Saturday, July 23, 2016

A Powerline Pursuit

Oy!  It was way too hot Friday afternoon to climb up a steep, rocky, mountainous powerline, exposed to an unrelenting sun, voracious deer flies, and very little in the way of a breeze.  Ah well.  I guess that's why I'm called a wildflower nut.  I was on the hunt for a number of unusual flower species I find only along this clearcut, and I'm never sure when I'm going to find them in bloom.  So I climbed and climbed until I could not risk going any higher (not without someone who could call for help if I slipped and broke a leg).  It does get pretty precipitous up here.

Well, I failed in my quest to find 6 of the 7 wildflowers I was seeking in bloom.  Three Desmodium species, two Lespedeza species, and one Hypericum were still in tight bud or lacking any sign of flowers to come.  Oh well,  at least I found the plants with their distinctive leaves, and I can come back later for the flowers.  Sure, I was a bit disappointed, but hey, just look at the view from way up here!  There was even a little breeze, enough to dry off some of my sweat when I took off my shirt and hung it over this pylon, hoping to get it dry enough to stop sticking to my back.  Did I mention it was really HOT?

The quest was not completely without reward, since there were a number of gorgeous wildflowers blooming along the way.  This large patch of Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa) was quite the butterfly magnet, too, with many Great Spangled Fritillaries flitting from flower to flower.

There was also a small Skipper butterfly exploring the florets of this Wild Marjoram (Origanum vulgare), probably the most common flower in bloom on these heights this day.  It was wonderful to brush through hip-high thickets of this introduced Mint-family plant and delight in the herbal fragrance its leaves released.

And here's the one sought-after flower that was actually in bloom!  This is Pasture Thistle (Cirsium pumilum ssp. pumilum), one of our few native thistles and with a bloom as big and fragrant as it is beautiful.  Another little Skipper was also enjoying its flower.  There were lots of buds, so when I return to find the Desmodium and Lespedeza flowers I bet I will see even more of their blooms on these sun-baked heights.

Considering how hot and dry it was on this mountain-side clearcut, I was surprised to see many spikes of Steeplebush (Spiraea tomentosa) blooming so far from the waterside habitat in which I usually find them.  There are a few tiny rills that cross this clearcut, though, so perhaps the Steeplebush's roots had found a source of water beneath the dry rocks.

Here's the Hypericum I was looking for, called Orange Grass St. Johnswort (Hypericum gentianoides), and it turned out I needn't have climbed nearly as high as I did, looking for it.  Somehow I missed it while struggling up and up and up, only to come across it quite by accident on the way down.  It certainly has a distinctive growth habit, with all those tiny spiky green stems poking straight up.  So I can understand how it might get the name "grass."  But its tiny flowers will be yellow, not orange.  I can even now see a bit of yellow peeking through the buds.  I'll be back, I told it.  (Maybe on a somewhat cooler day!)

1 comment:

The Furry Gnome said...

I have the imoression that the month of July is becoming increasingly hot and uncomfortable! What's another 5 or 10 years going to do?