Wednesday, August 3, 2016

A Floral Explosion Along the Creek

Ah, a beautiful day at last!  The rains have let up and so has the daunting heat, so I ventured out today to one of my favorite nearby haunts, the Burl Trail along the Kayaderosseras Creek near Ballston Spa.

As I walked along the creekside trail, I could hardly see the water, the wayside flowers have grown so high and so abundant.

I was struck today by the dominance of these sunflower-like blooms, the plants nearly six-feet tall and exploding with many flowers per stalk.  I can recognize other species of sunflower (Helianthus spp.) that grow at this site (Helianthus strumosus and H. maximiliani, among them), but these looked different to me.

Whatever species they were, I had never seen them so abundant along the stream.

I wondered if they could be the sunflower look-alike called Oxeye (Heliopsis helianthoides), a species I have found at this site, but never so tall nor in such numbers.  A distinctive aspect of Oxeye is the presence of tiny pistils attached to the flower's outside petals (actually, the ray flowers), but at first examination, I could not find any such pistils.  So I assumed these were a species of sunflower as yet unknown to me.

But I was wrong!  After later consulting my plant-expert friend, Steve Young, who asserted that these were Oxeyes, I pulled some ray flowers off a bloom to examine more closely, and sure enough, there were the tiny pistils!  A bit shriveled, true, but pistils, nevertheless.

Despite the Oxeyes' dominance, many other lovely flowers have found a happy home along this creek, and today the colorful display included Blue Vervain, creamy-white Boneset, pale-lavender Wild Bergamot, and the bright-pink Purple Coneflower.

The Wild Bergamot was a favorite of Clear-wing Hummingbird Moths, which were hovering around nearly every plant I passed, the little energy-bundles dashing in and out to sip nectar from each floret.  I did get a few blurry photos of one, but this one from my photo files is much clearer, so I'm posting it instead.  I have never been able to capture a clear shot of its transparent wings, but neither can my naked eye see them clearly, they beat so fast.  The blurred wing in the image, then, is just what you'd see in person.

It's amazing to me that so many native plants manage to thrive along this trail, which is crowded in spots with invasive alien species like Japanese Knotweed and Wild Chervil.  But many do, including the elegant Pale Jewelweed, which today was just beginning to open its delicate pendulous blooms.

Another colorful native wildflower here is the beautiful Blue Vervain, which thrives despite being crowded with other flowers on all sides.

What an odd malformation on one of the Blue Vervain's flower stalks!  I don't know whether it's caused by a gall insect or what, but it's certainly interesting to see how the flower tissue responds to create this fascinating distortion.


threecollie said...

Lovely. our pale jewelweed has just come in bloom this year too. Not as much as usual, perhaps because it has been so dry, We will miss popping the seed pods. lol

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Thanks, threecollie. Have you ever eaten any of the jewelweed seeds? They taste quite a bit like walnuts. Try capturing some when they pop in your hand, and nibble on a few. Also, gently peel the skin off the seeds to reveal an interior that's a beautiful shade of blue.

catharus said...

Simply lovely!!