Thursday, May 16, 2013

A Busy Week in Various Woods

It's that time of year, the wildflower explosion that keeps me hopping from woods to woods to keep up with the latest to come into bloom.  Happily, two nights of near-freezing temperatures this past week did not seem to slow the progression.  Here's a quick recap of the past week in the woods.

On Friday, I had the honor of escorting some of my favorite plant people through the Skidmore Woods to check on some of that rich habitat's rarest species.  Here (l-r)are Bob Duncan, Evelyn Greene, Nancy Slack, and Ed Miller making their way to one of the secret areas where Goldenseal has been known to grow.

Why so secret about where it grows?  That's because over-collecting has very nearly extirpated this medicinal herb from the region, with the Skidmore Woods being one of the last areas in Saratoga County where it might be found.  And we were in luck, for we found an extensive patch that was looking very healthy.

Another plant that thrives in Skidmore's limey woods but at very few other locations is Green Violet.  Neither Bob nor Evelyn had ever seen this unusual member of the Violet Family before, and I was a bit disappointed that it wasn't yet fully in bloom.  But its little green flowers really don't look much different from the buds, even when fully open.  Nor do its little green flowers look much like any other violet.

We did find lots of violets that looked like typical violets and which were indeed fully open.  There were abundant numbers of Long-spurred, Downy Yellow, Canada, and Common Blue, including this quite unusual bicolor variety.

This Tuesday, my friend Sue Pierce and I returned to the Denton Wildlife Preserve in Washington County to prepare for the wildflower walk we'll be leading there on Saturday morning.  Since the walk is sponsored by the area Audubon chapter, I imagine we'll have avid birders along, so our job will be to try to direct some of the folks' attention to the plant life, surrounded as we will be by a habitat favored by birds as well as plants.

One of the interesting plants at this site is a rather stunted little Jack Pine, an anomalous occurrence for Washington County, which is far out of the natural range for this native American pine.  We were really surprised on Tuesday to find this little pine under attack by a swarm of budworms wreaking serious damage to the new growth.  No wonder the tree is stunted!  I wonder if this happens every spring.  (I also wonder if we should attempt to destroy this infestation, since budworms can devastate other conifers, not just Jack Pine.)

If our walkers are repulsed by the sight of the budworms, we will quickly find remedy in the beauty of Fringed Polygala, which thrives in abundant numbers at many places along the trails that wind through the preserve.

 Equally charming are the many Starflower plants just coming into bloom.

We will find plenty of Foamflower, too, in the places where our trail passes near to a stream.

If we're lucky, we'll once again find the little patch of Rue Anemone we saw on Tuesday, its pristine sepals of purest white opening above a whorl of dainty rue-like leaves.

There are lots of Bear Oaks at the Denton Preserve, and wherever we find oaks, we also find galls.  I've seen galls of many shapes and colors on oaks, but never one that looked like these little green balloons.  Undoubtedly, they are caused by some insect laying its eggs on the leaves, but I don't know which insect is responsible for this particular gall.

Of all our finds at Denton Preserve, a nice patch of Nodding Trillium excited us most of all.  The New York Flora Association has expressed concern that this species of trillium appears to be disappearing from its range, so to find a new site like this is cause for celebration.  I hope our birder friends will appreciate what a privilege it is to see this pretty flower.

Encouraged by that Nodding Trillium find, I stopped at Bog Meadow Nature Trail on my way home to Saratoga Springs.  This trail is one of the few sites in Saratoga County where Nodding Trillium may still be found.

I hurried to the area where I usually find them, but I was disappointed.  I saw many Red Trilliums, fading now, but only one Nodding Trillium, which was still in tight bud.  I noticed that the area had been cleared of the shrubs that once grew close by the trail, so perhaps this shade-loving trillium will no longer thrive at this site.  A pity.

One plant that is surely thriving at Bog Meadow is Star-flowered Solomon's Seal (Maianthemum stellata), which bears a cluster of white star-shaped flowers at the end of a graceful stalk of leaves of the prettiest blue-green color.  Over the years, this lovely plant has increased its population many times over.

I stooped to admire the bright-yellow star-shaped flowers of Hooked Crowfoot and found this shiny green red-eyed bug arrayed on a leaf.  I think it may be a nymph of some kind of Assassin Bug.

This rusty-brown bird kept hopping around in the bushes and finally landed on a branch that gave me a nice clear view.  If only it had opened its bill and sung, that would have clinched its ID.  I believe that this is a Veery, although one with very faint spots on its breast, so it doesn't look exactly like the pictures in my bird guides.

Since my route home took me right by the entrance to Yaddo, I turned into the drive of this artists' retreat center.  Last year, Yaddo's groundskeepers had cut down all the American Bladdernut shrubs that grew by a bridge over a stream.  I contacted some of the people responsible and asked them to do what they could to protect these native shrubs in the future, since this species is really uncommon in northern Saratoga County.   This day, I was happy to see that the shrubs were recovering nicely, and were even bearing the clusters of blooms that would later produce the distinctive hollow pods for which this shrub is named.


Raining Iguanas said...

Another fine assembly of natures bounty. I enjoyed the walk(s)!

Uta said...

Such beauty in nature. You made my day.

catharus said...

Wonderful account; even some flower's there I hadn't heard of before.
Yes, that's a Veery! :-)

Momo said...

How lovely to see so many flowers out now! The shot of the fringed polygala is gorgeous-one of my favorite Spring blooms! Thank you for all of your postings to help sustain me (along with your other devoted followers)-Margie (winter PLC)