Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Home to a Favorite Flower

While galavanting around the Adirondacks these past days, I almost missed my chance to pay my respects to one of my favorite hometown flowers, the dainty Four-leaved Milkweed (Asclepias quadrifolia), which blooms in early June.  Although the New York Flora Association's plant atlas shows this diminutive milkweed to be "demonstrably secure" throughout much of the state,  the only place I have ever found it in Saratoga County is right here in Saratoga Springs, in the limestone-enriched woods at Skidmore College.  And I'm never sure I'm going to find it here, either.  So even though it was drizzly all day yesterday, I pulled on my raingear and walked the Skidmore trails searching for this flower.  Happily, I found it.  But only a few lonely plants.

I used to find dozens of these pretty little milkweeds on any Skidmore trail I would take in early June, but over the past few years I've discovered I can't count on finding it every time.  I know it doesn't like to be overshadowed by taller plants, so it tends to grow at the edge of trails rather than in deep woods.  One of the places it used to thrive was right by the Palamountain Hall parking lot along the college's perimeter road.  Unfortunately, some neat freak has been put in charge of maintaining the parking areas, and now the verges are kept mowed and cleared of all the rich mix of wildflowers that used to burgeon here in glorious array.  How on earth could anyone prefer the appearance of bare dirt over tumbling masses of Virginia Rose, Heart-leaved Aster, Wild Bergamot, and Four-leaved Milkweed?

Luckily, the mowers missed a spot, so I was able to enjoy the sight of a nice big patch of Robin's Plantain (Erigeron pulchellus), a fleabane with rather large showy flowers. A little bit bedraggled today, because of the rain, but pretty, nevertheless.

Nearby was another favorite of mine, the aptly named Round-leaved Dogwood (Cornus rugosa) with its clusters of creamy-white flowers.

A turn of the trail took me onto an open area where sturdy plants of Orange-fruited Horse Gentian (Triosteum aurantiacum) grow in isolated patches here and there.  Although many of the plants had already shed the tiny red flowers that wreath the stalks at the axils, I did find a few still holding on to some of their rosy trumpets.

There were several kinds of dragonflies flitting all around, but only this Common Whitetail (Libellula lydia) sat still long enough for me to take its photo.  It took a few tries, but I stationed myself, camera aimed, by this rock, expecting that each time the dragonfly few away it would return to the very same spot.  And so it did.  Dragonflies often do that.  How else would we ever manage to take their photos?

Although I confess to being obsessed about our native wildflowers, I'm not such a snob that I can't enjoy some of our prettier introduced species.  This stand of Garden Valerian (Valeriana officianalis) was putting on quite a lovely show by the lot where I'd parked my car.

And these little yellow flowers of Wormseed Mustard (Erysimum cheiranthoides) may be dismissed as weeds by some, but to me they provided some very pretty decoration to an otherwise barren and deeply disturbed plot of dirt at the edge of the parking lot.

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