Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Rare Mint Confirmed for Moreau Lake

It's always a good day for a walk around Moreau Lake, especially on days as beautiful as it was yesterday.  But this time I had a special reason for walking this shoreline, for I wanted to revisit the Whorled Mountain Mint I found along the shore this fall.  (See my post for September 9.) Except that then, I wasn't sure of its name.  But now I knew for sure, since I had just heard from Steve Young, chief botanist with the New York Natural Heritage Program, that this is, indeed, the endangered species of mountain mint he thought it might be, Pycnanthemum verticillatum var. verticillatum.  I'm happy to report that it was looking still very healthy yesterday, with many of the dozens of plants still bearing green leaves.

I had sent a pressed specimen to Steve, who shared it with Dr. Robert Naczi,  curator of North American botany at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx.  After close examination, Dr. Naczi confirmed that this was, indeed, the variety of P. verticillatum  listed among New York's rarest plants, with only four verified occurrences and five historical occurrences known to exist in the state.  Now we can make that five verified occurrences.  According to Dr. Naczi, this was "a very good find."

Satisfied that my treasured plant was still safe and happy, I continued my walk around the lake, enjoying the pleasant warmth of the sunlit beach and the beautiful reflections of multicolored trees in the still water.

At first glance, I almost mistook these Hop Hornbeam seed pods for pinecones, especially since the hornbeam branches were surrounded by those of White Pine.

A thicket of Black Huckleberry shrubs made a ruby-red hedge along the northern shore of the lake.

The vivid pink leaves of Maple-leaved Viburnum still put on a colorful display.

As the late afternoon sun began to sink behind the mountains, I sat on a shore-side bench  and contemplated the exquisite beauty of this special place, so familiar to me after so many years of wandering its woods and waterways.  But also, still capable of granting me delightful surprises. 


Andrew Lane Gibson said...

Congratulations, Jackie! What an exceptional and incredible find! You have an eye for the rarities and good stuff as well :)

I'll admit I'm a bit surprised the verdict came back var. verticillatum; I really thought those uniformly pubescent abaxial leaf surfaces would be diagnostic but not having a specimen in the hand and only photos to go on is no way to make a qualified ID. I KNOW the authorities that annotated the specimen are more qualified and talented botanists than I haha. In the end better to have it been var. verticillatum for its rarity and native status. Congrats again my friend!!! :)

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Andrew, I believe NOBODY could be more qualified a botanist than you. But as you say, he had the advantage of a specimen in hand. But I could send you his address, if you want to challenge his assessment, or at least hear his rationale for claiming this is var. verticillatum. It would have been REALLY a surprise if it had been var. pilosum!

The Furry Gnome said...

Congratulations, a great find - and you knew enough botany to recognize it! Those reflections are fabulous.

Momo said...

Congratulations, Jackie! Thanks for sharing yet another valuable contribution for the natural treasures of NY. Your entries are always a wonderful break from most of the media stories these days. Keep wandering with your sharp discerning eyes, creativity curiosity, and generous documentation of your adventures.

threecollie said...

Congratulations on your amazing mint discovery. And what lovely photos! Interesting how much the hop hornbeam seed pods resemble actual hops.

Virginia said...

How beautiful! I was just thinking this afternoon that maybe I would take my father to Moreau this week. Now I'm really inspired especially if the sun is out!

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Thank you, dear readers, for stopping by to share my excitement over finding this rare plant species. I'm especially happy my discovery happened at my favorite nature site, Moreau Lake State Park, where the park staffers, as well as state park people higher up, truly share my enthusiasm for native plants.

Virginia, the beach now is perfect for hiking, with water levels low and lots of broad sand to walk on. If you take the nature trail, off the beach parking lot, you will find a number of interpretive signs identifying some of the trees along the trail. We installed the signs today (!!/9).