Doesn't this green and watery lakeshore look invitingly cool on a hot and sweltering day?
Well, it might have looked cool and inviting, but it was just as hot and sweltering here as everyplace else in Moreau Lake State Park -- or anyplace else in Saratoga County -- on Friday afternoon, when I'd hoped to venture out for a breath of non-air-conditioned air. The temperature might not have topped above the high 80s, but the dew point was somewhere around 70 degrees. Walking through this hot soggy air felt like swimming through hot oil.
Ah well, I nevertheless enjoyed my walk along the shore of Moreau Lake, despite my glasses swimming off my nose and my shirt sticking to my sweating back. For one thing, I'd come here looking for a flower called Small-flowered Gerardia (Agalinis paupercula), and I sure found it! I bet there were not just hundreds, not even thousands, but probably TENS of thousands of this pretty little purple flower growing in masses on the sandy verge of the lake's back bay. Believe it or not, this flower is ranked as a Rare species in the New York Flora Association Plant Atlas. But it's certainly not a rare plant along the shore of Moreau Lake!
Here's a closer look at the flowers of Small-flowered Gerardia. Note how short the flower stalks are.
And here's a close look at the very-similar flowers of Slender Gerardia (Agalinis tenuifolia), a much more common Agalinis species, rated Demonstrably Secure in New York State. Note that its flowers are borne on long slender stalks. While this species is frequently found in other locations throughout the region, only a few grow here at Moreau Lake, where the rarer Small-flowered Gerardia claims these shores as its territory. I did find a couple plants of Slender Gerardia here, but its Small-flowered sister predominated.
Another abundant shoreline flower at Moreau Lake is this Smaller Forget-me-not (Myosotis laxa), a flower so small, it can go undiscovered unless you bend down to see what those tiny dots of blue are, scattered across the sand.
Here's yet another wee flower that prefers the damp soils along lakeshores, the Northern Willow Herb (Epilobium ciliatum), and I was happy to find a few blooming today. The pinkish flowers grow in small clusters that I have always thought would make a perfect tiny bouquet for a dollhouse.
More small flowers. In fact, I believe that the vernacular name of this plant is Small White Aster (Symphyotrichum racemosum). Or maybe it's one of the other asters with small white flowers blooming now. I find them very difficult to parse as to species, but years ago my friend Ed Miller (may he rest in peace) keyed this one out as S. racemosum, so unless I am corrected, I will still go with that. It did seem to prefer the dryer habitat higher up from the water's edge.
This plant with the bright-pink flower spikes is called Water Smartweed, but true to its scientific name of Persicaria amphibia, it can grow either on land or floating on water. This one was growing on damp sand.
There were numerous sedges and rushes and grasses crowding this shoreline, but my attention was drawn to this particular tiny low plant at the water's edge, one of dozens and dozens of the same, scattered across the damp sand. I have a special fondness for this Small-flowered Dwarf Bulrush (Cyperus subsquarrosus
), since I first helped rediscover this Endangered species here on these shores a few years ago. Since I first posted a blog
about finding it back in 2018, its population has varied as the lake's water levels have risen and fallen dramatically, so I was happy to see so many plants thriving here today. The small size, curving green leaves, and stubby little spikelets are features that distinguish this species from other low-growing flatsedges that thrive on the shore of Moreau Lake.
Higher up on the shore, between the forested banks and the water's edge, many colorful meadow species were in their glory, including abundant numbers of the bright-yellow Grass-leaved Goldenrod (Euthamia graminifolia). And I sure wasn't the only one who found this plant attractive: just LOOK at all the busy buzzing bugs happily feeding on this flower's nectar and pollen!
Another lakeshore species the local insects could not resist was this white-flowered plant called Common Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum). All this insect activity was causing the flowerhead to sway as if in a breeze, although (sadly) there wasn't a whiff of breeze blowing along the shore.
