Saturday, May 4, 2019

Wildflower Bounty in the Skidmore Woods

It was such a dark drizzly day this past Thursday, I doubted that many of my friends in the Thursday Naturalists would turn out for our scheduled walk in the Skidmore woods.  But dedicated botanizers as they are, a large group of 20 turned out to accompany me as I led them into one of the richest wildflower sites in all the county.  Of course, I had worried we wouldn't find much of interest yet, due to this cold wet spring delaying the bloom times of many plants, but with this many folks plying their excellent search skills, we sure found a lot! Here's only a partial list of much of what we found, in alphabetical order.

First, the wildflowers, at varying stages of bloom:

Two Bellworts (Uvularia), both the Large-flowered (U. grandiflora) and the Sessile-leaved (U. sessilifolia)

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis). We found many leaves and developing seed pods, but most of the flowers had fallen by now.  We were lucky to find this one with flower intact.

Both species of Blue Cohosh (Caulophyllum) grow in this woods, but only the Early Blue Cohosh (C. giganteum) displayed its distinctive dark-purple blooms on this day.

The later-blooming and somewhat more diminutive species of Blue Cohosh (C. thalictroides) had opened its leaves, but its yellower flowers were not yet to be seen.

Dwarf Ginseng (Panax trifolius) was just beginning to open the starry white florets that form a perfect orb of blooms.

The buds of Early Meadow Rue (Thalictrum dioicum) had not yet opened to reveal whether this was a male or female plant.  When in full flower, the staminate and pistillate flowers appear quite different.

The Green Violets (Hybanthus concolor) had only recently shot up from the ground, so although we could see their distinctive leaves, we could not yet find the little green nubbin-shaped flowers that dangle from the leaf axils.  But we could definitely see the hundreds and hundreds of plants spread across the forest floor.  The number of plants at this site is astounding, since this species is considered quite rare in Saratoga County.

Both species of Hepatica, the Sharp-lobed (Hepatica acutiloba) and the Round-lobed (H. americana) grow abundantly in this woods.  And although most of the flowers were already spent, we could observe the fresh new green leaves that will persist even through the winter until next spring.

I was delighted to find a few blooming branches of Leatherwood (Dircus palustris), since my earlier searches for this native shrub had revealed that many of them had been severely browsed by deer over the winter.

We passed several large patches of Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum), many of the plants displaying the flower buds peeking out between the large unfolding leaves.

We were lucky to find a few plants of Miterwort (Mitella diphylla) with open buds, since their tiny fringed florets are as exquisite as snowflakes.

We found quite a thicket of Round-leaved Dogwood shrubs (Cornus rugosa), with each twig holding aloft a cluster of flower buds among the unfurling leaves.

A few Spicebush shrubs (Lindera benzoin) still held little puffs of yellow florets, although this woodland shrub had started blooming nearly two weeks ago.

We will have to come back later if we want to see the white flowers of Toothwort (Cardamine diphylla), but at least its spring-green leaves were quite evident among the brown leaf litter.

Most of the Trout Lilies (Erythronium americanum) we found were past their prime, but then we came upon this beautiful cluster of them curled against a tree root, an arrangement that displayed both the elegant flowers and speckled leaves to wonderful advantage.

The Canada Violets (Viola canadensis) were just beginning to bloom, so we had to search to find a few of these snowy-white, purple-backed violets tucked in among limestone rocks.

We also found a few of the very aptly-named Long-spurred Violets (Viola rostrata) growing along the paths.

While the few Red Trilliums we found were mostly fading, the gorgeous Large-flowered White Trilliums (Trillium grandiflorum) were just beginning to open their pure-white blooms.

Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense) has large, green, heart-shaped leaves that are easy to see from a distance, but we had to peek beneath those leaves to find the reddish-brown flowers resting on the ground.

I bet if the day had been sunny and warm instead of dark and cool, the closed pink bracts of Wood Anemone (Anemone quinquefolia) would have opened wide to reveal the pretty white flowers.

In addition to all these wildflowers, we found a few non-flowering plants that displayed some remarkable qualities:

The huge satiny buds of Shagbark Hickory (Carya ovata) peel back to release an explosion of large pinnate leaves.

Bitternut Hickory (Carya cordiformis) also releases an equally impressive explosion of large pinnate leaves, but from buds that are much, much smaller.  It seems an amazing feat! (Another  interesting feature of Bitternut Hickory's chrome-yellow buds is that they smell like shoe polish when crushed.)

The baby leaves of Red Maple (Acer rubrum) were as colorful as any flowers.

These baby Oak leaves (a Quercus species unknown to me) were also remarkably red, and covered with kitten-soft fuzz.

The stems of these dainty baby Bulblet Ferns (Cystopteris bulbifera) were as translucent red as a Cherry Twizzler.

Rose Moss (Rhodobryum ontariense) thrives on the limestone boulders that lie all over the floor of the Skidmore woods.  Such a beautiful moss, it looks like little green flowers!


threecollie said...

Thank you for sharing your amazing store of knowledge! This is such a wonderful time of year for all of us who love the outdoors.

Woody Meristem said...

That's a treasure trove of wildflowers. Because we don't have many areas with limestone soils and too many deer everywhere it's hard to find some of those plants here.