Thursday, July 19, 2012

Surprises at Lake Luzerne

 Hudson River above Rockwell Falls, July 19, 2012
Today I went up to the Hudson River at Lake Luzerne.  My task was to take the GPS coordinates of where I found the Slender Milfoil in bloom on mudflats above Rockwell Falls on July 7.  A couple of botanists have asked me to send them pressed specimens of the flowers of this aquatic plant, since it only blooms -- and rarely so -- when exposed to air with falling water levels.  And those botanists do like to have GPS coordinates, in order to map the locations of plants in their collections.  But boy, did I get a surprise!  Those extensive mudflats that I found on July 7 (see photo below) were rapidly disappearing (see photo above), due to a couple of heavy rains over the past few days that have caused the river to rise.  I'm very glad I had already collected the specimens, and luckily, the water was still shallow enough to allow me to wade to where I had done the collecting.

 Hudson River above Rockwell Falls, July 7, 2012, showing extensive mats of Slender Milfoil in bloom.

There were still some patches of Slender Milfoil above the water, but much of it was now submerged.

Those plants that yet remained above water appeared to be still in bloom.

I had to smile when I saw extensive patches of Creeping Spearwort still merrily blooming away, although now completely submerged.

Regular readers of this blog may remember me eagerly leaping from my canoe a month or so ago,  surprised and excited to find a single flower of Creeping Spearwort.  How was I to know that this would be a banner year for this wee little buttercup, and that I would ultimately see them this year by the hundreds?

Golden Pert is another one of these riverside plants that will vegetate under water for years, and then, when they do get their hour in the sun, will burst into radiant bloom.

I almost stepped on this rather large Green Frog before it surprised me with a giant leap.  But then it held stone still for me to take its picture.  Thank you, dear froggie.  You look quite comely next to that little trumpet of Golden Pert.

My GPS task completed,  I headed over to a stream that runs from the lake  to the river.  (Yes, there is a lake at Lake Luzerne.)  There's an island in the middle of this stream where, years ago,  I found abundant Smaller Purple Fringed Orchids growing as thick as dandelions.  Then somebody mowed the island, including the orchids while they were blooming,  and I rarely find any orchids there anymore.  Maybe one or two, on lucky years.  I had already searched through the grass a couple of weeks ago and found no sign of them.  But I like to walk along this pretty stream, and of course I glanced in the island's direction.  Just in case.  And WHOA!  What are those purple flowers out there?  They're not the right color for Purple Loosestrife or Heal-all.  Could they really, REALLY be the orchids?  Look how MANY there are!

So I waded across the shallow stream to see.  Yep.  Orchids, indeed.  Fourteen of them, just in this bunch alone.

I searched around in the knee-high grass, and there on the opposite bank, I found another. 

And another and another and another and another and another.  Twenty orchids in all, including this beauty at a perfect stage of bloom.

I even found one that was all pure white, a very unusual occurrence.  Like a cloud of tiny angels ascending into heaven.  Or a flock of tiny peace doves descending to bring a blessing.  Oh happy day!

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