Monday, May 16, 2016

The Weekend's Wildflower Finds (Just a Few Critters, Too)

It wasn't the best weather for woodswalking, but between the showers and despite Sunday's chill, I did get out to four of my favorite wildflower haunts this weekend.

Cole's Woods
I started the weekend Saturday morning meeting my friend Sue at Cole's Woods in Glens Falls, a remarkably woodsy site right in the middle of a bustling city.  The overnight rain had moved away and the sun was peeking through remaining clouds to make for a quite pleasant morning walking these extensive trails.

Because of heavy rains during the night before, many of the flowers looked rather weather-beaten, but these pretty little Goldthread blooms, bruised just a bit, still shone like stars from the damp-darkened forest floor.  Partridgeberry fruits, of course, looked just as shiny, red, and plump as they had all winter. If ice and snow and subzero cold don't phase them, a little rain won't, either.

Persisting raindrops beaded up on the leaves only added to the diamond-sparkle charm of these Jewelweed seedlings lining the brook, revealing one of the possible sources for their common name.

The sprightly little orbs of Dwarf Ginseng also survived the storm, their dainty beauty here enhanced by the presence of a few Dog Violets.  I recently learned that the scientific name of Dog Violet is no longer Viola conspersa, but rather V. labradorica.  Still called Dog Violet, though.  I remember this common name because of the sharply toothed stipules that wrap the leaf nodes.  Sharp teeth make me think "canine," which reminds me of "dog."

Here below is a violet that absolutely loves it wet, as its name -- Marsh Blue Violet -- certainly implies.  Its most instantly recognizable feature (aside from its damp habitat) is the way it holds its large purple flowers well above its leaves on long leafless stems.

Definite confirmation of Marsh Blue Violet's species is the shape of the hairs on its two side petals. Unlike the fine tapered tips of most violet species' hairs, these are club-shaped, with blunt tips.

We were delighted to find the Striped Maples in bloom, with dangling clusters of dainty green flowers.

Quite a few of the wildflowers we'd hoped to find in Cole's Woods were not yet in bloom.  I'd say we need at least a week to 10 days before we will find Clintonia, Rosybells, Pink Lady's Slippers, or Sassafras flowers bursting their tight buds.  It might even be a bit longer before the One-sided Pyrola or Shinleaf Pyrola blooms, but we were delighted to once again discover the patch of forest floor where the One-sided Pyrola grows.  This flower (now scientifically called Orthilia instead of Pyrola) is not that common a find.  Here, it shares its space with the glossy green umbellate leaves of Pipsissewa.

Teasing us with its flighty refusal to land and stay still so we could take its photo, was this tiny black-and-white flutterer we assumed was a miniature butterfly.  Turns out (thanks, Google Images!) it's a moth, not a butterfly, called Trichodezia albovittata, the White-striped Black Moth.  My photo of it was so blurry I couldn't use it, so I lifted this image off the internet.  Look at how fringed are the edges of its wings!

The highlight of our morning at Cole's Woods was actually avian instead of floral.  We kept hearing Ovenbirds all around us, but miracle of miracles, we even got to SEE one!  That was amazing enough, for this little warbler is one of the most elusive birds of the forest. You can hear its loud, persistent calls all around, but the cryptically colored bird itself most often remains quite hidden from view.  But even more amazing was actually seeing this Ovenbird's little ground nest, shaped like the mud ovens that suggest the bird's name, and just about impossible to make out on the forest floor.  I think I have mentioned many times my friend Sue's excellent vision.  So guess who saw this first?  I NEVER would have found it, without my friend along!  We were overjoyed!  If we hadn't been so hungry for lunch, we might have parked ourselves in a hidden spot for several hours to possibly see the bird come and go.  I doubt very much we will ever be able to find this nest again.

Woods Hollow Nature Preserve

It didn't rain on Sunday, but it sure was windy and cold. Not very pleasant, but thanks to my Polarfleece pullover and warm wooly socks, I didn't feel anything but happy to get outdoors, heading first to Wood Hollow Nature Preserve near Ballston Spa.  Wild Lupine thrives there in a wide sandy oak/pine area, and I was wondering if it had started to bloom.  Not quite, but close, as I discovered.  Come back in a week or so.  There'll be masses of gorgeous blue.

In a week, I bet the Pink Lady's Slippers that thrive by the hundreds in Woods Hollow's piney woods will be in gorgeous bloom.  So far, just green buds.

At least I wasn't disappointed to find a Painted Trillium in the same dark shady spot where I've found it in past years. Isn't this a gorgeous wildflower?

Sometimes we forget that trees also have pretty flowers.  I thought the ripening male flowers of Scotch Pine were beautifully colorful.  Allergy sufferers might want to stay away, though.

The Red Oaks were also in bloom, their baby leaves more colorful than their gracefully dangling flower clusters.

Woods Hollow is near Ballston Spa, just far enough south of Glens Falls (about 25 miles) that its wildflowers bloom and fade a bit earlier down here.  While the Dwarf Ginseng was in its youthful glory up in Glens Falls, down here it was already going to seed.  I had never seen its seedheads before, so I'm glad I caught this stage of this flower in time.  Before long, every bit of Dwarf Ginseng will disappear until next spring.  Truly a "spring ephemeral!"

