With the weathermen blaring so many "heat advisories" lately, especially for old people like me, I do ponder whether to stay indoors with the AC blasting. But the Winged Monkey Flower should be blooming now! This species (Mimulus alatus) is rated as a Rare plant in New York (even rarer in New England), and if I didn't get out to look for it now, all this heat might cause it to fade. Luckily, it grows along a creek that flows through deep shade, so that's where I went to meet my fellow wildflower-obsessed pals Sue Pierce and Ruth Brooks this week. Sue is the person who first discovered this flower at this Saratoga Battlefield location -- and it wasn't even in bloom when she first noticed its spent flower stalks, on a mid-autumn hike three years ago.
The flowers of both species are similar in shape (this is the flower of Winged Monkey Flower). Supposedly, the vernacular name was inspired by the flower's resemblance to the face of a monkey. Personally, I don't see it. But that's the story.
Then there was this spiny multi-flowered plant, standing tall above all the other plants of the field. A thistle, of course. But which one? My friend Ruth took out her smartphone and promptly took a picture to send off to iNaturalist for suggested IDs. In the meantime, I looked for distinguishing features that might set this thistle apart from others of the Cirsium genus.
So. Field Thistle it is. A native thistle species, but not a rare one at all. But it was a new plant for my life list, so I was mighty glad to have seen it and learned its name.
By the way, I found on-line a drawing that illustrates some of the plant parts I mention in this discussion of the thistle. It appeared in the book San Diego County Native Plants by James Lightner (2011), and I found it very useful for when I tried to describe the parts of this (or any other) plant.