Sunday, April 11, 2021

Whoa! Spring Races Forward!

Hold on there, heat! It was over 80 degrees, yesterday! I can't keep up with all the wildflowers a whole string of over-warm days have pushed into blooming this past week.  Here's a brief report, just for the record.

Tuesday, April 6: Lake Bonita at Moreau Lake State Park

Last Tuesday, I joined my friends Sue and Nadine to continue an inspection of the Eastern Hemlock trees (Tsuga canadensis) that constitute much of the forest along the shore of this pretty little lake atop Mt. McGregor in the Palmertown Mountains.  Both Sue and Nadine have been trained in how to identify Hemlock Woolly Adelgids, the white woolly insects that pose a truly dire threat to our northern forests, and I came along to assist.  I am very happy to report that we found not a single sign of these insects or their damage on any of the representative sample of trees we inspected.  We did find this pretty little object dangling from a hemlock twig, however.  Some insect-expert friends have suggested it could be the pupal case of one of the Geometridae moths.

We found no blooming wildflowers in the parts of the lakeshore deeply shaded by hemlocks, but when we reached a sunlit stretch along the south-facing northern shore, we were delighted to find some snowy-white blooms of Trailing Arbutus (Epigaea repens) newly emerged from their buds.

We also found some animal life along the way, including a number of Red-backed Salamanders hiding out under fallen logs that littered the forest floor. I replaced this one to its hiding spot after momentarily placing it on some dry oak leaves, the better to photograph it.

The Spotted Newts certainly weren't hiding!  At least, not successfully.  There were such astounding numbers of them basking in shallow water close to the sun-warmed shore, that even when they quickly wriggled into the leafy muck on the lake bottom, their thrashing roiled the water so, we easily detected them.  The one in this photo was quite the exception, floating quietly along, unmoving, as if mesmerized by the warmth of the sun's rays and seemingly unconcerned about the camera lenses pointed in its direction.

Thursday, April 8, North Woods at Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs

The hepatica explosion is upon us now, for sure! And the limestone underlaid woods at Skidmore College provides habitat for both the lime-loving Sharp-lobed Hepatica (Hepatica acutiloba) pictured above, and the more habitat-tolerant Round-lobed Hepatica (H. americana), pictured below. I found abundant numbers of specimens in nearly all the pretty colors this early-blooming native wildflower comes in, from sparkling white through pale lavenders and pinks to deep purple.

I found no other herbaceous flowers this day, but the bare twigs of Northern Spicebush shrubs (Lindera benzoin) were brightened by tufts of yellow flowers bursting into bloom.

All the Leatherwood shrubs (Dirca palustris) were now festooned with dangling clusters of bright-yellow trumpet-shaped flowers. Last week, I had to search for a shrub that might have opened one or two buds, but today all I had to do was glance around to witness their floral abundance.

It will be a few more warm days before we begin to see the flowers of the hundreds of Yellow Trout Lilies (Erythronium americanum) that thrive in the Skidmore woods, but I could see many of their brown-mottled green leaves poking up from the leaf litter -- including the one pictured here, within the uncoiling length of an Eastern Garter Snake.

Friday, April 9, Denton Wildlife Sanctuary, Washington County

Another warm sunny day, and I joined my friend Sue Pierce for a shirt-sleeves-only walk through the Denton Wildlife Sanctuary, a Nature Conservancy preserve that lies along Route 4 between Schuylerville and Fort Edward. Deep gullies remain of what once was a site for shale mining, with the shale now overgrown with a forest of oaks and maples and conifers.  Sue and I know this preserve as THE place to visit each spring to witness uncountable numbers of Spring Beauties carpeting a portion of the forest, and our hopes were high we might find them here this day.

Well, we did find a few.  But only a few of the pretty pink-striped, pink-anthered Carolina Spring Beauties (Claytonia caroliniana) poked up from amid the dry leaves.  It will take a few days yet before their floral explosion occurs. At least we didn't miss it entirely.

As a kind of compensation, we found a Round-lobed Hepatica (H. americana) that displayed a remarkably vivid hue of purple.  Most other hepaticas we found were either white or very pale in color.

