Saturday, April 7, 2012

Now Showing in a Woods Near You

I hopped around to various woodsy sites today, checking on the progress of spring wildflowers, as well as enjoying whatever other wonders there were to see.

First stop was the Bog Meadow Nature Trail just east of Saratoga Springs.  There I found Marsh Marigold just opening a few of its brilliant yellow flowers.  In a week or so, the display should be dazzling.  Watch for these flowers in wetlands and roadside ditches.  You can't miss them.

This next flower is about as difficult to see as the Marsh Marigold is impossible to miss, since not only is it really small, it's also basically green.  Its only colorful parts are those orange anthers.  This is Golden Saxifrage, which grows in mats in wetland habitats, often sharing its territory with Marsh Marigold.

Also sharing this wetland habitat today was a rather large coyote, who slipped away into a stand of Phragmites before I could get a photo.

Next stop was the Skidmore Woods, where I found a few Trout Lilies nodding their lovely blooms.   There was something not quite right about this cluster, with only one of the flowers showing the deep red anthers that are typical of this lily.  In the other flowers, the anthers were shriveled and blackened.  I found this situation to be true wherever I found a Trout Lily growing today, in widely scattered locations.

And here are the culprits that reduce those nice red anthers to shriveled black threads.  These are Red-necked False Blister Beetles (Asclera ruficollis), a pollen-eating insect species, which were swarming over nearly every Trout Lily flower I found today. I have never seen such an infestation in all my years (at least 20) of observing Trout Lilies in the Skidmore Woods.  I wonder if last winter's relative warmth and lack of snow cover could have contributed to this infestation.

I guess those beetles must be pretty picky about whose pollen they eat, since I didn't find any of them crawling over the Blue Cohosh flowers, which were obviously spilling pollen today.

I still had time for one more stop, so I hurried down to Ballston Spa to the Woods Hollow Nature Preserve, where I found the shrubby Sweet Ferns had put out their little red puffs of pistillate flowers, growing lower on the stem than the yet unripe staminate catkins clustered above.  This pistillate flower is now ready to receive airborne pollen from ripe male catkins growing on separate plants nearby, a time-delay sequence of ripening that avoids self-pollination.  I love the elegant curls of the Sweet Fern's leaves.  I confess I often pinch a few off and crush them under my nose, since this plant is deliciously fragrant in every season.

There's a boggy area at the end of one bay of the Woods Hollow Pond that supports a few acid-loving plants, including a nice thicket of Leatherleaf, which today was dangling its dainty white bells on gracefully arching stems.

Willows abound at Woods Hollow, including one species that has big beautiful yellow flowers, the catkins taking their color from the ripening pollen-filled anthers.  Although in this photo this bee appears to be feasting on that pollen,  it actually seemed to be sleeping there, perhaps rendered immobile by the afternoon chill that descended when late-day clouds covered the sun.

Is this a different species of willow from the yellow-flowered one, or are these the pistillate flowers of the same kind?  I really don't know, but I thought their pink puffiness was very pretty.

What could be more elegant than a Red Maple leaf cluster unfolding from its beautifully symmetric and richly colored stalk and bud?   I hope someday I will learn how to make my camera focus exactly on exquisite miniatures like this.  It kept focusing on the trees behind, ignoring this brilliant object right in front of the lens.  After about 50 shots, this was the best I could get.  At least you can see the shapes and colors, even though they're a bit out of focus.

Can anybody guess what this is, this log that appears to be daubed with Easter-egg colors?  If I hadn't noticed the surrounding stand of Scotch Pines, some of which had been felled and cut into logs, I doubt I would have known.  This section of trunk is from the upper part of the pine, the part that turns an orangey color way up toward the top of the tree, but which we never get to see close-up in all its variety of pinks and yellows and greens.

I know that most lumbermen hate Scotch Pine for its useless timber, and botanists disdain it for its alien status.  But oh my, isn't this lovely?  If we put a frame around this section, we could hang it in a museum and call it abstract art.


LindaCO said...

Lovely pictures as always!

catharus said...

Stunning colors on that pine bark!

Random thoughts said...

I loved the pine bark...The abstract art concept comes to my mind when I see spotted gum, rainbow eucalyptus or Chinese elm bark...
Love our informative blog

Woodswalker said...

Thanks, dear readers, for your appreciative comments. I'm glad that you found the pine bark as stunning as I did. Sometimes I'm just stopped dead in my tracks by objects of remarkable beauty I never noticed before.

hikeagiant2 said...

Magical marsh marigolds - sad to see those blister beetles consuming the Trout lily's pollen - they put me in mind of the nasty red lily beetles that consumed the lilies in our garden last summer - we've already seem them this year - most of your 'specimens' today are things I've never seen - guess I'd better go hiking! :-) ... and I, too, marvel at that pine log!

-S said...

OK so I guess that blog is NSFW now :) That photo #1, ahem!

-S said...

I mean #4 :)

Ellen Rathbone said...

Terrific finds! And I love that bark - I've never seen Scotch Pine quite that colorful before!