Sunday, August 23, 2015

Around the County With My Cane

Well, if there ever was a good time for my favorite stretch of the Hudson to be pretty much inaccessible for canoeing (see my last post), I guess it was this summer, when I can't go canoeing anyway, because of my injured knee.  I'm heartened, however, by how my strength and flexibility increase by the week, so I can even hope to get back on the water yet before ice-over.  In the meantime, though, I've been hobbling along various nature trails throughout Saratoga County, depending on a cane to help me over a few rocky spots and fallen logs and to push me through occasional waist-high weeds and ankle-grabbing brambles.  The last few days have been busy this way, so now I hope to catch up with a digest of some of the places I've been.

Thursday, August 20:  The Burl Trail along the Kayaderosseras Creek

Thursday was still swelteringly hot, so I sought to walk near water, choosing this creekside trail near Ballston Spa.  I started out by clambering down a bank to wide mud flats, where I found many of the wetland plants I might have found if I'd been paddling the river.

The path leading down to the water was thickly bordered by masses of Wild Cucumber vines, their frothy white flower clusters held erect over large green leaves.  The warm humid air was heady with their fragrance.

The first plant I recognized was Water Purslane sprawling in bright-green mats across the mud flats.

Probably, few people would think of this plant as a wildflower, since you have to really search to find the tiny flowers in the leaf axils, especially since they're not only small, they're also as green as the leaves.

The Monkey Flowers sure don't hide their flowers, but hold their bright blue blooms high up on their stems.

The chubby flowers of Ditch Stonecrop aren't nearly so colorful, but they sure are interesting, being quite unusual in structure.

It would be easy to overlook the tiny flowers of False Pimpernel if they weren't such a pretty shade of blue.

I wasn't the only one enjoying the cool mud beneath my feet this day.  This emerald-green Leopard Frog accompanied me, even sitting still beside me so I could take its picture.

This Black Swallowtail Butterfly sure did not sit still for long.  I can't believe I actually captured an image, since every time I would focus my camera it flitted away to search for a better spot to sample the minerals in the mud.  I'm so glad I did manage to take a photo, since with my bare eyes I could not see the gorgeous blue and red spots at the bottom of its black velvet wings.

When I reached the end of the mud flats, I clambered back up the bank to walk the trail that follows the creek, a trail lined with head-high summer flowers on both sides.

A few clumps of Wild Bergamot still held their beautiful lavender flowers.

The Blue Vervain looked especially vivid when surrounded by yellow Goldenrod.

I know Hedge Bindweed is a common and often undesirable weed, but oh how pretty this pink bloom looked, tucked in among Blue Vervain and backed by yellow sunflowers.

The Silky Dogwood shrubs were heavy with royal-blue berries hung on deep-pink pedicels.

What a treat it was to discover several stalks of Great Lobelia, its vivid blue blooms set off so prettily by the fluffy white flowers of Boneset.

Friday, August 21:  The North Woods at Skidmore College

After an overnight rain, Friday brought a welcome cooling relief from the stretch of sweltering 90-degree days we'd been having.  Although I had chores to do at home, I couldn't spend this beautiful day without at least a brief walk through a nearby woods, and the North Woods at Skidmore College was just that place.

I never expect to find many flowers blooming in the dark of the woods this time of year, but there are a few that actually prefer the deep shade, including this Zig-zag Goldenrod.

Horse Balm is another shade lover, and I was lucky to find a few plants still holding on to a few of their lemon-scented oddly shaped flowers.

The White Wood Aster was starring the forest floor with its rather raggedy pure-white blooms.

Yes, very few flowers, but lots of colorful fruits can be found in the woods right now.  Among the prettiest are the frosted blue seeds of Blue Cohosh.

And you sure can't miss the fruits of White Baneberry now, these stark-white berries held on hot-pink pedicels.

An unusual find, the fruits of Asparagus, glossy green topped with white stars,  dangling from the lacy foliage of the fully grown plant.  They will eventually turn bright red.

Saturday, August 22:  Woods Hollow Nature Preserve near Ballston Spa

Ah, the weekend is here, which means my dear friend Sue can join me for nature adventures, and what a gorgeous day we had to explore the different habitats at Woods Hollow Nature Preserve.

We first enter this large preserve through an open meadow that is dampened by several springs and covered with sun-loving wildflowers like Tall Goldenrod, Boneset, and Queen Anne's Lace.  There's Purple Loosestrife here, too, but what amazes me is how this normally invasive plant seems to have taken its place as one of the meadow wildflowers and hasn't overrun the native plants that also thrive here.

Holding its own against all the big sturdy plants in this open meadow is the delicate Slender Gerardia, blooming by the thousands where the grasses are low.

Sue was the first to spot the Nodding Ladies' Tresses, a little white orchid that I had feared had disappeared from this meadow, since I couldn't find it here last year or the year before.  But it sure is making a comeback this year.  We found many plants, their iridescent florets shining in the sun.

As we continued our exploration of Woods Hollow, we wandered a sandy oak/pine opening, where , in addition to Horse Mint, Sweet Fern, Sand Jointweed, Sand Burs, and Winged Pigweed, we found many plants of Blue Curls still holding on to their pretty blue blooms.  By afternoon, all the flowers will be scattered in the sand, making way for a whole new crop that will bloom tomorrow.

We next explored the shady woods surrounding a quiet pond, the still water reflecting the blue sky and deep-green trees.

I had just told Sue that I often find Painted Trillium here in these woods in spring, and then we came across a nice specimen of just that plant, bearing its bright-red fruit.  We could tell that this was a Painted Trillium by the long leaf stalks.  Other trilliums around here are sessile to the stem.

This last plant sure had us puzzled.  It reminded us of Yellow Bartonia, which we had found in a northern bog before.  But I somehow couldn't believe we would find that bog-loving plant in these woods, although it was growing in a damp area where we also found Leatherleaf and Sphagnum Moss.  When I got home I studied Google images of Yellow Bartonia and came away convinced that that is indeed what we found.

 To date, there has been no record of Yellow Bartonia in Saratoga County (according to the New York Flora Association floral atlas), but since it is known to exist in surrounding counties, there's no reason to think it couldn't grow here.  Now, I will have to send in a specimen to prove its existence in the county.  That is, IF I can find it again.  It was Sue, with her super eyesight, who saw it first, while I never even noticed it.  What a great companion she is on any nature adventure.  And what a fine county I live in, to have so many fascinating parks and preserves to explore.  Even if I have to explore them leaning on my cane.

Saturday night, in my own kitchen garden:

I went out to my garden to snip some basil leaves for dinner tonight, and just as I was about to sliver the leaves over a tomato salad, I discovered this cluster of pearly white eggs on the back of one leaf. Aren't they beautiful?  I have no idea what creature has laid them there.  I took the leaf back to my basil plant and laid it among the living leaves, hoping whatever hatches may find what it needs to eat there.  Perhaps I will be sorry, as I lose my basil plant to some hungry larvae.  But isn't this really amazing?  It just proves that you don't have to go very far to find some of nature's marvels.


The Furry Gnome said...

Glad to know you're getting out so much, even if not on the water.

suep said...

Oh I'm so happy when we make these big little discoveries ...
as I recall, the Bartonia grew in three separate places, including just past the patch of Dalibarda, if that helps --that might be the easiest section to get to (the reverse of our path on Sunday) -- otherwise I'd be glad to return with you to that pleasant little pond!

Unknown said...

Jackie, you show us what might be right in front of us but which without your photos we would miss. Wonderful.

Unknown said...