Friday, May 8, 2015
Running to Keep Up With Spring
This long stretch of summer-like days and warm nights has spurred many wildflowers into blooming all at once, so when I saw the Celandine Poppy blooming in my backyard woodland garden, I knew it was time to hurry up and go look for Goldenseal. I also knew I'd better get out there fast, if I wanted to catch many other spring wildflowers in locations around Saratoga County.
I can't say exactly where I go to find the rare Goldenseal, since it has been almost extirpated from Saratoga County by poachers. I was happy to find it undisturbed as yet, and already opening its petal-less clusters of pollen-tipped anthers, even before its palmate leaves had fully unfurled their crinkly breadth.
Nearby, in the same limestone-underlaid location, I found this beautiful clump of Wooly Blue Violets, distinguished from the other violets now called Viola sororia by the fuzzy hairs on its stems and the backs of its leaves.
Flowering fruit trees all over Saratoga told me I might find the Susquehanna Sand Cherry blooming now at the top of Mud Pond in Moreau, so that was where I headed next. And what a gorgeous day to be out under a radiant blue sky with the sun lighting up the translucent new leaves in the trees overhead.
Sure enough, there was the little low thicket of sprawling Sand Cherry I'd discovered growing here only last year. My nose and my ears could have led me to this spot, for I could smell the flowers' fragrance and hear the buzzing of feeding bees from some distance away.
Although there's not much about these flowers to distinguish them from other species of cherry blossoms, the leaves are unique to this rather uncommon species. Unlike those of other cherries, they narrow toward the base, and they are not toothed below the middle.
The same dry sandy area where the Sand Cherry grows is also populated with thickets of Bear Oak, which today dangled clusters of dark red flowers.
Further along Spier Falls Road from Mud Pond, I next stopped at a powerline access at the height of the mountainous road. Powerline clear-cuts like this are one of my favorite places to look for sun-loving plants that would thrive in forest clearings if forest fires were allowed to burn. This particular site is home to Wood Lilies in June as well as other sun lovers that bloom in spring.
Wood Betony was the plant I was looking for today, and sure enough, I found it, but only in bud as yet. All over the hard-packed lanes, however, these tiny Ovate-leaved Violets held wide-open flowers, although their furry leaves had barely begun to unfurl.
Tucked into the cracks on a spring-watered boulder, these pristine white violets bloomed profusely. Because of their smooth reddish flower stems and leaf stalks, I concluded that these were the Sweet White Violet instead of the Northern White, which has green stems and stalks.
Still on the same high rocky clearcut, I found these dear little Bluets decorating the boulders and spangling the grass. Although we find their first full flush of bloom in the spring, we will also have the pleasure of Bluets' company all summer long and late into the fall.
Continuing along Spier Falls Road until I reached the dam, I pulled over just above the dam to delight in the charming rock gardens of Early Saxifrage that spring from cracks in the giant boulders that line the road here.
Sharing these spring-watered boulders are mats of beautiful mosses, several different kinds crowded together, and many of them sending up spore-bearing sporophytes. I wish I knew the name of this moss with the sporophytes so hair-fine my eyes never saw them until my camera's macro lens revealed them to me.
Another beautiful clump of velvety green, with another kind of sporophyte, shaped like teardrops.
Nearby, where a waterfall tumbles down the mountainside, I found another garden of Early Saxifrage clustered along the streambank.
Striped Maple boughs hung over the stream, dangling these charming cascades of spring-green flowers.
Just a bit further along the road, I knew of a spring, and I could hardly wait to cool my face with its icy-cold water and drink deeply to quench my thirst. The temperature continued to climb all day and now was approaching 90 degrees.
I discovered I wasn't the only one who wanted to bathe our skin in this clear cold water. I think this Green Frog was reluctant to leave the cool comfort of the spring, since he let me get close enough to take his photo.
Foamflower grew on the rocks where the spring poured out, its leaves kept fresh by the constant splashing of droplets.
As I was leaving to hurry home, I remembered finding Painted Trillium across the road from the spring in years past. Oh, it's too early to find them in bloom, I thought, but then went to check anyway. Well, I was wrong. They sure WERE in bloom. And beautifully so.