Friday, July 20, 2018
Exploring the Shore of Lake Desolation
A summer day doesn't come any sweeter than it was on Wednesday: the air clear and dry, temps in the low 80s, and the sky so blue you could see all the way to heaven! This was a perfect day to head up the heights to Lake Desolation, a small lake in the northwestern region of Saratoga County. I have visited this area often, exploring a forested peatland along the shore of the lake on foot, but today I decided to paddle the shore, wondering what plants I might find from the seat of my canoe.
The first flowers I encountered were the myriad Fragrant Water Lilies (Nymphea odorata) decorating the cobalt-blue surface of the lake, their pristine white petals seeming almost to glow as if lit from within.
Almost as soon as I moved my canoe close to the shore I saw signs of such bog-loving plants as this Pitcher Plant (Sarracenia purpurea) leaning out from beneath a thicket of Royal Fern (Osmunda regalis).
Carpeting the damp soil beneath those ferns were clumps of Round-leaved Sundew (Drosera rotundifolia) with slender stalks of flower buds about to bloom. This is another plant I associate with bogs or fens.
Boughs of Mountain Holly (Ilex mucronata) hung low over the water, so I could truly enjoy the beautiful color of their ruby fruits and blue-green leaves.
Mountain Holly has berries of such a saturated red my photos of them look as if I boosted the color. But they truly are this radiantly red. They look good enough to eat, don't they? But these are holly berries and not fit for human consumption. Leave them for the wild creatures.
But we humans can feast on Highbush Blueberries (Vaccinium corymbosum) all we like! Yum! In just a week or so, whole handfuls will fall into your palm at just a touch. I was able to pick just a few ripe ones from the boughs that bent over the water.
I'm not sure what treats this Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly was finding on this Sweet Gale bush (Myrica gale) that occupied it in place for so long. But I was grateful it let me move in close to take its photo. Maybe, like me, the butterfly just likes the way that Sweet Gale smells.
Lake Desolation has a perfect little forested island, and I'd often wondered what it was like beneath the dense foliage of its trees. As I approached the shore of the island in my canoe, I could see well-traveled paths leading to the shady interior, where a hand-carved sign welcomed me to to this green and lovely place.
Here, the forest floor was carpeted with such shade-loving plants as Clintonia (Clintonia borealis), its berries just beginning to turn the color that has earned this plant the common name of Blue Bead Lily.
Dalibarda (Dalibarda repens) was another flower happy to grow beneath the trees, its bright-white flowers easy to spot above the dark green of its heart-shaped scalloped leaves. It was sharing its patch of forest floor with some puffy tufts of Haircap Moss.
Wading out onto the muddy, sunlit verge of the island, I discovered a large patch of this sunny-yellow Horned Bladderwort (Utricularia cornuta), its popcorn-puff blooms held aloft on long, slender, leafless stems.
Crowding a rocky stretch of the island's shore was a lovely patch of low-growing Pale St. Johnswort (Hypericum ellipticum). I find it hard to imagine how such a bright-flowered plant acquired the epithet of "pale," especially considering the ruby-red color of its seed pods. It also has flower buds of an intense orange hue.
And here was another species of St. Johnswort occupying the island's sunny shore, a large group of plants standing rooted in damp sand. Most species of St. Johnswort have yellow flowers, but the Marsh St. Johnswort has pink ones. I have found Marsh St. Johnswort (Hypericum virginicum) in other places -- in marshy bays of the Hudson River or growing on fallen logs in fens -- but those flowers seemed larger than these. These blooms were only about two-thirds the size of those I had found before, and the sepals did not protrude beyond the petals in sharp points, as I remembered from before. Could these be the species called Fraser's Marsh St. Johnswort (H. fraseri)?
Fraser's Marsh St. Johnswort (Hypericum fraseri)
When I got home I searched my photo files to study the blooms of flowers whose photos I had filed as "Marsh St. Johnswort." Here's one of the photos I found. I think it is obvious that the flowers pictured below are larger and with sepals both longer and more pointed than is the case with the Marsh St. Johnsworts pictured above. After consulting with others more expert than I am, I believe it is safe to say that the smaller Marsh St. Johnsworts growing on Lake Desolation Island are the species called Fraser's Marsh St. Johnswort.
Aha! Another new flower to add to my wildflower life list.
Virginia Marsh St. Johnswort (Hypericum virginicum)