Monday, July 11, 2011

Brief Bits of Botanizing

Whoo! Too hot and humid for any lengthy excursions today. I satisfied my botanical cravings by scooting about town in my air-conditioned car, making brief stops at two of my favorite local sites, the Skidmore Woods and Yaddo.

Surrounding the parking lot at Skidmore were magnificent stands of Queen Anne's Lace. This is a beautiful flower, yes (my daughter carried it in her wedding bouquet), but it's even more interesting as a murder scene, where predator insects lurk in wait for the myriad pollinators that inevitably stop by. Last year at about this time I caught these Jagged Ambush Bugs performing the dastardly deed on a hapless bee, and I was hoping I might find similar dramas in progress today.

My hopes were raised when I spied this little crab spider assuming attack position.

As soon as it sensed my presence, though, it turned around to confront me. We stared at each other for the longest time, while tiny black bees came and went unharmed. After a while, the sweat started floating my glasses off my nose and I felt I would faint from the heat. As I fled to the shade, I wondered how that little spider managed to keep from cooking out there in the sun.

In a cooler, damper spot near a pond, I found a beautiful green patch of American Water-pennywort. Peering under its flat scalloped leaves, I discovered the tiny flowers hiding out in the axils.

This was my best find today: a Chanterelle mushroom. And many more, too. Enough for a tasty supper dish.

Next stop was Yaddo, but not the fancy formal rose gardens this artists' retreat is famous for. I like to prowl the surrounding woods where gardeners never venture, for it's there I find this Narrow-leaved Mountain Mint with its pretty purple-polka-dot blooms.

American Bladdernut grows there, too, along a little stream. The branches were festooned today with many of the hollow seed-bearing bladders that give this handsome native shrub its name.


June said...

I wonder if the little spider was preparing to do battle with you?

Louise said...

That Mountain Mint is lovely.

Anonymous said...

Murders in the forest - an who said hiking was not exciting :-)

I have a friend who fantasizes abut the conversation in a spider household when one of us hikers breaks through one of the 'alert' strands that spiders spin across the trails.
Harry: Shirley, Shirley, I got a big one!
Shirley: Yeah? And what are you going to do with it?

Hopefully YOUR spider got lunch and went to lie in the shade. :-)

squirrel said...

Nice post. I loved the photo of the ambush bugs. I have never seen two together like that, the poor bee didn't have a chance but it was nice to see them sharing.

asita said...

What a great idea! I have a Queen Anne right outside my house right now, I'll go watch it tomorrow.

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Hi June, that spider certainly didn't try to hide from me! What a bold little guy! Or gal.

I agree, Louise. Especially when you look close enough to notice those little purple dots.

I love your spider speculation, hikeagiant. Thanks.

Thanks,squirrel. You should have seen that flower head, with a whole bunch of Ambush Bugs. While these two were sucking that bee dry, two others were grabbing a Longhorned Flower Beetle, who was struggling to get away. Lost cause!

Keep watching, asita. It's amazing the many massacres taking place right under our eyes.