They sure know a lot of great places to botanize, too, and this Thursday they took me with them to a place that a New York Chief Botanist once called the richest wildflower site in the entire state -- Joralemon Park, in a limestone-rich area about 15 miles south of Albany.
This was the third time I've visited Joralemon Park, and I do believe that this site is becoming ever more endangered because of the masses of Garlic Mustard that have infested the woods, creating severe competition for many of the native plants -- some of them quite rare -- that once thrived in this limestone-rich woods.
Happily, many native plants are holding their own for the time being, such as this vividly colored Wild Columbine.
The woody plants also seemed to be barely threatened by the alien invasion, and I was delighted to find American Bladdernut fully in bloom.
This is a shrub that I rarely find in Saratoga County, especially now, since the groundskeepers at Yaddo in Saratoga Springs cut all their bladdernut shrubs to the ground to install security lighting. I felt almost sick when I found them destroyed, since I know of no other place in the county to find them. I'm sure the people who did it had no idea of the rarity of those shrubs.
After exploring the western side of the Joralemon preserve, we next headed across the road to our lunchtime destination, a series of limestone ledges that overlook a beaver pond. Here we sat to enjoy a picnic while watching Tree Swallows swoop and dive over the water.
A labyrinth of caves underlies the ledges we sat on, and while examining the opening of one of these caves, our friend Win discovered a large pile of bear scat, indicating that a bear had likely holed up for the winter inside that cave.
This part of the preserve appeared to be free of the Garlic Mustard infestation, for Miterwort and violets covered the forest floor instead.
A highly unusual low-growing shrub called Creeping Shadblow hung over the ledges, and we were delighted to find it still in bloom.
We were also delighted to find Fragrant Sumac now in bloom, although the leaves (which are indeed fragrant) had yet to emerge.
Carpeting the rocks where we sat to picnic were sprawling patches of a rare "fern ally" called Selaginella rupestris. Although this mossy-looking plant is also called by the common name of Rock Spike Moss, it is more closely related to ferns than mosses.
Clinging to the sides of the ledges was another highly unusual plant called Purple Cliff Brake (Pellaea atropurpurea). Although this photo doesn't show them well, this small fern of sunny calcareous rocks has dark purple hairy stalks.
Purple Cliff Brake bears its sporangia along the inrolled margins of its pinnules, and I did manage to capture a photo of that.
I was also happy to capture in a photo the little red glands that stud the petioles of Black Cherry leaves, a distinctive feature of most cherry species. I would have thought they were some kind of gall, but my friend Ruth Schottman, a walking encyclopedia of botanical knowledge and a longtime member of the Thursday Naturalists, informed me that these little red bumps were a normal part of healthy trees, perhaps serving as decoys to prevent ants or other destructive insects from attacking the fruit.