Wednesday, August 7, 2013

A Very Shallow Pond, An Easy Mountain Climb

Oh, what a day was Monday -- clear blue sky, cool dry air, bright sun.  Absolutely perfect!  And I got to spend the whole day outdoors in the Adirondacks with my dear friend Bob, exploring both a very shallow pond (more of a wet meadow, really) as well as a mountain trail to a beautiful view that took very little effort.

The pond is called Putty Pond, near Thirteenth Lake.  Although it is still pretty damp underfoot, it's hardly the water body it used to be long ago, when a now-defunct dam created a settling pond for adjacent garnet mines (now abandoned).  But it's still wet enough to provide a habitat for a number of plants that like to keep their feet in water.

See?  It WAS pretty wet.

Hooded Ladies' Tresses (Spiranthes romanzoffiana)  is one of those damp-loving plants, and lots of them were blooming on Monday at Putty Pond.  They look very much like the more common Nodding Ladies' Tresses (S. cernua), except for the narrower "waist" of the lower lip, the up-tilted angle at which the florets are held on the spike, and a blooming time that is usually a few weeks earlier.  To be honest, though, if my much more knowledgeable friends had not identified these for me, I never would have guessed they were this particular species.

On the other hand, Three-square Rush (Schoenoplectus pungens) would hardly ever be confused for any other plant, with its distinctive three-angled stem and cluster of brown flowers on the green stem.   This plant is also called Chairmaker's Rush, because its tough stems can be used to weave rush seats for chairs.

Tall Goldenrod was starting to bloom around the dryer edges of the pond, while out in the wetter areas, we found stalks of some other kind of goldenrod about to come into bloom.  After consulting our Newcomb's Wildflower Guide and noting the stiffly erect flower clusters and lance-shaped leaves of this unfamiliar species, we decided we had found Bog Goldenrod (Solidago uliginosa var. linoides), a new kind of goldenrod for my life list.

Although we had missed the flowering of the hundreds of Tubercled Orchids (Habenaria flava) thriving at Putty Pond, and thus could not observe the little bump on the lower lip that gives this orchid its name, we could still recognize these abundant orchids by their large leathery leaves and elongated flower bracts.

The bits of downy stuff clinging to the orchid's flower spike came from the numerous plants of Alpine Bulrush (Trichoforum alpinum) that thrive at this wet meadow site.  You can see a few of these long-haired sedge-family plants in the background of this photo.

Our friend Evelyn had encouraged us to find the nearby trail up Balm of Gilead Mountain, which she assured us would provide an easy climb through beautiful woods to a lovely view.  Neither Bob nor I are enthusiastic mountain climbers, but we decided to give the trail a try, and after searching around the area a bit, we finally found the trail that would take us up the mountain.  Actually, the trailhead was much more obvious than the section of overgrown trail in this photo, which was taken much nearer the summit.   I wouldn't have minded pushing through all this bushy stuff, except most of the greenery consisted of Wood Nettles, and I was wearing short pants.  Ouch!

Evelyn was right.  The climb was easy, only a little more than a half a mile, and the view when we reached the summit of Balm of Gilead Mountain was really beautiful.  That's Thirteenth Lake in the valley below, with other Adirondack mountains rising to the north.

While we rested on the rocks enjoying the view, we were surrounded by large blue-and-brown dragonflies zipping and zooming this way and that and never landing -- except to tease us.  I remembered a similar one from when I visited Putty Pond last year, only that one did land long enough for me to take its picture.  I think it's one of the notoriously hard to identify Mosaic Darners (genus Aeshna).  Perhaps the ones we were seeing up here were the same species.  I can say with certainty that they were big and blue and brown.

This late in the summer, we didn't expect to find many flowers blooming in the deep woods, but we did find lots of plants in fruit as we made our way up the mountain.   This is the fruit of Sessile-leaved Bellwort (Uvularia sessilifolia), a small triangular green pod.

The bright blue fruits of Yellow Clintonia (Clintonia borealis) make it obvious why this Lily-family plant is also called Bluebead Lily.

Hobblebush (Viburnum lantanoides) was already displaying autumn colors, with its purple mottled leaves and reddish berries.  The fruits will eventually turn a dark blue-black.

Painted Trillium (Trillium undulatum) fruits were a lovely bright red that blazed like a beacon in the otherwise prevalent green of the deep dark woods.  Of all our northern species of Trillium, T. undulatum is the only one with distinctly stalked leaves.  We also found fruiting plants of Purple Trillium (T. erectum), whose fruits are also red, but more turnip-shaped and with ridges down the sides.

For berries that blazed like a beacon, though, none could outshine the vivid translucent fruits of Rose Twisted Stalk (Streptopus lanceolatus) dangling beneath leafy stems, especially when lit by the sun's rays penetrating the dark woods.


The Furry Gnome said...

Great finds; makes me want to head for the woods right now! Reading your blog reminds me of years ago before I was working full-time, when I went on lots of botany outings. Now that I have the time, I think perhaps I should start again.

Ellen Rathbone said...

I've done Balm of Gilead in the winter on is a nice climb.

Found a clump of clintonia here yesterday just loaded with berries - what a treat! Usually I am lucky to find one or two berries...there must've been a hundred or more there!

Unknown said...

I am so glad I found your blog! Great fotos and fascinating info.. Also, lovely to see ADK.. Luved in Saranac Lake for three and a half years, many moons ago.. climbed twelve high peaks..

Harvey said...

Very nice photos!