Wednesday, August 21, 2019

The Bulrush is Back! (And sadly, so too is the algae.)

It sure was quiet up at Moreau Lake State Park today.  Yes, a thunderstorm threatened, so that would keep many beachgoers and picnickers away. But ALL of them?  And the calm before the storm was just that: remarkably calm.  But I never saw even a dog-walker along the trails or out on the beach  today, and I ALWAYS see dog-walkers at Moreau Lake State Park.  Ah, but then I saw the sign:  "BEACH CLOSED: HARMFUL ALGAL BLOOM.  No swimming or wading.  Keep people and pets away from blooms."

No wonder I had the place all to myself! Except for a few ducks, that is.  (Does an algal bloom hurt ducks?)

I had come to Moreau today to meet with park staff about the rare Pringle's Autumn Coralroot that was newly identified as growing in the park (see my previous post).  A large population of them had been buried under heaps of leaves and hadn't bloomed for several years.  Since these orchids are perennial, as well as parasitic on soil fungi for their nutrients and not so dependent on sunlight for their survival, our hope is that the orchids might reassert themselves, once the dense heaps have been removed.  So that's the plan! Let's hope it works.  And even if it does, we won't know until mid September. Or maybe not for several years.

In the meantime, a big patch of Earth Star fungi had sprouted atop the leaves that buried the orchids. At first, I though that someone had dropped a bunch of thumbprint cookies on the forest floor. But a closer look revealed these remarkable mushrooms.

Close by, I found a leafy stand of Solomon's Seal (Polygonatum sp.), each plant dangling pairs of blue-black frosted fruits.  I don't know how to tell the difference between P. biflorum and P, pubescens without examining the under-leaf veins with a magnifier, but at least I was sure this was one of those two species.

A nearby Round-leaved Dogwood (Cornus rugosa) had already dropped its white berries, but the remarkably red pedicels of its fruit clusters still were tipped with red berry-like orbs.

Dense patches of Fringed Loosestrife (Lysimachia ciliata) were clustered under the shrubbery, a few still bearing their dangling-down yellow flowers. But most had produced these seed pods that look like tiny brass balls centered in green stars. I think these seed pods rival their flowers for beauty.

Along the path that leads between the lake and its back bay, a number of Maple-leaved Viburnum shrubs (Viburnum acerifolium) were sporting clusters of yellowish fruits, which later into the fall will turn a deep blue black and persist well into the winter.

A few of the Buttonbush shrubs (Cephalanthus occidentalis) were still bearing their spiky orbs of tiny white florets.

I finally reached the only little stretch of sandy shore that remains this summer on the lake (not counting the swimming beach).  For several years, the water had fallen so low in the lake, we worried that it would disappear. But then came a rainy autumn, winter, spring, and summer.  And since Moreau is a "kettle lake" with no significant outlet, all the rain and snowmelt that entered the lake this past year has simply stayed here.  I have missed being able to walk around the lake on a sandy shore, so finding even this short stretch of sand was a treat.

And here was another treat -- and quite a surprise!  An ample patch of the very rare little flatsedge called Small-flowered Dwarf Bulrush (Cyperus subsquarrosus)! This is an Endangered species we had only just discovered at Moreau Lake last September.  But when we found thousands of these tiny little plants last year, they had been growing close to the edge of the water, which at that time was probably 15 feet, at least, from where the water's edge was this year.  I had assumed that all of this flatsedge was under water now, with the lake having risen so high.  But here was a whole bunch of it, higher up on the sand.

At first, I questioned my judgment about these tiny plants being our little rare flatsedge, but a closer look revealed the wee little nubbins of spikelets that distinguish this species, along with its long skinny leaves that appear to swirl around the center.

Here's a closer look at those tiny fruits, much rounder and chubbier than are the fruits of other flatsedge species.

And here's a photo of Small-flowered Dwarf Bulrush I took last fall, when we first discovered it here on the shore of Moreau Lake.  It's fruits were riper then, browner and more open.  But comparing this photo with ones I took today convinces me that the little flatsedges I found today are the same as the ones we found last fall.

Hurray! The Dwarf Bulrush is back!

UPDATE:  And last I heard, the beach is once-more algae-free and open for swimming again.  Hurray!


wash wild said...

We paddled at Moreau on Tuesday night and noted how quiet it was for a beautiful summer evening. One guy had caught some bluegills which he kept and planned to eat. I was hoping to swim but the signs dissuaded me. A week earlier I had seen large amorphous masses underwater in the small bay opposite the beach. Not sure if that was the cyanobacteria (blue-green algae). On Lake Champlain Microcystis and other genera are the problem. Several years ago a bloom turned Hedges Lake green overnight. Hopefully someone will do some research at Moreau to understand what we're dealing with. We did a lazy circuit of the pond and noted that we were floating over places where we usually walk!

Lynn's mom said...

As always, you find such wonders! Thanks for your good eyes and steady camera! Jane

Woody Meristem said...

Congratulations on your botanical finds at the park -- well done.