Tuesday, November 11, 2014

While the Sun Shines

I keep hearing dire predictions that terrible wintry blasts will soon come upon us, so I've been sure to get out this week to enjoy the continued balmy weather.  Gotta take those walks while the sun shines.

We were actually hoping, my friend Sue and I, that Saturday morning would be a frosty one.  We arranged to meet early that morning at Cole's Woods in Glens Falls, where we know some Frostweed (Helianthum canadense) grows, and we were planning to get some photos of the curls of frozen vapor this plant is named for.  But no such luck.  It didn't get cold enough to freeze, although it was chilly enough that we dug out our winter hats and gloves to keep us warm while we crouched on the ground taking photos.

Since we didn't find any Frostweed curls, we went looking for another interesting plant that grows in Cole's Woods, one we had found in flower last summer and hoped to find in seed, now.  We were positive we remembered where to find One-sided Pyrola (Orthilia secunda), and sure enough, after only a bit of confusion we found the spot.

Although the Orthilia was growing amid other low-growing evergreen plants like Shinleaf and Pipsissewa, Sue promptly spotted the whorls of distinctive green leaves, more pointed than those of other Pyrola species.  It took some searching to find the flower stalks with their brown seed pods, and a great deal of difficulty to photograph them against the busy background of the forest floor.

In the same area grow many Pipsissewa plants (Chimaphila umbellata), with their glossy green leaves and brown dried fruits.  And interspersed among the Pipsissewa we found the thread-fine stems of Starflower (Trientalis borealis) bearing tiny globe-shaped seeds of chalky white.  Long after their flowers have faded, many plants continue to offer aspects of interest, as well as beauty.

What a pleasant surprise it was, Sunday morning, to get a call from our son Steve that he was on the train heading to Saratoga Springs from Brooklyn.  And how lucky we were, to have such a pleasant sun-warmed day for a walk along the Hudson River at Moreau.  Although Steve is definitely a big-city enthusiast, he also loves the out-of-doors and looks forward to getting out to the woods when he comes home to visit.  Yes, he looks happy, here.

While most of the trees have shed their vivid autumn foliage, the Highbush Blueberry shrubs still held onto theirs, adding to the beauty of the riverscape.

The late afternoon sun made the mountainsides glow, and the quiet water amplified that glow in the reflections.

Today was another balmy day, the warmest of them all.  It was definitely a lovely day for a walk around Mud Pond at Moreau Lake State Park.  The water in the pond was so low I could walk on shores that would normally be under water and discern what plants might be growing there.

On a wide flat delta where a stream enters the pond,  the mud was carpeted with the shiny red leaves of Water Purslane (Ludwigia palustris), punctuated by the powdery-green leaves of Low Cudweed (Gnaphalium uliginosum).  I could also detect some baby plants of Dwarf St. Johnswort (Hypericum mutilum), rosettes of tiny pink leaves.

In past years, late in the fall when the water is low, I have found masses of the floating liverwort called Riccia (Ricciocarpus natans) stranded on these mud flats.  Sure enough, there they were today, although I nearly missed seeing them, they were so tiny.  I have seen them in other years much bigger than these, but there was no mistaking their chubby little cat's-paw shape.  I wonder if they will grow in size as they rest here on the mud.  I will have to come back in a week or so to see.

The normal habitat of Riccia is floating in the water, and I've never discovered how such masses of them come to be stranded on the mud while water remains in the pond.  When I was here about two weeks ago I found no sign of them, but here they are today.  How did they get here?  Will they stay onshore all winter and float away when spring rains and snowmelt raise the water level?

Here's a photo of Riccia that I took a year ago last June, when I found masses of it floating on the surface of Mud Pond.  It was quite a bit larger then, and its underside was covered with dangling purple structures called "rhizoids."   Although liverworts, technically speaking, do not have roots the way vascular plants do, these rhizoids do help the liverwort absorb water and nutrients and sometimes serve to anchor the plants.

Another object of interest out on this mud flat was the presence of several mounds of mud, probably deposited by  Star-nosed Moles as they excavated the tunnels they use to hunt for underground, and also under water, prey.  I find it hard to believe that a furry little creature would want to live in such a soggy, muddy place, but this is exactly the kind of habitat that Star-nosed Moles love.  There were quite a number of these mounds, causing me to wonder if they were the work of a single very busy mole, or does a whole colony of them inhabit this shore?  The chances are extremely slim that I will ever see one, so my curiosity will probably never be satisfied.

1 comment:

The Furry Gnome said...

Always enjoy your walks! Finding it hard to set aside exploring this late fall while I recover!