Monday, August 20, 2018

Gillions of Gentians!

A friend alerted me this week that "hundreds" of Narrow-leaved Gentians (Gentiana linearis) were blooming now on the shore of a certain pond in northern Saratoga County. Well, my friend had greatly miscalculated.  When my pal Sue Pierce and I went there for a paddle on Sunday, we found not hundreds, but THOUSANDS of these gorgeous royal-blue flowers, dotting nearly every foot of this pond's extensive shoreline!

The Narrow-leaved Gentian looks very much like the related Closed Gentians (Gentiana clausa or G. andrewsii), except that its bulbous-shaped flowers are somewhat more slender and its leaves are definitely more narrow.  This species also blooms a couple of weeks earlier than Closed Gentian, although they share the same waterside or wet-meadow kind of habitat.

You might think that these flowers were still in bud, but this is as open as they will get.  Only the strongest pollinators, like large bumblebees, are able to force their way inside to obtain the bountiful nectar.

When I paddled this pond last year on an earlier August date, I did see a number of these gentians blooming here and there, but certainly not in the quantities evident today.  This year, we found multiple stems of them blooming almost everywhere! They were abundant where the shore was rocky . . .

. . . and abundant as well where the shore was marshy and lined with the spiky leaves of Bur Reed.

Here, they are clustering around the base of an old tree stump.

So heavy with bloom on slender stalks, they sometimes toppled over into the water, where they continued to hold their flower heads erect.

Some stems were actually submerged, but the inflated flowers rested atop the water's surface. (I love the reflected beauty of these flower clusters.)

At the edge of a Hemlock-dominated woods, the flowers were beautifully profiled against the dark shade of the forest.

Oh look!  Is that a pair of WHITE Narrow-leaved Gentians back there amid the ferns?  Or are those the similar flowers of Turtlehead?

My camera's zoom function revealed that these white flowers really WERE a pair of white-flowered Narrow-leaved Gentians.  I wonder how often this variation occurs?

We did see one or two Turtleheads (Chelone glabra), and yes, the flowers and the narrow, opposite  leaves do share a similarity with the Narrow-leaved Gentian, but those serrated leaves indicate immediately that this is a different species.  And a closer look would have revealed that the flowers were really quite different in many details.

I was amazed by how few other flowers we found along the shore.  Among those few were these Sharp-leaved Asters (Oclemena acuminata) with their rather shaggy flowers.

We also saw an occasional Flat-topped Aster (Doellingeria umbellata), like these tall stems emerging from a thicket of Royal Fern.

Aside from the radiant blue of the gentians, most of the color we found here today was thanks to abundant numbers of this small, orange, pixy-capped mushroom called Salmon Unicorn (Entoloma salmonem [or quadratum]).  The lush green of Pincushion Moss and other mosses provided a perfect foil for the vivid orange of this little fungus.

Here was another bright-orange fungus, considerably smaller.  This one is called Orange Earth Tongue (Microglossum rufum).

These little orange nubbins are neither flower nor fungus, but rather the tightly-packed leaf-buds of Hobblebush (Viburnum lantanoides), a very common understory shrub of the Adirondack forest.  Already by late summer, this shrub produces next spring's leaves and flowers, held tightly in these buds that are flocked with a velvety coating.  It's hard to believe such a thin coating could see these buds through winters where temps fall often to 20 or 30 below zero, Farenheit.


Susan C. said...

Gorgeous photos of such beautiful plants and mushrooms. You must have been giddy with delight..

Woody Meristem said...

Beautiful gentians and the white flowering plant is a great find.

The Furry Gnome said...

Such a gorgeous blue colour!.

threecollie said...

What a lovely shade of blue! Can't imagine seeing so many all at once, although I have seen a few while hiking back in the day.

Jeff Nadler said...

How funny i posted the exact same photo of the gentians in water on Facebook. My calculation was certainly off and you would never know I am an accounting person.

This place was totally quiet mid week.