Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A Rainy Day (and Some Rarities) on the River Banks

Well, we thought it would be a nice sunny day. But when Ellen and I got together today to explore the Ice Meadows -- a rare-plant habitat along the Hudson River north of Warrensburg -- the clouds were low and grey and the rain was making slippery the rocks we had to scramble across to get down to the water's edge. We didn't let that stop us, though, because we'd heard that the Dwarf Sand-cherry was in bloom. We wouldn't have many more chances to see this diminuitive shrub in bloom, since, first, it's a rarely found threatened species, and second, a hard rain could knock off all its petals. So down to the river we went, and yes, indeed, we found it.

Lots and lots of Dwarf Sand-cherry was sprawling across the sand amid the rocks, its low-lying branches well adapted to being pressed down every winter by up to 10 feet of deposited "frazil" ice, a particular kind of ice that forms in fast-moving water. Those heavy deposits of ice take a long, long time to melt, retarding the growing season along these shores. I was really surprised to find Wood Anemone still in bloom (a plant long gone to seed in Saratoga now), although with the chilly rain today, the white blooms retreated into the shelter of their pretty pink sepals.

Bluets, of course, don't hide their pretty faces from even the nastiest weather, and they manage to find a foothold to grow in the harshest of habitats. Here they share their crack in a rock with some ferns and a violet or two.

I believe those salmon-colored fronds belong to Royal Fern. Here's a closer view. Don't they just seem to glow in the low-light conditions of this dark rainy day?

Talk about glow! These Golden Alexanders lit up even the darkest shade in the woodsy path leading down to the river.

That's not a cloud or a ghost back there in the woods behind this little pool, but a smear on my photo image from raindrops hitting my lens.

I was going to chuck this photo, but changed my mind because it reveals so well the effect of all that ice piling up on the shore each winter. See how abruptly the shrubbery comes to an end? Any tree or shrub that would venture out into the ice build-up zone -- what are called the Ice Meadows -- would promptly be pressed to death or else only survive in miniaturized forms that cast little shade. Even those alien aggressors that tend to usurp other habitats can't get a foothold here, leaving the land to those native plants that have evolved to cope with these harsh conditions.

And here's a photo of one of those plants: Brown Bog (or Buxbaum's) Sedge, a species of sedge considered threatened in New York State and other places, but which has found a happy home here.

Many more rarities will be springing into bloom along these shores as the season progresses. In fact, there are probably some out there now, but it started to rain so hard we decided to call it quits today before we ruined our cameras. But we'll be back!


Jens Zorn said...

Still reading and viewing your blog for daily reassurance and pleasure...

Nellie from Beyond My Garden said...

What is a little rain in the pursuit of nature? The ferns show well against the rock.

Steve Young said...

Best photo of Carex buxbaumii I have seen yet! One of our most beautiful sedges.

Wayne said...

Rainy days are great for photography. Your landscapes -- broad and intimate -- are as appealing as your macro shots.

Ellen Rathbone said...

Ah...the memories! :D

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Thank you, friends, for stopping by with your comments. I do so love to hear from you.