Even more colorful than the trees on the mountain slopes surrounding this quiet Adirondack lake were the thick mats of sphagnum moss that cover the bog mats dotting the lake. Masses of red and gold sphagnum intermingled in patterns as lovely as those of a Persian carpet.
Bunches of Pitcher Plant leaves glowed like flaming embers when the sunlight illuminated their hollow pitchers.
The tiny green leaves of both Large and Small Cranberry vines sprawled across the sphagnum, and here and there we found lots of ripe cranberries ready for the picking.
Many moss-covered hummocks bristled with the flame-leaved stems of Marsh St. John's Wort, their stained-glass beauty reflected in the dark still water.
The Winterberry shrubs along the shore were heavy now with scarlet fruit.
We found much of interest beneath the water as well, including beds of Common Bladderwort that looked like submerged evergreen forests. Each bladderwort stem was topped with a bulbous green orb called a "turion," a winter bud that will sink into the mud after the rest of the plant disintegrates from freezing. A new plant, a clone of its parent, will sprout from the turion in the spring. Although these bladderworts do produce above-water flowers and are capable of reproducing sexually by the production of seeds, they also continue to spread their populations by this vegetative method.
Paddling over some sunken tree limbs, we saw what looked like lengths of green yarn caught in the twigs and waving around underwater. I broke off a twig and lifted up a portion of this "green yarn" to examine it more closely. Its gritty texture, composed of silica, convinced me that this was Freshwater Sponge, a colony of tiny animals that filter water through their bodies, absorbing oxygen from the water and feeding on waterborne food particles. Their presence in a lake is usually an indication of clean water.
We also found a second mysterious underwater "being," bulbous masses of transparent greenish jelly submerged in the shallow water of a quiet bay. The closest I've been able to come to an answer regarding these blobs is that they could be formed by a colonial microscopic single-celled protozoan called Ophrydium versatile.
According to the "Ask the Naturalist" blog, these colonies "can be found all over the world in fresh water. The individual cells line up side-by-side in the 'blob' and attach themselves to a jelly-like substance they secrete. They are symbiotic with microscopic Chlorella algae that live inside the Ophrydium cells and give the blob its green color."
Well, these organisms certainly must be microscopic, since when I picked up a glob of the jelly, I could see nothing inside but flecks of silt like you'd find in any sample of lake water. Some day I will take a sample home and look at it under a microscope. On that Ask the Naturalist site I mentioned above, there are videos showing these cells in action.
What a day! So full of beauty and wonder and surprise! Then add to that the pleasurable company of good friends enjoying a paddle under a lovely blue sky on a warm early autumn day. I think you can see by these happy faces that we were truly loving it!