Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Coralroots Here, Coralroots There; Some Ho-hum, Some Really Rare!

Whew!  I had worried that the really rare orchid I wrote about a few posts back -- the Pringle's Autumn Coralroot -- might have been eliminated from its home at Moreau Lake State Park. And oh, wouldn't that have been a shame!  This is an orchid so rare it has been ranked as extirpated from New York.   Since the site where I first took the photos of them had been rendered inhospitable by heaps of leaves piled atop them, I wondered if I would ever see them again.  But thanks to my friends Dan Wall and Sue Pierce and their discerning eyes, more specimens of Pringle's Autumn Coralroot (Corallorhiza odontorhiza var. pringlei) were found at the park this week, and at sites quite safely distant from where they had met their doom before.  Oh happy day!

Of course, if you saw these tiny orchids in person, you would understand why the groundskeepers wouldn't have known they were smothering one of the state's rarest orchids.  Autumn Coralroots are not exactly showy flowers, even in full bloom.   In fact, they are so cryptically colored and invisibly small,  it's really hard to discern them among the forest-floor leaf litter, even when you know exactly where to look.  And it was even harder to make my camera focus on those features that distinguish the Pringle's variety of Autumn Coralroot from the much more common variety, Corallorhiza odontorhiza var. odontorhiza.

I had to hold a leaf behind this Pringle's Autumn Coralroot stem in order for my camera to stop focusing on the forest floor behind it and home in instead on the ruffly, purple polka-dotted petals that curled from the bottom of each bloom.  This specimen is from a population of more than a dozen that Dan had located earlier this week.

Following Dan's directions, my friend Sue and I visited the group of coralroots Dan had discovered,  where I took the photo above.  Then, with a search image fixed in our heads, we proceeded to a nearby site where we had found coralroots thriving in years past.  Could the ones we found there also be Pringle's? I do believe it is possible, since some of the florets of the plants at this site were open, displaying not only the dotted white lower petal, but also the pollen bundle within. A distinguishing feature of the Pringle's Autumn Coralroot is that the flowers are open, requiring a visit from pollinating insects to reproduce.  The flowers of the common variety of Autumn Coralroot are closed and self-pollinating, and usually do not display a lower petal.  When a rare-plant monitor from the state arrives later this week to assess these populations, I hope we will get a confirmation about which variety these are. Again, there were more than a dozen specimens at this site.

Sue and I have been finding Autumn Coralroots at this park for many years, first discovering them along a trail called the Red Oak Ridge, which heads up into the mountains that rise above Moreau Lake.  We decided to venture up that trail once again, to visit the more mountainous sites where we first laid eyes on them.  If we found them in their familiar spots, would we be able to ascertain which variety they were?

We did indeed find Autumn Coralroots along this trail, and many of them right where we had last seen them.  This quintet of spindly plants was growing out of the damp soil next to a trickling stream bed, and all of the other ones we found along this trail also appeared in soil that was damper than the surrounding forest.  The Pringle's Autumn Coralroots we had seen today all grew in the drier, sandier soil down closer to the lake.

Not a single specimen of the Autumn Coralroots we found up here on the mountain displayed any lower petals, and all displayed the closed florets that are typical of the standard variety, Corallorhiza odontorhiza var. odontorhiza.  I do believe it is safe to say that both varieties thrive at Moreau Lake State Park, although in somewhat different habitats.

Our purposeful search now accomplished, Sue and I enjoyed the rest of our walk along this forested mountain trail, especially the abundant mosses that thrived atop the boulders along the way.  Here was an ample mound of the appropriately named Delicate Fern Moss (Thuidium delicatulum).

I believe this very leafy, almost translucent moss is one of the Mnium species, possibly Mnium punctatum, which looked like a dense cluster of tiny green flowers.

And this moss was . . . wait a minute!  This is an abundant patch of Porella, a liverwort, not a moss! A close look revealed the overlapping leaves that are typical of liverworts, but it sure had a mossy look about it, didn't it?

Most of the rock that forms the mountains that run through the park is granitic, and thereby somewhat acidic.  But we found evidence along this trail that there must be some marble outcroppings here, because of the presence of many plants that prefer a basic soil.  This trembling patch of Maidenhair Fern was one example.

Ebony Spleewort was one more example, being a fern that often prefers a lime-rich soil.

The same can be said for Plantain-leaved Sedge, whose crinkly leaves have earned it another common name, Seersucker Sedge.

Spikenard, too, is usually found where lime enriches the soil, and we found a few plants along the trail, the berries still quite green.

We found some beautiful fungi today as well, including this finely striped translucent one that is likely one of the Ink Cap group.  One I have seen that most closely resembles this one is called the Hare's Foot Fungus (Coprinopsis lagopus), which is as furry as its common name suggests when young, but with caps that invert as it ages to becoming this smooth and delicate cup before it collapses.

This yellow fungus resembled tiny tuning forks protruding from the earth.  The closest match I could find in my mushroom guides was Calocera viscosa. But it could be something else.  Yellow Tuning Forks would be a good common name.

Yellow Spindle Coral (Clavulinopsis fusiformis) was another colorful fungus we found along the trail.

This is one of the most vividly colored fungi of all, the glossy, deep-orange Mycenia leaiana, which always grows in dense clusters on rotting logs.

This wee little fungus that always grows in crowded masses on rotting wood has a very long name for such a tiny mushroom:  Xeromphalina campanella. Roughly translated, that means "bell-shaped little belly-buttons."

One of the common names of Xeromphalina campanella is Fuzzy Foot, ostensibly because of the fuzz that grows at the base of the stem.   Every time I come upon a patch of this common mushroom I look for that fuzz, but in vain.  Until today, that is.  I finally got a good gander at the fuzzy little patches at the base of the stem.  Not every stem, but at least a few of them.

So.  We sure had a wonderful walk, Sue and I, through a beautiful park surrounded by many wondrous things.  Some of the most wondrous (apart from the really rare orchids, of course) were the numerous Red Efts that shared our trail up the mountain, little wriggly newts that avoid being stepped on by advertising their presence by their vivid color. Could any little critter be any cuter?


The Furry Gnome said...

Nice botanical finds!

Woody Meristem said...

What a botanical treasure trove you have there.