Sunday, May 13, 2012
Woods Hollow's Four Habitats
Who would think there was anything alive in this sandy patch of dead oak leaves and brown grass at Woods Hollow Nature Preserve in Balston Spa? But, believe it or not, this is just exactly the kind of severe habitat Wild Lupine loves, and sure enough, just a few steps further on, masses of this showy blue flower were coming into bloom.
I'm always struck by the diversity of habitats when I visit Woods Hollow, especially when I enter the preserve through the sand-pit area right off the parking lot on Northline Road. This area may appear to be sterile, but it supports a marvelous sequence of plants throughout the growing season, starting with these spectacular lupines.
Then, just a short hike up a sandy bluff, the shady woods begins, and it's here that stands of pines and mixed hardwoods produce the more fertile, acidic soils that a whole other class of plants can thrive in, including Pipsissewa, Pyrola, Pinesap, and Checkered Rattlesnake Plantain.
The most spectacular plant of this pine-woods habitat is the Pink Lady's Slipper, and hundreds of these lovely native orchids were budding in the woods today, including a few whose maturing flowers were starting to blush with pink.
Then there's the pond and its small feeder streams that create an entirely different habitat for plants that prefer the damp. There were blueberry shrubs hanging over the water that had already dropped their flowers and were forming new fruits, and a patch of Sheep Laurel was showing the buds that will open into lovely pink flowers in just a few weeks.
I love to take a path that follows the edge of the pond around several bays. Today, the path was edged with masses of magenta Fringed Polygala and also a whole firmament of bright-white Starflowers.
I often see Starflower plants with two or three flowers on them, but today I found one with four!
Making a circuit through the preserve, I return to my car past a wide-open sunny wet meadow, which provides yet another distinct habitat for those plants that need both sunlight and wetness. Today, Yellow Rocket was adding its vivid color to the meadow, but as the summer progresses we'll find Milkweed, Boneset, and Slender Gerardia here, as well as the dreaded but lovely Purple Loosestrife. Even later, masses of one of our native orchids, Nodding Ladies' Tresses, will fill a corner of this meadow.
Well, here was a little surprise! A rather small Snapping Turtle was making its way across the path, so I stopped to say hello. (When I say small, I mean about as big around as an 8-inch birthday cake.)
Oops! I guess the turtle didn't want to be greeted today. I promptly got out of its way and it trundled on.