Friday, May 25, 2012

Moonworts and Orchids and So Much More!

If there were a Hall of Fame for extra-special botanical sites, the old marble quarries on Dorset Mountain near Manchester, Vermont, would certainly qualify.  I visited there for the first time a year ago with my friends in the Thursday Naturalists, and we returned there again this Thursday, only to be amazed once again at the incredible riches this site has to offer plant lovers.

These quarries are remarkable not only for their natural beauty and botanical treasures, but also for a road that enables us to drive much of the way to the top,  allowing us to save our energy for searching the trails for such pretty flowers as Showy Orchis.  We found them again this year right where we'd found them in other years, and we were delighted to see that the plants had extended their range considerably.

You have to get down very low to really appreciate how lovely this orchid is.

Another find along the trail was this beautiful patch of Round-leaved Ragwort, which glowed as if incandescent in the dark shade of the woods.

I have found Foamflower in many other locations, but I've never seen it blooming in such masses as we found on Dorset Mountain.

The group of Thursday Naturalists has members who are expert in just about every category of plants, so we were able to ascertain immediately that this was, indeed, the rare Goldie's Fern.

When we reached the old quarries, we sat for a while to eat our lunches while enjoying the view of these moss-covered walls, which were echoing with the sweet songs of Hermit Thrushes, Scarlet Tanagers, Veerys, and many other birds.

We then continued our explorations, picking our way carefully along the marble ledges.

We had to watch where we placed our feet, not only to avoid slipping on  the moss-covered rocks, but also to avoid stepping on the incredible abundance of Small Yellow Lady's Slippers that covered the forest floor.

This year, I made sure to bend down to take in the fragrance of these elegant little orchids.

The bryologists in our company had a field day examining the marble for unusual mosses and liverworts.  This one small area of rock contained a marvelous mix:  the liverwort Preissia quadrata at top (with several fruiting bodies); Slender Cliff Brake, a rare fern, in the middle; and the lime-loving leafy moss, Encalypta vulgaris, at the bottom-left.

Our friend Nan once again was able to spot the almost-invisible, teensy-tiny green orchid, Early Coral Root, hiding among the mosses. 

Some of us (ahem!) almost dismissed this little white mustard-family plant as a common weed, until one of our group (Thank you, Ruth!) noticed its twisted seed pods and alerted us that this was Rock Draba (Draba arabisans), a rare plant that is threatened in New York and many other states. 

Here's a closer look at those twisted seed pods that are diagnostic for this species.

The REAL rarities of today's quest were the two moonworts recently discovered on the top of the mountain, one of the very few places they are known to grow in eastern North America.  Their presence is marked with yellow flags, which not only helped us locate the minute little sprouts, but also helped prevent us from stepping on them.  They were so tiny they were almost invisible.

Some botanists lump these moonworts together as Botrychium luneria, but others would divide them into two species:  B. ascendens and B. campestre.  They were so tiny, I felt I was lucky to see them at all, let alone be able to detect the differences that would indicate separate species.

We found lots of other interesting plants, but I ran out of time to edit their photos for posting here.  I'll just close with this shot of some kind of Crane Fly.  Too bad my photo isn't perfectly in focus, because I believe those bright red dots on the fly's thorax are actually Red Spider Mites hitching a ride.


threecollie said...

As always, amazing and fascinating!

catharus said...

'Couldn't say it better than threecollie...
and as always, thank-you!

Adk Keith said...

So much on one walk! Wow!!

A.L. Gibson said...

Incredibly, Jackie! I'm jealous at that huge patch of small yellow ladies, I would love to see that many some day! That Corallorhiza trifida find was a dandy as well; that's a plant I've only seen once. I can't wait to go on some adventures with you!

hikeagiant2 said...

Ditto, three collies! You have two treasures - what you find and who you hike with! Just beautiful!

Ellen Rathbone said...

And to think I drove by this place all the time when I worked over in Rupert, VT. If only I'd known you then...we could've had some great walks there!