Thursday, September 6, 2012

Late Summer, Lovely Grass

The weather continues summer-like, but except for a few goldenrods and asters, most of the summer-blooming flowers are gone.   But that doesn't mean that the landscape is bereft of colorful beauty.  On a walk through the Gick Farm parcel of the Wilton Wildlife Preserve today,  I delighted in the many colors and textures of grasses that inhabit this extensive oak-pine savanna. 

This parcel of the Wilton Wildlife Preserve is the site of an ambitious grasslands-restoration project, with Fall Witchgrass (the fluffy pink one) and Little Bluestem (the darker reddish one) among the native grasses being reintroduced to this sandy tract that once was cultivated as farmland.

Sometimes the Little Bluestem looks just as pink as the Fall Witchgrass.

In other lights, and as the wind moves across it in waves, the same grass assumes a paler and more tawny hue.

When I chose this site for my walk today, I was hoping to find the variety of interesting galls that oaks are known to host,  but to my surprise, I didn't find a single gall of any kind on the oaks that lined the path.  What I did find, though, were oak leaves that were wrinkled and shriveled.  Are they infected with some kind of blight, or is this just the result of an exceptionally hot and dry summer?

There are still a few more flowers coming into bloom, although in the case of the tiny Sand Jointweed, you have to look very carefully or you might miss these spindly little blooms.

 No chance you will miss the gorgeous purple New England Aster, though.  Oh oh, that shiny black beetle better watch out, there's a predatory spider lurking among the ray flowers.

Although the Wilton Wildlife Preserved is famous as a habitat for the endangered Karner Blue Butterfly, I believe this one may be an Eastern Tailed Blue, because of the tiny spikes protruding from the hind wings.  It sure was beautifully blue, while it was on the wing.  But as soon as it landed and closed its wings, it became a very dull gray.

I believe this caterpillar is a Yellow Bear, the larval form of the Virginia Tiger Moth.  Although it looks soft and fuzzy, some of those hairs can be irritating if you pick this caterpillar up.

Before I went home, I made a detour to the Orra Phelps Nature Preserve, also in Wilton, to check on the status of the Fringed Gentians that are known to bloom there, and nowhere else that I know of in Saratoga County.  Wow!  Just look at them all!  Is there any flower more vividly blue than this?  When I came here about 10 days ago, I could find only one plant, still in tight bud, and was afraid their numbers would be sharply down this year.  I'm very glad to say I was misled.


Raining Iguanas said...

Fringed Gentians - They are beautiful. Another lesson learned. I have been wanting to hike over there all summer. You have really peaked my interest now. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the sand jointweed. This is one I have seen, and have meant to try to identify, but just never got around to trying. You made it easy :-)

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

You're very welcome, Raining Iguanas. To find those gentians, don't take the path down to the creek, but go straight until you see a trail leading off to the right to an open sunny area. You'll be dazzled by all those blazing blue gentians.

You too are welcome, jomegat. I'm always very happy to know I have helped a reader recognize a plant. These particular flowers are very easy to overlook, too. I missed seeing them the first time I passed them, but finally spied them when I returned along the same path.