Monday, May 18, 2020

Flower-hunting at Lake Bonita

Here are some scenes from a walk around the mountain-top Lake Bonita last week with my pal Sue Pierce. We were searching for the beautiful Painted Trillium in the rocky hemlock woods on the lake's north-facing shore, and we were not disappointed. We continued our walk around the lake, enjoying a picnic at the lake's east end, then completing our circuit around the lake along the sun-warmed south-facing shore, where we found some interesting waterside plants.

Lake Bonita, a crystal-clear lake atop Mount McGregor, is a wonderful recent addition to Moreau Lake State Park in Saratoga County, NY. Long off-limits to the public when it was part of a prison's property, it is now one of the most popular destinations in the park.

Sue and I started our circuit of the lake on the rocky, hemlock-shaded, north-facing shore of the lake. This is the kind of habitat the beautiful Painted Trillium prefers

True to our expectations, we found a number of Painted Trilliums (Trillium undulatum) growing under the hemlocks.

Very few wildflowers grow in a hemlock woods, but the dainty Goldthread (Coptis trifolia) is one of the few that do. This native wildflower is full of surprises, since what look like white "petals" are really the sepals, while those tiny, shiny "lemon lollipops" are the true petals. The curling spindle-shaped pistils are also distinctive. Another surprise lies underground: the bright-yellow thread-like roots that suggested this flower's vernacular name.

While some hemlocks do grow on the sunnier south-facing shore of Lake Bonita, White Pines and Red Maples also thrive here on this warmer shore. And so do the lovely white-flowered Shadblow trees that lean over the water.

Lake Bonita's shore is thick with flowering shrubs.The evergreen Leatherleaf (Chamaedaphne calyculata) produces small bell-shaped white flowers in spring.

Another shrub that abounds on Lake Bonita's shores is the fragrant-leaved Sweet Gale (Myrica gale), which bears male and female flowers on separate shrubs. These spiky red tufts of pistils are the female flowers.

We found a large patch of these tiny white violets growing amid a sphagnum-carpeted wet area. With their wide, rather blunt-tipped leaves and their preference for damp soil, I'm guessing they are the Northern White Violet (Viola pallens). But violet taxonomy is currently in flux, so who knows?

Since my long-ago injured knee was beginning to ache, we chose to ascend a bank to a level service road that led back to our cars, rather than completing the lakeside trail that would have required somewhat more athletic scrambling and multiple ups and downs. As the sunlight filtered down through the still-translucent leaves of the surrounding forest, I couldn't stop exclaiming aloud how blessed we were to have such beautiful and accessible woods and waterways to wander.

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