Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Wandering in the Rain

Oh my!  More than a week since I've posted a blog!  Well, the weather hasn't been very conducive to woodswalks, having rained almost every day (except those very few blue-sky days when I was busy with company).  Rain wouldn't have kept me indoors in past years, but now, since I injured my leg last year, I've become very leery of slick wet surfaces.  But I finally couldn't bear being stuck indoors anymore, and made it out between downpours, first on a quick trip to the Skidmore woods yesterday, and today to a lovely rock garden of moss and flowers along Spier Falls Road.

I was cheered as soon as I entered the Skidmore woods by the sight of these sprouting Striped Maple buds.  They looked like beautiful pink-bodied birds fluttering through the forest on bright-green wings.

I find the opening leaves of Alternate-leaved Dogwood as lovely as any flower, so gracefully curving, deeply pleated, frosted with down, and prettily edged with red.  I especially treasure this shrub, because its future is threatened by a disease that is ravaging this particular species of dogwood. Even now, I could detect the tell-tale yellowing of many of this shrub's twigs.

Although I was sorry to see the Bloodroot and Trout Lilies already gone to seed, I was delighted to find the first of the tiny Dwarf Ginseng flowers, a sprightly sphere of pure-white miniature blooms atop a wreath of pretty leaves.

The Canada Mayflower blooms had yet to arise, but their smooth green leaves looked beautiful dotted with raindrops.

All the violets are now starting to bloom, including the Downy Yellow Violets that happily abound in the Skidmore woods.

Do I have a very favorite spring wildflower?  No, really, how could I?  I love them all!  But if I did, Miterwort would surely be a top contender, with its graceful wands of tiny snowflake-like flowers.

Many woodland ferns are now unfurling, including the lipstick-red fiddleheads of the beautiful Maidenhair Fern, a common denizen of Skidmore's limestone-rich woods.

I waited and waited today for the rain to stop, but when it didn't, I pulled on my raincoat and jumped in my car for a drive over Mt. McGregor to Spier Falls Road.  Here, I pulled over to wander the riverside woods, where I found this graceful Hobblebush branch made heavy with opening blooms.

Further along, I explored the giant boulders that line the road near the Spier Falls Dam.  These boulders are constantly watered by dripping springs, creating a perfect habitat for a wondrous variety of mosses and other damp-loving plants.  And today, those mounds of radiant green moss were decorated by white-blossomed clusters of Early Saxifrage.  What an elegant rock garden this combination creates!

There are several species of moss that thrive among these boulders, but the most abundant of all of them is the bright-green Fountain Moss (Philonotis fontana), which also has a phase when it's colored a rich dark red.  This is a species that thrives on constantly dampened rocks, such as those that rise along Spier Falls Road.

I was disappointed today not to find the tiny perfect spheres of this moss's sporophytes, since I took the photo below about this same week in May a few years ago.  These sporophytes look very much like those of Apple Moss (Bartramia pomiformis), and the two mosses are related, both belonging to the family Bartramiaceae.  In fact, one of the common names for Philonotis fontana is Spring Apple Moss.

It's very hard to photograph the combination of moss and flowers, since the flowers of Early Saxifrage are so brightly white that I have to underexpose the moss to capture any detail at all in the flowers.  So here's a photo of the flowers alone.


Wayne said...

Thanks Jackie, for showing us how beautiful the world is when most of us are hiding from the weather. It's not just what you find, but how lovely so many things look in the soft light with no harsh shadows.

The Furry Gnome said...

Haven't had much rain here, but it's still cool. Haven't seen a Trillium in flower yet, but I expect this week will be the peak for spring wildflowers here. I love the pictures of that mossy Saxifrage garden. Thanks for suggesting Virginia Waterfeal. I'm going back to watch for it.