Sunday, September 10, 2017

A Nice Walk, a Not-So-Nice Find

The weather was quite changeable on Thursday, with intermittent downpours followed by sunny spells.  I longed for a brisk walk, but I didn't want to stray too far from my car, so I chose some rolling hills along Spier Falls Rd. at Moreau.  Here, a powerline clearcut has created some lovely open meadows where grasses, goldenrods, and other wildflowers create a colorful carpet spread beneath the sky, and those hills, with their steep ups and downs, would give me a welcome workout.

One of the features of these grassy hills is a grove of Hawthorn trees arrayed like an orchard high up where the forest starts to close in on the meadows.  All of those trees were heavy with their bright-red fruit, made glossy by the recent rain.

I found many of our native asters fully opening their blooms, including the impressive Purple-stemmed Asters with their silver-dollar sized lavender blooms.  All the flowers were buzzing with various insects, including this little hoverfly, dining on aster pollen.

There was lots of Common Milkweed up here on these open meadows, and again I was lucky to find a Monarch caterpillar feeding on milkweed leaves.  I have seen more of these vividly striped caterpillars this year than in all my years of looking for them.

Eventually, a powerline service road led down to the road, and I crossed the road to make my way down to the shore of the Hudson River.  The river lay serene beneath a sky that was roiling with clouds, including some dark ones moving in from the west. Time to head back home.

I made my way back to my car along Spier Falls Road.  I was trying to achieve a brisk pace, but I halted my steps when I came upon this patch of pale greenery dotted with reddish leaves right at the edge of the asphalt.

Hmmm. . . .  What's THIS plant?  There was something about it -- the jointed stems, the clasping leaves, the clusters of tiny closed flowers -- that told me this was some kind of Smartweed, but it wasn't any kind of Smartweed that I recognized.  It reminded me of Tearthumb, but it didn't have any prickles on its stems.  A search of all my wildflower guides yielded no likely answer.

I belong to a plant ID site on Facebook, so I posted a couple of photos there -- the one above and the one below -- and it didn't take more than ten minutes before someone suggested it might be Nepalese Smartweed (Persicaria nepalensis).  A quick survey of Nepalese Smartweed photos on Google Images convinced me that that was the correct identification.  Oh boy, I thought at first, a new flower to add to my life list!  But then I read up on it.

Unfortunately, this is not a flower we want to find in New York.  Introduced to New York only recently from Asia, it has been found to become rapidly invasive once it gains a foothold.  Yikes! I reported this plant and its location to the New York Flora Association, and was told that a regional invasive species monitoring team would be notified.  Yesterday, I went back with my GPS device and recorded its exact location.  Luckily, this plant seems to be confined for the moment to two discrete patches between the Spier Falls Dam and the Sherman Island boat launch site, so I'm hoping it can quickly be eradicated. Let's hope so!


The Furry Gnome said...

We have a number of challenges around here with specific invasive species.

Ron Gamble said...

Thanks for the info about the smartweed! I distributed some of the info you provided and gave you photos credit to some folks around southeast MI for their awareness. So ... if that's not okay, I'll apologize now! :-)

Ron G.

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Ah yes, those darned invasive species! Some can spell real trouble! Sorry to learn about your challenges up there in Ontario, Furry Gnome, and I am happy you shared my info with Michigan folks, Ron Gamble. No need to apologize. We all do what we can!