Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Sand Plain and Piney Woods

After two trips this week to the rich calcareous Oak-Hickory forest of the Skidmore Woods, I sought a complete change of habitat today when I visited the sand plains and piney woods at Woods Hollow Nature Preserve just north of Ballston Spa.  I'd heard the Wild Lupine might be blooming there, and yes indeed, it sure was!

It's hard to believe such a glorious flower would choose to grow in such barren-seeming, dry sandy fields as these, where hardly anything else except Sand Bur and Sweet Fern feels at home. But wait, there's also Little Blue-stem Grass that, this time of year, still rolls its tawny carpet across the ground.  There are oak trees, too, and several species of pine, and today, this stand of young poplars was just shimmering with light.  I felt I had just stepped into a painting by Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot.

A closer look at the poplars' jade-touched-with-apricot leaves (I think this tree might be a young Big Tooth Aspen) reveals their velvety texture that holds the light with a pearly glow.

The baby oaks' leaves (could this be a Scarlet Oak? or Black Oak?) are not at all that subtle in their coloration, but glow ruby-red and bright golden-yellow.  I love how even the yellow leaves are edged with red.

White Pine, Pitch Pine, and Scotch Pine -- all three grow here on this sandy plain and all three were producing pollenaceous male flowers today (allergy sufferers, beware!), but I was especially impressed by these tall spikes on a Scotch Pine.  They looked like the candles on an old-fashioned Christmas tree.

After climbing a dune, I left the sand plain below and entered a mixed hardwood/conifer woods that this time of year is home to hundreds of Pink Lady's Slippers.  Most were still in green bud today, but I did find this trio of beauties in full rosy pink.

Here and there, the forest floor was strewn with a veritable firmament of Starflowers, masses of their pristine white blooms shining bright against the dark leaf-duff.  And oh, what a treat to find the bright-magenta blooms of Fringed Polygala joining the array!  What an absolutely perfect combination!

I love Starflowers so much, I just can't stop taking pictures of them.  Especially when their delicate beauty is set off so well by the foil of dark, rough tree bark.

1 comment:

The Furry Gnome said...

What fabulous pictures! Those two of the oak and poplar leaves are amazing. You're an inspiration with all your explorations.