Friday, May 13, 2016

Another Wonderful Wildflower Week!

Wow, what a week of wonderful sunny warm weather! It's chilly and rainy today (Friday), so I'm glad I got out almost every day this past week, returning home each day so tired and with so many photos to edit, I just couldn't get up the energy to post daily blogs.  But that's what cold rainy days are for, so here goes:  some highlights of where I've been wandering this week and what I found there.

Bog Meadow Nature Trail

I like to access this wooded wetland trail through a spur that enters about midway along the trail's two-mile length.  Hiking down through an upland woods, I cross a swampy area on a convenient boardwalk crowded with many wetland plants.

Sprouting now amid the Skunk Cabbage and False Hellebore leaves are the graceful uncurling fronds of Cinnamon Fern and other wetland ferns.

Two species of Equisetum (Horsetail) thrive in this swampy ground, and the Woodland Horsetail (E. sylvaticum) is distinguished by its forking branches and the crowning strobilus that grows atop some of the plants.

What a surprise to find a few Carolina Spring Beauties still in beautiful bloom! I had expected that they would be long gone, since it was several weeks ago that I spotted its first pretty pink blooms.

Finding such masses of Trout Lilies still in gorgeous bloom was another amazing discovery.  In other nearby locations, these yellow lilies had faded more than a week ago.  Obviously, this lily sure loves this place!

As one flower fades, others come into their glory.  Masses of the pale lavender Dog Violet have just begun to bloom along several sections of Bog Meadow Trail.  This species can be distinguished from the common backyard violet by the presence of stem leaves and the sharply toothed stipules that surround the leaf junctures.

I love how the dainty, snowflake-like flowers of Miterwort stand out against the dark water of the trailside brook.

I can't think of a lovelier spring wildflower than Starflower, most of which were still in tight bud, except for this marvelous example.

Whoa!  I pulled to a halt when I spied this white-flowered trillium, thinking at first that it must be the ever-more-elusive Nodding Trillium (Trillium cernua), the only white-flowered trillium I know to grow at Bog Meadow.  But when I turned it over, the red ovary and anthers distinguished it as a white variant of the Red Trillium (T. erectum), a very common species at this location.  It could also be a hybrid of the above-mentioned two species, as one of my botanist friends has suggested, since these petals are a much purer white than T. erectum usually produces.

Moreau Lake State Park

Many people are surprised to learn that Moreau Lake State Park extends all the way over the Palmertown Mountains and even across the Hudson River to include sections of the Warren County riverbank.  This week I visited the Saratoga County riverbank that belongs to the park, where I walked through the woods and along the banks, wondering if I might find some Lance-leaved Violets in their regular spot, just across the water from where I stood to take this photo.

And so I did!  As their name implies, the leaves of this species of white violet are much narrower than those of most other violets.

As I made my way around the cove to reach those violets, I found the brilliant-white blooms of Goldthread starring the darkest patches of forest floor.

Another of my favorite parts of Moreau Lake State Park is the powerline clearcut that runs along Spier Falls Road.  This open area provides the sun-warmed rocky habitat that Ovate-leaved Violets prefer, and my search for them was rewarded with several just-emerging blooms.  See how large the flower is, compared to the leaves, the whole plant hardly bigger around than a silver dollar.  One of this species' distinguishing features is the overall hairiness of its stems and leaves, pretty obvious in this photo.

I found another species of violet nearby, one of the tiny fragrant white ones.  My guess is that this is the Sweet White Violet (Viola blanda), although it might be its look-alike cousin, the Northern White (V. pallens).  Opinions invited, here.

At least I can be sure that these pretty white flowers belong to Susquehanna Sand Cherry, since I called on several botanical experts to help me identify them when I discovered this patch of them in this powerline clearcut a couple of years ago.  Not so evident from this photo, but the leaves of this species, unlike other cherries, narrow toward the base, and they are not toothed below the middle. As I approached their site, I could smell their fragrance even before I saw them, and I could hear them too, with all the loud buzzing of visiting bees.

Shenantaha Creek Park
This past Tuesday, I led a large group of interested folks from the Ecological Clearing House of Schenectady on a nature walk along the Shenantaha Creek near Malta.  We had the most exquisite spring day, soft and warm, with a lovely light falling on us through the translucent baby leaves of the forest trees. We were accompanied on our way by the music of many singing birds and the sounds of rushing water from the creek.

In places along the trail, the forest floor was almost completely carpeted with masses of Barren Strawberry.

Another abundant denizen of this woods was the dainty Solomon's Seal, whose tiny dangling green florets were just beginning to open.

Many of our participants were astounded at the abundance of Red Trillium that grow here, especially in the areas after our trail descended toward the creek banks.  And these trilliums were still in glorious colorful bloom, unlike those that have already faded in other nearby woods.

