Friday, June 14, 2013

Plant People at Play

Three straight days of botanical bliss!  That was the annual field meeting of the Botanical Society of America, Northeastern Section, held early this week in the region around Warren County, New York, and hosted by my dear friend Ed Miller, seen seated here on the Hudson River shore next to our mutual friend, the botanist extraordinaire Ruth Schottman.   A full schedule included forays to the Ice Meadows along the Hudson River, the Pack Demonstration Forest just north of Warrensburg, Putty Pond near an old abandoned garnet mine near Thirteenth Lake, and the Clay Meadows Trail through state forest preserve to the shores of Lake George.

Day One:  The Ice Meadows West and East 

We got a break in the rain for the first morning together, exploring one of New York's richest sites for native plants, that stretch of Hudson River bank north of Warrensburg that is heaped high with frazil ice each winter.  The weight of all that ice prevents the encroachment of trees that would shade the site, so the shoreline remains an open, meadow-like habitat, one that is watered by springs that collect in pools in the rocks.  Here, botanists from many states of the northeast spread out to examine the area,  shouting out to one another to come see this or that amazing find.

Every so often, there were puzzles that required the consulting of field guides or queries to other members of our group who were known to be expert in a particular genus of plants.  With such an assemblage of expertise, no plant remained a mystery for long.

Because this remarkable site has attracted the attention of so many professional botanists over the years,  there were few surprises remaining to be found.  Ed Miller and his friend Nan Williams found one, though, when they discovered a small patch of One-flowered Cancerroot (Orobanche uniflora) at a site where it had never been seen before.  We later discovered another small patch of this parasitic plant at a site some distance away.

I knew that Pitcher Plant (Sarracenia purpurea) grew here, on a little seepy patch that it shared with other acid lovers like sphagnum moss and cranberries, and this day we found it in full ruby bloom.

Tall Cinquefoil (Potentilla arguta) was also fully in bloom, and it's hard to believe that such a scraggly, weedy-looking plant could be considered rare in many surrounding states.  It sure grows abundantly out here on the Ice Meadows.

Plants aren't the only inhabitants of this site, as this stoic-seeming Green Frog reminded us, sitting as calmly as could be while we gathered around to admire it.

A number of butterflies also graced us with their presence, including this Northern Crescent.

Canadian Burnet (Sanguisorba canadensis) had yet to unfurl its pinnate, sharply toothed leaflets, although we could see them everywhere.  I was struck by this neatly folded cluster of leaflets, where each sharp point on each leaflet was tipped with a perfect orb of clear fluid.  I was told that this was neither rain nor dew, but rather the plant's own fluid pushed out of the leaf openings by root pressure in a process called "guttation."

On our way back to lunch at the Echo Lake Lodge in Warrensburg,  I pulled my car over at the site where two weeks ago we had found significant piles of frazil ice still remaining in the hollows of a meadow.  Sure enough, a bit of that ice still remained,  although it was disappearing fast.

Due to the chilling effect that ice has had on the surrounding woodland, a number of spring ephemerals were only now coming into bloom there, several weeks after we would expect to see these species already gone to seed.  This pretty clump of Miterwort (Mitella diphylla) was one of them.

After lunch, our group headed out to the opposite shore of the Hudson, visiting an area of marble outcroppings on the east bank.  Here among the rocks we found the appropriately named Rock Sandwort (Minuartia michauxii) in pretty, star-like bloom.

We had only begun to explore this shoreline when the rains began, but that did not dissuade this hardy bunch, who pulled out their raingear and continued poking about amid the rocks and sand.  In the darkening light of this rainy afternoon, the bright yellow blooms of Frostweed (Helianthemum canadense) shone out from the grassy banks like little suns.

Off in the woods beyond the trail from the parking lot to the shore, one of our group discovered a patch of One-flowered Pyrola (Moneses uniflora) and made sure we all had a chance to see it.  It looks as if someone made sure we could also see the underside of the intriguingly structured bloom by turning one up from its normal dangling position.

