Ever since finding that endangered Dwarf Flatsedge on the shore of Moreau Lake a couple of weeks ago, I've been back to walk that shore almost every other day, looking for more of the flatsedge (and I found LOTS!). I also led two walks on the shore this week, last Tuesday in the pouring rain for a small group from the Environmental Clearing House of Schenectady, and today under a beautiful blue sky and warm sun for my friends in the Thursday Naturalists. On both occasions this week, we only walked a short stretch of the shoreline that is teeming with interesting shoreline plants, and then moved up to the forested road to return to our starting point, noting the woodland plants and fungi as we passed. Looking across the lake, that stretch of shoreline can be seen in this photo, from the swimming beach pictured in the center, to approximately where the photo ends on the left.
I was able to show my fellow walkers our little Small-flowered Dwarf Flatsedge (Cyperus subsquarrosus) almost immediately as we headed out to the beach. But even though I know very well that it grows there abundantly, I still had to search and search to find its tiny whorl of curving stems and blunt little spikelets, it is so very small.
As we continued our walk, I was pleased to see a few Small-flowered Gerardias (Agalinis paupercula) were still in bloom. Once classified as a rare plant, this little flower thrives on the shore of Moreau Lake in uncountable numbers.
Also growing in uncountable numbers were several different species of small white asters. Even though we had aster experts among us today, we decided to proceed on our walk and save our attempts at identification of each species for another day.
We sure didn't have to search our wildflower guides to identify this big beautiful New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae), since no other of our regional asters have flowers this vividly purple.
As we walked along, we couldn't help brushing up against many plants of Wild Mint (Mentha arvensis), which released its refreshing minty fragrance on the cool morning air.
Here and there, we found a few Nodding Bur Marigolds (Bidens cernua) still in bloom, but most were now dangling the fat seed heads that suggest how this flower acquired the "nodding" part of its name.
A few plants of Northern Willowherb (Epilobium ciliatum) still held their tiny pink flowers, too.
Where a tiny stream entered the lake, we found some Grass-leaved Arrowhead (Sagittaria graminea) tucked in among some bright-green reeds.
Pilewort (Erechtites heiraciifolius) had produced large silken puffs that were wafting bits of fluff on the air.
We lingered a while by a massive hedge of Spotted Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) that was hung with thousands of fat seed pods, just waiting for our touch to release the little seeds within. I can never resist the urge to pop the seeds into my hand and eat a few, which taste very much like walnuts.
The matted stems of Canada St. John's Wort (Hypericum canadense) colored parts of the sandy shore a vivid red. We also found a few much smaller Canada St. John's Worts still in bloom with their tiny yellow flowers.
Eventually, we headed up to the road from the shore, passing along a path that was adorned with the arching stems of Bluestem Goldenrod (Solidago caesia).
As we walked along the forested edge of the road, we soon spotted a large patch of the glossy evergreen leaves of Pipsissewa (Chimaphila umbellata) under the trees.
A number of Solomon's Plume plants (Maianthemum racemosum) bore heavy clusters of dark-red berries. I have read that these fruits are not poisonous, but can cause digestive disorder if eaten in quantity. So I am happy to leave them for wildlife, but I did taste one and found it quite sweet, although the sweetness was followed by a bitter aftertaste.
We also found Solomon's Seal (Polygonatum biflorum) at the edge of the woods, many of the plants hung with blue-black berries. I have read that these fruits are toxic, so I refrained from tasting them.
I did not refrain from eating the fruits of Clammy Ground Cherry (Physalis heterophylla), although we did not find many that were ripe enough to enjoy today, since I had harvested most of the ripe ones on Tuesday. We found only one fruit with the papery husk turned brown and the interior pea-sized fruit turned golden and sweet. Farmers now grow cultivars of ground cherries that have much bigger fruits.
No, no, no, do not eat THESE berries! They are not called Baneberries without reason! But they certainly are beautiful to look at. This is the White Baneberry (Actaea pachypoda), also known as Doll's Eyes because of the porcelain-white fruits dotted with black that are borne on vivid red pedicels.
This was the last of our floral finds today, and even though I had marked the spot with pink pipecleaner from a preview walk, I could not see this tiny Autumn Coralroot (Corallorhiza odontorhiza) until one of our friends with better eyesight than mine spotted it. This is one of the nearly 60 orchid species that are native to New York, and certainly among the smaller and least showy of them. Even in full bloom (as this one is), the flowers are nearly invisible, no more than a single tiny petal protruding from a pod in this specimen.
Across the road from that little orchid we found a large patch of this ground-hugging foliose lichen called Peltigera canina, also known as Dog Lichen. Most of the Dog Lichens I have seen before were more brown in color, but this one was a lovely silvery gray. I have read that these lichens can fix nitrogen from the atmosphere, and so are influential in soil composition and regeneration.
We found quite a few fungi today, but the most abundant were the lemon-yellow disks of Chicken-fat Suillus (Suillus americanus), also known as American Slippery Jack (yes, they are slimy) or White Pine Bolete, a name suggested by the fact that they are micorrhizal with Eastern White Pines. Lots of White Pines do grow in Moreau Lake State Park, so it was not surprising to find this mushroom here.
I'm not sure what the name of these little orange mushrooms is. I had thought at first they were a species I had found and identified before, but after checking my file photos I found I was mistaken. They were growing by the hundreds on a rotting log and seemed to glow in the dark of the forest.
One little cluster of those orange mushrooms was covered with a veil of fibers from some other species of fungus. I had never seen anything quite like this veiling before.
Here were a couple of Amanitas (possibly Amanita muscaria) just emerging from their volvae, the cup-like structures that enclose the immature fruit of these mushrooms. I was amazed by how hard these volvae were as they first emerged from the ground, considering how fragile the mature mushrooms will be.
I was glad to see that a few of the winged generation of Wooly Alder Aphids (see my last post) still clung to some Speckled Alder twigs so I could show my friends one of my most beloved insects. I was able to lift a few of these tiny creatures onto my fingertip and hold them up to the sunlight. After a few minutes, they opened their wings and lifted off into the air, tiny bits of baby-blue fluff that easily suggest how they acquired the name of Fairy Flies.
We did find a few caterpillars today, but this colorful one I found on my previous walk in the pouring rain on Tuesday. Even though soaking wet, this Smartweed Caterpillar, larva of the Smeared Dagger Moth (Acronicta oblinata), looked as spiky as ever. Although this caterpillar will eat plants of the Smartweed genus (Persicaria), it often dines on the leaves of many other plants.