Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Great Finds Along the Bikeway

Hurrah! We found some MORE Nodding Trillium today! Or rather, my eagle-eyed friend Sue found them, as we shared a stroll along the Warren County Bikeway just north of Glen Lake. Just two lonely plants, but what a great find, not only for Sue (who had never seen them before), but also for the New York Flora Association, which has sent out an SOS regarding this ever-less-common trillium, asking wildflower lovers to be on the look-out for them. Our report has been sent to the NYFA, and now our challenge is to convince trail maintenance folks not to mow these trilliums down.

Sue had her great find, and so did I have mine. We were driving along Glen Lake Road when I hollered "STOP! STOP! Were those Yellow Lady's Slippers?" And there they were! A whole bunch of them, growing right along the road at the edge of the woods. Once Sue got over the heart attack I almost gave her by shrieking and grabbing her arm, she too was ecstatic to see and photograph these beautiful native orchids.

Here's a closer view of their intricate structure. Is it just my experience, or are these Yellow Lady's Slippers a lot less common than the pink kind?

And to think I almost cancelled my date with Sue this morning! It was cold and rainy in Saratoga when I woke up, but by the time I got to Sue's home in Queensbury, the rain had stopped, so our walk along the bikeway was nothing but pleasant. The trail, which starts in the heart of Glens Falls and runs all the way to the southern shore of Lake George, was very nearly ours alone today. (Warm weekends find it whizzing with bikers.) We took our time, ambling along, listening to birds and glimpsing a few in flight, Goldfinches everywhere, an Oriole hiding from us in the treetops, and one soaring-over-us Osprey that got us scrambling out of the car in time to watch him disappear before Sue could focus her lens. But no matter. There were so many other beautiful things to see, including this scene of quiet water reflecting a distant French Mountain.

And this rocky bank crowned with bright-pink, exquisitely fragrant Early Azalea.

I've known this shrub as Mountain Azalea for many years, but recent taxonomic research has reassigned to it both a new common name, as well as a new Latin name. What my Newcomb's Wildflower Guide calls Rhododendron roseum is now called R. prinophyllum, its species distinguished both by its fragrance and by the glandular hairs that cover its flower tubes.

Another shrub that abounds along a part of the trail is the Common Barberry. Although this prickly shrub with the dangling clusters of pretty yellow flowers is not a native species, it doesn't seem to make a pest of itself around here. I see it far less frequently than the seriously invasive Japanese Barberry.

Another prickly shrub was in full bloom today, the beautiful Hawthorn -- species unknown. According to Newcomb, there are over 50 species of hawthorns in our area, most of them identifiable only by their fruit. All have long sharp thorns, and all are snowy white and as lovely as roses, whose family they belong to.

As regular readers of my blog know well, I have found Glaucous Honeysuckle in bloom in two other places. But never have I seen it grow so exuberantly as along this bikeway.

Dear little Bluets! Darling Violets! Such an extravagant gift from the flower gods they are! They bloom everywhere, even underfoot, and their beauty continues undiminished, no matter that they might get walked on. They're hardly rare flowers, but how could I call them "common" when they bring me such delight?

Sue had to leave much too soon to go to work, but I still had some time to play in the woods, so I stopped by a rocky bank where Hepatica grow. This is a plant that gives us something of itself to enjoy in every season.

Now long past blooming, its furry little cluster of jade-colored fruit is nestled in the trefoil of its bracts and surrounded by its evergreen tri-lobed leaves. Doesn't it look as pretty as any brooch from a jewelry shop?


catharus said...

That's awesome with the nodding trillium and glaucous honeysuckle. It's my understanding, that the yellow lady slipper in considerably more rare than the pink one.

Holly said...

I so love to find lady slippers. Spotting one makes me feel like I've found such a rare, otherworldly treasure. You're a step ahead of me, though, as I've only ever found pink ones. Don't they seem to exotic to grow in our cold climate?

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Thanks for your comments, catharus and WoodswomanX. I too am amazed to find these beautiful orchids growing right here in the woods near my home.