Saturday, March 12, 2016
Around the Ice-free Pond
The sun returned to us Friday, and the balmy temperatures persisted. Not as crazy as that 80-above on Wednesday, but into the nice mid-50s -- perfect for a walk around Mud Pond at Moreau Lake State Park. And look: all the ice is gone from the pond! I wonder if this sets some record for the earliest day for ice-out.
I'll bet it's close to the earliest date for American Hazelnut flowers. I do have in my files one photo of these tiny red female flowers dated 3/12/12, but most of my photos are dated later in March or early April. I usually think of this as the second flower of spring, after Skunk Cabbage. But when we looked for Skunk Cabbage on Wednesday this week, its spathes were still tightly closed, and the muddy ground where they grew was still quite frozen.
As I walked around the pond today, I did not expect to find any other flowers starting to bloom, but I did enjoy revisiting many of the flowers I'd enjoyed in bloom last summer, trying to recognize them from their wintered-over remains. Maleberry was one of those, easily recognized by its little hard fruits that always remind me of miniature hot-cross buns.
It's also easy to recognize the remains of Marsh St. Johnswort from the cinnamon color and tulip shape of its seed capsules.
The puffy little seed pods of Ditch Stonecrop persist through the winter virtually unchanged, other than blanching from rosy pink to almost white by the time spring arrives.
Beautiful Wintergreen always looks the same, spring, summer, winter, or fall, with glossy green leaves and plump red berries that can persist even when the plants come into flower in the summer. Oh look what else shares this mossy patch with the Wintergreen: A seed capsule of Starflower, chalk-white and centered within a star, held on a fine wiry stem.
One bank of Mud Pond was almost completely carpeted with the leathery green leaves of Trailing Arbutus, and a closer look revealed an abundance of flower buds just waiting to bloom. This is one of our earliest spring flowers, and one of our prettiest, too, with waxy white or pink blooms that are as fragrant as they are beautiful.
Here was a lovely mound of Haircap Moss, with its tiny splash cups starting to form. Soon, they will be filled with sperm to be splashed out by spring rains and washed to waiting females. Moss sex!
As I completed my circuit of the pond, the sun was spreading a warm golden light on the eastern bank, where flocks of geese and ducks were paddling about on the mirror-still water, filling the air with their clamor.
I took the long way home, taking Spier Falls Road over the mountain and along the Hudson River, stopping at the Spier Falls Dam to examine the boulders that line the road there. In just a few weeks these rosettes of Early Saxifrage leaves will produce masses of white flowers, sprouting from mounds of lovely multi-colored mosses. It will be a gorgeous sight. But so are these rosy leaves and plump mosses, still fresh even after spending the winter under coatings of ice.