On Tuesday I joined noted bryologist Nancy Slack and her bryophyte group on a trip to Stark's Knob near Schuylerville. Stark's Knob is a huge heap of pillow basalt, a kind of volcanic rock that erupted up through what was once a seabed covering this region of North America over 400 million years ago. The unique chemistry of this coal-black rock supports a number of interesting mosses and liverworts, and I'm still trying to learn the names of what we found there. At least I do know the name of this gorgeous wildflower, many dozens of which were growing right out of the basalt. This is our native wildflower called Wild Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis), looking extra beautiful with the sun's rays causing the scarlet blooms to glow like Japanese lanterns.
On Wednesday morning, the staff naturalist from Moreau Lake State Park, Gary Hill, asked if I would join his guided hike up to an overlook in the Palmertown Mountains, my purpose being to point out to his hiking group the wildflowers that grow along the trail. Well, I know that Gary likes to hike faster than my arthritic knee could keep up with, so I volunteered to join his group for the first 50 yards of the trail, naming the amazing variety of flowers that grow along that short distance. Luckily, some of those flowers -- like this beautiful mound of Foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia) -- were putting on a spectacular display.
The tiny little flowers called Bluets (Houstonia caerulea) were also looking their best, massed with their sky-blue faces turned skyward, echoing the sky's azure radiance in the grass.
Later on Wednesday, I joined fellow wildflower enthusiast Dan Wall to explore a small hidden swamp in the forest of Moreau Lake State Park. A little more than a year ago, I had posted a photo on my blog of the seed pods of Early Coralroot (Corallorhiza trifida) in that swamp. Dan, inspired by that post, determined to find this tiny native orchid there when it came into bloom. And oh boy, did he EVER! He wrote to tell me he had found a dozen of them in this little swamp, where I had found only that single stem bearing seed pods. He graciously offered to show me his finds. This is just one of the many we found blooming. Despite its diminutive size, there's no doubt that it's truly an orchid.
There were a few other flowers blooming on the sphagnum-covered fallen logs. This dainty little violet -- Northern White Violet (Viola pallens) -- was one of them. So pretty! And also quite fragrant.
Look what else we found on those moss-covered fallen logs: the vividly colored Red Eft. So cute! This is the juvenile terrestrial form of the aquatic Spotted Newt. Efts will eventually head to the lakes, ponds, and pools and spend the rest of their lives as Newts in the water. Even at this stage, they like a wet environment, and the cool damp mosses found in shady swamps like this are a favored habitat.
While waiting for Dan to join me at the swamp, I explored the sunnier, drier terrain at the swamp's edge and was delighted to find a number of Fringed Polygalas (Polygala paucifolia) scattered across the grass. What a charming little wildflower! Another name for it is Gaywings, a name that couldn't be more apt for a flower that looks like a wee little single-engine airplane, propellors awhirl.
Ooh, look what else I found! The astoundingly furry Virginian Tiger Moth (Spilosoma virginica).
In case you were wondering how such a pure-white moth got the name "tiger," just lift a wing and you'll find the orange and black markings that might have inspired that name. You also can see a bit of orange fur between the moth's front legs in the photo above.