When Jeremy LaPointe, a specialist in native grassland restoration, asked the naturalists at Moreau Lake State Park about what species of upland plants might grow in the park, my friend Sue and I were summoned to show Jeremy around. We were more than happy to take him to where we knew such species grew, particularly under the power lines that cut through mountainous sections of the park. Jeremy is interested in obtaining seeds that can be used for pinebush restoration, and after locating populations of desired species, he would be able to return after blooming season to collect the seeds.
Although few of the plants typical of this habitat are now in bloom, we were able to show him where many of them grow, examining the evidence of dried stalks and spent seedheads, and even discovering newly emergent shoots. One of our remarkable finds today was a burgeoning patch of Wood Betony, with purple flower buds growing out of masses of crinkly leaves.
After exploring the dry open areas, we next led our guest into the woods surrounding Mud Pond, where we found an extensive patch of Downy Yellow Violets (Viola pubescens). I believe this photograph shows pretty clearly the furry stalks and leaves that earned this violet its common name.
Nearby was another patch of yellow stemmed violets, but these did not have the hairy stems and leaves that the other violets had. Although this violet was once considered to be a separate species (V. pensylvanica), it has since been reclassified as a variety of the Downy Yellow and now goes by the name of V. pubescens var. scabriuscula. But we can still call it Smooth Yellow Violet to differentiate it from its fuzzier sister.
Jeremy was not looking to collect the seeds from Red Maple trees, but if he had been, he sure would have found an abundant supply. What a sight they presented, with cascading streamers of vivid red and green!