Monday, May 28, 2018

A Beautiful Lake, an Amazing Bog, and a Ravaged Riverbank

Each Memorial Day Weekend, I volunteer to help open the facilities at Pyramid Life Center, a spiritual retreat center on Pyramid Lake, one of the most beautiful lakes in the Adirondacks. As we mourn those who have fallen in war, whether soldier or civilian of any nation, I can think of no better place to contemplate a world at peace.  Far from the noise and noxiousness of human greed and violence, here we can experience the world as beautiful as God has made it.  Pyramid Life Center is also a place for loving human companionship, and I am happy to come here each year to join with other volunteers as we ready this wonderful place for another season of programs, some with a spiritual focus, some with a focus on nature, some just for family fun.  As I go about my tasks, I carry my camera in my pocket to capture some of the exquisite beauty that surrounds us here.

Pyramid Lake at dawn (I can hear the Loons calling across this still water!)

A flower-lined path through rugged boulders  (The pink flowers are Moss Phlox [Phlox subulata].)

A quiet cove, where long-ago-fallen logs support a variety of wildflowers

Tiny white violets (Viola pallens) thrive on a moss-covered log.

Leatherleaf flowers (Chamaedaphne calyculata) dangle over the water.

Vines of our native Wild Purple Clematis (Clematis occidentalis) trail across marble outcroppings.

A spectacular waterfall roars over jagged boulders.

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There's a marvelous bog that lies between Pyramid Lake and my home in Saratoga Springs, and late May is the time to catch its most beautiful flowers in bloom.  Stopping off on my way home,  I was able to find a narrow place in its moat and leap onto the sphagnum mat.

As the photo above reveals even from a distance, Bog Laurel (Kalmia polifolia) abounds in this bog.  Here's a closer view of its beautiful deep-pink flowers,

Equally abundant is Labrador Tea (Rhododendron groenlandicum), which was just beginning to open its snowy-white flowers.

But my very favorite flower that I've never found anywhere else but here is the tiny Three-leaved False Solomon's Seal (Maianthemum trifolium).  They thrive in immense numbers here, spangling the sphagnum like stars in the sky.

Here's a closer view of the tiny star-shaped flowers of Three-leaved False Solomon's Seal (Maianthemum trifolium).  They are almost as fragrant as they are beautiful.  They are not rare in New York State, but I bet they are rarely seen by most folks.  You have to get your feet wet, usually, if you want to find them.

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There's a place you can easily see Maianthemum trifolium's  almost look-alike cousin, though, and that place -- the Hudson River Recreation Area just north of Warrensburg -- also lies on my route toward home. Here thrive masses of Canada Mayflower (Maianthemum canadense) in uncountable numbers beneath the pines, and I just had to stop to witness their extravagant profusion today. And breathe their delightful fragrance filling the humid air.

Not quite as numerous, but amazingly abundant beneath those same pines were the big, beautiful native orchids called Pink Lady's Slippers (Cypripedium acaule).

It started to rain, and as I hurried back to retrieve my raincoat, I happened upon a generous cluster of Clintonia plants (Clintonia borealis), yellow flowers dangling above glossy green leaves.

The path through this pine woods leads down to the shore of the Hudson River, and a remarkable shore it is.  Enriched by marble outcroppings and kept free of woody plants by the crushing weight of enormous heaps of frazil ice each winter, this shoreline supports some of the rarest wildflowers in the state, and I was here to find them today.  But when I reached the shore, it looked as if it had been ravaged by raging floods, leaves ripped from the shrubs and most of the riverbank plants swept from the sand.

Other years at this time, the air would be fragrant here from the proliferation of Dwarf Sand Cherry (Prunus pumila var. depressa), one of our state's rarest plants.  But today I had to search to find just two remaining plants in a several-hundred-yard stretch of riverbank.

Two years ago I found the rare Primrose-leaved Violet (Viola primulifolia var. primulifolia) most unexpectedly growing here on this gravelly shore, and last year I returned to find its population had expanded significantly.  So imagine my disappointment today when this sad little plant with a single bloom was the only specimen of Primrose-leaved Violet I could find.  I sure hope it can rebound.

Here was another disappointment. For years, I would pass a big patch of Bearberry's (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) glossy green leaves and never find a single flower among them.  But last year I started looking a few weeks earlier than usual and found the patch in beautiful bloom.  So I was full of hope that I was early enough to see those lovely white-and-pink flowers again this year as I hurried to where I knew the patch grew, well up high on the bank, surely out of any flood's reach. Or so I thought.  And I was certainly wrong.  A few green leaves were left to struggle to regain a footing here, but much of the patch had been ripped from the roots, as evidenced by tangled strings of brown dead leaves.

So what plants DID survive what must have been a massive flood?  Lots of Wild Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) did, that's for sure, including this clump with fiery-red flowers that had sprung up from where the flood must have been raging the worst.  How the heck did they DO that?

This cluster of Columbine, anyway, was growing way up on the bank where the rocks meet the woods, holding their beautiful heads up high, atop gracefully curving stems.

As I said:  lots of Columbine.  They were burgeoning right at the high-water mark of the flood, while a wide stretch of flotsam and detritus covered the rocks from here to where the river now peacefully flowed.  It will be interesting to see how rapidly the damaged plants can recover.  Here's hoping they do.


Anonymous said...

Very Nice

Momo said...

How special to see PLC through your eyes and lens!!!

threecollie said...

Awesome photos! Such peace and tranquility! Sad about the riverbank plants....

Woody Meristem said...

Beautiful flowers and beautiful photos of them. Bogs are always great places to explore and as for waterfalls, well ...