Friday, November 3, 2017

Micro-foliage Along the Road

For the most part, our fall foliage colors were disappointing this year.  Due to a hot, dry September, many leaves shriveled and fell before turning the gorgeous reds and golds we expect to see each autumn, and by now, the show is mostly over, except for a few russet-brown and cinnamon-ruddy oaks.  But there's one place we can still find some vivid foliage, and that's among the banks and boulders that rise along Spier Falls Road, where this curving road follows the Hudson River at Moreau.

Here, massed on the forested banks, shrubs like Maple-leaved Viburnum and American Bush Honeysuckle, in addition to small oak saplings,  offer the vivid pinks and corals and golds and apricots we missed this year in our taller trees.

And the brilliant green of evergreen ferns enhances the kaleidoscope hues of all the deciduous woody plants.

With the Palmertown Mountains rising steeply away from the river here, exposed bedrock lines the road, craggy boulders dampened from many dripping springs.

These spring-dampened rocks provide a perfect habitat for a number of beautiful mosses.  I'm not sure what the name of this yellow moss is, but I loved the way it softened the craggy rocks with its thick shaggy carpet of gold.

I believe this spiky green moss is called Fountain Moss, for its habit of growing in wet habitats.

This starry patch of Haircap Moss has sprouted out of a bed of some species of dark-brown liverwort that thrives on this spring-watered ledge.

A number of different liverworts cling to these damp boulders, including this leafy green one, its leaves outlined in purple.

UPDATE:  My friend Bob Duncan suggests this could be either Preissia quadrata or Reboulia hemisphaerica, but he also cautions about the difficulty of identifying a liverwort from a photograph. Preissia is described as a calciphile, and there certainly could be lime in the spring water that dampens these otherwise granitic rocks.  And then, one of the common names for Reboulia is Purple-margined Liverwort. So take a guess!

I believe that this glossy red growth is a liverwort instead of a moss, but I would not be able to define exactly how to distinguish the two kinds of organisms.  I have some queries out to friends who might know the name of it, so at least I hope to be able to report back on that question.

UPDATE:  Thanks to Evelyn Greene, I now can call this liverwort by its name:  Scapania nemorosa (or nemorea, according to some bryologists).

This is a closer look at the tiny translucent leaves along its reddish stems.

I also don't know the name of this fern.  Perhaps it's a Woodsia obtusa, the Blunt-lobed Cliff Fern, which is known to inhabit spring-watered rock ledges just like this one.  (Nope.  See below.)

UPDATE:  I have heard from some NY fern experts, both of whom opined that this was most likely a "weird mutated" Dryopteris, probably D. marginalis, the Marginal Wood Fern. There certainly were many Marginal Wood Ferns in the same area, but this one looked very different, "weirdly mutated" indeed!

A number of spring-flowering herbaceous plants grow on these rocks amid the mosses and liverworts and ferns, and some produce leafy rosettes that will winter over as green plants, ready to send up flower stalks as soon as warm weather returns.  This pretty cluster of Pussytoe rosettes has found a niche amid clumps of moss.

I love how the leaves of Early Saxifrage look as if they'd been cut out with pinking shears.

I still had hoped to explore a good distance of roadside boulders when my camera battery died, and my spares were back in my car at least a half mile behind.  I had just enough power to take one more photo of this beautiful curvaceous road, forested mountains rising on the left, the Hudson River flowing along on the right.  Even on this gray drizzly day, the landscape was rich with texture and color.

On my way home over the Corinth Mountain Road, I stopped off at a tiny roadside swamp, where thick carpets of Sphagnum moss were punctuated with glossy green Goldthread leaves.  Since Goldthread leaves are evergreen, I was surprised (and delighted!) to see these rosy-red ones, so pretty against the green-velvet of the sphagnum.  Luckily, I now had a fresh battery in my camera.

As all our deciduous trees and shrubs drop their leaves in the days to come, the Winterberry fruits are exposed in all their vivid red.  Even now, this little roadside swamp was ablaze with their brilliant glory.


Woody Meristem said...

Nice photos. Our fall colors were rather drab also, too dry so the trees just dropped their leaves. That purple-fringed liverwort looks like great scented liverwort but I've never seen it with purple edges.

The Furry Gnome said...

What a wonderful list of interesting plants you found. Those mosses and liverworts are fascinating. Our fall colours were quite subdued this year too.

Ron Gamble said...

I share your pain, re. the "difficulty" sometimes of confidently deciding, "Is it a moss or a liverwort."