. Thanks for the dragonfly ID. I'm amazed that you can tell they are newly emerged.