Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Summer-like Days in May

I've packed all my scarves and mittens and snowboots away and dug out my shorts and tee shirts and sandals.  The weather turned summer-warm this week, and I spent so much time outside enjoying it, I neglected to take the time to write my blog.  So here's a quick recap about some of the woodsy and watery places I've been enjoying the past few days.

Sunday, May 5:  Saratoga Spa State Park

The wonderful native-plant nursery, Fiddlehead Creek Farm, held a plant sale on Sunday on the lawn of the Lincoln Bathhouse, with a share of the proceeds going to support programs of the Spa Park.  I was happy to do my bit by purchasing four pots of Miterwort and another of Bluets to add to my personal woodland garden in my own backyard.  And I was also happy to head on over to the Ferndell Trail to enjoy one of the prettiest spots in the park, a shady ravine that follows a tumbling stream. 

 Park Manager Mike Greenslade had told me about a project planting native species along this trail, and I was eager to see what had been planted.  There were several species of ferns and sedges to add to the greenery and help stabilize the steep banks, but I also found a number of flowering plants that will soon be blooming along the stream.  In the patch shown here, there were Jacob's Ladder and Golden Ragwort, with buds about to burst into bloom and add their blue and gold to the shady woods.

These newly planted species join the long-established wildflowers that grow along this trail.  Red Trillium, Small-flowered Crowfoot, and Jack-in-the-pulpit were blooming on Sunday, but the showiest flowers of all were on the Hobblebush shrubs that grow on the banks and lean their branches over the trail so that I could enjoy a close-up view of their pristine white flowers.

The Ferndell Trail terminates at the road that runs by the picnic area of the park, which is also the area where most of the natural mineral springs can be found.  I stopped to take an invigorating -- and tasty! -- drink from one of the springs.  This water obviously contains much iron, to judge by the blood-red oxides that have built up over the years.

Monday, May 6:  The Hudson River at Moreau

Monday was a perfectly wonderful day for a paddle:  the water was calm and not another soul was around to roil its glassy surface.   That's not counting the Great Blue Heron that mounted up with thumping wingbeats each time I rounded a bend and disturbed this magnificent bird at its wading.

The sun was so hot, the river's still-cold water felt wonderfully refreshing when I trailed my hands over the side of my canoe.  I drifted close to the banks, where masses of tiny Bluets were scattered through the grasses and tumbled over the edge.

When I passed by a certain niche in a rock where I know to look for Lance-leaved Violets, I was surprised to find its slender white flowers already in bloom.   Because this patch of violets grows so close to the water's edge, I usually don't look to find them until June, after the river has subsided from its spring flood.  We haven't had much rain this spring, nor snow this past winter, so consequently, no spring flood.

I pulled my boat up onto a little rocky island and walked about on its mossy ground.  From inside a grove of overhanging trees already well in leaf,  I was struck by the vivid stained-glass glow of these baby Chestnut Oak leaves backlit by the sun.

On my way back home along Spier Falls Road,  I stopped at the dam and got out of my car to take in the beauty of cliff-dwelling Early Saxifrage exploding into bloom out of beds of dark and bright-green moss.

A closer look revealed that one of the mosses had produced its own tiny garden of perfectly spherical fruits on hair-fine stalks.   The fruits look very much like those of Apple Moss, but the worm-shaped leaves don't resemble those of that species of moss at all.  I will have to consult some of my moss-expert friends and come back to add an update.

Update: My more knowledgeable friends Bob Duncan and Evelyn Greene came through with a name for this pretty moss.  It's Philonotis fontana, also called Fountain Moss, a name that's appropriate for a moss that grows on rocks that are damp from seeping water.  And it does belong to the same family (Bartramiaceae) as Apple Moss (Bartramia pomiformis), as the shape of its fruits suggest.  In fact, one of its common names is Spring Apple Moss.

Tuesday, May 7:  Cole's Woods in Glens Falls, NY

 My friend Sue had alerted me that the Rosybells were about to bloom in Cole's Woods, a remarkably woodsy spot right in the middle of the city of Glens Falls.   So that's where I went to meet and walk with Sue on Tuesday, and oh, what a wonderful walk it was, in a spring-green woods resounding with beautiful birdsong.  Here, Sue listens to hear the call of the Blue-headed Vireo ringing out from the treetops, while the fluting, trilling, piping lilt of a Winter Wren seemed to follow us from point to point wherever we went along our path.

And yes, the Rosybells were blooming indeed!  Only a single bell or two as yet, but oh, what a pretty little pink-speckled thing it was.  You really have to search to find this flower (also known as Rose Twisted Stalk), because it dangles -- on a fine twisted stalk -- out of sight beneath the cover of its leaves.

Dwarf Ginseng was also beginning to bloom, and I've never found any other place, in all of my woodland wanderings, where this flower blooms so abundantly as in Cole's Woods.  In only a week or two or three,  it will disappear completely, gone without a trace of seeds or leaves, until it pops up again next spring.

Wintergreen, on the other hand, is one of the most persistent plants we have, with both leaves and fruits looking fresh and plump all winter long, well into the following summer.

The berries we found today -- and they were last year's berries -- were the plumpest and reddest we had ever seen on any Wintergreen plant.  I think they must like it here in Cole's Woods.  Sue and I certainly do.

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