Tuesday, June 14, 2016

A Two-Orchid, New-Orchid Day on the River!

Oh man, it felt great to be back on the Hudson in high summer!  I missed a whole summer of paddling last year because of my knee injury, so I was excited to explore these beautiful banks and islands once more, especially on such a splendid blue-sky day as the one we had today.

The signs were good that this would be an especially fine paddle, for I'd hardly gone a few strokes upstream from the launching site when I spied this little orchid, Shining Ladies' Tresses (Spiranthes lucida), right next to the shore.  Just a single plant, with its tiny yellow-lipped florets. Now, how did this early-season Spiranthes get here?  I've been paddling and studying this shore for over 20 years, and this is the first time that Shining Ladies' Tresses has made an appearance.  As they say, "Hey!  You never know!"

The next flower I spied was this gorgeous clump of Blue Flags (Iris versicolor), the flowers still in beautiful shape, unlike the withered Blue Flag blooms I'd found elsewhere earlier this week.

And oh look! Crouching in one of the iris's petals was the tiniest Marbled Orb-weaver I'd ever seen.  So cute!

One by one, my old flower friends emerged to meet me.  Here was a whole bank-full of Canada Anemone (Anemone canadensis), with its big white flowers and deeply lobed leaves

These bright-yellow Small Sundrops (Oenothera perennis), clinging to the base of a boulder, offered a perch for a tiny visiting bee.

As I paddled close to the bank, I could hear the burbling music of a miniature waterfall as a tiny rill splashed down the steep bank and spilled into the river.

Up on the rocky bank, I caught the flutter of wings as this very quiet little Northern Waterthrush darted from rock to rock, always eluding my efforts to get a clear view with my camera.  Can you see this stripey little bird (it's actually a warbler, not a thrush), very well camouflaged among the twigs and rocks and pine needles? Not a clear photo, but it was the best I've ever been able to get.

I next approached one of the little islands that stud the river here, paddling across a shallow area that was thick with three different St. Johnsworts.  The jewel-red leaves belong to Marsh St. Johnswort (Hypericum virginicum),  and the green-leaved stalks are those of Pale St. Johnswort (H. ellipticum).

Shining with glittering air-bubbles under the water were masses of the pink-leaved Dwarf St. Johnswort (H. mutilum).

The islands in this part of the river once were forested with oaks and ashes and birches, but now those trees have mostly died, both from flooding water levels kept high all year by dam operations, and by the constant gnawing of many beavers.  I once called this island White Birch Island, but as you can see, not a single White Birch remains (except for a few pitiful snags).

Every year, more trees have been toppled by hungry beavers.

The habitat will now change from shady forest to open shrub-meadow.   Among the shrubs that thrive on this island is Arrowwood (Viburnum dentatum), which today was in full glorious bloom.

Another shrub that thrives on this island is Common Elderberry (Sambucus nigra ssp. canadensis), whose snowy white blooms had not quite opened this day.

The sandy flats, now open to the sun, were paved today with the pretty blue stars of Blue-eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium montanum).

I loved this mix of Blue-eyed Grass, Small Sundrops, Bluets, and the spiky green fruits of a sedge.

Now this was another surprise!  And a second orchid I'd never before found on these shores!  Here was a thriving patch of yellow-green Tubercled Orchids (Platanthera flava var. herbiola), growing right where I used to find some Horned Bladderwort that today was nowhere to be found.  This shoreline is certainly ever-changing!

Here's a closer view of Tubercled Orchid, its florets not yet quite open enough to reveal the tiny "tubercle" (bump) on the lower lip.

Feeling flush with the luck of finding those two orchids, I decided to stop at a powerline clearcut along my way home, hoping to find the Green-flowered Pyrola  (Pyrola chlorantha) I'd found at this site two years ago.  This flower is not exactly rare, but it's not as common as the white-flowered Shinleaf Pyrola, and I rarely see it in my ordinary wanderings.  But my luck sure held out today, for here were dozens of Green-flowered Pyrolas, and all in beautiful bloom!


Anonymous said...

I love waking up to your blog - it's my way of going out into nature without having to do it physically. Thank you for all you do! I so enjoy "strolling" with you! Your pictures are fabulous!

threecollie said...

Oh, the marvels of June! So many wonders and beauties! I love Blue-eyed Grass especially for the memories it brings of long ago horse rides through wild meadows. Thanks

Woody Meristem said...

It's always a great day when you find wild orchids in bloom -- especially ones you've just discovered in a new location.