Lots of Red Maple trees (Acer rubrum) were blooming in this woods this day, and most of the trees held vividly red clusters of pistillate flowers, so striking against the deep blue of the sky. But here was a tree with clusters of yellow flowers, all of them the staminate flowers of Red Maple.

As we neared the end of what seemed like a very long up-and-down trail, we came upon a deep-shaded moss-carpeted swale that held pools of very shallow water. Carpeting the surface of that water were the small round leaves of the aptly named Water Carpet.  This native wetland plant is also called Golden Saxifrage (Chrysosplenium americanum), and today it was actually in bloom! You have to look very close, however, to see the tiny but bright-red anthers that constitute all the flower you will get from this interesting shady-wetland species.

Sharing that shady swale was this lovely clump of Tree Moss (Climacium americanum) sprouting from a patch of smaller moss called Atrichum undulatum. In the lower left quadrant of this photo, you can see some examples of how Atrichum moss shrivels up when cold or dry. It will open again when wetted or warmed.

I don't have a photo of what we saw later, while picnicking at a small park along the Champlain Canal near Fort Miller.  But I sure wish I did!   While following the antics of a pair of iridescently plumaged Tree Swallows guarding a nest box,  Sue looked skyward and chanced to see a pair of Bald Eagles directly overhead, swooping and swirling as if in a dance. It was quite a show, it lasted quite a while, and we were there to see it!  Lucky us!

Saturday, April 10, Shenantaha Creek Park, Ballston Spa

My thermometer in Saratoga read over 80 degrees when I left my house to drive about 10 miles south to Shenantaha Creek Park, so I was pretty certain I would find Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) blooming there, where I've always found them. And I sure did!

But I certainly wasn't expecting to find Dutchman's Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria) blooming yet, as I made my way along the bike path that runs through this park.  All of my previous photos of this native spring wildflower were taken toward the end of April. But seeing is believing!

When I saw the still-rolled-inward leaves of Wild Ginger in the verge along the bike path, I never dreamed these leaves would already be sheltering the fully-opened brownish flowers.  But I did take a peek, and this is what I found!

I also spied some Early Meadow Rue plants (Thalictrum dioicum) nearby and assumed they were still in bud, since I didn't see any slender anthers dangling down and shimmying in the breeze.  But a closer look revealed these were female plants, with buds fully open and already erupting with stubby, pinkish pistils.

OK, you native-plant purists and weedless-lawn obsessives, ignore this photo of a plant you may hate but I do love.  Or at least, I love it more than the useless and equally non-native turf grasses of the lawns that Ground Ivy (Glechoma hederacea) usually invades, to the consternation of groundskeepers. As for me, I would rather my backyard were paved with these lovely blue flowers and ruffly aromatic leaves that never grow more than ankle high and --in the rare case they ever need mowing -- release their minty fragrance with every swath of the mower. This patch was blooming under spruces that lined the park's parking lot.

The previous four photos were flowers that were actually in bloom, but I also found some flowers showing buds that were close to opening.  The solitary bud of this Red Trillium (Trillium erectum) was already showing the deep-red petals of the flower within.

I believe it will be only a matter of a day or two before the white four-petaled flowers of both these species of toothwort (Cardamine spp.) emerge.  This first photo is of the Two-leaved Toothwort (C. diphylla).

And this is the aptly named Cut-leaved Toothwort (C. concatenata). Both toothwort species thrive in certain areas of this large park.

There were also many trees and shrubs with close-to-opening flower buds. In fact, I wonder if I could say that these ruddy-anthered male Box Elder flowers (Acer negundo) were already in bloom.  They were certainly quite showy!

Just starting to open their scales to release their floral parts, these Cottonwood flower buds (Populus deltoides) were already large and impressive, and the leaf buds were sticky and fragrant.

Very soon, every wooded hillside will be studded with snowy drifts of bloom from the various species of Shadblow (Amelanchier spp.) that are native to our region. I think I can see partly opened blooms among this furry cluster of buds.


The Furry Gnome said...

Your posts are such a delight, especially at this time of year. For each wildflower I can picture where I've seen it.

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Your gracious comments are always so appreciated, Furry. Knowing of your present circumstances, I feel extremely moved to think that my photos could bring such pleasant experiences back to you.

Woody Meristem said...

Spring has arrive -- nice photos of the flowers that are early this year.