Sunday, September 15, 2019

A Week's Worth of Fascinating Flower Finds

I had a very busy wildflower week, last week.  So busy, I never had time to go through the hundreds of photos I took, or to sit down and compose any blogs about some of the places I visited.  Just to catch up, I'm posting here only a few highlights of the many interesting and beautiful flowers I came across in my woodsy and watery wanderings.

On Saturday, September 9, I paddled with friends on the Hudson River at South Glens Falls, a remarkable stretch of the river that includes both shallow backwater ponds and steep shale cliffs that are watered by mineral springs.  Floating along on the quiet current of this catchment between two dams was this Small Floating Bladderwort (Utricularia radiata), classified as a Threatened (S2) species in New York, but often abundant in this particular section of the Hudson.

On our way upstream toward the Feeder Dam, we found the first clusters of Grass of Parnassus (Parnassia glauca) growing along the riverbank. We eventually found hundreds more of these lovely flowers growing directly out of steep shale cliffs that rise dramatically from the water's edge.

 Another beautiful flower that grows on these cliffs is the radiantly blue Kalm's Lobelia (Lobelia kalmii). This flower is almost never found except in lime-rich areas that are constantly wet, conditions that are exactly met on this spring-watered shale.

There were many plants of Closed Gentian (Gentiana clausa) hiding under the riverside shrubs in this section of the Hudson. But any flower this strikingly blue cannot stay hidden for long!

The lovely pink-tinged White Turtlehead (Chelone glabra) is another late-summer wildflower that makes its home along this stretch of the river.

On Wednesday, September 11, I visited the Burl Trail that follows the Kayaderosseras Creek near Ballston Spa, and I did post a blog about the changing flora along that trail. On that blog post, I mentioned the surprise appearance of Tall Ironweed (Vernonia gigantea) at that site, surprising not only because it never grew there until two years ago, but also because Tall Ironweed is classified as  an Endangered species (S1) in New York. With this photo, I wanted to post a closer photo of the flower's involucre, showing that the points of the bracts do not end in long hairs.  We do have a second species of native ironweed in the state, the New York Ironweed (V. novaeboracensis), which does display long hairs on the bracts.  That species is much more common in the state, although it has never appeared along the Burl Trail near Ballston Spa.

On Thursday, September 12, I joined my friends in our Thursday Naturalist group to visit the Woodlawn Preserve in Schenectady, a pine-barrens habitat that supports a marvelous variety of native plants that thrive in that sandy, low-nutrient habitat. Among the most interesting of these plants that we find there and no other place we visit is the Tall Boneset (Eupatorium altissimum). This species can be distinguished from our much more common Common Boneset (E. perfoliatum) by the presence of much narrower leaves that do not cross the stem.  This species has been vouchered from very few counties in the state, and the New York Flora Association has ranked its native origin as Unknown.

I always find it surprising to find orchids growing in such sandy soil as that of the Woodlawn Preserve, but that seems to be exactly the habitat preferred by Nodding Lady's Tresses (Spiranthes cernua),  which we found on our Thursday visit.  I am aware that, recently, this species has been divided into a complex of varieties (or species?), but I still call this flower by the name I learned it by. As an amateur wildflower enthusiast and not a professional botanist, I don't have to learn these new names unless I want to, and Nodding Lady's Tresses will serve me just fine for now.

Some day I hope to find Seedbox (Ludwigia alternifolia) when it is flowering, for I have never seen its four-parted yellow flower that is similar to other blooms in its Evening Primrose Family. But then, its red leaves and squared-off seed pods found at this time of year are far more distinctive than its flower surely is. It grows in an open, somewhat marshy area of the Woodlawn Preserve, and I find it odd that no one has yet vouchered it as existing in Schenectady County, although it is not rated as a rare plant in the state.

On Friday, September 13, I joined my friend Sue Pierce along the Warren County Bikeway in Queensbury, up in Warren County.  Sue took me to a damp ditch next to where the bikeway runs close to an open field. And here in this ditch, ringed by commercial buildings and near to where heavy traffic goes zooming by, dozens of Fringed Gentians (Gentianopsis crinita) had opened their glorious blooms. One of the amazing things about this ample population of Fringed Gentians is that it is most likely a spontaneously native population, not seeded nor cultivated by human intention.  The only other sites where I have seen this spectacular native wildflower are places where they have been planted and managed by humans.  I wonder how many sites like this still exist? Or how long this one will? What a treasure to behold!

And here was a real oddball (and literally so!), which I found in that same field where the Fringed Gentians thrive.  Masses of Tall Goldenrod  (Solidago altissima) share that field, and I am aware of two galls that are frequently found on that species of goldenrod, a ball-shaped gall on the stem, and a green leafy one that grows on the tip.  But I have never seen a solid, globe-shaped mass like this one,  which was sprouting yellow blooms from its ball of miniaturized leaves.  The growth seemed to have stunted the goldenrod's height, too, since this plant was only about 18 inches high, unlike the other goldenrod stems that waved in the breeze and stood almost shoulder high.  An interesting find, for sure!  But a puzzling one, as well.


The Furry Gnome said...

What a group of amazing floers!

Wash Wild said...

I always head for those shale cliffs when canoeing the Sand Bar section of the Hudson. Have you noticed the lighter gray bands of rock layered in with the shale? I interpret this outcrop to be a transition between the underlying Glens Falls Limestone (the formation you see as you cross the bridge between South Glens Falls and Glens Falls) and the overlying Snake Hill Shale which is the bedrock of much of eastern Saratoga County. I'm guessing these limestone bands are what provides the calcium that nourishes some of the plants you find here. Seepage and high water scouring being other factors affecting this interesting site.

threecollie said...

Love these posts! So much to learn and lovely photos too.

Woody Meristem said...

You certainly have an abundance of floral treats, lucky you!