Friday, July 25, 2014

On the Shores of the Hudson and Hoosic

Oh, what a glorious day we had to explore the shores of two rivers!  It was sunny but cool enough to enjoy easy walking along the Champlain Canal at Lock 4 near Stillwater, and then around the bend to where the Hoosic River pours into the Hudson.  About a dozen of us in the Thursday Naturalists were led by our friend Ed Miller, who kept a careful count of all the many fascinating plants we found, including one he is showing to our friend Peg in the photo below.

The Hudson shore was as lovely and fragrant as any garden, with an expansive patch of Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa) sharing its grassy plot with Wild Marjoram (Origanum vulgare), each plant releasing its own minty scent as we moved among them to observe their beauty at close range.

Most of the Bergamot flowers were a pale lavender,  except for this trio of flowers that erupted in an explosion of deeper magenta.

We weren't the only creatures enjoying these flowers today.  A Clearwing Moth, which hovers and hums just like its look-alike hummingbird, was flitting from bloom to bloom, sipping nectar from each.

Nearby, a Long-legged Fly was resting on the leaf of Hairy Bushclover (Lespedeza hirta), its shiny metallic body as bright as any jewel.

This sunny bank of the Hudson is one of the very few places I have ever found Oxeye (Heliopsis helianthoides), also called False Sunflower, and they were just opening their bright-yellow blooms today.  Oxeye differs from true sunflowers in that not just its disk flowers, but also its ray flowers are fertile.

You have to look close, to see the tiny curling pistils nestled at the base of each petal.  Only a few of this flower's staminate disk flowers have opened as yet, looking like tiny lilies.

After rounding the bend where the Hoosic meets the Hudson, we continued along a wooded trail until we came down onto a floodplain where huge Silver Maples arched their limbs over the water.

Further back from the shore, towering Sycamores reached up, up, up before spreading their big leaves to shade the area of burgeoning plant life below.

From this silt-enriched soil, plants grew to prodigious height, and masses of rosy Joe-Pye Weed (Eutrochium maculatum)  towered over our heads.

There were thickets of the dainty-blossomed American Germander (Teucrium canadense) crowding beneath the trees, their spikes of pretty-pink florets opening from the bottom up.

A close look at those florets reveals how they differ from other Mint Family flowers, with their distinctively arching stamens and the lack of an upper lip.  I had never realized how fragrant these flowers are, until one of our group pronounced that it was.  Now that I have breathed its delicious fresh scent, I will never again pass by this flower without stopping to smell it again.

Some stalks of Joe-Pye Weed were bending under the weight of massive tangles of Dodder (Cuscuta sp.?).  I noticed its bright-orange threads were hung with cream-colored flowers, and I also noted the presence of numerous bead-like orbs among the threads.  At first I wondered if these were the Dodder fruit, but then I noticed that these orbs were actually swellings along the threads, so I believed they might be galls instead of fruit.  Sure enough, after searching the internet, I found images of similar looking galls produced by the Dodder-gall Weevil.  Ha!  So even parasites fall victim to parasites!

Here was the find of the day!  We were puzzling over these huge green leaves atop thick glaucous stalks, when our friend Ruth Schottman noticed a dried-up long-stemmed fruit dangling from an opening low down on the stalk.  Could these be the Arum Family plant called Green Dragon?

It sure looks like they could be!  Although this spadix has lost the long tail that distinguishes this relative of the Jack-in-the-Pulpit, the evidence was enough to convince us that this was indeed Green Dragon (Arisaema dracontium), and that we must return to this place again next spring to find this remarkable plant in bloom.  None of us had ever seen it before.

All in all, a grand day with good friends along beautiful riverbanks and green shady woods, where it wasn't just flowers that added their color to the forest floor today, as these little Amanita buttons demonstrate.


The Furry Gnome said...

Yet another inspiring exploration.

Woody Meristem said...

Excellent photo of the clearwing moth