Thursday, July 21, 2011

Paddling With Ed

Ugh! That "heat dome" tormenting most of the country has covered Saratoga County with air so oppressive it's almost impossible to breath. But I didn't know that until mid-afternoon when I returned from a Hudson River paddle with my good friend Ed. On the river, the breeze was brisk and cooled by the water, so we hardly felt the heat out there, even while paddling hard in Ed's tandem canoe.

I'd invited Ed to join me today on a quest to find Purple Fringed Orchis and Great St. Johnswort, but of course we had to take note of other plants along the way. Here, Ed is examining an aquatic plant that he thinks might be a quillwort.

We'd found a number of them floating in a little bay, so it was easy to pick one up to examine it closely. (I see another aquatic plant called Water Starwort down there, too.)

The distinctive hollow translucent leaves that widen at the base into a bulb-like cluster convinced Ed that this was indeed a quillwort, a "fern ally" that is one of the planet's oldest vascular plants. Different species of quillwort can be told apart by microscopic examination, but we didn't have a microscope with us.

Passing through a quiet marsh, we were delighted by the profusion of Pickerelweed.

When we came to the island where Great St. Johnswort grows, we beached the canoe and came ashore to hunt for it. My plan was to collect a specimen for the state herbarium, but since the ones we found were only in bud, I will come back in several days to obtain a plant in full flower. To date, there is no record of this flower growing in Saratoga County, and it's also a plant that is threatened or endangered in many surrounding states.

The Purple Fringed Orchis we were seeking had started to bloom, although many of the buds on its stalk were yet to open.

We have two species of Purple Fringed Orchis, and this is the Smaller PFO. If you had the two species side-by-side, the difference in size of the blossoms would be evident, but another diagnostic feature is the shape of the hollow opening at the throat of the blossom. In the Larger PFO, this opening is perfectly round, but in the one we found today, the opening is slightly flattened, occluded by a ridge on the lower lip.

Our flower hunt successfully completed, Ed and I next headed for the little island just off the boat launch. After struggling back upstream against a white-cap-whipping wind, we were eager to ditch our sweaty clothing and dive into the clear cold water for a swim.

Doesn't this look inviting? Wish I could spend the rest of this heatwave out here.


Louise said...

You lucky thing, to be where it was cool and inviting yesterday. Looks like you found some interesting things, and had a great time.

catharus said...

'Very hot in central PA: down to 90° F at 10:00 pm!

Is the Great St. Johnswort a migrant from warmer climes?

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Louise, I am one of the luckiest people I know, to have cool water close by and also an amazing variety of native wildflowers. Not to mention, dear friends like Ed.

Yeah, catharus, it was hot like that here, too. We have AC only in our kitchen, so my husband dragged a mattress in there last night. A cooling shower and lots of talc did it for me. Regarding the GSJ, no, its range is the northernmost eastern states and Canada, although it is disappearing from most of the states surrounding NY: CT, ME, MA, NH, and VT all list it as endangered or even extirpated. So it was quite a find.

Anonymous said...

White-capped whipping wind - I am cooled by the thought - you are fortunate indeed! Your 'finds' encourage me to go exploring - once this heat has moderated ;-) Thanks for the vicarious outings!