Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Ice Meadows in Early June

Ah, here it was at last, that perfect day in June:  bright sun, warm air, soft breeze, not a rain cloud in sight.  And lucky me, I had the whole day to spend outdoors.  And what better place to spend it than up on the Ice Meadows along the Hudson River north of Warrensburg?

Here's where the river runs swiftly over rocky rapids, creating the cooling sound of rushing water on a hot summer day, and in the winter, creating heaps and heaps of ice deposits along these shores that contribute to a distinctive habitat for some of the northeast region's rarest plants.

Although it's hardly a rare plant, being one of our state's commonest orchids, Rose Pogonia is certainly one of our prettiest flowers.  Since it flourishes here along these banks, I shouldn't have been so surprised to see it blooming today -- especially since many flowers are blooming weeks early this year.  But I was surprised.  And equally delighted.

So many of them!  As I said, Rose Pogonia is not at all a rare plant, although it is protected by law as exploitably vulnerable.  No picking allowed!

Sticky Tofieldia (Triantha glutinosa), however, is indeed a rare plant, and not just in New York State, where it is listed as "Endangered."  This little plant with its puffy clusters of small white flowers is also listed as threatened or endangered in many other states.  On the Ice Meadows, however, it abounds.  And today it was beautifully in bloom.

Also called "Sticky False Asphodel," this plant gets its common name from its stems that are covered with sticky red hairs.

Here's another one of New York's native orchids, the Wide-leaved Ladies' Tresses, also called Shining Ladies' Tresses (Spiranthes lucida).  I had found this plant on the other side of the river, but never before here on the west bank.  Until today.  They are easy to overlook, being very small, but because of their white flowers, they do stand out from the sand and grass that they grow in.

S. lucida is our earliest Ladies' Tresses  to bloom, so it's not likely to be confused with other Spiranthes species that also grow here. Its distinctive yellow lower lip is also diagnostic.

I was happy that I arrived here early enough in the day to see the Frostweed fully in bloom.  Those bright yellow petals will drop or close up before the day's end.

I detected the lovely fragrance of wild roses even before I saw this beautiful pair.  I was happy to see they were one of our native roses (Virginia Rose?) instead of the invasive Multiflora Rose  that has taken over many roadside banks.   The harsh conditions created by the annual ice build-up have helped to keep this riverside habitat free of most invasive species.

For years I just assumed this trailing yellow flower was simply an undernourished variety of our Common Cinquefoil, but one year I looked more closely at the plant.  Its leaves being toothed only from above the middle are a defining feature of the Dwarf Cinquefoil (Potentilla canadensis).

Clambering among the riverside rock formations, I am often delighted to find miniature rock gardens tucked into cracks in the stone.  These are Small Sundrops and Bluets sharing their niche with some very colorful grasses.

The Ice Meadows are home to many flowering shrubs that are dwarfed, both by the massive tons of ice that lie over the shore each winter, as well as by the leaching of nutrients caused by periodic flooding.   Panicled Dogwood normally towers over my head, but here it barely reaches my knees.

Winterberry also can grow to a towering height in more favorable sites, but here it is definitely dwarfed, where it shelters among the rocks.

I puzzled and puzzled over what kind of berries these might be, until I realized they were those of a Shadblow, dwarfed to a miniature of its normal height.

Higher up on the banks, where the Ice Meadows meets the forest,  shrubbery is able to assume its normal size.  That's where I found this Bush Honeysuckle (Diervilla lonicera), one of our very few native shrubby honeysuckles.

Many other creatures were enjoying this splendid summer day, but this frog was the only one that would sit still long enough to have its photo taken.  Well then, have we found a Mink Frog this time?  Those do look like  dark splotches, rather than stripes, on its legs.  Don't they?

Yes, I am certainly delighted to have found so many rare and unusual flowers as I have this spring/summer.  But I also delight in some of our much more common species, such as these in my final two photos.  The heavenly blue one is Chicory, and the dazzling pink ones are Maiden Pinks, both of them introduced species that generously endow our roadsides with abundant beauty.


June said...

Oh! The colors!
I thought of you yesterday as I meandered on a long country road walk...noticing the beauty of red clover, wild grape flowers and buttercups all arranged together. Saw a spider spinning her web with one crucial strand attached to a tiny snail, too.

Do you know a fungus that looks like wax beans sticking straight up out of the ground? Vicki Lane is asking for help identifying the thing.

Jane said...

Sigh... So lovely, thanks Mom!

Anonymous said...

the detail on the last two flowers is amazing

Bird said...

The Rose Pogonia is a real beauty! And the "perhaps" mink frog is story book lovely. I'm so glad I've found your blog again; I have a lot of reading to do :)