Monday, June 17, 2019

Here and There on a Day Without Rain

Wow!  A warm sunny day! And it did not RAIN!!!  So off I went to visit some of my favorite plants that should be blooming today.  First stop was the Skidmore woods, where I found the delicate little milkweed called Four-leaved Milkweed (Asclepias quadrifolia).  But I sure didn't find many! Their abundance definitely varies from year to year.  I count myself lucky that I found this one, for when I looked for others in their usual spots, I found not a trace of them.

I did find a number of non-blooming Four-leaved Milkweeds, though.  But there wasn't a bit of a bud on any of them!  I wonder if they rest a year between bloomings.  I really don't know much about this species of milkweed except that it grows in the deep shade of the June woods, unlike most of our other milkweed species that thrive under sunny skies.  Also, I have never found a seed pod on Four-leaved Milkweed, after the flowers have faded.  I wonder if they are as difficult to cultivate as they are elusive in their natural habitat, which is a rich woods like the one at Skidmore College.

Next stop was the new trailhead for the Bog Meadow Brook Nature Trail just off of Meadowbrook Road, a few miles east of Saratoga Springs.  This new section of trail abuts an open marsh and connects with the older parts of the trail a few hundred yards along.

My friend Dan Wall had told me of finding numerous plants of the little green orchid called Loesel's Twayblade (Liparis loeselii) along this new section of trail, but I sure didn't find any here. Perhaps they were hidden too well under burgeoning sedges and ferns.  That Dan is a master at finding orchids, but I had to wait until I reached an old site where I'd found them before.  At least they were in perfect bloom today.  And luckily, this one was lit up by the sun, or I might not have found them after all.  Being small and green sure makes it easy to hide among trailside greenery.

This one was hiding way back in the shade, and I had to push ferns and grasses aside before I could see it.

You don't have to search to see Wild Blue Flag (Iris versicolor), though!  Such a lovely, big, vividly colored flower, it's hard to believe it's a native wildflower and not a cultivated hothouse beauty. This beautiful flower is much at home in this wetland it shares with the Royal Fern and Water Horsetail that also appear in this photo.

Here's another beauty, this one of an edible kind!  Dwarf Raspberry (Rubus pubescens) thrives in the mucky soil along Bog Meadow Trail, and today its ripe fruits were glowing like rubies in the bright sunlight. They tasted as delicious as they were beautiful!

The most abundant shrub along the new trail section is Arrowwood (Viburnum dentatum), and today it was in full bloom, with crowded clusters of tiny 5-petaled flowers. Clouds of various insect pollinators winged away when I moved my camera in close to take this shot. But one little wasp decided the goods were worth the risk of staying.

Other insects were feasting on the 4-petaled flowers of this Panicled Dogwood (Cornus racemosa). This species of dogwood can be reliably identified by the comparative narrowness of its leaves and the pyramidical shape of its flower clusters, not flat across as are those of most of our other native dogwoods.

Here was another beautiful small tree, with vivid red twigs and dangling clusters of greenish-white flowers.  But you'd better admire this one from a distance, for this is Poison Sumac (Toxicodendron vernix).  If you get a rash from Poison Ivy, you'll probably get an even worse one from this tree.  Happily, birds are impervious to its toxins, so they are free to feast on the fruits that ripen in the fall and stay on the tree well into the winter.  And we are free to feast our eyes on its beauty.  From afar!

I didn't find many other flowers blooming along Bog Meadow Trail today, but these seed pods of the Wild Geranium (Geranium maculatum) were just as interesting as any flower.  Cute and amusing, with those long styles tipped with star-like stigmas and tiny furry seed-balls clustered at the base, they look as if they might have been designed by Dr. Seuss.

Here were more fascinating seedpods, these belonging to Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris).  The clustered pods are about to split open to shed the seeds that are crowded within.

I found an old photo in my files that shows what these Marsh Marigold seedpods will look like when they split open:

In the wooded area near the parking lot for this new section of trail, Canada Anemones (Anemone canadensis) thrive in the shade, their snowy-white flowers dazzling against their dark-green foliage.  Just one more floral treat to delight me on this beautiful day!


threecollie said...

Thank you for that last ID. I have been seeing those all over and wondering what they were. It sure is a weird year, both plant and bird-wise. I have never seen so much poison ivy! So far I am immune but I try to be careful with it. Love your posts!

Woody Meristem said...

This spring/early summer have been so cool and wet that plants are doing strange things -- blooming late or not appearing at all.

Loni said...

What do you recommend for IDing? Lot's of books are heavy to carry. I live in St. Lawrence County NY

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Thanks for your comments, threecollie and Woody and Loni. I love to know you companion me on my nature adventures.

Loni, the one field guide that is carried by most of the wildflower seekers I know -- both professional botanists as well as amateur plant nerds like me -- is Newcomb's Wildflower Guide. It covers all of northeastern North America and includes flowering woody shrubs and vines as well as herbaceous flowers. Best of all, it has a key system that helps you carefully parse out each plant, and if you follow the key you will probably be able to turn to that page and find the plant you wondered about. I myself have learned to confidently identify nearly a thousand plants by using this book. The scientific names are out of date, but a quick google search using the old names will give you the new ones very promptly.