Tuesday, July 30, 2013

What's New on the Ice Meadows

Oh my gosh, August arrives tomorrow!  Summer is speeding by way, way too fast!   Already, the goldenrod has started to bloom along the roadsides, and crickets chirp outside my bedroom window at night.  It's time to pay careful attention, now, to each summer day as it comes -- and we couldn't have had a lovelier summer day than the one we had today.  The sun was warm but the air was light and dry, just the right kind of day to wander the Ice Meadows along the Hudson River just north of Warrensburg.

This stretch of river bank is one of the richest sites for wildflowers in all of New York State, a habitat supporting a number of rare and unusual plants that have evolved to tolerate the harsh conditions created by massive ice build-up along these shores each winter, followed by rushing floods each spring.  I hadn't visited here in several weeks, so I knew I'd find many treasures as I searched among the rocky pools and stony shores today.  Here are some I found newly blooming today, in alphabetical order.

 Bedstraw Bellflower (Campanula aparinoides) is a dainty little pale-blue flower that rests its blooms on the surrounding grass because its stems are too fine and weak to hold it upright.

Canadian Burnet (Sanguisorba canadensis)  stands tall on long stems that wave in the slightest breeze.

Creeping Spearwort (Ranunculus reptans)  is a tiny sprawling buttercup, so small it would go unnoticed if not for its shiny bright-yellow flowers lying flat on the damp mud.

Flat-topped Aster (Doellingeria umbellata), one of our first asters to bloom, has large flat or slightly domed clusters of small white flowers on stalks that can reach 7 feet high.

Grass-leaved Goldenrod (Euthamia graminifolia) also has flat-topped clusters, as well as leaves that are indeed as narrow as grass.

Harebell (Campanula rotundafolia) has actually been blooming along these shores for many weeks.  I just happened to find a particularly photogenic cluster of its pretty blue bell-shaped flowers today.

Humped Bladderwort (Utricularia gibba) has fine underwater structures that contain tiny sacs that can suck in even tinier underwater creatures and digest them for food.  My camera would not focus on these underwater parts, but I did manage to get a good image of the bright-yellow flower that protrudes above the water.

Joe-Pye Weed (Eutrochium maculatum) was named for an Indian healer from New England who used this plant to cure fevers.  I don't know if it was efficacious or not, but it seems to have stirred up a mating fever in these Goldenrod Soldier Beetles.

Kalm's Lobelia (Lobelia kalmii) is so dainty it seems it would be far too fragile to survive the harsh environment of the Ice Meadows, where it sprouts up between cracks in the rocks. But these seem to be exactly the conditions in which it thrives.

Mountain Mint, Narrow-leaved (Pycnanthemum tenuifolium), has tiny flowers that at first sight appear plain white.  But if you find these flower clusters be sure to peer more closely  to see the purple polka-dots.  Also be sure to pinch a leaf and enjoy the invigoratingly strong mint odor of this plant.

New Jersey Tea (Ceanothus americanus) bloomed some weeks ago, but I was struck today by its pretty red and orange fruits.  I have read that the leaves of this plant served as a substitute  for imported tea during the American Revolution.  I dried some leaves once and tried to make tea of them, but they made a pretty tasteless brew.

Pearly Everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea) gets its common name from the pearl-shaped globular blooms, which can be dried and kept as floral decorations for a long, long time (if not exactly for "everlasting" time).

Purple-fringed Orchis, Small (Platanthera psycodes).   This particular specimen probably came into bloom some time ago, since it appeared to be fading somewhat.  But it still put on quite a showy appearance.

Purple-stemmed Aster (Symphyotrichum puniceum) is the earliest of our large-flowered blue asters to bloom, but I'm still astonished to find it blooming as early as late July.

Shrubby Cinquefoil (Dasifora fruticosa) grows more abundantly on the east bank of the Ice Meadows than it does on the west bank.  It was there among marble deposits that I found its cheerful yellow flowers blooming in beautiful juxtaposition to this bright-orange Butterflyweed.

Steeplebush (Spiraea tomentosa) was growing happily among the seepy springs on the west bank of the Ice Meadows.

Tawny Cotton Grass (Eriophorum virginicum).  At least, I think that's what this is.  I'm not very good at grasses and sedges.  It's cottony and tawny, anyway, and was growing where other bog-loving plants like cranberries were growing.

Turkey-foot Grass (Andropogon gerardii) is also known as Big Bluestem Grass and is one of the prairie grasses that grow along the Hudson at the Ice Meadows.  Look closely and you can see both male (yellow) and female (white) flowers on this grass.

Virgin's Bower (Clematis virginiana) was just beginning to open its dainty white flowers on vines that lean on surrounding bushes for support.

Whip Nutrush (Scleria triglomerata) is one of the rare graminoids that thrive on the Ice Meadows and very few other places in New York State.  It has a distinctive seedhead that holds shiny round seeds that turn chalk-white when ripe.  Today I found a seedhead containing seeds of three colors: black, green, and white.

Yellow-eyed Grass (Xyris torta) appears to enjoy wet feet, since many of these small flowers were growing right at the wet edges of many of the pools that collect among the rocky shore of the Ice Meadows.

Besides finding all these interesting plants, I was delighted to finally capture a photo of this little Eastern Tailed Blue Butterfly, with its wings wide open, no less.  This butterfly hardly ever lands and stays put long enough for me to focus my camera, or else it closes its wings and becomes the color of air.  Today was my lucky day.

It was not a lucky day, however,  for this tiny hoverfly, dangling from the clutches of a Jagged Ambush Bug, which had already drained the life from the fly along with its bodily fluids.


Uta said...

You made my day as usual. I just love all your beautyfull, educational pictures. It gets me going in the morning. I now look more closly at tiny plants when taking a walk. Thanks

catharus said...

Yes, quite the site! Thanks as always!

The Furry Gnome said...

What an interesting collection of plants, and an interesting habitat. I've never heard the term 'ice meadows' before, but I'm sure the same thing happens elsewhere. A number of these I've never seen, so thanks. Makes me want to get out there looking.

Elizabeth said...

I love this mini field guide for this diverse place. :) What a wonderful array of plants and insects!

Anonymous said...

Love this! I recently started a blog dedicated to wildflowers found near my home here on Long Island. I was planning on taking a trip to the ice meadows in two weeks! Can't wait to do some exploring!