Sunday, June 5, 2016

Some Muddy Wonders and Other Finds at Mud Pond

I stopped by Mud Pond at Moreau Lake State Park yesterday, just on a quick visit to see what might be blooming.  I was glad I was wearing water shoes, because then I could walk along the wet muddy shore and peer closely  among the sedges for some of the tiny flowers that prefer this habitat.  And I wasn't disappointed!  Bright little spots of brilliant yellow announced a healthy population of Common Bladderwort (Utricularia vulgaris), holding its chubby little flowers high above the mud (except for the few that had already fallen).

The very mud was alive with tiny hoppers, itsy-bitsy mud-colored critters no bigger than crickets.  I managed to grab one and hold it just long enough to determine it was, indeed, a wee little baby toad. And there were thousands of them!

I could see white Water Lilies out on the water, and up on the shore were clumps of the beautiful native iris called Blue Flag (Iris versicolor).

Climbing up the steep banks to where a power line runs parallel to Spier Falls Road,  I walked this clear-cut sandy open area and noted dozens of Pink Lady's Slippers (Cypripedium acaule) blooming away in the pine woods next to the trail.  This flower has to be one of the showiest, as well as the most abundant, of our native orchids.

Also blooming this day were clumps of Wild Lupine (Lupinus perennis), thriving in soil so sandy and barren that almost nothing else can grow there.

I've agreed to help a scientific research group locate some Blunt-leaved Milkweed (Asclepias amplexicaulis) for a study they're working on, so I was happy to find this flower growing just where I thought it would be.  It wasn't yet in bloom, but I don't think that will be a problem for their study.

I wonder if any studies have been conducted on how Oriental Bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus) has supplanted our native American Climbing Bittersweet (Celastrus scandens) from its former range.  But then, all you have to do is look around at thousands of strangled trees to see that.  That's why I was so pleased to find these flowering vines along the sandy path above Mud Pond.  These are the real deal, the genuine native bittersweet vines, and there were quite a few of them, all in beautiful bloom.

But here was a shrub I was not at all happy to find along this clearcut.  This is Autumn Olive (Eleagnus umbellata), a bush so beautiful and fragrant it's no mystery why it became a favorite garden shrub. But unfortunately, it did not stay in people's gardens, rapidly becoming one of the most invasive species of our area, thanks to the abundant fruit it bears, with seeds that are carried off to the woods by the birds who crave them.  Luckily, I found only a single shrub in among a stand of native Shining Sumacs, so this one should be easy to eliminate.  I will ask the park manager if he will see to its elimination.

While walking amid the flowers, I was delighted by all the beautiful dragonflies flitting about.  Here are the only two that held still enough for the picture-taking.

This is a female Calico Pennant, splendidly yellow in all the places her mate is vivid red.

And this is a male 12-spotted Skimmer, his wings spread wide so we can easily count the 6 black spots on each pair of his wings.


The Furry Gnome said...

I really need to get out exploring more. I've been slacking off.

catharus said...

As for the Autumn Olive....check on it to see if the park manager does eliminate must be done! :-)