Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Up the Mountain for Wild Calla

With all the recent changes in scientific names for plants, I've been visiting the New York Flora Association's Flora Atlas frequently of late, trying to learn the new names for many familiar species. While I'm at this site, I'm often surprised to learn that many of the wildflowers I regularly find on my local wanderings are not listed as present for Saratoga County, simply because no botanist has officially documented their presence.  Well then, I guess somebody better get busy and document them, don't you think? That's what I had in mind yesterday when I started up the Baker Trail in the Palmertown Mountains of Moreau Lake State Park.  The NYFA site showed that Wild Calla (Calla palustris) was missing from Saratoga County, but I know where some grows in a mountain pool, and I was going to find it and prove it was there!  Too bad the only place I know where it grows is a long, steep, struggling, sweaty climb up a rocky, rooty trail that my still-healing shattered knee found more than a little bit daunting.  But darn it all, I DID it!

Yes, the climb did cause me some pain, but the beauty and solitude of the trail also gave me much pleasure.

The day was clear, the air dry and cool, mosquitoes and black flies were mostly absent, and the forest was filled with beautiful birdsong:  Peewee, Red-eyed Vireo, Wood Thrush, Ovenbird, and Black-throated Green Warbler were the ones I recognized, but there were others, too, who sang me on my way.  I saw not another soul on the trail, except for this curious Chippie.  Hi there, little cutie!

I always forget how long this climb is, but just before I get discouraged, I come to this little stone causeway laid across a stream (thanks to a local mountain-bike club!), and I know I am almost there.

Ah yes, I can see the sky brighten just ahead, and now I find the beaver dam that holds the water of the little stream back until it forms a pool.

And here it is!  I call this the Wild Calla Pool, for it's truly chock-full of this Arum Family plant. (Along with some tree snags and sedges, of course, and some lovely clumps of Blue Flag.)

And there they were, the distinctive knobby spadices of Wild Calla, held within their white spathes.

Part of the process of documenting the presence of a species is obtaining GPS coordinates, so I had brought my Garmin device along to do just that.  There!  Now everyone can know where to find these Wild Callas, too.

I know where to find the wild Blue Flags at much lower elevation, along the Hudson River, but the clumps that grow up here in this mountain air seemed much more abundant. Beautiful!

And here was another find, and quite a surprise!  A whole bunch of burry American Chestnut husks littered the shore in one place.  Try as I might, I could not find a mature chestnut tree anywhere in the area.  Where did all these husks come from?  It is really rare for an American Chestnut tree to grow old enough to produce fruit, since most of them die from the chestnut blight long before that.  But obviously, one did.


The Furry Gnome said...

Interesting work to link in to some botanical records work. Makes the challenging hike worthwhile. I've only ever seen one old Chestnut tree in Ontario that got big enough to produce the chestnuts.

Woody Meristem said...

Here in northcentral Pennsylvania chestnuts frequently set fruit when they're less than four inches in diameter. Of course, they've originated from much older root systems that have repeatedly sprouted and died-back since the chestnut blight arrived about 100 years ago.