Sunday, August 13, 2017

Plants of a High Rocky Clearing

I climbed up a mountain-side powerline this week, and not just so I could enjoy a long lovely view of the Hudson River Valley where it forms the northern boundary of Saratoga County. No, there are some flowers up there that are worth the hot sweaty climb for me, because I don't find them anywhere else in the county. All are native to northeastern North America, and all prefer the sunny exposure and the thin soil over rock that exists beneath this powerline. 

Pasture Thistle (Cirsium pumilum) is one gorgeous flower, with blooms almost at big as my fist, and quite fragrant, to boot. I first saw just three or four plants of this native thistle up here on this mountainside three years ago, and I am delighted to report that this year I found they had multiplied manyfold.  The bugs must share my delight, since it is obvious that they love them, too. 

Round-leaved Tick Trefoil (Desmodium rotundifolium) sprawls abundantly across the rocky outcroppings up here and nowhere else that I know of in the county. It is also called Prostrate Tick Trefoil, a descriptive name for the way it crawls along the ground.  All the Desmodiums seem to like this open area with thin rocky soil, as well as other places I have seen them.   Up here I also found D. canadense (Showy Tick Trefoil), D. paniculatum ( Panicled Tick Trefoil), and D. cuspidatum (Large-bracted Tick Trefoil).

Wandlike Bushclover (Lespedeza intermedia) has pretty purple flowers, which helps to distinguish it from the two other Bushclovers with much smaller flowers -- Round-headed (L. capitata) and Hairy (L. hirta) -- that also thrive in this high sunny meadow.

I have seen Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa) in many other places I frequent, but this Mint-family plant was especially beautiful the day I climbed up this powerline:  beautiful, not just in its own right, but also for the number of pretty butterflies its numerous blooms attracted.  The Fritillaries were here in good numbers, flitting from flower to flower, and a solitary Tiger Swallowtail also joined in feasting on the flowers' nectar.

Orange Grass (Hypericum gentianoides) is a very unusual St. John's Wort, with stems as fine as grass.  So I get where the "grass" part of its name comes from, but I don't know about the "orange." Maybe by mixing the yellow of its tiny flowers with the red of its pointy buds?  Others have told me that the flowers smell faintly of orange if you pinch them to release their scent.  It's also true that the flower stalks turn a rusty orange in autumn.  I can attest to that, since it was late autumn when I first discovered how abundantly this tiny St. John's Wort spread across the thin soil of this high rocky place.  Some of their stems were lime-green and hot-pink, but others were, indeed, a rusty orange.

1 comment:

threecollie said...

I brought home a native monarda a couple of weeks ago from a parking lot we happened to visit. Looks as if it may live