Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Savoring Summer's Last Days

Despite the return of high-summer heat the past few days, I'm very much aware that this last week of August spells the real end of summer.  Yes, I know the calendar states that official fall doesn't start until late September, but the truth is that once Labor Day rolls around (Yikes!  Labor Day is next MONDAY!), autumn's chill is soon to follow.  Realizing this, I also realized that I'd hardly spent any time at all this summer on my own dear Hudson River.  Time to remedy that situation.  So off to the river I went today, carrying my little canoe through the woods to the sheltered coves and islands I return to again and again.


I was afraid I had missed many favorite summer flowers, but there they were where I always find them,  adorning the river banks with ravishing color.

The Helenium and the Cardinal Flower seem to vie with each other for which can put on the most dazzling display.

More muted in their dazzle, the Pipewort nevertheless have their charms, dotting the shallows with masses of puffy white buttons.

This stretch of the Hudson, just upstream from the Sherman Island Dam at Moreau,  offers many beautiful vistas, as the river flows around islands and in and out of quiet coves.  Paddling close to this convoluted shoreline, I visited all of my favorite sites, including this pretty little bouldered island surmounted by three tall White Pines.

It's always rewarding to peer under the water to see what's growing down there, especially this time of year, when Wild Celery (Vallisneria americana) sends up the shiny spiralling stems that hold its tiny white flowers just at the water's surface.

Granted, Wild Celery is not a particularly showy flower, but it sure is an interesting one.  The white ones we see are all female flowers.  The even tinier male flowers grow at the base of the plant way down underwater, rising to the surface when ripe to float on the currents until they spill into the waiting female flowers.  Those corkscrew stems recoil or relax as the water level rises and falls, holding the female flower right at the surface where the male flower can fertilize them.  After fertilization, those same stems sharply retract and bury the developing seed in the mud at the bottom of the river.

After paddling back into a swampy spot where low water had uncovered a muddy shore carpeted with normally emergent plants, I came upon a plant I had never noticed before.  Its finely cut leaves, resembling green feathers, rose from stalks that grew along rope-like roots.  I could find neither flowers nor fruits.  

It's very hard to identify plants with no flower or seeds, but a friend later suggested Mermaidweed (Proserpinaca palustris), and after looking at Google images, I tend to believe that that is what this is.  If so, it would be a new record for Saratoga County.

As the afternoon wore on, the breezes quieted and the river grew still as glass, mirroring the rocks and trees and flowers in perfect reflection.

Almost perfect reflection, that is.  Actually, this floral display was mirror perfect before I shifted my weight in my boat and sent ripples to shimmer the image.

Slipping along very close to the shore, I had perfect opportunity to enjoy the sight of these deep-blue berries on the overhanging Silky Dogwood shrubs.

There they were!  A lovely patch of Closed Gentian in all their royal-blue radiance!

I was afraid I had missed the Gentians this year, since I found not a one at other sites where I look for them each late summer.   But maybe I just didn't look close enough.  I find it amazing that such a vividly colored flower can hide so well, disappearing against the leafy banks unless the light is angled just right to reveal their remarkable blueness.   There were many, many reasons I was glad I came to the river today, but seeing these beautiful flowers provided the crowning moment of delight.


The Furry Gnome said...

What a wonderful outing! Makes me want to get in the canoe and head out - only been out once this summer. Next year's summer resolution must be to get out a LOT more!

Unknown said...

Thank you for taking me on that journey and introducing me to Pipewort and Celery Plant.. The Gentian is stunning..What a beautiful world we live in, where folks have let it be..Yes, autumn is coming and with it those luscious fall colors..Enjoy!

Salty Pumpkin Studio said...

Your photographs are as fascinating as your narrative. A very delightful read.

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Thank you, Furry and Cindy and Maywyn, for stopping by to comment. I can't tell you how happy it makes me to think my posts might inspire folks to get out and enjoy our beautiful and fascinating natural world. Have fun!