Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Second Update from the Skidmore Woods

Because of issues with both my old knee and my new car, I've been neglecting my blog for far too long. And in the interim, we went from almost wintry cold to summer hot for days on end, which brought all the long-delayed wildflowers into bloom bing! bing! bing!  My knee still hurts, but I've been tearing around the woodlands as well as I could these past few days, trying to catch up with what I missed during my days of neglect.  Last time I reported from the Skidmore woods, the Bloodroot and Trout Lily had just opened their first few flowers.  By now, their flowers have done their duty and mostly disappeared. Of all the thousands of Trout Lilies just starting to bloom 10 days ago, only one could I find in my search yesterday, and it was fading fast, its beautiful red anthers shriveled to wrinkled black, due to the ravages of those Red-necked False Blister Beetles I mentioned in my last post.

The fragile flowers of Bloodroot lasted but a few days, but their leaves have now grown to enormous size, and their flowers have produced these lovely jade-green pods just packed with seeds.  Those seeds are edged with a substance that ants love to eat, so when the pods ripen and shed the seeds, the ants will carry them off to their nests, eat what they want, and dispose of the remnants, now ready to germinate and make new plants.  Darn clever, these plants!

Now I am just going to list my finds alphabetically by common name, starting with the furry leaves of American Beech.  Those tender unfolding leaves look so soft and silky, I almost want to pet them.

Large-flowered Bellworts dangle slightly twisted petals and have leaves that look as if they were pierced by the stems.

Blue Cohosh comes in two species, including this species called giganteum.  Yes, it's bigger than the species called thalictroides, but an even more definite difference is the deep-purple color of its flowers and leaves.

Blue Cohosh, the species called thalictroides (anemone-like), blooms a bit later than giganteum, is somewhat more delicate in appearance, and has these yellow-green flowers.

Dwarf Ginseng sports perfect globes of tiny white flowers.  This plant is a true spring ephemeral.  By the time the tree canopy closes in, you won't find a trace of these diminutive plants that decorate the forest floor for just a short time in early spring.

The deciduous Ferns are just beginning to unfurl their various fronds, and these next two species seem to favor a calcareous habitat, such as the limestone underlaid soil of the Skidmore woods.  These tiny fan-shaped pinnae hanging from a cherry-red stipe are the opening fronds of the lovely Maidenhair Fern.

I'm not sure what species this juvenile fern is, so delicate in appearance with dark red stipes that are beginning to fade to green. Surrounded by lime-loving plants like Canada Violets, Wild Ginger, and Goldenseal, I suspect it might be Bulblet Fern, which prefers a calcareous habitat.  And they were growing right atop the limestone boulders.

Wild Ginger is another plant that likes to grow on calcareous rocks.  Usually, its single brown flower is hidden beneath its big furry leaves, but this plant was growing on the edge of a boulder, its flower exposed to view.  Because its flowers usually lie pressed to the ground, I wonder if ants play a significant role in its pollination and reproduction.

Goldenseal is one of the rarest plants in the region, but they grow abundantly in several secret areas of these woods.  I am sworn to secrecy about the location of these medicinal plants, because poaching is the major cause of their being so rare.  These were not yet completely in bloom, but those yellow anthers protruding from the bud are all that make up the flower anyway. This flower has no petals.

Hepaticas are one of the earliest flowers to bloom in these woods, and very few of their blossoms remain by now.  But here was one single bloom of Sharp-lobed Hepatica protruding from a thick cluster of new green leaves.  These leaves will remain green all through next winter, not fading until after the new flowers bloom next spring.

At least two species of Hickory grow in the Skidmore woods, and I'm always astounded by the huge apricot-colored leaf bud of the Shagbark Hickory that peels back its satiny scales to release this veritable fountain of compound leaves.

The Bitternut Hickory also releases a fountain of huge compound leaves, but its flocked buds are small and school-bus yellow.  I would love to see a video of those thick leaf stalks erupting from the end of that twig, like the throngs that pile out of a clown car.

This lovely Mourning Cloak Butterfly seemed to have a thing for hickory leaves, too.  It stayed there for quite a long time, allowing me to approach very close to capture this photo.

Early Meadow Rue bears male and female flowers on separate plants, and this male plant was dangling fringes of pollen-laden anthers that shimmied with the slightest breeze.  That breeze will carry the pollen to nearby female plants and their waiting pistillate flowers.

Miterwort presents quite a challenge to the photographer who wants to keep both flowers and leaves in focus. If my camera would only let me, I would prefer to focus on the tiny flowers and their delicate snowflake-like fringe. This was the best compromise I could manage with the camera I own.

So I gave up trying to capture both leaves and flowers at once,  and I took another photo of flowers alone.  They truly deserve a closer look.

Spicebush was still in tight bud the last time I looked, on April 28.  And then when I looked again yesterday, the flowers were already fading and the leaves were opening out.  At least the flowers still held onto their pretty color.

Red Trillium was only in bud when last I looked on May 1, but by yesterday, most individuals had faded and tattered.  I was lucky to find one reasonably intact specimen, and a ray of sunlight helped to illumine its deep-red beauty.

I normally don't look for Large-flowered White Trillium until at least mid-May, so what a surprise it was to find it yesterday in all its pristine glory.

I actually found quite a LOT of them in all their pristine glory!

Violets of every kind have now come into their glory!  We can find them everywhere now, but the only place nearby where I am likely to find Canada Violets is the Skidmore woods, with its rich limey soil. This is such a beautiful violet, with its snow-white petals that are purple on the back, with  a yellow throat,  and with purple veins on the lower and lateral petals.

The Downy Yellow Violet is sometimes called the Yellow Forest Violet.  That makes sense to me, because there is a variety of this species that is not downy, despite the name.  But the ones in the Skidmore woods do happen to have downy stems.  This species is also distinguished from some other yellow violets by having leaves and flowers grow on the same stem.

I found the first instance of Long-spurred Violet -- just a solitary specimen -- in this woods more than two weeks ago, but by yesterday, they could be found in many places throughout the woods.  I guess it's obvious how this violet got its common name.

The English Violets that grow at Skidmore are mostly withered by now, for this non-native species is an exceptionally early bloomer.  But I managed to find just enough  of its pretty deep-purple flowers in decent enough shape to compose this little nosegay to perfume my kitchen.  I'm usually quite prejudiced against non-native woodland flowers, but I always make an exception for this remarkably lovely violet with its intensely beautiful fragrance.

Several more species of violets are blooming now in other locations, but I will have to return on another day to report on them.  I'm hoping not too many days will pass before I do.


Anonymous said...

New car issues??

Woody Meristem said...

Ah, the spring ephemerals; they certainly are beautiful.