Thursday, September 13, 2012

Wandering the Woodlawn Preserve

Fine friends, a super site, and one of the loveliest days of the year:  it all added up to a day made in botanizer heaven.

These are the kind of crystalline days that only come in early September, that make just a walk around the block an absolute pleasure.  So how much more wonderful it was to spend this blue-sky day at a place like Woodlawn Preserve in Schenectady, a 135-acre preserve of wetlands and sandplain that supports a remarkable diversity of native plants.  And what better way to explore such a site than with the Thursday Naturalists, a group of friendly wildflower enthusiasts whose encyclopedic botanical knowledge is matched only by their eagerness to amiably share that knowledge. 

Here we are exploring the shore of the pond that lies at the center of Woodlawn Preserve.

The open sandy meadows surrounding the pond present a beautiful and ever-changing tapestry of wildflowers.

One of the more unusual plants we find at this site is Tall Boneset (Eupatorium altissimum), distinguished from the much more common  Boneset (E. perfoliatum) seen in the photo above by its narrow leaves that do not join together to surround the stem.

A big surprise today was this single isolated plant of Obedient Plant (Physostegia virginiana), also called False Turtlehead.  An interesting feature of this pretty plant is that the individual flowers will obediently stay for a while in whatever position they are placed along the stalk.

Although we were not surprised to find Nodding Ladies' Tresses (Spiranthes cernua) at this sunny site, we were astounded to find specimens of such a size, easily twice as tall as a typical example of this little orchid.

Many of us compared notes about how long it took us to determine the identity of this unusual tumbleweed of a plant, since very few guides to wildflowers of our region include it.  This is Winged Pigweed (Cycloloma atriplicifolium), a plant that is native to the central plains of the U. S. but which over the last century or so has made its way east to now become a not uncommon denizen of such barren sandy sites as this.

These bright-red leaves were our signal to stop and look closely, to try to find the distinctive seed pods of this plant called Seedbox (Ludwigia alternifolia).

And there they were, the seed capsules squared off like tiny brown boxes.  Someday I hope to find the four-petaled yellow flowers of this member of the Evening Primrose Family, but these seed "boxes" are what set this plant apart, even more than the flowers.

Not all our finds today were flowers.  Here, Ed Miller (red shirt) kneels down to peer more closely at a tiny plant spreading across the ground, a Spikemoss that's not really a moss, but rather a "fern ally" called Selaginella.

Here's a closer look at that Selaginella.  I wonder how Ed managed to espy such a tiny thing.

Here's a plant that I espied, and it stopped me dead in my tracks.  Obviously, the small white flowers growing in the leaf axils along the stem resemble asters, but the rest of the plant looks just like a Bluestem Goldenrod.  We all searched our various guidebooks, looking for an aster that fit this description, but none could be found.  One of our friends, Win, has promised to do further research about this plant, so I'm hoping eventually our little mystery will be solved.

Well, we certainly had no trouble seeing the thousands of radiant-blue Fringed Gentians that are thriving in this preserve, thanks to the actions of members of the Thursday Naturalists, who some years ago cast a handful of gentian seeds at this site.  Obviously, Fringed Gentians are happy here.

And we are always happy to see their gorgeous blooms, as blue as any flower could possibly be.


suep said...

wow ... triplet gentians, so breath-taking!

Ellen Rathbone said...

I just love those Seedbox seed boxes!

And it's probably time to go look for the fringed gentians here, too.

threecollie said...

Your posts always make me smile!

DJ/Meander Mountain said...

What a wonderful outing. I used to live in upstate New York and felt like I was tagging along with your group. Your photos reminded me of those famous lines, learned long ago in high school: "The gentians' bluest fringes were curling in the sun, the dusky pods of milkweed, their hidden silk had spun...." (Or close). Must get away from this computer and go for a long walk!

Win Bigelow said...

Showed the mystery plant to Steve Young friday. He didn't know offhand what it was, other than being an aster. He has it and will do further research.---Win Bigelow