Saturday, June 9, 2012

Rainy Hike up a Mossy Trail

Rain, rain, rain!  Hey, c'mon, it's JUNE, already!  As in "then, if ever, come perfect days."  Ah well, I guess a rainy day is a perfect kind of day to go looking for mosses, as it was last Wednesday when I met noted moss expert Nancy Slack for a hike up the Baker Trail in Moreau Lake State Park.

 The sun came out for a few minutes on this otherwise rainy day in Moreau Lake State Park.

Our primary destination for our hike up into the Palmertown Mountains was to find a pool that's nearly chock-full of Wild Calla, and we were successful in finding it, although the Calla flowers were well past their prime.  Almost all flowers are blooming earlier than expected this spring.

Here's a closer look at one of those Calla flowers well on its way to becoming fruit.

Although the Wild Calla almost completely filled the pond, there were a few other plants that shared the site, including a nice variety of grasses and sedges and large clumps of Blue Flag.

The hike to this pool is not a particularly long one, but it took us a couple of hours to reach it, with so many intriguing distractions for a bryologist along the way.  I usually associate Sphagnum Moss with low-lying acidic bogs, but Nancy informed me that some Sphagnums (such as the one she's examining here) prefer upland sites that are less acidic.

There appeared to be a variety of soil chemistries along our trail.  In one location below some rocky outcroppings, the plants, such as these Maidenhair Ferns and Rattlesnake Ferns, were those that usually indicate a rich, limey soil.

This Ebony Spleenwort is also a fern that prefers a limey substrate.

But then we also found rocks that Nancy identified as definitely acidic, such as this one adorned with at least three different kinds of moss, all of which prefer an acidic environment.  (Nancy told me the names of all the mosses we found, as well as the name of this rock, but I had left my notebook in my car, not wanting to get it wet, and I promptly forgot what she told me.  I'll try to come back and identify these later.)

I didn't recognize this Rock Tripe immediately, because I usually see it when it is dry and brown.  But Nancy told me that it will turn green after being drenched with rain.  As we all have been these last few weeks.

Hiding in among that Rock Tripe was another foliose lichen, smaller and curlier, its upturned edges rimmed with powdery white.  Again, Nancy told me its name, but I didn't write it down.

This velvety green moss always grows on tree trunks, Nancy told me.  She also told me its name but, well, same song, second verse.

At least I DID know the name of these odd little whitish fungi.  They're called Dead Man's Fingers, and they will turn black as they mature.  The tallest of these was perhaps an inch long.

From small and pale to huge and vivid!  It was quite a surprise to see this beautiful Chicken of the Woods, a fungus I usually don't look for until fall.  These many days of rain seem to be bringing out the fungi earlier than ususal.

Certainly, the rain brings out the little Red Efts, which were everywhere in the woods on Wednesday.  We constantly had to watch our step, lest we squash them on the trail.

Neither one of us could figure out what happened to this old Beech tree to create those odd rings in the trunk.

Another tree that got our attention was this old Black Tupelo, with deeply furrowed bark on one side, smoother bark on the other.  That was our first clue as to the species of this tree, plus we found some of last year's oval leaves on the ground beneath.  We could not see the top of the tree at all, nor any of its branches, hidden as they were above the leafy tree limbs of encroaching oaks and maples.  Certainly, the swampy habitat up here near the Wild Calla pool was appropriate for tupelos.


Ellen Rathbone said...

Some great finds. Love that Chicken of the Woods!

I don't get to see too many red efts out here - kind of miss 'em. We do, however, get many more spotted salamanders, and I've heard rumors of tiger salamanders, too!

catharus said...

Did you take the Chicken of the Woods home for cooking?

jimbo said...

hi, i found a plant about 2 weeks ago that i was not able to identify. i was wondering if you could ID it for me? i foujnd it in a parking lot at gavin park in wilton about 2 weeks ago. thank you

jimbo said...

also, every flower had 5 petals

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Ellen, I hope you find some Tiger Salamanders and post photos on your blog. I sure do love our little Red Efts, and I always want to remind folks not to pick them up without rubbing dirt on their hands to neutralize our acidic skin. The efts have very delicate skin that can be damaged by our touch.

Hi catharus, no, I didn't take the Chicken home to cook it. The flavor is rather bland and the texture dry -- just like chicken breast. Plus, it's just so beautiful glowing there in the woods.

Hi jimbo, I looked at your photos and they are of a plant called Viper's Bugloss, an introduced species that thrives in harsh conditions like sandy roadsides. With their beautiful blue petals and hot-pink stamens, they'd make a lovely bouquet, except that they're so prickly it hurts to pick them.

jimbo said...

thank you... im glad its not a local plant because it got cut down