Thursday, May 16, 2013

A Nature Walk Preview

Since I'm leading a nature walk for a garden club at Moreau Lake on Friday morning, I thought I'd better get over there today and see what might be in store.  With most of the spring ephemerals now faded, and the showy summer flowers not yet in bloom,  I wasn't sure I'd find much of interest.  But of course, there's always something of interest in the out of doors.  Here's  a preview of some of the things I hope to show our group tomorrow.

My plan is to lead the group around the back bay of Moreau Lake, which this year has a broad sandy beach all the way around, which should make for easy walking.  With the forest canopy now closed in, we wouldn't find many flowers blooming now under dense shade, but here on the sunlit shore of the lake we should find quite a few.  The first flowers to catch my eye as I stepped from the woods to the sand were many, many tiny white violets scattered up and down the shore, a fragrant species called Sweet White Violet (Viola blanda). 

There's a truly majestic Highbush Blueberry shrub along this stretch of shore, and today it was full of flowers, waxy white bells capped with rosy bracts.

We will be able to compare a number of different Heath Family shrubs along this stretch of shore, for close by the Highbush Blueberry are numerous shrubs of Lowbush Blueberry and even more of Black Huckleberry.  The huckleberry flowers pictured here were still in tight red buds, but when they open they will resemble the bell-shaped flowers of the blueberries, although a little bit pinker.   I will have our group pinch the leaves of the huckleberry bushes to see how the leaves stick to our fingers, because of the resinous secretions on the backs of the leaves.  The leaves of either blueberry will not be sticky.

Here was a fourth Heath Family shrub, a Maleberry, although it did not as yet have any of its globular bell-shaped flowers.  The dried fruits from last year still remained on the bush, fruits that are hard as rocks and as yet uneaten by any wildlife.  The fact that this shrub never develops edible fruit hints at how it got its common name. It is also called He-huckleberry.  Its scientific name is Lyonia ligustrina.

The vividly colored and intricately shaped Fringed Polygala is often the favorite find on wildflower walks, and our group will not be disappointed.  Masses of this lovely flower are carpeting the banks near the shore.

Columbines are also a big crowd-pleaser, and they won't be hard to find, since their brilliant color causes them to stand out in even the shadiest woods.

Not as showy, but still rather pretty in its own right, is Bastard Toadflax.  Although most of the plants were still in tight bud, a few had opened their small starry blooms that cluster at the top of the stems.

The green flowers of Solomon's Seal are easy to miss, since they dangle hidden below the leaves.  I hope I can find them again when I lead the walk.

After we've circled the back bay of Moreau Lake, we will come out on the broad beach of the main part of the lake and walk along in the soft sand.  The weather is supposed to be lovely on Saturday, much less windy than it was today.

Here on the beach we will be able to examine the interesting flowers of Pitch Pine.  I even found a branch that included both male and female flowers as well as a young cone that was formed a year ago.  The female flower is that small red tuft near the top of the new growth, the male flowers (as yet unopened) are the chubby green things circling the growth spike, and the yearling cone is hidden among the needles below.

If we had all day for our walk, I would next lead our group through the woods to Mud Pond and explore the shoreline over there.  We won't be able to do that on Saturday, but today I took myself over there to have a look around.

There's a flat muddy area along one shore, an area my friend Sue and I call "The Delta."  This is where (when it's full of water)  a stream enters the pond, creating a wide sandy expanse that is home to many interesting wetland plants.

I was curious to see if that floating liverwort called Ricciocarpus natans was still stranded on the mud where I had found it several weeks ago.  Indeed, it was.  Still waiting for the spring rains to flood the shore and carry it off to deeper water.

Just behind the shore was a field packed full with Golden Ragwort, brilliantly yellow against the dark green of its foliage.

This enormous fly with a fuzzy butt, big brown eyes, and a yellow nose was busily feeding on the ragwort flowers.  This is one of the Tachinid flies, possibly of the genus Juriniopsis, that like to eat flower nectar.

If the staff of Moreau Lake State Park would allow it, I would like to lead a nature walk along the bed of the stream (now dry) that feeds into Mud Pond, for many interesting plants grow here. 

I counted many dozens of Jack-in-the-Pulpits, some with plain green spathes but most with purple stripes.  There was Toothwort, too (you can see its leaves in this photo), plus Miterwort and Foamflower.  There were also Downy Yellow Violets and Long-spurred Violets, as well as extensive patches of Plantain-leaved Sedge, all plants I usually associate with a lime-rich woods.

One of the most populous plants along this streambed is Dutchman's Breeches, and today I found a number of plants with their rosy-red underground corms uncovered.  Although the stream was dry today, it looks as if there might have been water passing here recently, perhaps after the heavy rain we had a few days ago.

1 comment:

catharus said...

'Looks like your guests would have had a great walk of discovery! Lovely!