Monday, April 27, 2020

A Quiet Woods, At Last! And a Lovely One, Too.

Another cold rainy day today!  Yesterday, the same.  On Saturday, we had the only one warm sunny day this past week, and I knew I wouldn't be the only one wanting to head for the woods.  My hope was that maybe the Denton Preserve over in Washington County might not be mobbed, and I held on tight to that hope as I witnessed over-crowded parking areas at every park I passed.  But my hope held out.  There was only one car at the Denton trailhead, and before I could even start to feel crowded by THAT, my grumpiness turned to delight when I discovered that the car's solo occupant was my best nature buddy Sue Pierce!  Yay!  We've kept apart during this corona pandemic, but here we were, together at last, happy to explore together one of our favorite woods, masks in place and keeping a careful distance from one another.

One of the features that makes this shale-underlaid woods so special is the abundance of one of spring's prettiest wildflowers, appropriately named Spring Beauty (Claytonia caroliniana).  And I'm not exaggerating when I say "abundance."  There's a several-acred site well off in the heart of this woods that is virtually carpeted with their pink-striped white blooms.  It was hard to find a place to stoop to take a photo without trampling on them  So pretty!

Here's another plant we come to this preserve to find, a graminoid called Rough-leaved Rice Grass (Oryzopsis asperifolia).  The New York Flora Association's Plant Atlas shows this grass as present in almost every county in the state, but this woods is the only place I have ever found it.  I love the squiggly little white fuzzy flowers that protrude from each spikelet.

Lots of bright-yellow Trout Lilies were blooming throughout the woods,  dangling deep-red anthers.

I love this little tableau of the forest floor: pretty purple Round-leaved Hepatica blooms, a baby White Pine seedling, and the mottled leaves of Trout Lily plants.

We almost overlooked a big patch of Mayapple sprouts, just barely out of the ground.  See how the flower bud protrudes from the tightly wrapped baby leaves.  As the plant matures, the leaves will grow to enormous size, surmounting the single white flower, which will bloom beneath the shade of those large flat leaves.

As we maneuvered our way through a muddy swale, I noticed these small lacquer-red fern fiddleheads.  Unless someone can tell me otherwise, I'm assuming these are the unfurling fronds of Sensitive Fern, since they were surrounded by numerous spore stalks that I recognized as belong to that species.

Another fun find of the day was this greenish jelly glob of what we thought might be salamander eggs.  We fished them out of the vernal pool where we'd found them submerged, in order to see them more clearly, promptly replacing them once we'd each has a chance to photograph them.

After Sue and I said good-bye, I decided to drive over to Spier Falls Road along the Hudson River at Moreau.  The day was so warm, I wondered if I might find the Early Saxifrage blooming among the boulders that line the road.  Not quite, as I soon discovered.  But they still looked quite pretty, the tightly clustered flower buds nestled among shiny-green basal leaves that look as if they had been cut out with pinking shears. The saxifrage clumps share the ledges of these rugged spring-watered boulders with masses of Fountain Moss.

Oh look, here's one little cluster of saxifrage buds that has opened a few of its flowers!  If the weather would only turn just a bit warmer, these boulders will soon explode with blooms in a veritable rock garden of spectacular beauty.


The Furry Gnome said...

Those Spring Beauties must be quite the sight!

suep said...

That was almost a record for us not walking together, so it was indeed a delightful ramble! Spring is all the sweeter for these little flowers that are here one day, gone the next - glad we got to see them.