Saturday, April 22, 2017

Those Are Flowers?

It would be really easy to miss the flowers of Hairy Wood Rush (Luzula acuminata var. acuminata).  For one thing, they're very small, and for another, they don't look very "floral."  Unless you look very close.  Then they do look kind of like little lilies. You can certainly see their stamens and pistils.

I came to Bog Meadow Brook Nature Trail today in search of this little graminoid, specifically to collect a specimen for the New York Flora Association.  This is hardly a rare plant in the state, since NYFA's Plant Atlas shows it growing in nearly every county of New York.  Except for Saratoga County.  Time to remedy that omission.  But how do I know this is Hairy Wood Rush?  Well, among other reasons, one thing is certain: its leaves and stems certainly fit the description of "hairy," wouldn't you say?

While out at Bog Meadow, I found some other "flowers" along the trail.  Well, technically,  these strobili (spore stalks) of Field Horsetail (Equisetum arvense) can't be called flowers, since they don't produce seeds.  But they do perform the reproductive functions of seeds, since the spores they shed will produce new horsetail plants.  Once those spores are shed, these non-photosynthetic fertile strobili will wither and disappear, while the separate sterile green stalks will persist through the growing season, depending on their chlorophyll to photosynthesize nutrients the same way other green plants do.

Here is one of the sterile green stalks of Field Horsetail, many of which were sprouting up all around the area where the fertile stalks were growing.

I found a second species of horsetail, the Woodland Horsetail (Equisetum sylvaticum) sprouting up in a nearby wet area.  Note that this species bears its strobilus atop its green-leaved stalk.  Once the spores have ripened and been shed, this cone-like structure will wither and drop off as the rest of the plant continues growing, producing multi-branched leaves, a distinguishing feature of this species of Equisetum.

Another odd flower: the staminate flowers of a sedge (Carex) species, which look like a wild blond hairdo.  Possibly Carex pensylvanica, but other sedges also have narrow leaves like this.  I don't know how to tell one sedge from another.

All spring I've been looking for the bright-red female (pistillate) flowers of Hazelnut (Corylus sp.) and haven't been able to find any.  These sure look like them, accompanied by the dangling staminate catkins, but instead of growing on a head-high shrub, these were growing on a tall slender tree that had bent over to bring its branches close to the ground.  I have never seen either Hazelnut species as tall and rangy as this.  I found no hairs on the twigs, so for sure it's not American Hazelnut (Corylus americana), but could it be Beaked Hazelnut (C. cornuta)? Does any other tree or shrub bear little red sprouty flowers that look like this?

OK, here are some flowers that actually look like flowers:  Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris).  Most of the plants were still in tight bud, but way out in the mucky marsh I could see these bright yellow blooms. I couldn't get close to them, but my camera's zoom lens could.   Soon every roadside ditch and swamp and swale will be filled with their golden glow.

Ta da!  The Red Trilliums (Trillium erectum) have opened their fat buds to reveal these stunning lipstick-red blooms.  Just one or two were gracing the forest floor at present, but soon we will find their big beautiful flowers in abundance.

A tiny brook runs along the trail at Bog Meadow, and where its flow calms to form little pools of quiet water, I often see Water Striders zipping across the smooth surface, dimpling the water with their finely-haired legs that don't break the surface-tension.  This one seemed to have caught some stars in its front feet.

Finally, here's a puzzle.  I found several examples of where the still-unfurled leaves of either Skunk Cabbage or False Hellebore had pierced through a dry tree leaf.  How the heck can this happen?  I would think that the coiled leaves, as they rise, would just push the leaf out of the way. How is it that the soft tissue of these leaves can cut through the leathery fabric of the dry leaves?  I cannot imagine how this takes place.  Has anyone ever seen a time-lapse film of this phenomenon?


The Furry Gnome said...

That phenomenon is really strange when you think about it, but I see it often enough. I'll have to note which plants do that.

Kathryn Grace said...

Thank you once again for the care and time you give to these photo essays. For a second or two, I thought I smelled leaf mold and fresh spring breezes, perhaps the scent of something four-legged. Your blog is ever a treasure.

suep said...

Up here on the Glen Lake section of bike trail, the regular Hazel flowers are all done, but the Beaked Hazel flowering is a week or two after that -- and our Red Trillium are just tight buds right now