Thursday, June 11, 2020
Out on the Hudson, At Last!
Oh my gosh, here it was, the second week of June, and I still hadn't been on the Hudson this year in my canoe! Then this photo above showed up in my Facebook Memories and spurred me into action: Haul out that canoe, get to the river, and paddle out to that island, FAST! Those gorgeous Early Azaleas (Rhododendron prinophyllum) won't stay in bloom forever!
Well, I was sure right about that! When I reached the island on Tuesday afternoon there was nothing left of those enormously fragrant pink blooms than some long hot-pink pistils and shriveled petals. Not even a whiff of their perfume remained. I better get out here earlier next year, to make sure I find this lovely native shrub in perfect bloom.
Oh well. It was still a lovely day to be on this beautiful river dotted with little islands and bordered by forested mountains rising from the shore. I decided to just paddle around and enjoy the day.
I hadn't paddled more than a few dozen yards when this abundant patch of native Blue Flags (Iris versicolor) came into view. Now, these are flowers I see quite often, but rarely had I seen them set off to such spectacular advantage before: massed closely together, their graceful purple blossoms catching the light, while the deep, dark shade of the forest behind cast the flowers in perfect profile.
Paddling further along the wooded banks, I found many shrubs of our native Bush Honeysuckle (Diervilla lonicera) bearing their small yellow flowers with furry interiors.
Beaching my boat on the shore of another island, I stepped out to push through Silky Dogwood and Arrowwood Viburnum shrubs to see what might be blooming amid the tall grasses. A beautiful mix of Small Sundrops, Common Cinquefoil, Dewberry, and Bluets covered the ground, surmounted by leafy stalks that later this month will produce pink tufts of Meadowsweet.
In some spots, groups of Small Sundrops (Oenothera perennis) crowded the grass all by themselves.
Low shrubs of both blueberries and huckleberries were abundant on all of the islands, but only the Black Huckleberry shrubs (Gaylussacia baccata) were still bearing blooms, remarkable for their rosy-red color.
And here was the find of the day: a good-sized patch of Northern Tubercled Orchids (Platanthera flava var. herbiola), growing right where I'd first found them back in 2016. For the past two years I had not been able to find them again at this site, due to either rising or falling water levels, so I was quite delighted to see that they hadn't yet given up the ghost entirely, but were thriving here once again. They were not yet in bloom, but even in tight bud they were quite recognizable.
My delight in so many other floral finds overcoming my disappointment about the azaleas, I headed home quite pleased by my first paddle of the year on the Hudson. And then I topped off this happy outing by stopping to explore a powerline clearcut that runs near Mud Pond. I expected I might find our native American Climbing Bittersweet (Celastrus scandens) in bloom, and my expectations were rewarded. This is our native bittersweet, which is becoming ever more rare as the introduced and invasive Oriental Bittersweet monopolizes its natural habitat. But I'm happy to report that I found many more plants bearing flower clusters than I ever had before.
Not far away I found a plant that is officially classified as a Threatened species (S2) in New York. It's called Green Rock Cress (Borodinia missouriensis), and despite its status as a rare plant, it thrives in great numbers along this sandy clearcut and in other parts of Moreau Lake State Park. Its long arching siliques are the most arresting feature of this Mustard-family plant, and I was surprised to find it going to seed already. Without those siliques, I never would have noticed it otherwise, since its tiny white flowers are quite nondescript.
Following this same powerline across Spier Falls Road, I hurried to see if a patch of Green-flowered Pyrola (Pyrola chlorantha) might be blooming now. Although most of its flowers were still in tight bud, I did find a few with open flowers. This species' small round leaves help to distinguish it from the whiter-flowered, more commonly found Shinleaf Pyrola.
One last flower find awaited me just as I approached my car to drive home. Its large, pure-white flower made this wild native morning glory hard to miss among the shed pine needles near the road. Called Upright Bindweed (Calystegia spithamaea), it can be distinguished from the similar (and also native) Hedge Bindweed by its non-lobed leaves, as well as by its erect, non-vining stem. Although the New York Flora Association ranks this plant as Demonstrably Secure and a common plant throughout the state, this is only the second time I have ever encountered it. A nice treat to top off an already wonderful day!