Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Revisiting Wilton

The Wilton Wildlife Preserve and Park is one of the places in Saratoga County I frequently visit to look for wildflowers, as longtime readers of this blog may recall, since I have featured this preserve's fascinating flora many times over the years.  Perhaps that's why WWPP's executive director Margo Olson has invited me to present a wildflower slideshow to the preserve's volunteers next month.  I have so many photos in my files I could probably prepare my presentation without leaving my house, but oh, such a lovely day for a wildflower walk it was today!  Why not head out to the Wilton Wildlife Preserve and Park for a little inspiration?

My favorite portion of this extensive preserve is the Gick Farm Parcel along Rte. 50 north of Saratoga Springs, for it's here I can find many of the sand-plain plants that favor this kind of oak/pine habitat.  In fact, this parcel is the ONLY place in all of Saratoga County I will find the giant stalks of Tall Ironweed (pictured above) waving their bright-pinky-purple blooms right by the parcel's parking area.  Although this species of Ironweed thrives in more central areas of New York, it is not native to Saratoga County and possibly found its inadvertent way to Wilton with the grass seed used to restore this old farmland acreage to its pre-agriculture state.

The Wilton Wildlife Preserve and Park is perhaps best known locally for its efforts to restore the habitat for the federally-endangered Karner Blue Butterfly.  In spring these open meadows punctuated by oaks and pines will be a sea of blue, thanks to the acres of Wild Blue Lupine that have been planted here, the only flower that can support the Karner Blue caterpillars.  But today the meadows are a sea of green, with the wind passing in waves through the native grasses that also thrive here.

In certain areas, that sea of green was interrupted by masses of Horsemint, a native wildflower that's another favorite of various butterflies and other pollinators.

Although the Horsemint's flowers are pale yellow spotted with red, the most noticeable part of the plant, especially from a distance, are the wreaths of pale pink or white bracts that circle the stems.

In a few weeks, these meadows will be a sea of gold as many native species of Goldenrod open their blooms.  And by then, the pretty pink puffs of Meadowsweet will probably have faded.  In fact, I was surprised to find it still in bloom today.

Other butterflies beside the Karner Blue find a happy home here, including this Great Spangled Fritillary.  I posted a photo of its gorgeous orange wings on my previous post, but this photo shows its distinctly spotted, paler-colored underwings.

When I was here in May, the Karner Blue Butterflies could be seen by the hundreds, flitting among the  Wild Blue Lupine and other blooming plants.  Today, this was the only Karner Blue I saw, and it must have mistaken my blue sneaker for its favorite blue flower, since it landed on my foot and clung there even as I continued to walk.  I later examined my shoe, but did not find any trace of butterfly eggs.

It wasn't just the sights, but also the smells that gave me great pleasure today.  Passing by this patch of sun-warmed Sweet Fern, I breathed extra deep to draw in the exquisite scent its leaves were giving off.

More sweet scents awaited me when I moved from the open sunlit meadow into the shady pine woods, and the equally delicious fragrance of pine needles filled the air.

I saw many still-green basal leaves of the Pink Lady's Slippers that burgeoned here in the pine woods last May, and I kept searching the needle-strewn forest floor in hopes I might find other orchids here, perhaps one of the species of Goodyera.  Well, no Goodyera did I find, but I did find a pretty orchid.  This is Helleborine, and although it is not one of our native orchids, it's still an orchid.

And looked at closely, a rather pretty little orchid, at that.

No comments: