Saturday, April 14, 2012
Deer Mountain Nature Trail
On Thursday this week, my friends in the group that calls itself the Thursday Naturalists introduced me to yet another site rich in botanical treasures, the Deer Mountain Nature Trail in Ravena, NY, about 15 miles south of Albany. This site, founded in 1995 when a cement company agreed to set aside for protection about 170 acres of its property, offers trails through both low wetlands and dryer upland forest, providing habitat for a wonderful variety of plants. Above, our group follows the trail that leads through a wooded swamp, burgeoning this week with unfurling wetland ferns. Below, we pause to examine the trailside boulders that were sheltering many ferns and flowers that prefer a dryer, calcareous habitat.
The woods was lovely, with many understory trees, such as these American Hornbeams, putting forth their baby translucent leaves that seemed to float on the air.
We were delighted to find the Spicebush shrubs still in bloom, their bright yellow blooms standing out against the dark green of the hemlocks.
The most numerous flowers of the forest floor were these pristine white Rue Anemones.
In the wetlands, we found these tiny white violets just starting to bloom. We also found similar violets growing on dryer ground, and after much discussion, we could not decide if we were seeing two species of violet, the Northern White and the Sweet White, or simply the same violet in different settings. We opted to call them Small White Violets. These early whites are notoriously difficult to tell apart.
This is probably the Common Blue Violet, but something about it seems different to me, both the breadth of its flower face and the downiness of its stem. But who knows? Several species that used to be considered distinct are now included under the species name for Common Blue Violet, Viola sororia. As they say, a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, and a violet by any name is always lovely.
No argument about this one: Wild Ginger, with a nice cluster of brown flowers still visible under its unfolding furry leaves. When the leaves are fully open, you really have to hunt to see the flowers.
Well, here was a new one for many of us: Wild Plum (Prunus americana). This is not considered to be that uncommon a small tree in woodland thickets, but it's often overlooked because it blooms at the same time as the ubiquitous Shadblow. As far as I know, I have never seen it before. I sure hope I find it again, such a pretty thing it is, with white flowers touched with pink. And very fragrant.
A closer look reveals the distinctive Prunus structure of the blossom, common to all stone fruits, with a single pistil that produces a single seed, unlike the multi-pistillate apple blossom, which produces a capsule containing multiple seeds. More importantly, a closer look reveals how really lovely these blossoms are.