hen our Thursday Naturalist group came up to Lake Desolation last Thursday, not all of our friends felt up to slogging through mud and pushing through thickets in the trackless peatland the rest of us endured. But we did have an alternative destination that provided for less punishing exploration: a New York State Conservation Easement property called Archer Vly, just a mile or so up the Lake Desolation Road, which two of our friends opted to explore.
Archer Vly is a pretty pond set amid thousands of acres of forest preserved by New York State for hiking, hunting, snowmobiling and other outdoor activities, including camping in certain designated spots. There are trails around the pond that lead to two primitive campsites, and a launching ramp provides easy access from a parking area for car-top boats like kayaks and canoes.
When we gathered at Archer Vly last Thursday to reconnoiter with our friends, my friend Ed Miller and I were so struck by the beauty of the place we decided to return with our canoes on Friday to fully explore the pond and its shoreline. And so we did, along with our friend Nan Williams, who took the bow in Ed's boat.
We set off in a counter-clockwise direction around the long pond, which found us moseying slowly along the north-facing shore, enchanted by the marvelous array of shade-loving plants that adorned the moss-covered, rocky banks.
Many sections of this shoreline offered textbook examples of many of the plants that define an Adirondack woodland. Here's a little challenge for my readers: See how many of these woodland plants you recognize, and if you like, list them in the comments to this post. I'm not sure I could name them all, but it would be fun to try.
I'll start by naming the most obviously recognizable one, the little dwarf dogwood species with bright-red berries called Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis
). I'll even take a stab at naming that underlying moss as Brocade Moss (Hypnum imponens
). Okay, now your turn . . . .
What truly astonished us here along this shore were the uncountable numbers of the Small Green Wood Orchid (Platanthera clavellata
) that grew just EVERYwhere, down close to the water!
There were so many of these orchids, growing thickly in bunches and all in perfect bloom, that we finally stopped counting them, after we'd reached 100.
These snowy-white Dalibarda blooms (Dalibarda repens
), peeking out from their carpet of dark-green, heart-shaped leaves, were among our most delightful finds.
These little white waxy bells dangling down from shiny green leaves will later yield the bright-red Wintergreen berries (Gaultheria procumbens
) we love to snack on.
I usually have a hard time distinguishing this Stiff Clubmoss (Lycopodium annotinum
) from the similarly spiky Shining Clubmoss (Huperzia lucidula
) I find in my regular haunts at lower altitudes and latitudes. But the clubmoss I saw today, a more boreal species, displayed the long cone-like strobili (spore-bearing organs) at the tip of each spike, a feature that helps to distinguish this species from the Huperzia
, which bears its spores in the axils of its leaves.
We found some glossy, green-and-black liverwort adorning a stump, and that liverwort (Pellia epiphylla
) was itself adorned by one little Round-leaved Sundew (Drosera rotundifolia
) and the small heart-shaped leaves of a species of spring violet. (Thanks go to Ed's friend Nan Williams for providing this liverwort's name.)
The shoreline of Archer Vly is edged with masses of emergent aquatic plants, the most abundant of which was a stiff-leaved Bur-reed that sported orbs of fuzzy white flowers and seed-laden spheres of spiky nutlets. I wish I could tell you which species of Bur-reed this is, but my guidebooks are contradictory. Perhaps it is American Bur-reed (Sparganium americanum
). Or it might be Large-fruited Bur-reed (S. androcladum
). Or some other species entirely. Darned if I know.
One of the most common shrubs along the shore was Sweet Gale (Myrica gale
), which was studded with the spiky little cones that will yield the seeds. The cones also yield the marvelous fragrance this shrub is noted for, and I never resist the urge to crush a few to release that wonderful smell.
The snowy-white blooms of Common Arrowhead (Sagittaria latifolia
) decorated the shallow waters at the shoreline. This particular clump displays the variety of size and shape the arrow-shaped leaves can assume. Note the broader leaves at the back of this cluster, and the almost hair-fine leaves that can be seen at the front.
