Wednesday, June 5, 2019

It's Showtime Now at Wilton Wildlife Preserve!

If you live anywhere within reasonable driving distance from Wilton, NY, you really shouldn't miss the floral extravaganza going on right now at the Wilton Wildlife Preserve and Park.  Acres and acres of beautiful blue Wild Lupines (Lupinus perennis) are in their glory now, and WOW!  What a sight to see!  Come on, let's take a walk through the lupine fields.

The show starts almost immediately as you set out on a sandy trail.  The Wilton Wildlife Preserve manages several sites for the cultivation of Wild Lupine (the only larval food for the federally endangered Karner Blue Butterfly), but the site I am visiting here is called the Gick Farm Parcel, located on Rte. 50 a few miles north of Saratoga Springs.

Every turn of the trail reveals another vista, masses of stately blue-flowered plants spread out across the gently rolling land of this oak/pine savanna.

More lupines.

Still more lupines.

LOTs  more lupines!

Never-ending lupines!

Massive carpets of lupines that seem to roll on forever.

Sometimes you just need to rest your eyes and look at something else.  I loved the spiky verticals of this patch of Tower Mustard (Turritis glabra) marching along the path.  Some folks dismiss this plant as a weed, but it's actually a native wildflower with a fascinating habit of growth, holding its long skinny seed pods close to the stem as it reaches for the sky.

There are several other sand-plain preserves in our region that cultivate Wild Lupine to support populations of the Karner Blue Butterfly, but the best-known of these -- the Albany Pine Bush -- manages the land to suppress the growth of pine forest.  That's not completely the case at Wilton, for here we find an extensive pine woods, dark and cool on a hot spring day, with a forest floor teeming with native shade-loving wildflowers, including the gorgeous native orchid called Pink Lady's Slipper (Cypripedium acaule).  As soon as you step from the bright light of the open meadows and your eyes adjust to the gloom, look what lies at your feet:  More Pink Lady's Slippers than you can take in with one glance.

Here's a duo of Lady's Slippers rising from a carpet of sweet-smelling Canada Mayflower (Maianthemum canadense).

Here are three, all crowded together on the pine-needle-carpeted forest floor.

What a gorgeous cluster of four!  At Wilton Wildlife Preserve and Park, I find more multiple clusters like this than at any other pine-woods preserves I have explored.

Here's what the whole lupine extravaganza is all about: the wee little butterfly called the Karner Blue.  But wait, that butterfly is feeding on a Dewberry bloom, not Wild Lupine!  Yes.  The adult Karner Blue (and this is the brightly colored male, the female being a muted brown) can sip nectar from any flower that produces that sweet fluid.  It's the babies, the larvae, that have to have lupine leaves to eat, or they will not survive.  But I think as my photos here have revealed, that won't be an issue at Wilton Wildlife Preserve and Park.  Go see for yourself!

1 comment:

threecollie said...

Gorgeous! My grandparents used to have a few Ladies Slippers growing in the woods at their camp. I wonder if they are still there.