Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Flower Hopping, Here and There

A gorgeous, sunny warm day at last, but I had too many errands to run today to spend the whole day flower hunting.  But darn, these flowers are all coming on so fast, I can hardly keep up with them!  So I fit in a couple of stops between the post office, doctor's office, drug store, and supermarket, just to hit the highlights of plants I expected to find at each place.

First stop was the Skidmore woods, where I hoped to find Orange-fruited Horse Gentian (Triosteum aurantiacum) in bloom.  And I was not disappointed!  The flowers are small, but the plant is large and hard to miss, even though it grows amid a thicket of other green plants:

Two small red trumpet-shaped flowers grow where each pair of large green leaves clasps the furry stem.  I have never been able to figure out how just two flowers will yield a wreath of six small orange fruits at every tier! But somehow, they do.

While out here at Skidmore, I definitely wanted to see if the rare Green Violet (Hybanthus concolor) was blooming now, but on the way to where I knew this plant grew,  I made a detour into a swampy spot where pools of shallow water held dozens of plants of Tufted Loosestrife (Lysimachia thyrsiflora).  Lucky for me, one plant was close enough to dryish land that I could photograph the tufted yellow flowers without getting my feet wet.

Nearby, at the base of a Red Oak, dozens of the odd, pale, cone-like flowers of Bear Corn (Conopholis americana) had sprouted up from where the tree's roots were providing nutrients to this parasitic, non-photosynthesizing plant.

Only a few steps more brought me to where acres and acres of Green Violet grows, so incredibly abundant here you would never guess how rare this plant is.  There is only one known site where it grows in all of Saratoga County, and this is it, the limestone-underlaid woods at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs.

There's not much about this plant to imagine it would belong to the Violet Family.  When it goes to seed, you can see how the three-parted pods resemble those of any other violet, but the flowers sure don't look like violet flowers. Here's a closer view of the nubby little green flowers, a single one of which dangles from each leaf axil of this tall erect plant.

This Skidmore stop was all I had time for between the post office and doctor's appointment,  but after meeting those obligations, I still had time to run up to Mud Pond at Moreau Lake State Park before I had to go to the grocery store.  I would have loved to have hours to explore this wonderful park, but I planned my time to include only the power line clearcut that runs just north of the pond, with a quick stop at the pond's edge.  I fully expected that I would find American Climbing Bittersweet (Celastrus scandens) in bloom, and I was not disappointed.  In fact, the patch where it grows was teeming with many more plants this year than I had ever found there.  Most were still in tight bud, but a few had opened the small greenish-yellow flowers that grow in a terminal cluster.

This American Climbing Bittersweet is now classified as a Rare species in New York State, due to competition for its habitat by the notoriously invasive Oriental Bittersweet.  But it is not as rare as the next plant I hoped to find along this sandy clearcut,  the plant called Green Rock Cress (Borodinia missouriensis), which is rated as a Threatened species in our state.  Happily, I found a few today.

Of course, being a rare plant doesn't necessarily mean being a showy one, and if it weren't for the long, arching glossy siliques that Green Rock Cress displays,  I would probably never have noticed this rather weedy looking little Mustard-family plant hiding out amid the other trailside vegetation.


It's actually the number of leaves on the stem (more than 30) that provides the most distinguishing feature of the Green Rock Cress.  The small white flowers look pretty much like those of many other wild mustards.

Even though this powerline clearcut is home to quite a number of rare or otherwise interesting native plants, it is also crowded with too many invasive species, such as the Asian species of honeysuckle this Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly is feeding on.  Thankfully, though, the honeysuckles have lots of competition from our native American Hazelnuts, Witch Hazel, Bear Oak, and several species of dogwood.

Having located the two rare plants I had hoped to find at this site, I still had time to pop down to the shore of Mud Pond, just to see what might be happening down there at the water's edge.  The first thing I noticed was that our beautiful native Blue Flags (Iris versicolor) were in full bloom. 

Such a gorgeous native wildflower!  It deserved a closer look and a second photograph!

As I walked closer to the water's edge, the water itself began to wiggle and squirm as if it were alive!
What the heck was writhing by the thousands beneath its surface?

Oh my gosh!  Just LOOK at all these tadpoles! I swear there must have been thousands and thousands of baby toads, all wriggling away in the shallow water.  Even though the sky's reflection made it difficult to discern them all, it was quite a sight to behold!

But I shouldn't have been surprised by this explosion of infant toads.  Just last year I witnessed when thousands of tadpoles shed their tails, developed legs, and came ashore in droves.  I even have a video to prove it, which I posted on this blog just a year ago: https://saratogawoodswaters.blogspot.com/2020/06/thousands-of-tiny-toadlets.html


The Furry Gnome said...

Always some interesting plants that you find. Those toads are amazing!

Woody Meristem said...

You certainly have an abundance of botanical treasures in your area.