Thursday, September 3, 2009

Mapping the Goldenseal

Another beautiful summery day, high blue sky, not too hot. A perfect day for a walk in the woods, especially if your companion is New York Natural Heritage Program's Chief Botanist, Steve Young. For sure, he's the kind of guy who understands that it might take an hour to walk 50 yards. Well, we didn't go quite that slowly today, because we had a goal: to find and document populations of Goldenseal. There's a woods near Saratoga where I have found discrete, noncontiguous patches of this rare plant, and Steve -- using a GPS device -- planned to file the coordinates where each patch could be found.

Steve brought his 13-year-old son Alex along, and it's a good thing he did. For one thing, he's a really cool kid with a great curiosity about all things woodsy, and for another thing, he has terrific eyesight. Of course, I couldn't find the Goldenseal right away, despite having piled up logs and rocks to show the way. It's amazing how different a woods can look on a sunny morning from how it looked on a cloudy afternoon. But Alex spied the plants immediately, and from some distance away. A natural naturalist. A chip off the old block, for sure.

The task completed, we wandered the woods and open areas, looking for other treasures. I showed Steve and Alex where Orange-fruited Horse Gentian grows, and today I found several plants with a complete set of six fruits surrounding the stem.

Steve seemed to think that this interesting Honeysuckle Family plant is not all that common in New York State, so I was pleased to be able to show it to him. We took one of the fruits apart to examine it more closely, even tasting a bit of its flesh. It has a slightly sweet, faintly tangy quality, but no distinct flavor. So far, no ill effects.

Another treasure, though hardly uncommon, was lovely New England Aster. We have lots and lots of different species of aster now coming into bloom, but this one stands out for its vivid purple blooms.


Ellen Rathbone said...

You find the most interesting botanical treasures, Jackie!

Paul said...

Did seeing Steve's GPS device in use lessen your concerns about it being too complicated for your use?

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Hi Ellen, you came with me once to that goldenseal woods, so you know what a remarkable habitat it is. But we're keeping that plant's exact location a secret.

Hi Paul, I watched Steve push some buttons but I didn't learn exactly what he was doing. I imagine it's not hard to learn for someone with better eyesight than mine. I have never felt the need to use one and I'm afraid I would forget what I learned through disuse.