Thursday, July 27, 2017

A Splendid Day on the Hudson

Yes, it WAS a splendid morning on the Hudson River at Moreau yesterday, with a warm sun coaxing the morning fog to rise up through the forested mountains that line the river here.  My friend Laurie and I were out on the water early, with a goal of uprooting large numbers of Purple Loosestrife that we'd found getting a foothold on one of the islands that lie just off the Sherman Island boat launch.  Laurie came prepared to police the banks for trash as well, with a basket lashed to the deck of her kayak, and with grippers handy for reaching those cans and bottles and candy wrappers that careless people had sullied our beautiful river's banks with.  Neither of us can understand how anyone could come to a place of such spectacular beauty, and even think of throwing such trash around.

In some ways, the gorgeous spikes of Purple Loosestrife's purple flowers do add to the riverbanks' beauty, but left to its own devices, this invasive alien flower would likely crowd out the native plants that truly belong here.  So Laurie and I got to work and routed out every plant we could find.  We uprooted quite a bundle!

We then hauled the uprooted plants away to stow in plastic garbage bags and leave in the sun to "cook," so any seeds would not be viable.

Our first task completed, we then cruised the river banks scouting for trash, as well as any other outcroppings of Purple Loosestrife we might find.  These purple flowers in the photo below certainly drew our attention, but not for the purpose of rooting them out.  These are our native Smaller Purple Fringed Orchids (Platanthera psycodes), the very plants we hope to protect when we try to eliminate invasive species.

Here's a closer view of this native orchid's gorgeous inflorescence.

We found many other native wildflowers as well, including these pretty blue flowers called Marsh Skullcap (Scutelleria galericulata) crowning a riverside stump.

In shallow bays we found the stiff pointed leaves and spiky orbs of one of our native Bur-Reeds (Sparganium sp.).  I'm hoping that this is Branching Bur-Reed (S. androcladum), since that is a species of Bur-Reed missing from the Saratoga County Plant Atlas, and I'm hoping the one I collected will remedy that omission.

Those same shallow waters were home to the bright-white flowers of two Arrowhead species, the Common Arrowhead (Sagittaria latifolia), pictured here,  as well as the smaller-flowered Grass-leaved Arrowhead (S. graminea).

Mother Nature rewarded our efforts to tend her garden by offering us sweet Huckleberries, conveniently dangling over the water where we could just reach out from our boats and easily gather handfuls.

Big sweet Dewberries were also abundant along the shore.

We even came upon an apple tree laden with fruit.  The apples were still too green to eat as yet, but I have eaten apples from this tree in other years, when the fruit was yellow and sweet, tasting like Yellow Delicious and only a little bit wormy.

Laurie had to leave to attend to other business, but I continued to paddle the river, heading downstream toward the Sherman Island Dam.  There on a rocky promontory just above the dam grows another plant I hoped to collect for my home county's plant atlas, the garden-escapee-gone- wild called Live-forever (Hylotelephium telephium).  This succulent sedum has clusters of bright-pink star-shaped flowers.  Unfortunately, the flowers were still in tight bud, but the immature flower stem would serve as a definitive specimen, nevertheless.  There's no mistaking those sharply toothed, fleshy leaves.

If you were to look for Golden Pert (Gratiola aurea) on the New York Flora Association's Plant Atlas, you would note that it has not been reported as yet for Saratoga County.   It does grow quite abundantly along this stretch of the Hudson, and I have already submitted specimens of it to be vouchered for the atlas.  Some day this lovely little aquatic flower will be recorded there at last.  It was just starting to bloom this week and will soon spread every mudflat with its carpet of green and gold.

There's another little yellow-flowered aquatic that thrives in this part of the river, but I haven't found it blooming yet this year above the Sherman Island Dam.  The plant is called Small Floating Bladderwort (Utricularia radiata), and it is classified as a threatened species in the state, although I find it by the hundreds each year, floating in the Hudson River between Moreau and Glens Falls.  I have seen it already this year downstream near Glens Falls, and I also found many of its underwater structures in a quiet backwater up here just yesterday. So I expect we will see it up here before long.

Here's another flower we will see along the river before long, the gorgeous Bottle Gentian (Gentiana clausa).  No flowers as yet, but its leaves are already almost as pretty as its promised radiant blue flowers will be.

And here was the queen of gorgeous riverside flowers, the spectacular Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis)! How could I have missed its vibrant red blooms when I passed it going downstream? It must have been hiding behind that tree trunk. But as I paddled back upstream, its super-saturated-red flowers flagged me down to announce its season had begun.  Before long, almost every bank will be ablaze with its brilliant blooms.

I accept this beautiful flower's appearance as my thank you for pulling all that Purple Loosestrife.  How sad it would be, if invasive species drove out such native beauties as this.


Woody Meristem said...

Beautiful flowers on what certainly appears to have been a beautiful day.

The Furry Gnome said...

That looks like a hard-working outing! Good for you. Love the Cardinal Flower.