I moved in close to observe all the small winged critters at their feasting, and I was particularly taken by this small, golden, red-eyed fly with spindly long legs and black bristles on its little tapering butt. Those bristles said "tachinid fly" to me. Although searching the web for "yellow tachinid fly with red eyes and long legs" has yet to yield an exact match, sufficient images have come close enough to suggest I am on the right track. (If I do eventually ascertain the species, I will return to add it here.)
Here's another, somewhat blurrier view of the same little fly. Really cute!
UPDATE: Thanks go to my friend Sue Pierce for directing me to a page in Bug Guide.net, where I discovered that, although the species will remain elusive, we can now place this cute little fly in the Tribe Leskiini.
I had now reached the south-facing stretch of shoreline my friend Sue and I call the "Odonata Shore" because it's the favorite haunt for lots and lots of dragonflies. And there sure were lots and lots of dragonflies whizzing about today, but unfortunately (for this photographer) seldom perching for long enough to get a photo. At last, this one did, but way out in the water atop a horsetail stalk.
I zoomed my lens as far as I could, but this photo still is not clear enough to capture enough of the dragonfly's features to be able to look it up in my dragonfly guide. And standing now in the blazing sun, with heatwaves rising up from the sand, I decided I didn't really need any more photos of dragonflies. Or even to know the name of this one. I pocketed my camera and made a beeline for the surrounding shady woods.
Aah! This was a little cooler. And even though few flowers were blooming along this woodland trail, I found a few marvelous fungi to capture my attention. I haven't seen such a spectacular cluster of Scaly Cap Pholiota (Pholiota squarrosa) in many years! They always remind me of coconut macaroons. But don't let that convince you that this toxic mushroom might be good to eat!
I have seen these white-edged, frilly, dark-brown Earth Fans (Thelephora terrestris) before, but always in the ground at the base of a tree, never wrapped around a stem of Wild Sarsaparilla.
A whole log lined with Violet-toothed Polypores (Trichaptum biforme)! These pretty shelf fungi virtually glowed in the shade of the woods. Sometimes this fungus is mistakenly assumed to be Turkey Tail, but that purple edge is quite distinctive for this species.
I have no idea what this lumpy blob of a whitish fungus is. I should have looked more carefully at the tree it was growing on, which might have helped me research its species. But I had eyes only for two things about this lumpy blob of a whitish fungus: first, the shining drops of fluid oozing and dripping from it; and second, the two holes deep into its flesh, each hole exuding a mess of small-seeded gloppy stuff.
The shining drops of fluid I could explain: it was the natural process of "guttation," by which a fungus (or a plant) can expel excess fluid from its tissues. I've seen this phenomenon several times and on several different species of fungi and plants. But what the heck is going on, with those deep dark holes and those gloppy deposits that look like masses of sesame seeds held together by mucilage? For sure, I will post this photo on a Facebook mushroom page and see if anyone has an explanation. If any of this blog's readers knows, please leave an answer as a comment.
Dripping with my own fluid by the time I reached my car, I sure was looking forward to climbing in and turning the AC on high. But wait, I told myself. Let's go check on a nearby patch of Spotted Coralroots (Corallorhiza maculata) a friend had told me about. This is a leafless orchid, not another fungus, but it IS what's called a "myco-heterotroph": a plant that lacks chlorophyll and obtains energy by parasitizing the mycelium of fungi, in this plant's case, the mycelium of fungi in the Russula Family. When I reached the spot where I'd been told it was growing, I was struck by how much energy that Russula mycelium must have been delivering: I had never seen such an abundant patch of Spotted Coralroots. (This group is just a small part of the population at this site.)
The Spotted Coralroot is not the kind of showy orchid our grandmas pinned to their prom dresses. At first glance, I couldn't even tell if these ruddy plants were even blooming. But a closer look revealed that they were, indeed, in bloom. The flowers may be small, but they certainly are kind of pretty. I'm glad I made the effort to pay them a visit.