Saturday, May 10, 2014

You Just Never Know

After spending my whole life wandering the woods and waterways, including the last 20 years or so carefully documenting every wildflower I find, it's not very often I find a new flower these days.  But that's what happened this past Wednesday, while my friend Sue and I were exploring the banks of Ballston Creek at Shenantaha Creek Park in Malta. It was there that we found Cutleaf Toothwort (Cardamine concatenata), and we found it growing abundantly in the muddy flats along the creek bank.

This is not a rare flower in these parts, but I had just not come across it in all my explorations of nature preserves in Saratoga County and beyond.  The New York Flora Association's floral atlas does not list it for Saratoga County, but that's probably just because no one had added a specimen to the state's herbarium yet.  The distribution map shows it growing in counties all around.  I shall have to return and obtain a specimen, so the map can be updated.

Even if all we had found had been Dandelions,  we would have loved our walk in the woods on this sweet warm sunlit day.  The trees were just starting to open their baby leaves, leaves so translucent they let the light through instead of providing deep shade, and when the sunlight filtered into the woods, those tiny leaves glowed as if lit from within.

It was shirtsleeve warm, and the creek was splashing and glittering along the path.  A beautiful day, indeed!

We also found lots of regular Toothwort (Cardamine diphylla), with very similar flowers and with leaves distinctly toothed, although not as deeply cut as those of C. concatenata).

Many other pretty wildflowers were carpeting the forest floor.  Most abundant and most brilliantly colored was Barren Strawberry (Waldsteinia fragarioides), spreading its shiny yellow blooms throughout the woods.

The pale yellow dangling twin-trumpet flowers of American Fly Honeysuckle (Lonicera canadensis) were less conspicuous, and I probably would have missed seeing them, if they had not been backed by a steep bank of dark shale.  Also, Sue spotted them first.

It cost some effort to climb that steep bank, but I wanted a closer photo, to show how the twin flowers grow from a single stalk.

Small Shadblow trees (Amelanchier spp.) were adding their drifts of snowy blooms to the forest understory.

The tiny staminate flowers of Northern Prickly Ash (Zanthoxylum americanum) are certainly not as showy as those of the Shadblow, but a close look reveals that they are quite colorful.

Not everything of interest was floral.  This sturdy cluster of Dryad's Saddle (Polyporus squamosus) was quite a handsome specimen of a bracket fungus.

It often mystifies me why we find certain plants in one place but not in other places that appear to be of similar habitat.  I have found the common variety of Toothwort in many different dampish woodlands and creekbeds, but why not the Cutleaf species?  And why do we not find a single Carolina Spring Beauty along Ballston Creek in Shenantaha Creek Park, while just across the road in the Ballston Creek Preserve, this little flower blooms by the thousand?  Here's a photo of that woods across the road, on the same day I found Cutleaf Toothwort.  What looks like a dusting of snow on the ground are a myriad tiny pink-and-white Carolina Spring Beauties.

While most Carolina Spring Beauties are more white than pink, occasionally I find one that's more pink than white.  So pretty!


Uta said...

Just beautiful. Now I have to take a long walk in the woods just to check things out.

The Furry Gnome said...

For me, we're just entering the best two weeks of the year for walks in the woods. It's wonderful to have warmth finally, and to see all the plants coming up. We do have both Toothworts here, but I've never seen a carpet of Spring Beauty like that! Going on a walk with a local botanist this afternoon; hope to learn lots!

Sharkbytes said...

Interesting. We have both toothworts, often growing together, and I learned a third variety in Alabama this spring, the Slender toothwort, D. heterophylla

Tom Arbour said...

Hi Jackie! Diphylla in Ohio is much more rare than concatenata, which I've only seen in NE Ohio.

catharus said...

'Just beautiful! Yes, I have some of the same mysteries...why some species are absent from locations that otherwise seem most similar to where I do find them.