Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Lupines and Lady's Slippers, Oh My!

Some folks travel the globe to see the wonders of the world.  I only have to drive a few miles from my home in Saratoga to see one of the most magnificent sights in the world: the masses of Wild Lupine (Lupinus perennis) that carpet the rolling oak/pine meadows of the Wilton Wildlife Preserve and Park in nearby Wilton.  The Gick Farm Parcel off of Rte. 50 offers particularly astounding lupine patches.

At every turn of the path, another glorious floral vista is revealed.  Here, the lupines thrive under oaks.

Here, they have made their home under pines.

I tend to doubt that this native wildflower would grow so abundantly if left to its own devices, although, as a Clover-family plant that can produce its own nutrients, it is happy to thrive in sandy sterile soils where few other plants can grow. It's not at all uncommon to see it blooming along barren roadsides.   But here in the Wilton Wildlife Preserve and Park, the land is managed specifically to promote the growth of Wild Lupine, with seasonal burning to eliminate competitors, and also with  the widespread planting of its seeds. The results of this management are truly astonishing!

Why would this preserve go to the trouble to propagate such numbers of this common wildflower?  It all has to do with the tiny butterflies pictured here, male (blue) and female (brown) individuals of the federally endangered Karner Blue Butterflies.  Although the adult butterflies can feed on any nectar -producing flowers (such as the blackberry blooms they are feeding on here),  there is only one plant that this butterfly's larvae can feed on, and that is Wild Lupine.  Thus, the more lupines, the more Karner Blues.

Today was hot, and with the sun beating down on the open meadows where the lupine grows, I was happy to enter the cooler shade of the pine woods that surround these meadows.  I hadn't walked more than a few steps into the woods when I spied this beautiful Pink Lady's Slipper (Cypripedium acaule) picked out from the shadows by a stray ray of sunlight.

As I glanced around, my eyes lit upon more Pink Lady's Slippers in every direction.  This native orchid really does seem to thrive in a piney woods.

The lady's slippers often shared their space on the forest floor with masses of Canada Mayflower (Maianthemum canadense).  The fragrance of these tiny white flowers mingled with the scents of pine and adjacent patches of Sweet Fern to create a perfumed air that was as delightful as the flowers were beautiful.

I just couldn't stop taking photographs of these gorgeous flowers!  Every direction I looked, I found one or two or three more beautiful than all the others.

Not as showy, perhaps, but equally as beautiful were the little Starflowers (Lysimachia borealis) scattered across the forest floor.  After the showy extravagance of all the lupine and lady's slippers, it was almost restful to gaze upon the demure beauty of this charming little flower.


Daniel Wall said...

Beautiful photos.

Unknown said...

Gorgeous! I've never heard of this place before and am now trying to figure out how to get there while the lupine are still in bloom. My Opa's house in the Black Forest was surrounded by meadows filled with three different shades of lupine and I just love them. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting these beautiful pictures.

Tico Vogt said...

Wonderful, thank you.

Woody Meristem said...

Wow -- the lupines. Although it can occasionally be found down here, it's really scarce. Even in burned-over areas with sandy soils we seldom see this spectacular flower.