Sunday, May 31, 2020

A Busy Wildflower Week

This was one busy week for wildflowers!  After such a cold snap the week before, the weather suddenly turned summer hot -- so hot, that flowers I'd been waiting to see in bloom went ahead and did so and proceeded to fade before I had a chance to catch them at their finest. So that set me on a quest this week to try to see as many as possible while I still had the chance.

Monday, May 25:  Bog Meadow Brook Nature Preserve, Saratoga Springs
When I'd last visited this wooded-wetland trail just a little more than a week before, I had counted nearly 150 Nodding Trilliums (Trillium cernuum) along a stretch of the trail, some already in bloom, but a few still in bud, and many tiny plants not yet mature enough to produce any flowers this year. Wondering if the ones still in bud might be the kind of hybrids I'd discovered last year, I hurried to where I had found the budding specimens.  But no, no hybrids this year.  All displayed the characteristics of the standard species: pure-white sharply reflexed petals, white pistil, and non-sessile anthers. And thanks to the growth of surrounding plants and the leafing out of shrubs, my diligent search could find only 12 specimens on this trip, the others well hidden now among the Sensitive Ferns and Skunk Cabbage thriving beneath the shrubs.

Slightly disappointed -- the hybrids HAD been quite a fascinating find! -- I nevertheless enjoyed my walk along about a mile of this two-mile trail, delighting in many of the beautiful wildflowers that lined the path.  A myriad of the tiny white flowers of Grove Sandwort (Moehringia lateriflora) spangled the trailside greenery like stars in the sky.

Almost as abundant as the tiny sandworts, many Wild Geraniums (Geranium maculatum) added their beautiful color along the trail.

I have heard some folks complain that Field Horsetail (Equisetum arvense) is overly aggressive, and it certainly does crowd the edges of Bog Meadow Trail.  But look how many other native species share this space with the horsetail's spiky stalks. There's that tiny white Grove Sandwort, but I also can find the leaves of Hog Peanut, Wild Strawberry, Wild Clematis, a leafy plant that could be a Meadow Rue, and most evident, the pretty purple flowers of a species of Blue-eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium sp.).

Here's a closer look at those flowers of Blue-eyed Grass.

I love the colorful mix of bright-yellow Common Cinquefoil flowers (Potentilla simplex) with the delicate pale-purple blooms of Dog Violet (Viola labradorica). This violet can be distinguished from other blue violets by the sharply toothed stipules that wrap the leaf joints on the flower stems.

As our two earlier native species of bellworts have faded, the delicate yellow blooms of Perfoliate Bellwort (Uvularia perfoliata) start to dangle beneath leaves that appear to have been pierced by the flower stems. A look at the interior of the flower would reveal the presence of darker granules covering the inside of the petals, a distinguishing feature of this species.

Oh, I was so delighted to find some Glaucous Honeysuckle (Lonicera dioica) mature enough to bloom with its terminal clusters of confetti-colored florets! Too often, this vining native honeysuckle grows too close to the edge of the trail, where overly diligent mowers tend to lop it off each year. I frequently find beginning shoots of it here, but only rarely do I find it in bloom.

Only 10 days ago, I had found many clusters of Bog Buckbean flowers (Menyanthes trifoliata) still in tight bud.  But in just that short time, the buds had opened, faded, and started to set seed, thanks to a couple of truly sweltering days.  Among all of the three-leaved plants that crowded a trailside pool, only one bore a few remaining blooms, so distinctive with all those curling hairs on the tops of their bright-white petals.

But while the Bog Buckbean was fading, hundreds of stems of Water Horsetail (Equisetum fluviatile) were burgeoning in the same pools, adding a look of tropical greenery to this northern swamp.

And here was the crowning treasure of my trip to Bog Meadow Trail, a blossom-laden shrub of Early Azalea (Rhododendron prinophyllum).  This particular shrub grows way off the trail, hidden in the swampy woods, and if by some chance I would miss seeing its branches heavy with vividly rosy blooms, I would definitely detect its intoxicating fragrance on the air as I walked nearby. As I tried to arrange the branches for a better photo, I inadvertently broke off a flowering twig, which I carried home to place in a vase.  It perfumed my entire kitchen within an hour!

Wednesday, May 27: Cole's Woods in downtown Glens Falls
This was another too-sweltering day for this time of year, but a nice breeze and deep shade along the many trails in Cole's Woods made for a very pleasant morning walk there with my friend Sue Pierce. Disappointed to find that the dainty pink florets of Rose Twisted Stalk (a wildflower that abounds here) had already faded, we felt well compensated by the many, many blooming Starflowers (Lysimachia borealis) that were scattered across the forest floor. I find it hard to imagine a lovelier flower.

But the vividly colored Fringed Polygala (Poligaloides paucifolia) certainly equals the Starflower in beauty, with the beauty of each flower magnified when they bloom together.

The thread-fine florets of Red Baneberry (Actaea rubra) are difficult to photograph in the deep shade of the woods, its preferred habitat.  But a stray ray of sunlight lit up this flower cluster so brightly against the deep shade, I hardly had to fight with my camera to get a good-enough shot of it.

