Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Going for the Green

Summer's flowers have faded, and autumn's leaves are falling fast.  One might think there were not many colorful things to find in the woods these gray November days. And one would be right -- unless the sought-after color was GREEN!  Yes, indeed, the woods are still full of lots of green plants, and those are what my friend Nancy Slack and I set out to find this week as we walked around Mud Pond at Moreau Lake State Park.

Nancy, a professor of ecology at Russell Sage College and a well-known bryologist, has offered a nature walk called "What's Green in November" to be held November 15 as a fund-raising activity for the nature-education organization Ecological Clearing House of Schenectady (ECOS).  So she and I set out around Mud Pond to scout the trail and see what we could find.

If either of us worried that we might not find enough to hold a group's interest, those fears were soon allayed as our list of finds filled up very fast.  We found more than 50 green items in all, beginning with a wide array of mosses, lichens, and club mosses all growing within the first few yards of where we set out.

Here's just a sampling of what we found, beginning with a group of mosses.

Common Haircap Moss (Polytrichum commune)

Broom Moss (Dicranum scoparium)

Green Velvet Moss (Dicranum montanum)

A species of Bryum moss

Big Redstem Moss (Pleurozium schreberi)

Tree Moss (Climacium americanum)

Brocade Moss (Hypnum imponens)

Plus at least half a dozen other mosses I did not get clear photos of.

We also found lots of fascinating lichens, and again, here are just some of what we found. Very few have common names.

Tiny multi-tiered trumpets called Cladonia verticillata

British Soldiers (Cladonia cristatella)

Green Shield Lichen (Parmelia caperata)

Another Cladonia lichen, but one neither Nancy nor I had ever seen, nor do we know the name of it as yet.

Three of our most common Club Mosses occurred throughout the woods, in both open and shaded areas:

Running Ground Pine (Lycopodium clavatum)

Tree Club Moss (Dendrolycopodium obscurum)

Fan Club Moss (Dyphasiastrum digitatum)

As we continued our walk through the forest, we were delighted to find a few trees still holding their beautifully colored leaves.

Along the wooded trail, we noted the green twigs of Lowbush Blueberries, one of the "wintergreens" I hadn't thought to include until we saw them.  Their chlorophyll will continue to provide nourishment for the shrubs via photosynthesis throughout the winter.

Neither of us could imagine why it would benefit many Shadblow shrubs to produce baby leaves this late in autumn.  Perhaps they are trying to grab the last bit of sunlight they can, as the canopy opens up.  This is a phenomenon I notice every year.

Two of our native orchids, the Goodyeras,  produce rosettes of beautifully patterned green leaves that persist through the winter.  We had to brush aside a covering of Pitch Pine needles to find these leaves of Checkered Rattlesnake Plantain (Goodyera tesselata).

And here are the gorgeous leaves of Downy Rattlesnake Plantain (Goodyera pubescens).  Nancy and I failed to find them on our walk this week, but I know where they grow, so I will be sure to locate them by the time we lead our ECOS group.

Partridgeberry (Mitchella repens)

Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens)

Pipsissewa (Chimaphila umbellata)

Spotted Wintergreen (Chimaphila maculata)

Fringed Polygala (Polygala paucifolia)

When we rounded the south end of the pond, I chose to lead us below the steep bank, rather than follow the upland trail through the woods, because I knew of the abundance of evergreen plants we would find on this bank or in the mud along the shore.

I have never seen such an abundance of Trailing Arbutus (Epigaea repens) as grows on this north-facing bank. Its leaves will winter over under the snow, ready to produce its fragrant flowers very early in spring.  A close look reveals that the flower buds are already present.

Other evergreen plants that share this steep bank with the Trailing Arbutus include these furry basal rosettes.  I haven't decided if these are a species of Hawkweed (Hieracium) or Pussytoes (Antennaria), so I will have to return next summer to clinch the ID.

This steep shady bank is home to many ferns, including several that will hold their green fronds all winter. The first one we saw was this Christmas Fern (Polystichum acrostichoides), with its individual pinnae shaped like miniature Christmas stockings.

Another evergreen fern is Marginal Wood Fern (Dryopteris marginalis).

We found a number of evergreen sedges, both in the muddy shore of the pond and also along a streambed that meandered through the woods.  This one is called Plantain-leaved Sedge (Carex plantagenea), or sometimes "Seersucker Sedge" because of its crinkled leaves.

When we turned from exploring the plants that grew on the steep bank, we noticed a patch of vivid green plants that stood out from all the others covering the muddy flats at the edge of the pond.

A closer look revealed masses of the liverwort sometimes called Fringed Heartwort (Ricciocarpus natans).  This liverwort normally floats on the water, but Mud Pond is so low now, due to a prolonged shortage of rainfall and snowmelt, that the liverwort was stranded on the mud.

We found another liverwort tucked up into the bank, this one a lacy-looking one with shiny leaves called Featherwort (Plagiochila porelloides).

Variable-leaved Logwort (Lophocolea heterophylla) lives up to its common name by growing on rotting logs, and that's just where we found it.

Another liverwort that grows on rotting logs is Lovely Fuzzwort (Ptillidium pulcherrimum).  Who wouldn't love to meet a liverwort with a name like that?

Obviously, this is only a sampling of the more-than-50 green (or greenish) plants we found, so I hope the folks who come on our walk will feel they are getting their money's worth.  Nancy and I sure had lots of fun on our scouting trip.  And we even found a few brightly colored items:

The berry-less pedicels of White Baneberry (Actaea pachypoda)

A Ladybug resting on the flowers of Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana)


Andrew Bradshaw said...

You have so many mosses, orchids, etc. in your area! Frankly, living here in Illinois, I'm quite jealous. Beautiful photography, also.

threecollie said...

You make the world of plants so fascinating. I look at them now more than I ever did.

The Furry Gnome said...

That's a really great list! I was thinking about the 'green' still in the woods today as I was hiking the trail. Saw a number of ferns, and a number of other plants, but nothing like what you found.

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Thanks, friends, for your kind comments. I count myself as truly blessed to have such knowledgeable teachers as Nancy Slack to help me put names to all these mosses, lichens, ferns, and liverworts. When you know the names, you actually start to see them and distinguish each separate species. I would bet that Illinois has just as many mosses, orchids, etc., as we do in NY, Jared Gorrell, and I urge you to go out and look for them. When we know the names of the plants, we greet them like old friends, and every walk in the woods becomes a treasure hunt.

Ron Gamble said...

Nice post! Thanks for sharing all this.