Sunday, September 20, 2015

Back With My Good Nature Buddies

All summer long, my good friends in the Thursday Naturalists -- an informal group of plant enthusiasts, both professional experts and amateur wildflower nerds -- have been exploring some of the best nature preserves in the area.  And I couldn't join them, stuck as I was, nursing a shattered kneecap.  But at last healing has progressed enough that I thought I could venture out with my friends this past Thursday, especially when they chose to explore such an easily accessible and botanically rich site as the Woodlawn Preserve in Schenectady.

The Woodlawn Preserve is a wonderful oak/pine sandplain site that encompasses a number of different habitats, from forested trails to open meadows to the shoreline of a pretty pond, offering a rich variety of both familiar and unusual wildflowers.  And what a gorgeous blue-sky day we had to explore these habitats!

A common (if almost invisible!) sight along the sandy trails was the diminutive Sand Jointweed, with its tiny white flowers sprouting from spindly jointed stems.  This is a flower that rewards a closer look with a magnifier, for those tiny white flowers encompass some very pretty purple stamens.

Slender Gerardia, with its delicate purple flowers,  was ubiquitous in every sandy, open area.

Sun or shade, it seemed to make no difference to the masses of small white asters that were burgeoning everywhere.  Several members of our group -- especially our venerable leader, Ed Miller -- took the trouble to parse out the species of every aster we passed.  I, too, have done this in the past, but I did not trouble myself to do so on Thursday.  My knee was troubling me quite a bit, which hampered my focus somewhat, but I was not going to let that cause me to turn back.

I was eager to find the few rare plants that this Woodlawn Preserve is known for, and sure enough, we did come upon one specimen of the Tall Boneset, known from only a very few other locations in all of New York State.  Note how this plant's narrow leaves do not join the opposite leaves across the stem, a feature that distinguishes it from the much more common Common Boneset.

Seedbox is not a rare plant in New York, according to state documents, but I sure never find it in all my wanderings around Saratoga County.  I have to come down here to Schenectady County to find it, and this time of year, it's not even in bloom.  But it's still easy to find, with its bright-red leaves.

In some ways, this plant is more interesting after it blooms, when it drops its ordinary-looking yellow flowers and forms these perfectly squared-off seed packets that look like tiny boxes.  Hence the name Seedbox.

Ah, but the true treasure to be found in this extensive preserve are the hundreds of royal-blue Fringed Gentians, all blooming at once in an open meadow, glowing like sapphires when the sun illumined their distinctive fringed petals.  A thick Phragmites invasion is threatening to shade  out this rare and beautiful wildflower's habitat, but at least for now, it was a truly amazing sight! Well worth the throbbing pain in my knee to come and see.

1 comment:

The Furry Gnome said...

So glad you were wble to get out with the naturalists again! Interesting plants, and that Fringed Gentian is a favourite of mine. We saw some up the Bruce Peninsula just 3 weeks ago.