Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Ice Meadows: High-Summer Explorations

There's always something new to see along the Ice Meadows, an eight-mile stretch of Hudson Riverbank upstream from Warrensburg that's known for its abundance of rare plants. And you're certainly more likely to find the good stuff if you explore this remarkable habitat with a group of remarkable botanizers called The Thursday Naturalists. Botanizer par excellence Ed Miller led the group there last Thursday, and the place was as full of botanical treasures as ever.

Because I had company coming that evening, I couldn't spend the whole day with this great group of folks, but in the hour or so I spent at the site, I found a few interesting things.

The banks were abloom with Canadian Burnet (Sanguisorba canadensis), the tall stalks topped with long spikes of white flowers swaying gracefully in the breeze.

One of New York's threatened species, Dwarf Sand-cherry (Prunus pumila var. depressa) thrives among the rocks on this sandy shore. On Thursday its fruits were turning a pretty cherry red.

Joe Pye-weed is hardly a rare plant around here, lining almost every roadside with its tall blooms of rosy pink. But I still have to stop and admire it whenever I see it.

Oh no, is it aster season already? Yes it is, for such early bloomers as this Bog Aster, a smallish plant with a nice big lavender flower.

When I went to look up this flower's scientific name, I discovered that asters are no longer all included in the genus Aster but now have a variety of genera: Symphiotrichum (most common),
Eurybia, Ionactus, Doellingeria, and Oclemena. Maybe more. Oh gee! I guess we can still call them all asters, anyway, when we call them by common names. The Bog Aster's scientific name is now Oclemena nemoralis.
Update: My friend Evelyn Greene and her friend Bob Duncan are skeptical that this could be Bog Aster, which they say grows only in sphagnum bogs later in the fall and wouldn't be likely to grow out of a rock as this one seems to be doing.

I think I'd rather call all the Yellow-eyed Grass species by their scientific genus Xyris, because their species names help to distinguish them more easily than their common names do. For example, the species that thrives on the Ice Meadows (shown here) is Slender Yellow-eyed Grass (Xyris torta, meaning "twisted"), and the species we found at Rankin Pond on Wednesday is Northern Yellow-eyed Grass (Xyris montana, meaning "in the mountains"). Both are slender and both grow in northerly regions. But X. torta definitely has leaves that are twisted, while X. montana does not.

At any rate, X. torta was blooming as abundantly on the Ice Meadows Thursday as X. montana was the day before at Rankin Pond. I think you'd have a very hard time telling the two apart by their flowers alone, since both species look like this.

This little frog was my find of the day at the Ice Meadows. I'd never seen a Mink Frog before, but numbers of them were jumping into the springy pools in the rocks whenever we got too close.

I have heard that if you grab one of these frogs, they emit a scent similar to that of a mink. Hence the name Mink Frog. I wouldn't know. I didn't try to grab this little guy, and also, I've never smelled a mink, either.

Correction:  I believe I was mistaken to call this a Mink Frog.  It is probably a Green Frog, since it has prominent ridges that run down its back, an anatomical feature absent in the Mink Frog.


Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

This is a cool blog!! Too bad I don't live nearby! NICE!


Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Why, thank you, Mary. Nice of you to stop by and leave a comment. That gave me a chance to click on your name and see your amazing artwork at your own site.