Crossing one of the bridges that spans Halfway Brook at the heart of this preserve, I noticed this cluster of Marsh Blue Violets (Viola cucullata) decorating a mossy clump.  Although I could not reach these flowers across the brook, I didn't need to examine them more closely to know what their species was.  No other blue violets bear their blooms so high above the leaves on slender stalks. Of course, the marshy habitat was another clue.

Again and again, we passed clusters of Clintonia leaves (Clintonia borealis) that bore no flowers, and I had begun to fear we were yet to early to find them in bloom.  But then, le voila!   We found whole bunches of them dangling their lily-like yellow-green flowers!  A fine treat to end our fine walk through a beautiful woods, a remarkably intact habitat for many native wildflowers, right in the middle of this busy city.

Thursday, May 30:  Spring Run Swamp, Saratoga Springs
Oof!  Another too-hot day!  I thought about staying home with the A/C on, but then I feared I would miss the flowering of a plant I had seen only in bud up to now. Besides, I had promised a friend I would show her the Swamp Saxifrage (Micranthes pensylvanica) that grows along a wooded stream with a swampy shore.  I had marked a spot on the trail that provided easy access down a bank to a spot where nearly 30 of these native wetland plants were thriving.  And lucky for us, all were in bloom today.

Here's a closer look at these odd little flowers, mostly sex parts and not much petal. 

There were many Water Avens plants (Geum rivale) blooming at the same site.  They may look like they're still in bud, but this is as far open as they will get.  The deep-red bracts almost completely cover the pale-yellow blooms within.

Ho hum, another Jack-in-the-Pulpit!  I'd already seen a hundred of these this week.  But wait, this one looked a little different.  I took a closer look.

Sure enough, a closer look revealed the raised white ridges that distinguish this subspecies, the Swamp Jack-in-the-Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum ssp. stewardsonii).  According to the New York Flora Association Plant Atlas, this is not a rare plant, but I'd guess you probably have to risk getting your feet wet if you hope to find it.

Here in this same swamp is a plant who's species I can't figure out, and neither has our state's chief botanist as yet.  It grows quite tall (up to a meter) on damp land, while patches of it growing in water remain much shorter.  This is what the plant looked like a couple of weeks ago.  On Thursday, it stood hip high and had sprouted flower buds in the upper leaf axils.

And lo!  A couple of those buds had opened to reveal small purple flowers that certainly resemble Veronica flowers, except that the lower petal appears to be split in two.  Strange!  Despite this anomaly, there's little doubt among the botanists I've consulted that this is a species of Veronica, possibly the non-native one called Water Veronica (Veronica anagallis-aquatica).  Or less likely, one of our native Veronicas, V. catenata.  After looking at photos of both species, I think it looks different from either.  Perhaps when it comes into fruit, that will give us another clue.

Saturday, May 30: Wilton Wildlife Preserve and Park, Wilton, NY
My blog posts from a year ago reminded me that the Wild Lupines (Lupinus perennis) should be putting on their spectacular show right now at the Wilton Wildlife Preserve and Park.  This preserve manages vast sections of oak/pine savanna to grow masses of this native Pea-family plant, the only larval food for the federally endangered Karner Blue Butterfly.  The vistas of thousands and thousands of blooming plants are not to be missed, as this photo I took of a meadow last year could attest.

It being a Saturday, I feared the preserve would be mobbed, but I took the chance I'd be able to maintain "social distancing" if I encountered crowds, and I headed out to the Gick Farm Parcel of the preserve.  True, the parking area was crowded, but I didn't see that many people on the trails.  What I DID see was gorgeous scenes like this one in the photo below.

I even saw two of the little blue butterflies this preserve was created to support. They were sipping nectar from blackberry blooms, for the adult butterflies can feed on any flower that offers nectar.  It is only the Karner Blue larvae that must have Lupinus perennis leaves to feed on.

Most visitors to the Lupine extravaganza would probably pass right by this patch of Tower Mustard (Turritis glabra), a native plant that thrives in the same kind of low-nutrient sandy soils that Wild Lupine also requires. I have always been impressed by the sheer verticality of this plant, with stems that shoot straight up from the ground, and even its clasping purplish leaves "reach for the sky" instead of leaning away from the stems.  And if you could see the upward-thrusting masses of seedpods, you would understand how it got its common name.

After sweating out under a sunny sky, I sought the shade of the woods and took a trail that led into a forest.  I was astounded to note how many trees had been toppled or ripped from the ground along this trail. I had heard of two tornados that passed through our area recently, and here was certain evidence that those winds were very destructive.

A happier sight was the carpet of blooming Canada Mayflower that spread across the forest floor, thousands of spikes of small white flowers filling the humid air with sweet fragrance.

And here was Pink Lady's Slipper heaven!  At every turn of the trail I found these gorgeous native orchids (Cypripedium acaule is the scientific name), each one seeming more beautiful than the last. 

And here was a triple treat!  What a great way to top off an already amazing wildflower week!


Anonymous said...

Do you worry about ticks?

The Furry Gnome said...

Wonderful pictures. Such a variety.

threecollie said...

Your photos bring me great joy. Thank you

Woody Meristem said...

Beautiful plants, beautiful photographs.