Monday, May 11, 2015

Wildflowers at Woods Hollow (and Nearby)

The stars are beginning to shine this week at Woods Hollow Nature Preserve near Ballston Spa.  I mean, of course, the lovely Starflower (Trientalis borealis), which is just now spreading a firmament on the forest floor near the pond that lies at the center of this preserve.  Most of the plants are bearing but a single bloom as yet, but as the season proceeds, most will bear at least two blooms and some three or four. They make a truly beautiful display, the pure white flowers seeming to shine from the deepest shady woods.

Sharing the same sites as the Starflowers are these adorable little winged flowers called Fringed Polygala (Polygala paucifolia), which look like tiny hot-pink single-engine airplanes, propellors awhirl.

In the darker, damper spots, myriads of tiny Dwarf Ginseng (Panax trifolium) are spreading a carpet of their perfect spheres of miniature starry flowers, one of the prettiest sights of the mid-spring woods.  I always make a special effort to catch them in bloom, because as soon as the flowers fade and set seed, the entire plant disappears until next spring.

You have to get out early, too, to catch the pretty Goldthread flowers (Coptis trifolia) before they fade, although its glossy three-lobed leaves will persist throughout the year, even under the snow.  I found them in perfect bloom today, their snowy-white sepals wide open to reveal green spindle-shaped pistils surrounded by tiny yellow club-shaped parts, shiny as lemon Jello.  Are these yellow parts the petals?  Or are they nectaries?  I must confess, I don't know.

I was afraid I was already too late to catch the Painted Trilliums (Trillium undulatum) before they dropped their pink-splashed petals, but no, there they were, hiding out in a low spot near the swamp.  I probably would have missed them if a ray of sun hadn't illuminated this perfect bloom.

I made a circuit around the pond, marveling at the flashes of bright-orange that shone from the deep, dark water.  It must be that somebody once "freed" some pet Goldfish that have made for themselves a quite happy home in these non-native waters.  I loved how the pine boughs glowed from the surface as the Goldfish darted among the green reflections.

A tiny cold brook winds through a flat open marshy area, and these masses of pretty white violets twinkled like stars from amid the grasses that lined the banks.  I'm guessing they are the Northern White Violet (Viola pallens), a species that prefers just such damp habitats.

I had come to Woods Hollow today to check on the Pink Lady's Slippers (Cypripedium acaule) that bloom here by the hundreds under tall pines.  This summer-like heat we've had of late might have forced them into early bloom, I thought.  But no, they were still in tight bud, or else just new-sprouted leaves.  I would guess in a week or two the spectacular display of one of our largest and prettiest native orchids will begin.

Before I went home, I scooted down Northline Road a mile or so, then turned onto Malta Avenue to visit the Malta Ecological Park a short distance away.  This is the only place I know of to find the aptly named Fragrant Sumac (Rhus aromatica), whose leaves are indeed quite fragrant.  Later in the year they will have pretty red berries, but now their branches are thick with bunches of small yellow flowers.

On my return along Northline Road, I was amazed to see this low wetland set aglow by thousands of bright-yellow blooms.  A pretty sight, yes, but dismaying to me at first, because I feared this might be an infestation of the terribly invasive Lesser Celandine.  Happily, I was mistaken.

A closer inspection (requiring me to get my feet quite wet and muddy) revealed the presence of a native wetland plant instead, the gloriously shiny and brilliantly colored Yellow Water Buttercup (Ranunculus flabellaris).  Whew!  I don't see this plant very often, and how glad I was to find it thriving in such incredible abundance here!


The Furry Gnome said...

Very nice spring finds. I like that picture of the Goldfish among the tree reflections. I once saw a pond full of Goldfish in the woods too, near Niagara Falls.

Woody Meristem said...

Very nice photos of those beautiful spring flowers.