Monday, June 20, 2016

Floral Finds at Lake Bonita

 We just KNEW there had to be orchids out there, on the islands of Lake Bonita!  And what better way to spend the first official day of summer than walking the shore of this beautiful mountain lake in search for them?  Newly added to the extensive wild lands of Moreau Lake State Park, this lake is studded with small islands I was able to explore last winter by walking out to them on the ice, and it was then I discovered the presence there of many bog plants like pitcher plants, sphagnum mosses, and wild cranberries.  Such a habitat, I thought, should surely be home to some of our native bog orchids.  I would love to explore those islands in summer by canoe, but the park has forbidden any boating on the lake, in the hopes of preserving its pristine waters from invasive species and other pollutants.  So my friend Sue and I set out on foot to circle the lake on newly cleared trails, hoping to spy any interesting island flowers from what we could see from shore.  Luckily, one of those little islands lies close enough to shore that we could see spots of color out there, with only our naked eyes.

Ah, but a search through binoculars revealed the sought-after orchids!  Dozens of pretty pink Rose Pogonias (Pogonia ophioglossoides) peeked out from beneath the multitude of Leatherleaf shrubs and alongside the large reddish flowers of pitcher plants, standing tall on long stems.

I wish the zoom function of my camera could have revealed those island flowers in clearer detail, but luckily Sue spied a single Rose Pogonia growing on shore, where we could take a photo that better revealed this orchid's delicate beauty.

At the base of that Rose Pogonia lay several large clumps of another bog plant, the carnivorous  Spatulate-leaved Sundew (Drosera intermedia), glittering with the sticky drops that tempt insects to their death.

There were many other colorful plants along the shore, the showiest of which were the masses of Sheep Laurel (Kalmia angustifolia) in full rosy bloom.

In quiet bays of the lake, the surface was studded with the snowy blooms of Fragrant Water Lilies (Nymphaea odorata).

Winterberry bushes (Ilex verticillata) hung over the water, their branches adorned with small waxy white flowers.

Where rocky outcroppings protruded into the lake, we found the delicate lacy foliage and pretty pink-and-yellow flowers of Pale Corydalis (Corydalis sempervirens).

Back in the dark shade of the conifer woods, the forest floor was spangled with the small white trumpets of Partridgeberry flowers (Mitchella repens).

We were quite surprised to find an abundant patch of Yellow Foxglove (Digitalis grandiflora) blooming in an open area.  This showy flower, originally native to Europe and Asia, has escaped from gardens to become naturalized in mountainous woodlands and stony habitats here in North America.

Continuing our complete circuit of the lake,  a distance of about three miles, we continued to search the islands with binoculars, finding occasional clues that other intriguing plants could be hiding out there, unreachable to us and our camera lenses.  Perhaps some day the state will want a complete inventory of what might be growing out there.  Maybe they'll even call on us to help with the search. Wouldn't that be grand?

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