Thursday, June 28, 2018

The Diverse Floral Delights of Forest and Bog

Orchid Hunting in a Secret Bog
Storms were threatening yesterday, but a friend had told me that Grass Pink Orchids (Calopogon tuberosus) were burgeoning now in a secret bog I know about. So, heading north and dodging the deluge, I pushed through a thicket and stepped out onto the sphagnum.  What a beautiful sight I beheld!

Acres of Sheep Laurel (Kalmia angustifolia) share this bog with the Black Spruce and Tamarack, and today the laurels were all abloom with their hot-pink flower clusters.


Not quite as numerous, but certainly equal in colorful beauty were the dozens and dozens of Grass Pinks decorating the sphagnum mat.

It seemed that each orchid I encountered was even lovelier than the one before.

Wow!  Just, WOW!!!

Later, in mid-July, I will have to come back to check on the White Fringed Orchids (Platanthera blephariglottis) that also used to abound in this bog.  From what I could see today, it seemed that the laurel and other shrubs had moved into the open areas where these big white orchids used to grow as thick as dandelions on a suburban lawn.  I found a couple, still in tight bud, but not the teeming numbers I had found in previous years.  I'm sure when they open their large clusters of bright-white blooms I'll be able to find more of them.

Although those two orchids are the most spectacular floral finds in this bog, other bog plants make their home here as well.  Surprisingly, though, I find hardly any Northern Pitcher Plants (Sarracenia purpurea), and the one I found today had produced no flower stalk.  But their distinctive vase-shaped  carnivorous leaves are interesting in their own right.

Even though the flowers of Bog Rosemary (Andromeda polifolia) have long since faded, their little fruits, looking like tiny pink pumpkins, are still a delightful find.

The Highbush Blueberries (Vaccinium corymbosum) were not only lovely to look at -- even now, in their various stages of ripeness -- but they will also be delightful to eat when they turn ripe.  They grow so thick on the shrubs in this bog that all you have to do is place your hand beneath a cluster, tap the branch, and a nice big handful will fill your palm.

Walking back to where I had parked my car, I passed this abundant patch of Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) wafting their exquisite fragrance on the air.

Knowing how these flowers and their fragrance attract all kinds of insects to their nectar and pollen stores, I always search among the blooms to see if any unfortunate bugs have been trapped among the florets.  The milkweed's pollination strategy depends on insects' legs slipping into the slits in the florets, where the legs will ensnare the threads that connect the milkweeds' pollen bundles (pollinia), yank the pollen bundles free, and carry them off to other milkweed blooms.  But not every insect is strong enough to yank its legs free.   This poor Black Firefly was one of the unfortunate ones.  Even though I pulled the floret apart to free the beetle's legs, the beetle seemed too weary to fly away.

Stopping by Woods on a Rainy Day
A rumble of thunder warned me that more predicted storms were approaching, but since Coles Woods in the heart of Glens Falls was right on my way home from the bog, I decided to risk dashing into the woods to see what flowers were blooming now on the dark-shaded forest floor.

I quickly hoofed it down the trail to a densely wooded area my friend Sue and I call "Pyrolaville,"  where uncounted numbers of One-sided Pyrola (Orthilia secunda) thrive alongside the much more common Shinleaf Pyrolas.  When I found the Orthilia, I felt glad I stopped by today, for its little, greenish flowers were in perfect bloom.

A few of the Shinleaf Pyrola (Pyrola elliptica) were also blooming, but there were many more still in tight bud. The full Shinleaf show is yet to come.

The same is true for the Pipsissewa (Chimaphila umbellata) that shares this densely shaded patch with both Pyrolas.  I found a few of the waxy, pink-tinged white blooms dangling above their glossy green leaves, but most of the hundreds of plants that grow here were still in bud.  This will be a show worth returning to see!

Partridgeberry (Mitchella repens) also likes to grow in dense shade, and sure enough, I found lots of its tiny, white twin trumpets starring the forest floor.  Many of its flowers were starting to fade, however, so I felt lucky to find these snowy blooms in the same patch along with the bright-red berries that had survived from last year.  Each one of those berries (note the two blossom ends) requires that both of those twin flowers be fertilized to produce a single fruit.

Speaking of bright-red berries, no other berries can out-shine those that grow on the Red-berried Elder shrubs (Sambucus racemosa) that line the Coles Woods trails.  Even as the clouds darkened and the rain started pattering in the treetops overhead, these berries grabbed my attention and slowed my hurrying steps, so I could take a moment to admire them.


Bill and dogs said...

I don't often comment, but your blog is a blessing to me, and also a useful tool and want you to know I appreciate it. I bookmark some pages for future reference and have Googled to find your pictures and descriptions of plants I am currently seeing in my walks with my dogs. I am north of you and it seems our flowers are often two weeks later than yours, which helps me anticipate what I might see on an outing. I love your enthusiasm and joy. Thank you for your blog.

Uta said...

As usual the pictures you took are just wonderful and I see many of these flowers in my own natural garden. You describe everything in such a teaching way and I learn even more than I already know. Thanks so much.

Woody Meristem said...

Very wise not to disclose the site of the calapogon -- too many "collectors" out there. They're almost at their peak in a fen down this way and the rose pogonia was spectacular. Very nice photos of a flower whose color digital cameras seem to have trouble recording accurately.