Tuesday, May 23, 2017

On the Trail, Rain or Shine

Yesterday wasn't exactly the nicest day for a walk outdoors.  In fact it was pouring hard when I set off on the trail surrounding Lake Bonita, in the mountains of Moreau Lake State Park.

Well, the rain didn't really matter, since my legs and feet were already soaked from exploring several other wet sites, trying to find the Painted Trillium I always find in expected places. But not a trace of them had I found.  Ah, but I remembered seeing lots of their leaves last summer along the trail that circles Lake Bonita.  They MUST be blooming there now, I thought, in that hemlock-thick forest along the south shore of the lake.  But alas, they were not. Where the heck can they be, this year?

Oh well.  At least I found some pretty orchids: Pink Lady's Slippers (Cypripedium acaule), tucked in beneath Leatherleaf shrubs on the north side of the lake.  So pretty!  Even when wet.

And sharing that shoreline with Leatherleaf, Sweet Gale, and Sheep Laurel shrubs were the pretty white flowers of Black Chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa), sprouting their cherry-red anthers.

Carefully making my way along a mud-slicked trail, I drew to a halt to admire a large patch of small Oak Ferns (Gymnocarpium dryopteris), centered by the large rain-wet leaves of Indian Cucumber Root (Medeola virginiana).

Here's someone who didn't mind the rain at all.  In fact, Red Efts much prefer a rain-soaked trail to one that is hot and dry.

These tiny Fan-shaped Jelly Fungi  (Dacryopinax spathularia) also thrive in the damp, sprouting up from cracks in wet wood.

Today (Tuesday) was a much nicer day, with a warm sun and dry trails.  Even the grassy trail that runs through a swamp from the Saratoga National Golf Course to Lake Lonely was pleasantly firm. With acres and acres of wooded wetlands surrounding the trail, the forest was full of birdsongs, including that of a single Catbird, who made up a medley of all the other songs. All the unrelenting green of the swamp was punctuated by the cinnamon-brown spore stalks of Cinnamon Fern.

The little stream, a wet ditch, really, that follows the trail, was starred with the shiny yellow blooms of Yellow Water Buttercup (Ranunculus flabellaris), rising from the green wreaths of their feathery floating leaves.

Many different kinds of shrubs line the trail, and I was delighted to find the Highbush Cranberry (Viburnum opulus var. americanum) coming into bloom.  I needed to collect a specimen of its flowers and leaves to record its presence in Saratoga County, and in past years, Viburnum-leaf Beetles had decimated most of these shrubs in the region. I wonder if the worst of this scourge may have passed, since I have seen other healthy-looking Viburnums, including Arrowwood,  this spring.

And here was another of the plants not yet recorded in the New York Flora Association Plant Atlas for Saratoga County.  Amazing, really, considering that I often see acres of Ragged Robin's pretty pink-purple blooms in roadside ditches and across wet meadows.  An introduced species, but a very pretty one, and I don't think it's considered to be badly invasive..  Lychnis flos-cuculi is its scientific name.

This trail is the only place I know of where I am confident I will find Great Angelica (Angelica atropurpurea) every year.  It is truly an impressive plant when mature, towering well over my head with giant spherical umbels, bigger than grapefruits, of little white flowers. At present, the plants are merely waist-high, but impressively large, even at that.

I wouldn't be surprised if Great Angelica occasionally gets mistaken for Giant Hogweed, a similar- looking but horribly caustic plant in the same Parsley Family, and thus gets eliminated.  It isn't nearly as gigantic as Giant Hogweed, though, and it also has a distinctive characteristic: these veiny enlarged sheaths that wrap the bases of the leaves.  If you see these swollen, often purple-blotched sheaths, it is safe to touch the plant.

It's also safe to touch this bug with the bright-orange tips to its antennae.  This is a Leaf-footed Bug (Acanthocephala terminalis), and although it possesses a sharp instrument to pierce and consume plants, it is not known to try to bite humans.  I've heard, though, that if harassed sufficiently, it will release an odor that may be unpleasant.  I did not try to elicit that response, content as I was to simply admire those amazingly colorful antennae.

And speaking of amazing color, is there any insect more exquisite than the Ebony Jewelwing Damselfly?  This photo does not do justice to its brilliant blue-green iridescence and the deep black of its ebony wings.  They really do look like flashing jewels as they flutter like butterflies among the shrubbery, always near water, it seems.


The Furry Gnome said...

You always manage to find interesting things, and get great sharp clear pictures of them. Things appear to be much further out where you are than here. Spring here is very late this year.

Chris Davidson said...

A very enjoyable blog posting, as always Jackie! FYI I had plenty of Painted Trillium in both central Vermont and farther north around the Moose Bog in the Wenlock WMA last Saturday...
Most was in full bloom!

threecollie said...

Thank you for identifying that last insect for me! I have wondered for years and didn't know where to start looking.