Monday, June 12, 2017

Relief From the Heat on the River

For weeks, it seems, we've had nothing but cold rainy days. And now we are slammed with sweltering heat, with the temperature rising well into the 90s today. But I didn't suffer that heat at all, easing along shady Hudson River banks in my canoe, trailing my hands in the cool, clear water, while a light breeze lifted my hair.

Tiny Bluets (Houstonia caerulea) spangled the banks, scattered like stars among the grasses.

The bright-yellow blooms of Common Cinquefoil (Potentilla simplex) and the snow-white flowers of Dewberry (Rubus flagellaris) added their own beauty to the banks.

And what a regal presence our lovely native Blue Flags (Iris versicolor) provided!

I was especially pleased to find our native Bush Honeysuckle (Diervilla lonicera) blooming high up on the banks.  Although quite common along the river here, this is a flower that has not been recorded for Saratoga County, so I was happy to be able to collect a specimen to be included in the county plant atlas.

As I eased my canoe upstream in the barely perceptible current, I could hear the splashing and tinkling of water somewhere, and soon I came upon this miniature waterfall, where a tiny streamlet tumbled into the river, surrounded by soft green moss.  What a cooling image this was!

Leaving the shade of the banks, I paddled out to the middle of the river to visit several small islands, pausing to admire this cluster of Small Sundrops (Oenothera perennis) that had found a niche in a mid-river boulder.

Until this week, I hadn't attempted to paddle out to these pretty little islands.  With all the rain we'd been having, the river had been rowdy and brown, not conducive to paddling at all.  But today, although the river was full, the current ran more quietly, and the surface of the water mirrored the trees and surrounding mountains in shimmering reflections.

I pulled my canoe up onto the shore of one island and climbed out to explore.

What a lovely spot for a picnic.  I was glad I had brought my lunch, so I could sit and eat and enjoy this view.

Because the river had been so rowdy last month, I'd missed the bloom of the Early Azaleas (Rhododendron prinophyllum) that flourish on this island.  Searching to find some remnants of them, I did find a shrub where the long rosy anthers had persisted after the petals of the bright-pink flowers had fallen.

Oh ho!  Here was a single bloom still clinging to its shrub! And would you believe, that  fading flower continued to waft its exquisite fragrance on the air!

There were other rosy flowers on the island, and lots of them, too.  These deep-rose flowers of Black Huckleberry (Gaylussacia baccata) are a promise that soon there will be lots of sweet dark-blue fruits to be gathered by the handful here.

Here was a little bee gathering bags of pollen from a viburnum flower.  I'm not sure whether these are the flowers of Nannyberry (Viburnum lentago) or those of Wild Raisin (Viburnum nudum).  I find it easier to tell them apart when they are in fruit.

In other years, when the river is not so full, this neighboring island is surrounded by mudflats burgeoning with many wildflowers like Arrowhead and Golden Pert and several native St. Johnsworts. If the water level falls, it will be amazing to see how quickly the flowers spring up.  They are just biding their time under water.

As I paddled around to the downstream end of the island pictured above, I began to search the banks for a large patch of Tubercled Orchids (Platanthera flava) I'd found there for the first time last year.  And there they were!  Still in bud, but I recognized their long slender basal leaves right away. I hope to get back to see them in bloom in the next few weeks.

Thinking of orchids, I stopped at a little roadside swamp on my way home along the Corinth Mountain Road.  I have found Green Wood Orchids in this swamp before, and sure enough, I did find their young solitary leaves just emerging from moss-covered logs.  But they were too far out in the muck for me to photograph, and anyway, my attention was drawn to this handsome Jack-in-the-Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum) emerging from the sphagnum.  What a handsome spathe, striped with white like that!

And not only was the spathe striped with white, those stripes were actually raised ridges, instead of just flat lines.  This indicates that this is a subspecies of Jack-in-the-Pulpit called the Swamp Jack (Arisaema triphyllum ssp. stewardsonii).  A fun find for the end of a very pleasant day!


threecollie said...

Every trip I vicariously enjoy with you is a refreshing delight!

The Furry Gnome said...

Sounds (and looks) idyllic!

Woody Meristem said...

Beautiful spot on the river, islands are always treasure to be savored.

Wayne said...

Thanks for another wonderful guided tour. I have paddled those waters many times, yet I am always amazed at the things you find that I failed to notice. That makes my next trip all the more enjoyable. After years of ecological research followed by decades working for a conservation agency (all with the constraints of targeted objectives), your blog brings me back to enjoying all the details of the environment for their own intrinsic values. Your delight in your discoveries is infectious.