Almost as we were ready to leave, one of our group, the wildflower-book author Carol Gracie, came running to show us a leaf from her discovery, a patch of Lance-leaved Violets (Viola lanceolata) blooming out on the shore.  This was yet another new plant to add to the list of those known to grow along the Ice Meadows.  A great way to end our first day!

Day Two: Pack Demonstration Forest and Putty Pond

The rain kept up all night and into the next morning, but our group came prepared to endure some very soggy hiking as we gathered in the parking area of the Charles Lathrop Pack Demonstration Forest just north of Warrensburg.

After learning about the history and present-day uses of this educational site from the forest's manager, we set out along well-groomed trails that took us into the heart of some of the largest standing White Pines remaining in the Adirondack forest.

One of the genuine treats for us were the masses of dainty pink Twinflowers (Linnaea borealis ssp. americana) growing all along the trail.  Botanists have a special love for this plant, since the flower was such a favorite of the great 18th-century Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus (considered the father of modern taxonomy) that he named it after himself.

A very rainy month of June has inspired the growth of many fungi, including this Red-banded Polypore (Fomitopsis pinicola) that announced its presence by its brilliant color and large size.

Our group had many members with well-practiced eyes for finding the tiniest plants, so I wasn't surprised that the miniature Dwarf Rattlesnake Plantain (Goodyera repens) was promptly discovered along the trail.  But I was surprised that so many were found, since I recall searching and searching for them here on other occasions and finding only a very few. If any!

I later learned that members of our group also found the moonwort Botrychium matricarifolium along this same trail, a plant that completely eluded me, so of course I do not have a photo.

I did get a photo of these pointy little galls that stand up straight from the surface of Witch Hazel leaves.  Little witches' hats on Witch Hazel leaves -- how apropos!

It sure wasn't hard to see the super-saturated red of these American Fly Honeysuckle (Lonicera canadensis) berries blazing out from among the rain-saturated leaves.

A truly startling find at the Pack Forest was a whole bank of double-tiered Painted Trilliums (Trillium undulatum).  There were obvious signs that these very odd trilliums had indeed bloomed on the topmost tier.  I wish I had obtained a better photo, but the light was very dim and my camera was getting wet, so I didn't want to hold it out in the pouring rain to attempt better photos.

Our next stop was the Garnet Hill Lodge on Thirteenth Lake, a cozy ski lodge and summer resort where our group was to have lunch before exploring the open wet meadow called Putty Pond.  As it happened, we ended up visiting Putty Pond before we had lunch, somewhat cutting short our explorations of this old garnet-mining site.  Putty Pond is no longer the genuine pond it once was when it served as a water source for nearby mining operations, but several days of heavy rainfall certainly saturated the ground and made walking there very wet.

I have visited this site in late July when it was carpeted with Tubercled Orchids and Hooded Ladies' Tresses, neither of which were blooming today.  We did find many new-to-me Robbin's Ragworts about to bloom, as well as lots and lots of Chairmaker's Rush just starting to shoot up to its normal height.  None of my photos of these interesting plants came out well, but I did manage to capture this intriguing image of Tamarack boughs holding large droplets of rainwater in the needle clusters.  It looked like the tree was strung with Christmas lights.

As we left the lodge after lunch, I spied this beautiful Luna Moth clinging to the siding near the door, no doubt taking shelter from the rain.  So elegant!

Day Three:  Clay Meadows Trail to Lake George

Sunshine!  Blue sky!  A great day to take a long walk in the woods!  And a beautiful walk it was indeed, along the trail called "Clay Meadows" in the Tongue Mountain area along the west shore of Lake George.

