Sunday, July 24, 2011
Circling the Pond
That oppressive heat is on its way out. Cool, fresh air is pouring in my open windows tonight, and this afternoon seemed bearable enough for an honest-to-goodness hike around Mud Pond at Moreau. My friend Sue had told me about finding some Checkered Rattlesnake Plantain (Goodyera tesselata) right along the path there, and today she took me to see it for myself. She knew exactly where this relatively uncommon Goodyera was growing, she said, and she was right. Eventually.
We did have some trouble finding it today. When Sue had seen it over a week ago, it had been in full bloom, its spikes of greenish-white flowers standing visibly tall against the leaf litter and pine needles. Well, by today those flowers had turned a dull dead-leaf brown very hard to pick out from the background. My camera sure couldn't see them. It absolutely refused to focus on them.
Until I covered the leaf litter with my hat.
Sue has such excellent eyesight, and I such poor, she always finds far more fascinating stuff than I ever would. For example, I thought this black and white thing on the ground was a shriveled leaf, but Sue immediately saw that it was a moth. A Haploa clymene moth, I later found out by searching the web. Again, my camera refused to focus clearly, and I can't understand why, when the subject was as vividly colored as this. Just as I clicked the photo, the moth parted its upper wings to reveal the sulphur-yellow of its underwings and abdomen. I love its furry orange topknot.
From underneath, the moth is all sulphur-yellow, and here you can see just a part of the big black dot that adorns its underwings when it opens them to fly.
Here's another beautiful creature that Sue saw first (and my camera wouldn't see clearly): a Goldenrod Crab Spider that had changed the color of its stripes to perfectly match the pretty pink of this Water Smartweed bloom.
We found that Water Smartweed growing on mud flats in a low-lying area of Mud Pond. Normally, this area would be underwater and that smartweed floating on the water's surface, but today we could walk around on the mud without even getting our feet wet.
That gave me a chance to get a really good gander at Common Bladderwort, which normally floats unrooted in shallow water far too mucky for wading. But here we found many plants that had been stranded on the mud when the water receded. At first, I thought it was Horned Bladderwort, which does grow out of damp mud or sand, but the lower spur of these flowers was much too short to be that of Horned Bladderwort.
I wanted to wander this mud flat specifically to see if I could find the liverwort Ricciocarpus natans, which had carpeted the area late last fall with chubby little cat's paws. (Click here to see what they looked like last November.) I think this tiny green growth must be the baby version of that liverwort. You can tell how small it is by comparing its size to that of the hickory-nut shell close by. If this IS R. natans, it will eventually swell to several times that size and stay rooted in the mud until next spring, when it will float free in the rising waters.