Saturday, May 18, 2019

Roadside Rocks in Beautiful Bloom

After a rather rigorous hike around Lake Bonita yesterday, my still-weary legs suggested I choose an easier outing on this beautiful blue-sky day. So I headed over to Spier Falls Road where it runs close along the Hudson River, and where mountains rise sharply in craggy cliffs right close to the road.  Here, in the cracks and crags and ledges of these rocks grows a spectacular display of flowers and mosses, a veritable roadside rock garden. And I could easily mosey along the paved road to enjoy it.

Aside from a violet or trillium or two, the preponderance of wildflowers here on these cliffs are the teeming clusters of Early Saxifrage (Micranthes virginiensis). Each small white flower would not draw much attention to itself as a single bloom, but here, where the flowers crowd together in masses of bloom wherever springs water the rocks, the effect is spectacular, like clouds of mist or heaps of foam rising amid the dark boulders.

While the massive accumulations of hundreds of flowers put on a spectacular display, the solitary plants also have their charms, with pure-white blooms held high above basal rosettes of crinkle-edged green and red leaves. And the plants are usually rooted within puffy clumps of gorgeous green mosses, which add much textural beauty.

The mosses themselves put on a pretty spectacular display of their own. I haven't determined if this clump is two different mosses or one at two different stages of maturity, but I love how the lower edge looks like a fringe has been added to the fluffy clump of leafy green.

One of the prettiest mosses here is the bright-green Spring Fountain Moss (Philonotis fontana), made especially charming this time of year when it bears its tiny sporangia, perfect little apple-green spheres held aloft on reddish-brown stalks.

Sated at last by all this cliffside beauty, I headed home along Spier Falls Road, stopping off to briefly explore a powerline clearcut that runs near Mud Pond.  I suspected the small patch of Susquehanna Cherry (Prunus susquehanae) would be blooming here now, and I wasn't disappointed.  Even before I spotted the low-growing, white-flowered shrubs, I could smell the flowers'  fragrance and hear the sound of the hundreds of bees and other winged pollinators feasting on their ample nectar and pollen.

Although there's not much about Susquehanna Cherry flowers to distinguish them from other species of cherry blossoms, the leaves are unique to this rather uncommon species.  Unlike those of other cherries, they narrow toward the base, and they are not toothed below the middle.  I hope every year that I will find these lovely flowers before the power company sprays their clearcut habitat with herbicide.  This was one of the lucky years.


The Furry Gnome said...

Both the natural rock garden and the mosses are so beautiful. Amazing pictures of those mosses!

Woody Meristem said...

Don't know that I've ever seen Susquehanna cherry although it must/should grow here along the river that shares its name.

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Thanks, Furry. It took some doing to photograph the moss sporangia. They are so tiny, my camera kept focusing beyond them. I finally found some with a fallen leaf behind.

Woody, the Susquehanna Cherry grows only a couple of feet high, in open meadows and sandy spots. I had passed this patch of it for years without noticing it, assuming it was more lowbush blueberries. So don't go looking for a tree of it!