Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Floral Scene Shifts at Skidmore Woods

 Less than a week ago, I took the above photo of Large-flowered White Trillium (Trillium grandiflorum) where it carpets a section of the Skidmore Woods.  Today I returned to the Skidmore Woods to prepare for a wildflower walk I'll be leading there this coming Sunday, and I found that much has changed in just the past few days.  Here's that same patch of trillium the way it looked today, with those bright-white flowers changing to a deep pink.

Each week now brings a new floral scene in the woods, with such spring ephemerals as Bloodroot, Trout Lily, and Hepatica demonstrating their truly ephemeral nature and promptly disappearing.  Their flowers do, anyway.  We can still see their leaves and developing fruits, as interesting in their own way as their former flowers were beautiful.

These Bloodroot seed pods, for example, are such a lovely soft jade green, and as the seeds ripen and develop the nutrient-rich appendages called eliasomes, they will be greatly sought after by foraging ants.

Most of the Large-flowered Bellworts (Uvularia grandiflora) that thrive in the Skidmore Woods are now setting seed, but the next of the bellworts to bloom have just begun to open their soft-yellow bells.  This is Perfoliate Bellwort (Uvularia perfoliata), which has stems that appear to pierce its leaves.

The Large-flowered Bellwort also has stems that pierce its leaves, but a distinguishing feature of this Perfoliate Bellwort is the presence of what appear to be darker-yellow granules covering the inside of the flower.

I hope these pretty little puffs of Dwarf Ginseng (Panax trifolium) will still be with us by Sunday. I was especially charmed by this arrangement, with Christmas Fern and Trout-lily adding their beautiful leaves to the scene.

Here was another gorgeous juxtaposition, with vertical sprays of fern leaves forming a backdrop for the equally vertical spikes of frothy white Foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia).  If you click on this photo, you might see a few purple dots of violets punctuating the scene.

I'm in a bit of a quandary about whether I should lead the walk participants to visit one of the rarest plants in Saratoga County, which is Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis).  Although this lime-loving plant thrives in the Skidmore Woods, it has been virtually extirpated throughout much of its range by overzealous harvesting by herbalists.  I think perhaps I will pass out my card with my blog address and let participants visit here to see this photo I took today.  The flowers may well have faded by Sunday, anyway.

Or maybe I could show them another site where just a few leaves of Goldenseal have made their appearance, mixed in with some Canada Violets and Downy Yellow Violets. Such a sparse patch may not be so likely to tempt a would-be forager.  But it sure did please me to see these plants, in a location I'd never found them before.

Long-spurred Violet (Viola rostrata) is another lime lover that thrives in the Skidmore Woods, although most of its flowers are starting to fade by now.  I did find this perky patch out on a powerline clearing, mixed in with a clump of Haircap Moss that had sent up its spiky spore stalks.

Recent work by taxonomists has lumped several former species of blue violet into a single species, Viola sororia, which several years ago was solely the species name for this fuzzy-stemmed violet, the Woolly Blue.  The species name V. sororia now includes the Common Blue Violet and the Broad-leaved Wood Violet, but I still think of this violet pictured here as distinct enough to warrant its own name.  It seems to prefer the limey rocks that are found in the Skidmore Woods.

As this stem and leaf back demonstrate, Woolly is a good name for it.  Our Common Blue Violet found in nearly every back yard and alley has smooth stems and hairless leaves and doesn't seem to care if its soil is limey or not.

As for Green Violet (Hybanthus concolor), it certainly prefers a limey soil like that in the Skidmore Woods, which is probably why this violet is found nowhere else in Saratoga County, as far as is known.   This tall plant with alternate elliptical leaves is certainly a very unusual-looking violet, hardly recognizable as belonging to the Violet Family, except for its three-parted seed pods.  Its flowers are little green nubbins that grow in the axils of the leaves.  The flowers are only in bud as yet, but the fully opened flowers really don't look much bigger.  Maybe we'll find a few in bloom by Sunday.

I sure hope this Yellow Lady's Slipper (Cypripedium parviflorum) is still in bloom by Sunday. This is one of our most spectacular orchids, and unlike the more commonly-found Pink Lady's Slipper, it definitely prefers a rich woods like the one we have at Skidmore College.

As for spectacular, it's hard to beat the knock-your-eye-out-red of Wild Columbine (Aqualegia canadensis), especially when it grows in masses like the one I found today, mixed in with spikes of the dainty Miterwort (Mitella diphylla).  WOW!


The Furry Gnome said...

What an amazing collection of wildflowers. Hope you walk goes well. I was to lead a wildflower walk yesterday, but it was cancelled because of the rain. Doing another one Tuesday, this time with my photography group.

Sharkbytes said...

I just saw green violet for the first time this year. So, you have learned some of the mosses too? I haven't taken them on.

catharus said...

So I don't see all white trillium change color like this. Do you have a different species name for this one?

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Thanks, Furry, Sharkbytes, and catharus, for stopping by to leave your comments.

Regarding mosses, I have learned a very few, thanks to more knowledgeable friends who patiently try to teach me, but many remain unnamed by me. Then there are lichens and liverworts still awaiting my study, as well. Ah, and don't forget ferns! Always something new to learn.

catharus, the Large-flowered White Trillium (Trillium grandiflorum) is known to change to pink as it ages. It's possible your white trilliums could be the white variety of T. erectum (Wake Robin) or one of the other white trilliums, Nodding (T. cernuum) or Drooping (T. flexipes). Perhaps soil chemistry is a factor, but I don't know.