Well, this is one of those early small and fragrant white violets: could be Northern White, could be Sweet White. I can't tell them apart unless I ponder every part of them and cross-reference all my wildflower guides.  But today I was more interested in the little critters swarming across its leaves:  Snowfleas!  I usually find them swarming across the snow on sunny days in February, not green leaves in spring!

Here's a little closer view of these cute little bugs, unlike any other six-legged critters because of the tiny undercarriage spring that can fling them great distances.  Snowfleas are also called Springtails, and for good reason.  Do google a search for them and learn about this fascinating creature.  They do no harm to anything or anybody, except maybe the tiny bits of stuff they eat.  Here's a good site to peruse:

Do Garter Snakes eat Snowfleas?  Probably not.  At any rate, this snake would have had to have eaten an awful lot of tiny bugs to cause this big lump inside it.  More likely a frog.  Or might this be a female laden with eggs?  Do I have any herpetologists among my readers who might answer this question?

Bog Meadow Nature Trail

After realizing that many of Woods Hollow's wildflower treasures were yet to be revealed this spring, I hurried north to Saratoga and the Bog Meadow Nature Trail just east of the city.  A friend had reported that the Nodding Trillium there were already blooming, and this is a special flower I just can't miss!  And I didn't!

My super-knowledgeable botanist friend Andrew Gibson has informed me that a distinctive feature of this trillium (Trillium cernua) is the long length of the anthers' filaments, which can be seen in this closer view of this flower.  I have heard reports of this trillium disappearing from many of its previously reported sites, but I'm happy to report that it seems to be thriving along this trail.  It's possible that it could be overlooked, because of its habit of hiding its flower beneath its three broad leaves.  It also likes to grow beneath the branches of thick shrubs.

Blunt-leaved Sandwort is another flower that could be overlooked along Bog Meadow Trail, but just because it is so small.  Its bright-white flowers certainly stand out, though, against its dark-green leaves, and it tends to grow in masses, spangling the trailside.  This used to be called Arenaria lateriflora, but its scientific genus name was recently change to Moehringia.  Another common name is Grove Sandwort.

Another wee flower easily overlooked, this is Dwarf Raspberry, which also thrives along Bog Meadow Trail.  It will later have a sweet red berry.

More hidden flowers.  This one is Rose Twisted Stalk, also called Rosybells, and it hides its pretty pink bells beneath its arching stalk.  This flower grows abundantly in Cole's Woods (where it should bloom next week), but here on this trail I could only find a single specimen, no matter how hard I searched.  I hope I find it spreading over the years.

One more wee little no-count flower that most folks don't even notice -- unless they're on one of my nature walks where I urge them to pay attention!  This is Hooked Crowfoot, one of our native Buttercups.  They may be small, but see how those starry little blooms stand out against its attractive green foliage.  A common denizen of damp areas.

This same damp area where the Hooked Crowfoot thrives was a place of wondrous beauty on Sunday, with masses of Maidenhair Fern just spreading their delicate trembling fronds along a tiny creek.  One of the greatest glories of spring!

The North Woods at Skidmore College

Actually, I must confess:  I never made it to Skidmore on Sunday.  I meant to, but my aching knee was begging me to call it a day after running around for miles at Woods Hollow and Bog Meadow.  Cold damp days seem to make the pain worse.  But I know that both Wild Columbine and Miterwort are blooming everywhere now, and nowhere more gloriously than I saw them on this date last year at Skidmore.  That's when I took this photo, and that's how I bet this same site looks today.  Unless the college has continued its mania for creating more parking lots where wildflowers used to thrive.


threecollie said...

Congratulations on the Oven Bird and nest! And thanks for the moth ID. They throng our sitting porch all summer and I too thought they were little butterflies. How nice to know!

The Furry Gnome said...

Wow! What a lot of interesting finds, and such nice places to walk. I think you have a different type of forest than we do. I'm guessing it has a bigger coniferous component than our typical Sugar Maple bush, and has underlying acidic rock rather than our alkaline limestone. Seems to be quite a different mix of flowers you see. As for the Ovenbird nest, that's awesome! I only saw one once, when I was about 14 and camping with our family. My mother was a naturalist and I credit her with getting me into it.

Woody Meristem said...

Great tour of the natural areas in your neck of the woods, and beautiful photos of the flowers you found in bloom.

Sarah said...

New reader here—you have a lovely blog. How lucky you were to find the ovenbird nest! (And here I thought their name came from the "flame" on top of their heads.)

Barbara C. said...

Hi, Jackie,
Re: your snake, garter snakes are ovoviviparous, which means that they give birth to live young. No eggs. The babies are incubated in the lower abdomen, at about the midpoint of the length of the female's body. It's tough to tell pregnancy from a big meal unless you gently pick the snake up. Sometimes you can feel the babies wiggling, or at least so I am told. I have never actually tried this myself.
Happy hiking,
Barbara C.

Marie said...

Is the rose twisted stalk Streptopus lanceolatus? It is beautiful.