Thursday, July 3, 2014

Hot Day, Cool River, a Floral Surprise

 Another sweltering day on Wednesday, but this time I sought the cool blue water and deep green shade of the Hudson River below Spier Falls Dam.  Here, the current slows to a lazy dawdle, and I can ease along the banks, greeting the riverside flowers I've come to know so well in 20-plus years of paddling this quiet stretch.  Without even looking closely, I could tell at a glance that this clump of flowers that rivaled the sunshine for golden glow was Pale St. Johnswort (Hypericum ellipticum).   It's an old friend, and I just know it by heart.

 Funny how this shore-loving species got that name, since there's nothing the least bit pale about it, with its vivid green foliage and bright yellow flowers.  Even its buds are a vibrant orange, and its seed pods are a deep red.

Wow, here's another bright-yellow flower, and I almost tipped over my boat in my effort to get a closer look at it.  Years and years of paddling along this bank, and this was the first time I've ever seen it here.  And it sure would be hard to miss, with its big bright flowers nearly two inches across.  Looking closer, I could see that it closely resembled the Small Sundrops (Oenothera perennis) that thrive along these banks, except it was much, much bigger.  Could this be the regular Sundrops (Oenothera fruticosa), and if so, which subspecies, fruticosa or glauca? Or maybe it's an escapee from some nearby garden.  My Newcomb's didn't help me to solve this mystery, so I shall have to send photos off to some of my plant-expert friends.

An even closer look revealed that it had very hairy stems and its vaguely toothed leaves also appeared rather hairy.  The Small Sundrops has un-toothed leaves and its stem is smooth, not hairy.  Whatever this flower turns out to be, it sure was a new one for me, and growing on banks where I thought I new the name of everything that grows there.

Last week, heavy rains had filled the river to almost flooding, but today the water level was low enough to expose the muddy shore around an island.  This muddy flat is home to lots of interesting summer flowers that can tolerate inundation, so I beached my canoe and got out to look around.

There was lots of Grass-leaved Arrowhead here and Pipewort, too, but their bright-white flowers were difficult to photograph under a noonday sun.  But the tiny shiny-yellow flowers of Creeping Spearwort (Ranunculus flammula var. reptans) were spreading across the mud in the shade, so I managed to get a photo.  The green threads surrounding the flowers are the stems and leaves of this creeping miniature flower that will persist for years underwater, blooming only when water levels drop enough to expose the plants to air.

Another miniature denizen of these mud flats is the pretty blue Marsh Speedwell (Veronica scutellata), and today I found them thriving here, more plants than I've ever seen in years past.

Lots of itsy-bitsy flowers love this muddy patch, including our miniature native Smaller Forget-me-not (Myosotis laxa).

There were lots more flowers on this island: Swamp Candles, Silky Dogwood, Elderberry, Branching Bur-reed, Blue Vervain, Boneset and Joe Pye still in bud, and more, but I could hear thunder rumbling and didn't stop to take any more photos.  I jumped in my boat and headed back to the launching site.

Ah, but I had to stop and quickly photograph this lovely cluster of Bedstraw Bellflowers  (Campanula aparanoides) decorating a fallen log.

And here was a robust clump of Wild Thyme (Thymus pulegioides) spilling over the face of a craggy boulder and scenting the steamy air.

I made it to shore and loaded my boat on the car before the clouds burst, so I still had time to return to the riverside and enjoy one last look at its serene beauty.  So familiar, but yet, so full of surprises still.


threecollie said...

I love my flower and plant lessons from your amazing wealth of botanical knowledge. As always, thanks!

Anonymous said...

I would love to know what the yellow flowers are. They've been in my garden for years and I can never tell anyone their name.

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Thank YOU, threecollie! Your appreciation truly validates what I try to do with this blog, which is to awaken awareness of the wonders that surround us. And I sure love your own blog Northview Diary and your vivid chronicles of the everyday miracles encountered around a farm.

Anonymous, I'll bet the yellow flowers that grow in your garden are a species of Evening Primrose. The one I found on the riverbank is also in the Evening Primrose Family, and it could well be a garden escapee. But we also have several native wildflowers in the Evening Primrose family.

Curious By Nature said...

I'm going to venture a guess that your yellow bloom belongs to Hairy Evening Primrose. If so, it has apparently only been documented on Long Island in NY.

Here is a link with more info on this plant:

The bottom two photos seem to match your excellent images.

Good luck!
Dave Behm

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Thanks for your input on the Oenothera, Dave. I did go look at the site you linked, and my reservations have to do with the height of the plant I found. It was less than a foot tall and did not form the terminal spike that is typical of both O. villosa and the common roadside Evening Primrose, O. biennis.

Sharkbytes said...

Nice to see flowers that are new to me. A different ecosystem than the ones I range.