Monday, June 27, 2011

Seeing the Sites of Saratoga County

I've been traveling pretty far afield this summer in my quest for wildflower sites. But my most recent traveling companions reminded me of a book that could keep me closer to home. I've owned this book, Natural Areas of Saratoga County, for years, but hadn't looked at it in some time. So today I dug it out of a drawer and reviewed the list of 56 possible locations, 21 of which I've visited already at least once. Time to expand my nearer horizons.

Written by Claire K. Schmitt and Judith S. Wolk and published by the Environmental Clearing House of Schenectady, the book contains clear directions to the sites, as well as descriptions of the terrain and special points of interest. One site that intrigued me especially was a Nature Conservancy preserve in Greenfield Center, just a few miles from Saratoga. Without the clear directions in the book, I never would have found the place, since the only indication of the preserve was this sign nailed to a tree quite far into the woods.

There are no marked trails in here, the book informed me, stating that I would have to "just plunge in." And so I did, trusting that the sound of traffic on Rt. 9N would keep me oriented.

"Plunge in" was right! With all the rain this year, most of the woods was really wet, and I couldn't always hop from hummock to hummock.

At one point I was trying to reach a more open swampy area, grabbing onto trees as I teetered along, until I realized I was grabbing Poison Sumac. Oops! I turned around and retreated back to the woods. I found a clear running stream where I washed off my hands as best I could. I think I'm not sensitive to the toxin, but you never know. And here at the stream I found a little reward, this beautiful Blue Flag, still in bloom.

Crossing that stream, I entered a truly charmed part of the forest, with many splendid Canada Lilies glowing like dangling lamps in the light of stray sunbeams.

Are these not one of our most spectacular native wildflowers?

I had hoped to maybe find orchids in here, but except for the lilies and some Tall Meadow Rue, most of the plants were solidly green: mosses and ferns galore. These Painted Boletes certainly stood out with their vivid red.

As did these ruby-hued Dewberry fruits.

My book told me of another interesting area I could visit on my way home from Greenfield, with just a little jog to the west. This site is called "Pipsissewa Woods," and let me assure you, the name is appropriate. At first, though, I thought the place didn't look too promising, being along the kind of power-line right-of-way we usually call a "waste place."

Then I saw this sign that informed me that this was a very special "waste place."

Once again, no trails, you just plunge into the piney woods wherever there's a break in the thick vegetation. And wherever there is the smallest clearing, this is what you will see: hundreds and hundreds of Pipsissewa plants, just coming into bloom, with many flowers still in bud.

Pipsissewa is a flower best appreciated by getting down to mouse height and looking up.

Then I saw this little spider looking back at me.

Wherever there's Pipsissewa, Shinleaf Pyrola is usually present, too. It didn't take very much looking to find it. Then I saw it everywhere.

I'd hoped to find One-sided Pyrola and Striped Wintergreen, too, and maybe some Checkered Rattlesnake Plantain, but I didn't. Then again, I left quite a large percentage of the woods unexplored, since the underbrush was thick with baby pines. And my still-wet shoes were beginning to chafe my feet. Heading out toward the open areas near the power lines, I found lots of Whorled Loosestrife in bloom.

Also, I found a nice patch of Running Clubmoss, with little tufts of white at the tip of each branch. Another common name for this clubmoss is Wolf's Claw, and yes, I can see a resemblance.

This is one of the very few clubmosses that still has its traditional Latin name, Lycopodium clavatum.

Now, here's a complete surprise. Some kind of gall was growing on this grapevine, producing these pale pink "berries." I've never seen anything like this on grapevines before. I thought it was very pretty.

Only 35 more natural areas to explore in Saratoga County (plus newer ones not included in my book). I think that should keep me busy. And closer to home.


Anonymous said...

LOVE your posts! You are such an inspiration. LOB

Wayne said...

Love that view of Pipsissewa!
What a wonderful book (and publisher). I just ordered a copy. Yet another great tip from you. THANKS

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Thanks, Linda. I do appreciate you adding your kind comment.

Wayne, I'm glad that book is still being published. I got mine years ago, so I'll bet there are even more places included by now. I hope I'll come across you out there some day.