Saturday, September 8, 2018

Lots More Dwarf Bulrush!

As I related in my previous post, Rich Ring's and my search for a very rare species of flat sedge was cut short by a thunderstorm Thursday afternoon.  But the following day (Friday) dawned calm and cool and very pleasant for me to resume the search for Small-flowered Dwarf Bulrush (Cyperus subsquarrosus) around the shore of Moreau Lake.  And oh my, did I find it!

The photo below shows the sandy eastern shore of Moreau Lake.  The several green lines of vegetation along the shore reveal how water levels in the lake have fallen over the past few years, with each line marking another stage of low water levels.

As I bent to examine the make-up of the vegetation that formed those lines, I could hardly believe my eyes!  The vegetation was almost entirely made up of the pale-green swirly stems of Small-flowered Dwarf Bulrush.  Remember, this plant is rated by New York State as an Endangered species, and its presence at Moreau Lake has not been reported since 1961.   For 57 years, its seeds must have lain in wait underwater for lake levels to recede and grant them once more the sunlight and air they needed to flourish.  I would say, this plant has surely made a comeback!

For a moment or two, I attempted to count individual plants, but I soon gave up the effort.  There were so many of them, all entangled with one another, I had a hard time telling where one plant ended and another began.  If you click on this photo, you will be able to better see the distinctive seedheads that resemble miniature pinecones.

After noting how far that population extended along the eastern shore, I next rounded a curve past a shoreline cottage to enter a deep cove.  Parts of this cove's shoreline are sandy and sunny, while other parts are muddy and shaded. I was curious to see if I could find more plants of Dwarf Bulrush along the shore of this cove.

Tall stalks of Round-headed Bushclover (above) and Blue Vervain (below) were among the many sun-loving plants that populate this part of the cove's south-facing shoreline.

The sunny shore of this cove is also where I found another Endangered species a few years ago, called Whorled Mountain Mint (Pycnanthemum verticillatum var. verticillatum).  Although it was long past blooming now, I could still identify the plant by its distinctive spiky seed heads (below), and I'm happy to report that it continues to thrive at this location.

I'm also happy to report that hundreds of Small-flowered Dwarf Bulrush are also thriving along the cove, especially where the shore was sandy or pebbly.

I even found a few little plants where the shore began to turn muddy.  But the numbers petered out to none as I entered a shady stretch of the cove where shrubs and trees and tall cattails extended down to the water's edge.

Having satisfied myself that I had located the bulk of the Small-flowered Dwarf Bulrush's population at this part of the lakeshore,  I allowed myself to attend to some of the other plants that grow here. I was especially charmed by this miniature Nodding Bur Marigold (Bidens cernua), a plant that usually reaches more than a foot in height.

I also found a large patch of the beautiful Scarlet Smartweed (Persicaria coccinea), each tall flower stalk surmounted by a spike of pretty pink flowers.

A ruckus in the leaves of a tall Sassafras tree (Sassafras albidum) alerted me to the presence of a Pileated Woodpecker high up in the branches, feasting on the blue-black fruits that are held aloft on scarlet pedicels.

Uh oh!  I was so distracted, trying to get a better glimpse of that woodpecker up in the tree that I nearly bumped into this wasps' nest hanging from a Red Maple branch.   Luckily, I halted in time, before I enraged its inhabitants.  I did hang around for a moment, though, because I was curious to see that these wasps were striped black and yellow, and not the black and white of the Bald-faced Hornets I usually associate with these hanging nests. I wonder what species they are.

I DO know the species of this lovely wasp eating pollen and sipping nectar from Boneset blossoms. And I also knew I had nothing to fear from it, for this jet-bodied, white-striped, blue-winged Mason Wasp (Monobia quadridens) is a non-aggressive solitary wasp that has no colony to defend and so has no need to sting you.  While the adult wasp feeds on plant pollen and nectar, it will also sting and paralyze caterpillars to feed to its young, including many caterpillars that are considered garden pests.  So think good thoughts about Mason Wasps, as beneficial as they are beautiful.

Here's another insect that looks quite ferocious with its tiger stripes and blood-red legs, but it's really quite a mild-mannered beetle called a Locust Borer (Megacyllene robiniae).  It does have mandibles that might deliver a bite if you handled it roughly, but Black Locust trees have far more to fear from it than humans do.  Its bright coloring tends to scare off birds that might prey on it, and its colors do go beautifully with its favorite flowers to feed on, the goldenrods.

I saw one more bug, and one I had never seen before and sure didn't know the name of.  Or whether I should keep my distance, which is why this photo is so blurry.  Turns out, I had no reason to fear, since has informed me that this is the Hunchback Bee Fly (Lepidophora lutea).  It has no stinger, and that scary-looking appendage sticking out in front is only the harmless proboscis the bee fly uses to feed on nectar and pollen.

On a site called Eye on Nature, I read that the common name, bee fly, is an apt name because its larvae are parasites on the larvae of burrowing solitary bees and wasps.  Adults are strong fliers that can hover and quickly dart about in all directions.  They use their hovering skills during mating and while feeding on flowers, and females also hover near the ground while searching for the entrance of a bee or wasp nest to host their offspring.  If the bee fly spots what looks like a nest entrance, she'll fling an egg toward it from her hovering position with remarkable accuracy.

Wow!  So many amazing things I find, just walking around the lake!


Woody Meristem said...

The dwarf bulrush is so small and nondescript that it makes you wonder if it's actually as rare as the "Endangered" designation would indicate. Perhaps it's been missed in many surveys. Somewhat like small whorled pogonia that was long considered extremely rare until more intense surveys turned up additional populations.

Woody Meristem said...

I just had to click through three pages of tests to post my comment -- it was a real pain. Hopefully that won't be an on-going situation.

tintin said...

looks good.