Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Checking in at Home

Tuesday, July 5: Home to the Hudson
This blog was meant to be about the woods and waterways of Saratoga County, but it seems I've been spending most of this summer in places far afield. Time to come home and check in on my old familiar haunts to see if all my old floral friends are still living here. So yesterday I hauled my canoe to the Hudson, putting in above the Sherman Island Dam to explore the quiet waters around the islands and rocky promontories there.

I first checked to see if a Small Purple-fringed Orchis was coming along in its usual place in one of the little coves. Oh dear, it was not where I found it last year and the year before! But I soon saw a new specimen (in tight bud) emerging in a different spot nearby. Whew! I also found the foliage of Great St. Johnswort out on an island, undamaged by all the flood waters that raged across that island for weeks this spring. Both of these flowers should bloom in a couple of weeks, when I will be back to take their photos and show my readers how beautiful they are.

Arrow Arum is also beautiful, its bushy clumps of bright green leaves standing clear of the quiet water where they grow.

Some might say their flowers are rather more "interesting" than beautiful, bit I think that the ruffly edge to its spathe is really quite charming.

Cruising along close to the rocky outcroppings that line a bay, I surprised this lanky Long-jawed Orb Weaver, who tried to make herself invisible along a blade of grass.

There weren't many colorful flowers blooming in the woods along the river, but the fungi were certainly putting on quite a show. This bright yellow mushroom was lifting the edge of its skirt to show off its crisply pleated petticoat.

It's very hard to find a perfect red Russula that hasn't had its rosy cap gnawed on. Poisonous to humans, it seems to be a tasty treat for some critters who are immune to its toxins.

Such a lovely arrangement of green moss and bright orange fungi! I put my finger in the photo to show how tiny those mushrooms are.

Old Man of the Woods is a perfect name for this shaggy black-and-white bolete. Believe it or not, this mushroom is edible. (I didn't try it, because it was past its prime.)

It was evident that the flooding this spring has discouraged many of the riverbank denizens. There should have been masses of Pale St. Johnswort brightening the shore with their radiant yellow, but I found just a few solitary blooms here and there. I did find Golden Pert peeking out from cracks in the rocks, so perhaps it will yet carpet the banks with its amazing golden glow before too long.

I next crossed the river to the Warren County side, to see how an isolated patch of Narrow-leaved Vervain had endured on its flood-washed stony shore. I landed my boat with a sinking heart, for at first I saw no trace of this rather uncommon verbena.

Aha! There it was, higher up on the beach than I remembered, sheltering under a Round-leaved Dogwood shrub. Its roots must really be wrapped tight around those rocks, to have resisted being ripped out by raging waters. There was also lots of Indian Hemp thriving there on the stony shore.

Such a pretty blue it is, its flower spike more fully blooming than that of other vervains.

The dogwood berries were very pretty, too, porcelain-white on cherry-red stems.

As I loaded my canoe on my car to go home, I noticed these spikes of magenta blooms poking out from a hedge of Purple-flowering Raspberry. I recognized this as Common Hedge Nettle by the lovely moire pattern on the lower lips of its flowers. The word "common" may be part of its name, but I don't find this uncommonly pretty, native mint-family flower very often. I was happy to see it again, right where I find it each year.

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Wednesday, July 6: Back to Moreau Lake State Park

Yesterday, I paddled the Hudson, today I returned on foot to Moreau Lake State Park, specifically to a sandy beach my friend Sue calls the Odonata Shore of Moreau Lake.

It was quite evident today why she gives it that name, since dragon- and damselflies -- the Odonata -- were flitting everywhere. Very few, however, sat still long enough for me to snap their photos. This male Calico Pennant was kind enough to oblige me. (His mate is as vivid a yellow as he is a red, but she was not to be seen.)

This Slaty Blue (I don't know which sex) also stopped for a moment's rest. Note that the tiny colored pane (called a stigma) at the top edge of each wing is colored blue to match the dragonfly's body. The Calico Pennant above has a red stigma to match his coloration.

Here's the flower I came to find along this shore: Racemed Milkwort. And I really had to search for it this year. Yes, it's small (that flower cluster is maybe two inches long), but its vivid magenta usually makes it easy to find against the sandy soil it likes to grow in. There just weren't that many of them this year, since much of their habitat is now under water.

This milkwort is a close relative of Fringed Polygala, and if you look close, you can see that the individual florets along the stalk resemble very tiny Fringed Polygalas.

I didn't have to search to find these Yellow Loosestrife spikes, growing right into the water and glowing like beacons. They're also called Swamp Candles. For obvious reasons.

How pleased I was to see the perky pink flowers of Water Smartweed poking up out of the water! I didn't expect to see them here, but there they were. A nice surprise.

Returning to my car, I took a path through the woods, hoping to find Spotted Wintergreen in bloom, and I was not disappointed. There were dozens of this pretty plant, with waxy white flowers and vividly striped evergreen leaves, growing along the road that circles the lake. I was happy to see so many. Because the state herbarium contains no vouchered specimen from Saratoga County, there is no record that this flower even exists in this county. As yet. But there will be.

The flower of Spotted Wintergreen is almost identical to that of other members of the Pyrola Family, such as Pipsissewa and One-flowered Pyrola. Looks like this one is shedding pollen.

Despite the dark shade of the woods, there was no way to miss this vivid orange Chicken of the Woods, glowing like tongues of flame from a rotting log. As its name suggests, this fungus does taste quite a bit like breast of chicken, if also a bit dry and bland. Like breast of chicken.

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A Quick Trip to Woods Hollow Nature Preserve

The day was growing late and thunder was rumbling, but I had just enough time to scoot over to Ballston Spa and run into the piney woods of Woods Hollow Nature Preserve. Just off the parking lot, I came across a nice group of Spiked Lobelia, growing in an open grassy field.

This was the plant I had hurried over here to find. And I can't believe I actually did find it, since its leaves were hiding down among the pine needles and it hadn't as yet sent up its stalk of little white orchids called Checkered Rattlesnake Plantain.

I also can't believe I managed to take its picture, since as you can see by the shining leaves, the rain was now coming fast, and dark clouds were closing off the light from the woods. I did see another Rattlesnake Plantain with a flowering stalk, but I didn't want to risk wetting my camera by trying to get a picture. And lightning was flashing close by. Time to go home and plan to come back another day.


swamp4me said...

Beautiful, as always! Thanks for taking us along. I believe your slaty skimmer is a male...females aren't blue.

Louise said...

You certainly had a productive day. I'm glad you had a chance to catch up on what is going on in your regular haunts.

Elizabeth said...

Gorgeous pictures -- I especially love the luminescent colors on those fungi!

And I love it when your posts include flowers that are blooming around me as well. I saw Yellow Loosestrife and Spotted Wintergreen on my own walk this morning, and seeing them in your post has saved me a few identification steps. :D

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Thanks,swampy, for that note about Slaty Skimmers. Always nice to hear from you.

Yes, Louise, it is good to see all my old haunts. I've been visiting these places for almost 20 years, observing how they change from year to year, according to the weather and other influences.

Thanks, Elizabeth. I'm glad I could help you learn the names of some of the flowers you see.