Friday, July 10, 2009

Summertime, and the Flowers are Bloomin"

A fine summer morning on the Hudson -- until the Jet Ski arrived

At last, a fine summer day that really felt like summer! I do believe the temperature rose to over 80 today, and the evening remained warm enough to sit on the back screened porch and enjoy the twinkling of fireflies in the grass. The day started out lovely, too, with a smooth paddle on a glassy river. The water level has fallen some, so that muddy flats appear along the shore -- prime conditions for Creeping Spearwort. I keep searching for this tiny star-flowered sprawling plant, which I haven't seen in years. Didn't find it today, either. But I'll keep looking. I've found it here before.

What I did find today were some stunning clumps of Blue Vervain (Verbena hastata).

This is a common roadside native wildflower, but it looked particularly lovely today, the sun accenting its vivid color where it grew on a small rocky island, echoing the blue of the sky and the blue of the river around it. I could have spent the whole day on that island, eating blueberries and watching tree sparrows dart out over the water. But a #@*! ing Jet Ski arrived and tore up and down the river, drowning out the twitter of birds and spewing its fumes on what had been sweet summer breezes. Darn! Oh well. I wanted to visit Woods Hollow today, anyway.

Near the parking lot where I loaded my canoe back onto my car, I found this solitary plant of Bristly Sarsaparilla (Aralia hispida). Big deal, you say, what a homely plant? Yeah, sure, but a quite uncommon one. About as uncommon as its cousin Wild Sarsaparilla is ubiquitous. So it was a real find.

Bristly Sarsaparilla: about as homely as it is uncommon

Off to Woods Hollow Nature Preserve in Ballston Spa to search for tiny white orchids. I was looking for Checkered Rattlesnake Plantain (Goodyera tesselata), and I hunted all over the place. Darned orchids never seem to come up in the same place they did last year. General area, maybe, but not the exact same spot. I had just about given up when BINGO! I saw one. Then, hey! there's another! And another! And another! I found about ten in all, in a sandy area under pines. This species is somewhat uncommon, certainly more so than its cousin Downy Rattlesnake Plantain, which grows along Bog Meadow Trail near Saratoga.

I couldn't get my camera to focus on the whole plant, but here's a close-up of its flowers.

And here are its leaves. I had to clear the pine needles away in order to see its "checkers."

Woods Hollow has a beautiful pond and marshy stream where dragonflies dart and skim and only occasionally stop to catch their breath. Here are two I managed to photograph today. All you "odes" experts out there, I'll bet you know exactly what to call them. (I don't.)


Ellen Rathbone said...

I'm thinking your first dragonfly is a male Widow Skimmer (Libellula luctuosa).

The second may be a Slaty Skimmer (Libellula incesta).

Trillium said...

LOvely blog, and stunning photos! I will visit often!

squirrel said...

Nice account of your trip. I think I will learn a lot about flowers from you. Thanks for taking the time to share.

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Ellen,thanks so much for your information. I knew I could count on you to know stuff about dragonflies. And just about everything else, as well.

Trillium and Squirrel: What a pleasure to meet you and visit your wonderful blogs. Isn't it great how this blogging business expands our horizons and connects us with fellow spirits all over the country and the world? Thanks for stopping by and leaving links so we can visit again many times.