Thursday, July 13, 2017

A Week of Wanderings

One might assume, from my lack of posts this week, that I hadn't been out much.  But actually, just the opposite is true.  I've been out every day, all day, all over the county, coming home muddy, sweaty, bug-bitten, and too-pooped to post.  Of course, I took hundreds of photos.  Most I have tossed, but a few I kept, and just to keep up this blog, I will post a few favorites here.

Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina) doesn't get much respect, I'm afraid.  I often hear it referred to as "weedy," but when it comes to value for wildlife, I can't think of a better plant.  This is the bush that, thanks to its persistent fruits,  allows us to keep our robins and bluebirds around all winter.   And as for beauty, well. . .  I can't think of anything else to call these gorgeous red-velvet fruits than beautiful!  Can you?

I was up in the Glens Falls area when I took the sumac photo, having just met some friends for a walk though Cole's Woods.  Lots and lots of beautiful plants in that mid-city woods, including more blooming Pipsissewa than any of us had ever seen in our lives.  Hundreds and hundreds of them!  But what struck my eye enough to send me down on my knees trying to focus my camera?  I just can't resist the charm of Starflower (Lysimachia borealis) when it has gone to seed, with its tiny orbs held in the center of spiky stars on hair-fine stems.

After leaving Cole's Woods, I swung by the Betar Byway along the Hudson River in South Glens Falls, where I found Viper's Bugloss (Echium vulgare) adding its sapphire gorgeousness to the kind of weedy "wasteplaces" most native-plant enthusiasts thumb their noses at.  But man, that vivid color just stops me dead in my tracks.  Sure, I was seeking some rare native plants,  but wow, just look at those royal-blue blossoms punctuated with hot-pink anthers!  Nope, not a native plant, but the bees and butterflies probing its blossoms didn't seem to care.

The bees and the butterflies were also all over these exploding flower bombs of the Buttonbush shrubs (Cephalanthus occidentalis).  A Painted Lady Butterfly kept landing on one just long enough for me to turn on my camera, but not long enough for me to capture its beauty in a photo.  Oh well, that spectacular Buttonbush orb is beauty enough for one shot.

These spherical clusters of lime-green fruits will eventually turn blue-black when the Carrionflower berries (Smilax herbacea) grow ripe.  Despite the revolting smell of its flowers (this is a very aptly named plant!), I have heard that the berries are edible.  Some day I will get up the nerve to try them.

This crab spider is not guarding berries, but rather the flower buds of Joe Pye Weed (Eutrochium purpureum).  And come to think of it, the spider isn't guarding those flower buds, either, but rather is hoping its cryptic coloration will hide it from the visiting pollinators it hopes to snag for supper.  I don't know, though, how many pollinators will bother to visit unopened buds.  Maybe the spider is just resting.  Or enjoying the view from up there.  This flower stalk was about six feet tall.

Earlier in the week I had walked through the Skidmore Woods in Saratoga Springs.  My walk was mainly for exercise, since not many flowers are blooming in the dark shade of the woods these days. One exception was this patch of Large-bracted Tick-trefoil (Desmodium cuspidatum), growing at the edge of the woods where a bit more light could reach its leaves.

In a walk around Mud Pond at Moreau Lake State Park, I came upon a rotting log on the forest floor that was absolutely paved with thousands of these itty bitty mushrooms.    These mushrooms are so tiny, it's hard to believe they can carry the weight of their lengthy scientific name: Xeromphalina campanella.  Wikipedia tells me that its genus name means "little dry navel" and that campanella means "bell-shaped," respectively describing the mature and young shapes of the caps.  Apparently, it has long orangeish hairs at its base, the reason this mushroom is commonly called Fuzzy-foot. (Darn! I wish I'd known that before, so I might have gotten a macro photo of its fuzzy foot.)

Just yesterday, I spent a lovely morning paddling the Hudson River at Moreau, moving slowly in and out of its tree-shaded bays and around rocky promontories, the still water reflecting its forested beauty.

I also paddled deep into a swamp, where acres of Pickerelweeds (Pontederia cordata) were lifting their spikes of purple flowers.

I'm not a big fan of Orange Day Lilies (Hemerocallis fulva), especially when I find a patch where they could spread and become invasive, supplanting the natives that normally grow there.  My first response when I found these on one of the quiet river bays was "Yikes!  Should I pull these out!"  But my second response was "Gosh, but they're pretty," especially when reflected in the still water.  I resolved that I will monitor this clump, and if it spreads, I will extirpate it.  They may be pretty, but I prefer the Cardinal Flower, Swamp Milkweed, Steeplebush, and Meadowsweet that make this same rocky shore their home.

Speaking of Meadowsweet (Spiraea alba), this lovely Rose-family flower was just starting to burgeon along the river banks, arcing its graceful stems right over the water.

Ah, but here was the prize of my week-long flower quests!  This is our native Great St. Johnswort (Hypericum ascyron), with flowers so big, a single bloom would fill the palm of your hand.  This plant is classified as "Rare" in New York, and I had worried that it might be disappearing from the river island where I usually find it.  From my canoe on the water, I could see only one or two blooms, but when I got out and explored the shore on foot, I counted over 20 plants, most of them with buds that had yet to open.  What a wonderful find to crown this past week of flower adventures!


Sally said...

Thank you for the beautiful trek through nature. I'm getting my education when it comes to native plants and am thrilled.Living in zone 6B Massachusetts, we share many native plants. Your pictures of them are so much nicer than what I usually find on the internet. Happy wandering to you!

The Furry Gnome said...

Sounds like you had a busy week! Some really interesting plants too. I wish some of those, like Buttonbush, would survive this far north.

Woody Meristem said...

"Keep Busy" is a good motto and this is a good time of year to do that -- except on days of high temperature and high humidity.

Bill and dogs said...

Your wonderful post reminded me of the time when, as a young boy, I thought Sumac looked like miniature palm trees and convinced my mother to let me plant one. I dug up a small specimen and transplanted it into her garden. It lived for a few years as I remember, and then I suspect that she pulled it back out after my attention had found a new focus. It was nice of her to encourage my interest in wild plants, though, an interest which I've maintained for many decades.

L Doell said...

What a great blog! Makes me feel peaceful and appreciative.

Nancy said...

My heart is overflowing from spending time with you and Denis today! Love this blog you created.