Saturday, August 27, 2011

Calm River, Grand Companions

Between last Tuesday's earthquake and this coming Sunday's projected hurricane, today was a day of extraordinary calm.  Clear blue sky with only a few puffy white clouds, no wind, pleasantly warm:  a perfect day for a paddle, especially with such friendly and knowledgeable companions as Sherrie and Nancy and Sue.

Our destination was the Hudson River at South Glens Falls, a stretch that Sue and I have paddled many times, sharing our photos of rare and unusual plants we have found there on our respective blogs.   When biologist and author Nancy Slack learned about our finds, she asked if we would take her there, and of course we were delighted to do so.  And we were even more delighted that Nancy brought her friend Sherrie along, another accomplished biologist and author.

We were especially excited to show our two biologist friends the Small Floating Bladderwort (Utricularia radiata), which grows so abundantly along this stretch of the river, it's hard to believe it could be listed by New York State as a threatened species.  There were many of the bright yellow flowers floating in the quiet backwaters near where we put in, the flowering stalks held above the surface by little radiating pontoons.

Nancy is known to be an expert at identifying liverworts and mosses, so we couldn't wait to show her the steep limestone shale cliffs upstream, which are covered with many of these plants.  Here,  she examines the cliff face, where she found an unusual liverwort, Preissia quadrata, which is known to prefer exactly this kind of habitat.  That patch of orange stuff is Trentepohlia aurea, a green alga that appears orange because it contains a chemical that masks its chlorophyll.  It, too, is a limestone lover.

These cliffs are constantly watered by seepy springs, which provide nourishment and moisture to the patches of mosses and liverworts that cling to the cliffs.

Another unusual plant that has found a happy home on these cliffs is Grass of Parnassus, with bright white flowers that stand out against the black shale and the big green Coltsfoot leaves.

And here's a little spider that has found a happy home in one of the Grass of Parnassus blooms.  I wonder if it feeds on those little yellow nectaries that surround the flower's center.  It's perhaps more likely that it feeds on the insects that come to feed on the nectaries.

Another lime-loving plant, Spikenard grows abundantly on these cliffs, its berries still green today and not yet the deep purple they will soon become.

Mountain Maple is another plant that thrives in this habitat.  Sue called my attention to the deep dimples in the seeds.  Is this a sign of something gone wrong, or is this typical of all Mountain Maple seeds?  I have no idea.

After exploring the cliffs, we paddled into a quiet backwater where many emergent flowers were beautifully in bloom.  Here, Nancy looks through her Newcomb's Wildflower Guide to determine which species of Arrowhead she has found along shore.  It was Common Arrowhead (Sagittaria latifolia), with leaves that can vary enormously from broadly to very narrowly arrow-shaped.  The ones we found had broad leaves.

Pickerelweed also has broad arrow-shaped leaves.  Here, purple Pickerelweed and white Arrowhead commingle, making it a little difficult to tell whose leaves are whose, at first glance.

Water Marigold (Bidens beckii) has two different kinds of leaves on the same plant.  The ones you can see above water are lance-shaped and toothed, while the underwater ones are finely divided and hair thin, growing in whorls around the stalk.

We were treated to the occasional sight of an elusive Green Heron, who would not remain within camera range, but this Great Blue Heron stood his ground until we were nearly abreast.


Bill and dogs said...

Your photos are wonderful and your flower identifications have many times helped me on my own hikes. I have a lot of trouble photographing white flowers for identification but if I keep reading your blog, I sooner or later see the plant in question. Thank you for your terrific posts.

Raining Iguanas said...

I am with Bill and his dogs on this one, your photographs are wonderful. You keep my toes in the water even when I can't get away. Float-on...

catharus said...

'Great outing and pictures! 'Will be interesting to hear what the outcomes are your way, from Irene and the earthquake!

Anonymous said...

The Bladderwort - charming yellow flowers above, equally beautiful lacy root structure below. Nature is pretty amazing! Same with the Marigold - two separate and distinct(ive)systems of leaves. Given that I would have assumed that the hairy mat under the plant was roots, how does one determine that these are leaves? The Grass of Parnassus blossom looks like a pen and ink drawing - how amazing - you mention the nectaries in the center - what about the longer structures that put me in mind of butterfly antennae? Great pictures! Hope you fared well in the storm!!!

squirrel said...

I continuly love to learn about plants from you. And those kittens are soooo cute and I am a dog lover. I do hope the hurricane didn't do damage to your home and you have remained safe.

Ellen Rathbone said...

This post brought back some great memories of our trip there!

And now I'm wondering how you fared from the storm. I've seen some video out of VT - amazing. Hope you aren't too flooded.

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Thanks for all your comments, dear friends. Your appreciation keeps me at this blog when some days I don't feel like making the effort. But I like having a record of my adventures as much as anyone.

hikeagiant, I believe what you are referring to are the Parnassus's anther-topped stamens. Two are arrayed at the top of the bloom, the others are erect in the center.