Sunday, June 10, 2018

Floodplain Finds at Canal Park

My friends in the Thursday Naturalists know where all the good stuff grows, and last Thursday our good friend Ed Miller led us to one of our favorite spots:  Canal Park at Lock 4 on the Hudson River.  I forget what Ed, bending over here in this photo, was trying to show us, but I bet it was something interesting.  This trail, which follows the Hudson to where it meets the Hoosic River, is lined with many plants we don't often see in many other places.

 One of those plants is the shrub called Deerberry (Vaccinium stamineum), which thrives in the thin rocky soil atop the steep banks of the Hoosic.  Its white bell-shaped flowers are more open than those of its blueberry relatives, and its fruit is a pretty, pale blue-green instead of dark blue.  As its name suggests, this fruit is a favorite of deer, but its tart flavor makes it less palatable to humans.

These thin sandy soils also provide a perfect habitat for Frostweed (Crocanthemum canadense), and we were early enough to find its single yellow flower in bloom before it dropped off in the afternoon. Note how its orange-tipped anthers all lie to one side, a feature I have often noticed about this particular species.

We almost walked right by a very low-growing patch of Sheep Laurel (Kalmia angustifolia).  Vividly pink its flowers may be, but they were nearly hidden beneath their terminal leaf clusters.

We also nearly walked right by a solitary Pink Lady's Slipper (Cypripedium acaule), even though we remembered we had seen this flower here before.  But the population here is sparse, compared to some other sandy-soiled places we sometimes visit to see this native orchid blooming abundantly.

As we neared a bend of the Hoosic where springtime floods deposit both woody flotsam and rich river silt in an alluvial floodplain, we could hear the rushing water of the river and look out at Rensselaer County farmland and mountains on the horizon.

This stretch of alluvial shore is our destination each year, for it's here we find the magnificent Green Dragon (Arisaema dracontium).  A few years ago, we found just a single specimen of this giant-sized Arum Family plant, while lately they have begun to grow here in uncountable numbers.

Our friend Sue is a relatively tall woman, and most of the Green Dragon plants reach well above her knees.

The Green Dragons were all in bloom, but I was lucky to find one that allowed me to capture both the leaves and the long slender spathe in a single photograph.

Also growing to gigantic size in this open area that provides both abundant water and nutrients were some magnificent Sycamore trees.  They were so tall I could not fit their entire height in a single photograph, but Ruth standing next to their massive trunks provides evidence of their great girth.

Another native plant that thrives in these alluvial soils is Wild Garlic (Allium canadense), and we found many of its tall thin stalks topped by tissue-covered clusters of bulblets.  Usually, we find one or two tiny pink flowers sprouting from these pods, but we had come a bit too early to see them.  I took a couple of stems home to see if I might be able to force them to bloom in a vase of water.

Success! After a couple of days, the thin tissue peeled back from the bulblet cluster and a couple of pretty pink flowers rose on fine stems.  This is a plant that takes no chances on achieving reproduction, producing both flowers and bulblets that allow the plant to reproduce both sexually through pollinated flowers, and clonally by dropping its bulblets in the soil.

1 comment:

threecollie said...

I love learning like this. I had never heard of Deerberry, or Green Dragon. I think of you so often when I find unfamiliar plants.