Friday, May 5, 2017

Bog Meadow Surprises

Chilly and rainy today.  And so it will be for days to come.  That makes me doubly glad I got out to Bog Meadow Brook Nature Trail yesterday, searching for more of the plants that are missing from the Saratoga County record.  The other reason I am glad is that I found both of the missing plants I was searching for, as well as another that surprised me by blooming so early.

At first glance, the trail didn't look very promising for finding plants in bloom.

Except, of course, for the many patches of bright-white Wood Anemone (Anemone quinquefolia)  that looked as if someone had tossed down handfuls of stars along the path.  So pretty!

A few years ago I was surprised to find a single patch of Rose Twisted-stalk (Streptopus lanceolatus) growing along this trail, hidden beneath the invasive honeysuckle shrubs that dominate this particular section.  Every time I've walked this trail since, I've looked for it, and most times I haven't been able to find it again.  But on this day I did, and a thriving patch it was, too.  This is one of the "missing" plants I'd been looking for, so I was delighted it had not eluded me once more.  With so many healthy stems, I felt I could ethically collect just one to submit to the New York Flora Association, the organization that documents the flora of New York State.  Chalk another species up for Saratoga County!

The leaf-stalks of this plant seem to reflect the meaning of its common name, since they certainly do look a bit twisty.  But I've been told that the name actually refers to the hair-thin twisted peduncles of its tiny pink-tinged flowers that dangle in a row beneath its sessile leaves.  I did not expect to find those flowers in bloom this early, but lo and behold:  there they were!  Tiny twisting stalks and all.

I also found the second missing plant I was hoping to collect on this walk: the Small-flowered Crowfoot (Ranunculus abortivus), which was thriving in great numbers in shadier areas of the trail.  These flowers are so small, they are easily overlooked, but I think their starry beauty certainly deserves a closer look.  And their presence certainly deserves to be recorded for their home county.

So hurray!  My mission was completed for the day.  Now I could swing my legs and keep up a fast aerobic pace -- or as fast a pace as one can maintain when tromping the awkwardly-spaced old railroad ties that underlie Bog Meadow Trail.  But WHOA!  Is that a Nodding Trillium (Trillium cernuum) that I see before me?! !  It certainly was, and it certainly brought my pace to a halt, as well.  This species of trillium has reportedly been disappearing from much of its original territory, but so far its population seems quite secure along this trail.  I saw only this one in bloom on this day, but I also found many plants with ripening buds.

OK, forget about that aerobic walk, let's see what other flowers are blooming now along Bog Meadow Trail.  Next up was a single plant of Red Baneberry (Actaea rubra), its nearly spherical floral cluster rendered lop-sided by some kind of attacker.  The roundness of its flower cluster is one way to distinguish this species from the similar White Baneberry, which has a more oblong flower cluster and also blooms a few weeks later.

Holding their own against the invading honeysuckles, the Highbush Blueberry shrubs (Vaccinium corymbosum) were fully in bloom, with clusters of white bell-shaped flowers that will later reward us (or more likely, the birds) with sweet blue fruit.

In some areas where the trail runs close to open marsh, the grassy verge was carpeted with masses of the dainty pale-purple flowers of American Dog Violet (Viola labradorica), one of our stemmed blue violets.

I don't know how this pretty flower came to be named for the dogs, but I remind myself of how to distinguish this species from other blue violets by observing the sharply toothed stipules that surround the leaf nodes on its flower stems.  Note the sharp teeth on those stipules?  Teeth make me think of canines which make me think of dogs.  Who also have sharp teeth.  With so many plants to try to remember the names of, mnemonics like this are essential.

Keeping a low profile down on the ground, the tiny flowers of Dwarf Raspberry (Rubus pubescens) would never be noticed if they weren't so bright white.  Their sweet red fruits are easier to see, later in the summer.

I had forgotten that patches of Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense) thrive in certain areas along Bog Meadow Trail, but the vivid light-green of their heart-shaped leaves made their presence obvious, even when almost engulfed by masses of blue-flowered Ground Ivy (Glechoma hederacea).  I certainly would never have noticed their flowers first, since those little brown nubbins lie flat on the ground beneath the leaves.  I usually associate Wild Ginger with calcareous habitats.  I wonder if some marble or limestone underlies this patch.  Could be, since this is an old railroad bed, and railroad beds are often laid on limestone gravel.

Because Sessile-leaved Bellworts (Uvularia sessilifolia) first came into bloom more than three weeks ago, I was surprised to see a few of their dainty pale-yellow flowers still dangling from their arching stems.  It won't be long before I find their perfoliate cousins (U. perfoliata) blooming nearby in wooded sections of this trail.

Strange, but along the entire mile of this trail I walked yesterday, I found but a single shrub of Nannyberry (Viburnum lentago), its flower cluster still in tight bud.  Maybe there are more along the section I didn't walk this day.

I'm sure looking forward to coming back here in a week or so, when these tight purple buds will open into the bright-yellow flowers of Golden Ragwort (Packera aurea).

I used to find several examples of Glaucous Honeysuckle (Lonicera dioica) along this trail, but I haven't for several years.  I've really missed this native vining honeysuckle with its clusters of confetti-colored flowers.   But maybe there is hope that I will find them here yet again, since I did find some beginning shoots of their vines.  In recent years, trail workers have widened this trail, cutting down most of the shrubs that supported this vining plant, but I'm hoping these shoots will find their way to whatever shrubs are near enough for them to climb on.

Actually, it might have been beavers that cut down those shrubs that supported the Glaucous Honeysuckle.  The beavers have certainly been cutting down lots of small trees to build their dams. I was concerned to find this one damming the stream that runs under the bridge, since it is causing the water in the swamp to rise to a level that could inundate the trail.  I guess I'd better notify Saratoga PLAN, the organization that maintains this trail, to alert them of this situation.  Today's rain is predicted to be heavy at times and to continue well into next week.  This may be the last time in weeks that Bog Meadow Brook Nature Trail will be passable without hip-waders.


Woody Meristem said...

What a place, the excessive deer population in northcentral Pennsylvania has eliminated many of the flowers in your photos from this area.

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

I do feel fortunate, Woody Meristem, that so many of our native wildflowers still thrive in Saratoga County. We have plenty of deer, but they have plenty of wilderness to browse, too. I know that when I visit nature preserves further south in NY and more densely populated by humans, the only natives I tend to find are Skunk Cabbage or Poison Ivy, except where preserves are fenced off to keep out the deer. Our problem up here near the Adirondacks is the burgeoning of invasive plants like Phragmites and Norway Maple and Burning Bush.

The Furry Gnome said...

You are certainly one observant botanist! Far too much rain and cold here too.

Anonymous said...

Dear Jackie,
I just saw on FB an app that lets you shoot a photo and have the plant identified! Isn't this amazing? I thought you or your readers might like this. I wish they had something like this for birdsong - not that I have an iPhone, and not that I totally agree that everything needs to be identified. Sometimes it's wonderful for a novice to just see (or hear) and appreciate w/o labeling : ) But I certainly appreciate the larger work you are doing for archives and preservation, etc, Jackie! Thank you for this and for your gorgeous photos! MKJ