Shenantaha Creek Park is the only place I have visited in Saratoga County where we can find both common species of Toothwort growing side-by-side.    The species pictured here is Common Toothwort (Cardamine diphylla), which has shallowly toothed leaves.

Quite near to the species of Toothwort pictured above, we found abundant patches of the Cut-leaved Toothwort (C. concatenata), with its leaves very obviously more deeply lobed.  The flowers of both species are similar.

I was happy to find one of my favorite spring wildflowers, the aptly named Foamflower.

We found many other species of wildflowers, too many to include in this digest.  But I can't fail to mention the  Jack-in-the-pulpits, most of them quite a bit larger than this adorable miniature specimen.

Usher's Road Preserve

I am always eager to join my friends in the Thursday Naturalists, especially when they plan a hike north of their typical haunts around the Capital District.  I was delighted this week when they announced their plan to visit a nature preserve off Usher's Road near Clifton Park, not so far from my home in Saratoga Springs.  What a great group of wildflower enthusiasts they are, a walking library of botanical knowledge and lore, and so much fun to be with!  I can't remember what joke my friends were sharing here, but I don't think it had much to do with that green patch of Clintonia leaves on the ground in front of them.

One of our favorite finds on this outing was a splendid patch of the fungus called Dryad's Saddle.  We can find the remains of this sturdy fungus throughout the year, but this was a fresh new growth in perfect shape and color.

Along the wooded trail, we found many wildflowers in burgeoning bud, but only a few in open bloom.  The lovely Goldthread was one of those few in bloom.

The vividly pinky-purple Fringed Polygala was another wildflower we found in bloom.  On many of the nature walks I have led, participants have often commented that they had never seen this flower before, and I wonder how they could have missed it, with its vivid coloration and its tendency to grow in masses.  But then, it's also very small, each flower only about an inch long.  Another common name for this flower is Gaywings, a name I love.  I think each flower looks like a miniature airplane, propellors spinning.

In all the acres of forest we explored, we found only one or two Red Baneberry plants in bloom.  We could distinguish this flower from that of the almost identical White Baneberry by the nearly spherical shape of the inflorescence and the relatively slender pedicels.  White Baneberry has a more oblong shape to its flowerhead, and its pedicels are quite a bit chunkier.  But it sure helps to see the two species side-by-side to detect these differences.  Or have a bunch of plant experts along, as I do when I go walking with the Thursday Naturalists.

Sometimes I contribute a little something I know on these walks.  I had just commented on the fact that almost nothing grows beneath pure stands of Hemlock, and how odd it was that this is where I often find the beautiful Painted Trillium.   It was just then that one of our group spotted this  perfect example, well off the trail.  And sure enough, growing beneath a pure stand of Hemlock!  She said she probably wouldn't even have been looking for it, except for what I had told her.  Nice of her to say so!

Secret Location

I'm not going to say where I found this Goldenseal in bloom this past week.  Goldenseal supposedly has some magical medicinal quality that inspires poachers to dig it up and sell it for good money.  For this reason, the plant has been virtually extirpated from the wild across much of its range, which is tragic, especially since it's a plant that is easily cultivated.  From what I have read, there is only one place in all of Saratoga County where this plant still grows, and I visit this site each spring to make sure it is still intact.  I've also been weeding back the Garlic Mustard that has been encroaching and threatening to overwhelm it.  I'm happy to report that the Goldenseal is looking better than ever, its patch unpillaged and now expanding well into the territory once dominated by Garlic Mustard.


The Furry Gnome said...

Wow! That is a gteat week you've had! Great collection of wildflowers. I really love your pocture of the Fringed Polygola.

Running Turtle said...

I DO so enjoy your pictures - it's like a virtual "walk through the woods" without the ticks! Keep up the good work - your photos are exquisite!

threecollie said...

I thought of you yesterday when we were on our Big Day pursuit. There were so many wonderful wildflowers in bloom in the woods and pastures...I am sure you would have recognized every single one of them, but we only know a few. I have noticed though a staggering number of bumblebees! Normally we might notice one or two on a walk like that but we saw thousands! The hay fields are dotted with dandelions right now and nearly every flower sported a bee. Pretty cool

Woody Meristem said...

Beautiful series of photographs. You certainly have an abundance of species; the gluttonous white-tailed deer have eliminated many wildflowers from northcentral Pennsylvania.

Kathryn Grace said...

As always, your photographs soothe, stun, amaze and delight. I am especially enamored of the Carolina Spring Beauties and the woods violets, but then the next photo captivates me and the next and the next. What fun you all seem to have on your hikes. So glad you share these photos. I know how much work it is, so I appreciate the effort and time you take with them.