These deep-rose spikes of Steeplebush (Spiraea tomentos
a) were adorning a shrub-covered beaver's lodge that lay close to the sunnier south-facing shore we next moved along.
We found quite different plants along this sunnier shoreline. Or as in the case of this cluster of royal-blue Narrow-leaved Gentian (Gentiana linearis
), we found some plants here fully in bloom that we'd seen only in bud on the north-facing shore.
The shoreline here was also muddier, rather than rocky, providing hospitable habitat for such mud-lovers as these white-dots of Pipewort (Eriocaulon aquaticum
) and the two tiny bright-yellow, star-shaped blooms of Canada St. John's Wort (Hypericum canadense
There were stands of the purple-flowered Pickerelweed (Pontederia cordata
) on both shores of the pond, but as we returned toward our launching site, I saw this cluster of them in a quiet cove, where the dark still water perfectly reflected the elegant beauty of these stately flowers.
At this end of the pond, where construction of a road and a parking lot had disturbed the soil, we found a colorful melange of both native and introduced plants. Alien species like Brown Knapweed and Common St. John's Wort were mixed with our native Meadowsweet, Common Milkweed, and Wild Clematis to put on quite a marvelous show, joined by some Black-eyed Susans that might have escaped from a nearby garden.
After beaching our boats and loading them on our cars, Ed and Nan decided they wanted to return to the peatland our group had explored the day before, while I was yearning to see what treasures lined these pond-side trails through the woods. So we parted temporarily, agreeing to meet for lunch at the wonderful Tinney's Tavern back in the village of Lake Desolation. And I set off around the pond on foot.
The first sight that halted my steps on the path was a patch of Clintonia (Clintonia borealis
). A few of the plants were holding clusters of the shiny blue berries that give this plant its second common name of Blue-bead Lily.
I also had to stop to admire the shiny green orbs atop the leaf clusters of Indian Cucumber Root (Medeola virginiana
). These fruits will turn a shiny blue-black later toward fall, when the top tier of leaves will also be blushed with red. This plant was surrounded by low-growing branches of Balsam Fir (Abies balsamea
), a conifer species common to the Adirondacks and other parts of the boreal forest.
Here's another north-woods plant, a Painted Trillium (Trillium undulatum
), surrounded by low-growing Balsam. Note the short petioles attaching the three leaves to the stalk, a feature that distinguishes this species of trillium from the others that grow around here. The green fruit in the center of the leaves will eventually turn a bright red.
I wish I had come upon such a patch of Common Wood Sorrel (Oxalis montana
) earlier in the summer, when such a mass of pretty shamrock-like leaves would be studded with lovely pink-veined white flowers.
Lots of Indian Pipe (Monotropa uniflora
) has sprung up in all of the woods I have wandered this rainy summer, and this woods was no exception.
The Adirondack forest provides a perfect habitat for Hobblebush (Viburnum lantanoides
), and again, the forest surrounding Archer Vly was no exception. I found many shrubs with their leaves already turning wine-red, and a few, like this green-leaved one, with clusters of colorful fruit.
The lovely star-shaped flowers of Starflower (Lysimachia borealis
) produce in turn these equally lovely seed pods, tiny chalk-white orbs set among golden bracts, held aloft on hair-fine stalks. I was delighted to find these along my path.
And oh, what adorable little fungi these are! I can't find an exact match in my mushroom guides, but little matter. I don't need to know their name to adore them. There were many of these dainty white cuties growing atop damp dead leaves.
And here was the cherry atop this perfect sundae of an excursion! While I waited for Ed and Nan to arrive at Tinney's parking lot, this beautiful Fritillary butterfly flitted from flower to flower in a patch of Joe Pye Weed that lined the parking lot. And then it spread its lovely wings and sat still for the picture-taking! Just one more amazing treat for what had already been an amazingly pleasurable morning. (And the food at Tinney's Tavern was pretty amazing, too.)