Monday, July 18, 2016

The Many Moods of Mud Pond

Last Thursday wasn't the nicest day for a long walk, being one of the hottest and muggiest yet this hot, muggy summer.  So I was grateful that at least three of my friends in the Thursday Naturalists (Nancy, Elizabeth, and Ed, seen resting on a fallen log, below) joined me to explore the varied habitats that surround Mud Pond at Moreau Lake State Park.  We didn't make it completely around the pond, but we did have a chance to investigate the marvelously varied and abundant flora that inhabit each kind of terrain.

We began our walk at the open sandy habitat under the power lines at the north end of the pond.  Here, the Early Goldenrod was just beginning to open its blooms, the earliest of the goldenrods to do so. No need to panic that summer is almost over when you see its bright-yellow plumes, as we do when the later species of goldenrods begin to bloom in mid-August.

Our friend Ed, a connoisseur of woody plants, was most impressed by the gorgeous stand of Shining Sumac that thrives here in this sunny open area.  I have some concern that a blight attacks its shiny leaves each summer, causing them to crumple and wither, but so far this year they appear healthy enough for the shrubs to set buds and get ready to bloom.

I was excited to show my friends this patch of Susquehanna Sand Cherry even though it was not in bloom and its cherry-red fruits had already been devoured by wildlife.  My friends are all experienced botanizers with wide acquaintance of most of our native plants, but this was a new plant for everyone today.

Another shrub that prefers this hot, dry, sandy habitat is New Jersey Tea, and we were surprised to see this miniature shrub still in bloom.  Most of the others in the area had long ago dropped their star-shaped florets.

American Hazelnut is a shrub that simply abounds along this power line, and we enjoyed seeing its ruffle-bracted nut clusters, as pretty as green carnations.

There are a number of mosses that thrive even in such hot, dry locations, and our bryologist-companion Nancy was eager to show us this particular Dicranum moss that was spreading a carpet beneath our feet.

Of course, Nancy told us the name of this particular Dicranum, but I did not write it down and so I will have to ask her again.  I do remember she told us that this is the only Dicranum that bears these branching spore capsules.

Various species of blueberry bushes were offering ripe fruit as we passed, and we were happy to accept their offering.  Yum!

I was disappointed that the bright-orange Wood Lilies that thrive along this power-line clearcut had already faded and dropped their petals.  But the brilliant orange of Butterflyweed made up for that disappointment.

After browsing the plants of that sun-baked clear-cut, we next entered the cooler, sweet-scented shade of the pine woods, and the first flower we encountered there was a Blunt-leaved Milkweed, still blooming when all the others of its species that bloomed along the power line had long gone to seed.

Not very many plants will flower in the deep shade of a mid-summer woods, but the little orchid called Checkered Rattlesnake Plantain is one of them.  And we were lucky to find them.

We also found the ghostly-pale Indian Pipe, a plant with absolutely no chlorophyll for photo-synthesizing nutrients, and so it must live as a parasite on the roots of other plants.

The minuscule flowers of Cow Wheat were blooming in some of the brighter areas of the woods.

We found many blooming plants of Striped Wintergreen, although the closely related Pipsissewa  we also found was already past its bloom-time.

Thanks to several recent downpours, the slime molds were abundant on rain-soaked logs.  This white thready one was sharing its log with the liverwort called Noellia curvifolia.

Here was a second slime mold that had produced fruiting bodies following recent rains, this one the brilliant-red one called Raspberry Slime-mold.

With the water-level so low in Mud Pond, we could next move down onto flat areas along the shore that in other years would be under water.  Here we found many interesting plants that thrive in just such damp muddy soils exposed to bright sunlight.

Button bush is one of the shrubs that thrives in these conditions, and it was gloriously in bloom on this day.

So were the dainty pink flowers of Meadowsweet.

And the more tightly compact blooms of Steeplebush, a deeper pink than the related Meadowsweet.

As we moved through the hip-high grasses, we knew even before we saw them that we were passing through a patch of Wild Mint by the strong scent these lavender-flowered plants exuded.

Broad bands of Marsh Fern thrived at the junction of mud flats with wooded banks.

My friends confessed they had never seen a Bedstraw flower with only three petals, but that may be because the three-petaled Clayton's Bedstraw, not a rare plant, is so small as to be almost invisible.

Since I was wearing shorts on this hot muggy day, we avoided the patches of Arrow-leaved Tearthumb (which I call tear-SHIN!), but I convinced my friends we had no stings to fear from the hip-high patches of False Nettle and could safely wade through them, even in shorts. (My companions were more sensibly clad in long pants, always a safer garb for botanizing.)

When we reached the far end of Mud Pond and realized we had a very long trail to go to complete a circuit, we decided to turn back and return the way we had come.  But first we rested in the shade a while, enjoying the antics of this gaggle of geese as they waddled across the muddy remains of what used to be a pond.

On our return to our starting point, Nancy and I made a short side trip to a muddy area where the tiny Humped Bladderwort was abundantly blooming.  We gathered up a little clump of the plant, mud and all, to take to show Ed, who was resting in his car.  This photo shows the hump on the lower petal that suggested this carnivorous plant's common name. (Its scientific name is Utricularia gibba.)

We next drove over to the beach area of Moreau Lake to enjoy a picnic lunch together.  Since I had scouted the trail around Mud Pond the day before, I could tell my friends some of the flowers we had missed seeing today, including this beautiful stand of Swamp Milkweed that I photographed on Wednesday. I remembered being astounded that this Great Spangled Fritillary could still fly, with wings so tattered!

Here was another critter visiting the Swamp Milkweed blooms, this one ready to make a meal of the others.

I had been struck by the vivid blue of this damselfly resting on a bulrush, and when I moved in close for a photo, I was struck again by the fact that it did not fly away.  Can you see the reason why?

I myself did not see the spider with the damselfly caught in its jaws until I twisted the bulrush around. Ah well, as I've said before:  All God's chillen gotta eat!

Could I have eaten these mushrooms I found along the wooded trail?  Yes, I probably could have, since I believe they are Honey Mushrooms, a tasty fungus indeed.  But since I wasn't absolutely positive about my ID at the time, I left them for others to admire their golden beauty.

And talk about beautiful mushrooms!  Wow, how lovely are these shiny red Frost's Boletes?  I'm sorry my Thursday Naturalist friends missed seeing them on the side of Mud Pond that we did not visit on Thursday.  But now that I have posted their photo here on my blog, my friends can see them now.


Anne Ford Taylor said...

I am always astounded by what you find in the wild - contrary to what is going on with society, nature always provides inspiration and hope. Thank you for finding these beautiful bits to share with us. We sorely need them in this "day and age"!

The Furry Gnome said...

Now that's a lot of interesting plants you found. Several new ones for me and a couple of old favourites.

Woody Meristem said...

Looks like you had a very enjoyable day with great finds.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Jackie - so beautiful! MKJ

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Thanks for your comments, dear friends. Knowing you like to come along with me helps to make the effort of keeping this blog worthwhile. And yes, if I didn't have nature to soothe my soul in rancorous times like these, I think I'd go nuts.