Saturday, October 13, 2012

First Frost!

Brrrr!  Down into the 20s last night.  We canceled our plans for a paddle, Sue and Nancy and I, and decided to hike a mountain trail in Moreau Lake State Park instead.  But first we stopped off at the powerline clearcut above Mud Pond, thinking we might find a few Frostweed curls on this frozen morning.   The frost-adorned sumacs and blueberries and mosses that first met our eyes encouraged us to believe that we just might find some Frostweed exhibiting the very process that gives this plant its common name.  (Scientific name: Helianthemum canadense)

And so we did!  Almost every single Frostweed plant in this open sandy area had produced these curls of frozen vapor at the base of their stems. This phenomenon will be repeated each calm frosty morning until the plant has depleted all of its moisture, so we can expect to find these fragile frothy extrusions on other mornings yet this fall.  IF we get there before the sun does, that is, since the curls promptly disappear with the sun's warming touch

There were other interesting finds on the clearcut this morning, and we were lucky to have bryologist Nancy Slack along to identify many of the lichens and mosses that carpet this open area.  Although she couldn't remember offhand the name of this very tiny orange lichen, she could at least assure us that it was indeed a lichen.  I was amazed that we even found it, it was so tiny.  Sue is the one whose amazing eyesight can espy such miniatures as this, hardly bigger than the heads of pins.

Sue and I found it hard to believe that a Sphagnum moss would be growing out here in this dry sandy spot, but Nancy assured us that this puffy pink stuff was indeed a Sphagnum, S. capillifolium.  She also told us that its presence indicated there must be a source of moisture nearby.

We were having so much fun finding such a variety of mosses, we decided to bypass our mountain trail and instead show Nancy the wonderful rockgardens of mosses that rise from the road across from the Spier Falls Dam.  These rocky cliffs are watered by tiny springs that dampen the surface in every season, creating a perfect habitat for mosses and other plants, including white clouds of Early Saxifrage that adorn these rocks each spring.

Just a bit beyond the mossgarden cliffs, we could hear a little waterfall splashing down the mountain side,  and its moss-covered watercourse tempted us to explore it further.

We followed the course of the stream quite a ways up the mountain,  delighting in the beauty of the woods and the mossy banks.

Each water-splashed streamside rock was covered with a marvelous mix of mosses, liverworts, and lichens.  There's Hedwigia here and Dicranum, too (both mosses), and that patch of verdigris-colored frilly stuff is a foliose lichen called Flavoparmelia.

A patch of large bright-green Sphagnum girgensonii  provided a sharp contrast in color and texture to the small dark Scapania liverwort clinging to the same damp rock.

I don't recall ever finding American Yew (Taxus canadensis) in the Moreau woods before, but here it was growing along this little stream that tumbled down the mountain.

What a day of delights!  What a world of wonders waits just off the shoulder of the road!  Sure, I love to travel to new places and have new adventures in lands unfamiliar to me, but oh, how lucky I am to have such a wealth of woods and waterways close to my home -- and such dear companions to share my delight with me.  Every day brings new joy.


June said...

I never even heard of frost curls before this morning! They are magical! is the rest of your post. :-)

Caroline said...

Another trip home to the woods of my childhood, how cool is that! Thank you!

suep said...

Frostweed is magical and it is great fun to show it to someone who has not seen it before! Almost as much fun as anticipating it, and finding it each year was a good day spent with friends willing to ditch Plan A at a moment's notice!

Ellen Rathbone said...

I was thinking of your frost flowers a couple days ago - must've been psychic! Still...I've yet to see one.

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Thanks for all your kind comments, dear readers and friends. The chance to experience Frostweed curls is always somewhat iffy, since conditions have to be exactly right, so I always feel really privileged when we actually find some.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I really those close up frost photographs! Stay warm! JAIME