Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Checking In On the River

Well, if it wasn't raining the past few days, it was damp and cold.  Not the nicest weather for a paddle on my beloved Hudson, but the inclement weather did mean I had these splendid waters all to myself. No roaring jet-skis or motorboats creating wakes to send my little canoe to bashing against the rocky shore.  So I could mosey along close to shore, enjoying the colorful profusion of emergent flowers, like these yellow Swamp Candles (Lysimachia terrestris), purple Pickerelweeds (Pontederia cordata), and pink puffs of Meadowsweet (Spiraea alba).

Where some giant boulders had tumbled down from the steep mountainside, the dainty little geranium called Herb Robert (Geranium robertianum) had found its niche.  I love its lacy, vibrant-green leaves and tiny bright-pink flowers that seem to shine out from the shadows of the rocks.

In the shallow depths of quiet bays, various species of Arrowheads (Sagittaria spp.) have begun to lift their pink-tinged white flowers above the still waters, inviting the little nectar- and pollen-eating flies to come and feast.

Those same quiet waters are punctuated now with the bristly balls of Bur Reed fruits.  I need to collect a specimen of Large-fruited Bur-reed (Sparganium androcladum) to add to the plant atlas for Saratoga County, but I don't know how to distinguish it from the supposedly more common Lesser Bur-reed (S. americanum).  Different sources I refer to describe each species quite differently, confusing the issue greatly.  I have no idea which is which.  I guess I will collect what I find, submit them to more knowledgeable people than I, and let them sort the ID out.  Which species do you suppose this one is?

Some more bristly fruits.  These are Beech nuts (Fagus grandifolia), and the riverside trees are loaded with them this year.  They remind me of furry little Muppets.

The Hop Hornbeam trees (Ostrya virginiana) were also laden with fruits, these pale-green pods that resemble the hops that traditionally flavor our beer.  The hop vine is not related to the Hop Hornbeam tree, but I certainly see the resemblance.

The section of the Hudson I paddle, between the Spier Falls and Sherman Island Dams, has forested banks that are populated with many Red Maples (Acer rubrum). Oddly enough, I hardly ever see Silver Maples (A. saccharinum)  -- a typical water-side tree -- along this stretch of the river.  But here I found one apparent Silver Maple, with distinctly deep-cut leaves that were silvery on the back.  But the leaf petioles and veins were bright red, as red as those of a Red Maple's would be.  I wonder if this tree could be a hybrid of the Red and Silver Maples, a hybrid that is called Freeman's Maple (A. xfremanii).  This is another example of a species I can't decide for myself and will have to defer to the experts.

'Tis the season for St. John's Worts (Hypericum spp.)!  LOTS of them! Some quiet shallows are so crowded with them they really shove into each other.  Here are the sturdy, deep-rose leaves of Marsh St. John's Wort (H. virginicum) pushing up through masses of Pale St. John's Wort (H. ellipticum), a smaller and greener-leaved species.  The Marsh St. John's Wort will bloom with pink flowers (a close look will reveal the buds), while the Pale St. John's Wort has long shed its bright-yellow blooms and now is adorned with bright-scarlet seed pods.

Spangling the muddy shore now are the tiny yellow blooms of Dwarf St. John's Wort (H. mutilum), a miniature flower that truly lives up to its common name.

Here's another species of St. John's Wort with really tiny flowers.  But this one -- it's called Canada St. John's Wort (H. canadense) -- has much narrower leaves, and equally narrow flower buds that are colored a deep scarlet.

And here's yet another St. John's Wort, sharing the same vicinity as the others but this one right out IN the water.  This is Northern St. John's Wort (H. boreale), and can be truly aquatic.  Yes, it can thrive on muddy banks, but it also happily blooms when most of its stem and leaves are actually submerged.

And here's the queen of all the St. John's Worts, the spectacular Great St. John's Wort (H. ascyron ssp. pyramidatum), with flowers as big as three inches across.  I did not see this one blooming with the other species I mentioned.  It grows on an island over a mile downstream from where I was paddling this day.  But I'm going to visit that part of the river tomorrow.  I heard that the sun should be shining and the day will warm up nicely. I hope to find many of these beautiful flowers in bloom.  And probably many others, as well.  Stay tuned!

1 comment:

The Furry Gnome said...

Always enjoy your paddles and walks. It always inspires me to look closer and be more curious about what I'm seeing.