The Spotted Geraniums (Geranium maculatum) were the first beauties to halt my steps, as I stopped to admire their large lavender blooms.
The next flowers to catch my eye were far smaller than those geraniums, but just the sheer numbers of these tiny little Grove Sandworts (Moehringia lateriflora) made them hard to miss, spangling the trailside like handfuls of stars cast down among the young Sensitive Ferns.
A close look at one of the Sandwort flowers reveals its intricate parts, the base of each stamen tufted with fine hairs.
The trailside swamp was exploding with ferns spearing up from amid the giant Skunk Cabbage leaves. The warm brown color of Cinnamon Fern's spore stalks sure do suggest how this native fern got its common name. Its scientific name is Osmunda cinnamomea.
I know neither the common nor scientific name of the pretty moss tucked into the crotch of this lichen-crusted tree, but that didn't stop me from admiring how pretty it was, especially with a rosy Red Maple seed resting atop its cushiony mound.
I was not expecting to find many Nodding Trillium flowers today, since they'd reached their peak of beauty more than 10 days ago. But here was a pair of them looking as fresh and lovely as ever.
This trillium, however, sure was showing its age, with its petals curling and also faded from the pink they had been 10 days before. But this one --apparently a hybrid of the Nodding Trillium (Trillium cernuum) and the Red Trillium (T. erectum) -- was precisely the flower I had come here to find on this day.
I had heard from a prominent state botanist that there was no official record of hybrids like this from anywhere else in the state, and he had asked me if I could collect a specimen to be vouchered for inclusion in the New York Flora Association's Plant Atlas. So collect it I did. I hope its faded condition, plus the fact that it has four parts instead of the typical three for this genus, don't disqualify it for inclusion. If it does, we will have to come back next spring to seek a more representative specimen. I have found a number of hybrids along this trail, this year as well as other years.
Mission accomplished, I continued along the trail.
When I reached where the trail passes open marsh, I was struck by a small tree sprouting sprays of compound leaves and flower buds. How pretty, I thought. But I sure didn't want to reach up and pull down one of those sprays for the picture-taking. No, I used my zoom lens instead to capture this spreading cluster on the end of a Poison Sumac branch.
Not everyone appreciates Poison Sumac (Toxicodendron vernix), since contact with any part of it can cause an itchy rash in those who susceptible to its toxins. I'm happy to say that I seem to be immune to its ill effects, but I'm even happier to know that this tree is exceedingly valuable to wildlife, offering fruits that persist well into the winter, when hungry birds find other food sources quite scarce.
The next shrub I encountered also bears abundant fruit that birds love to feast on, and sadly, that's the problem. This is the terribly invasive shrub called Autumn Olive (Elaeagnus umbellata), introduced to North America, I'm sure, because of its silvery foliage and extremely fragrant flowers. And although gardeners may plead that they can control its spread on their own properties, they sure can't control where birds poop out its seeds along untended roadways and streambanks ,where it thrives to the detriment of native shrubs. (I have to admit, though, that the fragrance of its flowers is heavenly!)
But for fragrant flowers, no other shrub can compete with our native Early Azalea (Rhododendron prinophyllum). I wasn't sure I would find it, though, since the shrub I remembered from previous years grows far back in the woods, some distance from the trail. But its fragrance alerted me to its proximity, even before I saw its gorgeous rosy blooms, radiant amid the otherwise green understory.
It's hard to imagine a shrub with lovelier or more fragrant blooms, whether cultivated or wild, as this one is. One of Mother Nature's sweetest gifts to us!
More demure, although equally lovely in their quiet way, were the dangling yellow flowers of Perfoliate Bellwort (Uvularia perfoliata) that decorated the path through a thickly wooded part of the trail.
Somewhat showier yellow flowers grew atop the wide green basal leaves of Clintonia (Clintonia borealis). This plant is also known as Blue-bead Lily, because of the radiantly blue berries that eventually replace the lily-like flowers.
Yikes! Look at the Deer Ticks I found when I bent to photograph the Clintonia flowers. Perched with outstretched legs, they were posed to hitch a ride on any passerby. I was glad I was wearing my tick-repellant pants and socks.
The last time I visited these Star-flowered Solomon's Seals (Maianthemum stellatum), their flower buds were barely opening, and now they were starting to fade. Alas! But a few of the waxy white flowers still retained their dainty beauty.
Could there be any flower more exquisite than the aptly named Star Flower (Lysimachia borealis)? Every part -- the whorled slender leaves, the thread-fine flower stalks, the pristine white flowers with their sprinkling of golden anthers -- expresses a floral perfection. I delighted to find them thriving along the wooded stretch of the trail.
There's a stretch of Bog Meadow Trail where the watery swamp moves close to the path, and here in the standing water rise hundreds of slender stalks of Water Horsetail (Equisetum fluviatile) with their whorls of spiky branches.
Some of the Water Horsetail stalks bore cone-like strobili, the spore-producing organs of this ancient plant. I think the strobili are quite beautiful, like a jeweled Easter egg.
Surveying these dark pools of standing water, I could see many three-leaved plants of Bog Buckbean (Menyanthes trifoliata). But search though I did, I could not find a single flower stalk among the many plants. How disappointing! The clusters of star-shaped white flowers with remarkably hairy centers are really something to see. They bloomed profusely last year. I'm hoping they will again while I'm still able to walk this trail.
There's another flower I hope to find once more along Bog Meadow Trail, and that is the Canada Lily (Lilium canadense). For years, I came to this trail every mid-July to witness the profusion of gorgeous orange and yellow and red lilies that thrived in the damp soil here. But two years ago, an infestation of Scarlet Lily Beetle larvae destroyed them all, consuming leaves and flower buds before they even bloomed. Last year I found just a few feeble specimens, dangling only one lily instead of the carousel of six to ten blooms I'd found in past years. I truly despaired that we'd ever see them again at this site. But this year I found many young Canada Lily plants pushing up and starting to climb. My fingers are crossed that the beetles won't return to destroy these too.
Thankfully, even if the lilies never return to their former glory, many other floral treasures still remain along this remarkable trail.