Not everyone made it all the way to the lakeshore, since the trail grew muddy and wet and quite steep at times, even occasionally obscured by fallen trees.  But those who did persevere were rewarded with wonderful sights.  Including more moonworts, I've heard, although I missed them, myself.  I heard they were no bigger than toothpicks, so no wonder!  Also, many more Goodyera repensG. pubescens and G. tesselata, as well.  I did take photos of all these Goodyera, but the light was so dim, they were blurry and unusable.

One of my favorite sights was an area solidly carpeted with the pretty shamrock-shaped leaves of White Wood Sorrel (Oxalis montana).

One of them was even in bloom!  Is there any flower more pretty than this?

Turn over a log and what do you find?  Not just one, but TWO Red-backed Salamanders!  One of them is much smaller than the other.

Ferns!  Moss!  Fungi!  The forest was just jam packed with very cool stuff.

This vividly colored Lacquered Polypore could be spotted from quite some distance away.

As could these Oyster Mushrooms, stark white against the dark wood of a rotting log.

These Orange Mycena mushrooms were hard to miss, as well.

And oh boy, the slime molds were on the move, what with all the rain we've been having.  This one looked like tapioca pearls.  On second thought, this might not be a slime mold, but rather an organism called an Amoebozoa, which behaves rather like a slime mold, oozing along the forest floor until something prompts it to form fruiting bodies, which is what seems to be happening here.

This seems to be a yellow version of that white stuff in the photo above, but I don't know.  Whatever it is, it's making its stand on a patch of the bright-green liverwort called Bazzania trilobata.

I believe I can state with some accuracy that this is, indeed, a slime mold, since I found a photo in my Barron's mushroom guide that looks exactly like it.  Looks exactly like one variety of it, that is.  This particular slime mold has fruiting bodies that come in two varieties, and this column-shaped one is Ceratiomyxa fruticulosa var. fruticulosa.   For the other variety, see the next photo.

This domed and honeycombed version of Ceratiomyxa is  C. fruticulosa var. porioides.  I doubt very much that I will remember the name, but I sure will remember what fascinating and beautiful creatures these are.  My mushroom book states that both of these varieties are very common after prolonged periods of rain.  Yeah, that sounds about right.

Another one.  No clue what this is.  Vivid yellow, shiny, globular.  Mixing it up with a white one that looks sort of like that Ceratiomyxa mentioned above.  Just another amazing organism to be found in a walk in the woods.

Directly across from the area where we parked to venture on the Clay Meadow trail, we could hear a waterfall thundering down the mountain.  It didn't take long to walk through the woods and discover it roaring along, tumbling from tier upon tier higher up, a real beauty of a waterfall, full to capacity after so many days of rain.  One of our rewards for so many days of inclement weather.


Uta said...

What beautiful pictures. Too bad it rained for you. Thank you for sharing.

The Furry Gnome said...

Glad I found your blog! Fascinated to read about your lightweight canoes that let you stay on the water! And the botany field trip sounds great too. Your pictures are absolutely fabulbous. I look forward to reading about your adventures.

Ellen Rathbone said...

What an amazing few days! So many wonderful finds - I especially like the Canada burnet with the droplets!

I added a few new plants to my life list during my UP trip - including a gorgeous striped coral root!

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Thanks, Uta. Sure, it would have been nice to have dry sunny days, but as you can see from my photos, these botanists were not dissuaded by the inclement weather.

Furry Gnome, I am so glad to make your acquaintance! Thanks for your kind comments. Now I can look forward to reading about YOUR adventures, since I have added your blog to my blog list and new posts will be added as soon as they appear.

Hi Ellen, how I would have loved to have shared these adventures with you, in person. I'm sure you recognized the locations. As a native Michigander, I've really been enjoying your blog posts about your trip to Michigan's Upper Peninsula and delighting in your discovery of that pretty little orchid, plus lots more good stuff up there in the UP.

catharus said...

What a fantastic event!

Ron Gamble said...

Very nice photos, and story/info. Lots of things I don't get to see in southern Michigan. *Thanks* for the effort putting this blog together!