Thursday, July 25, 2013

A magical day

Pickerelweed at the outflow of Lake Desolation, Middle Grove, NY.
I met up this morning with a group of intrepid adventurers, the Thursday Naturalists, to explore a bog in western Saratoga County, near Lake Desolation. Now when I say a "bog", I mean a place that in parts had boot-sucking mud, no trails, fallen trees to climb over, and thickets of dense vegetation to push through.
There were fourteen of us and I would guess that the average age of these hardy explorers was at least 72.  I know for certain that one of our most experienced leaders is 86. No rocking chairs for these folks, not while there are adventures in the wild to be had!
Today, we were in search of this lovely plant, below, and we found a good number of them. It's the Virginia Chain Fern.   
According to the USDA website, this plant has not yet been documented in Saratoga County, but here they were!

This fern can be identified by the "chains" on the underside of the fronds, which are the sori or spore-producing bodies. To me, this looks like beautiful, careful embroidery stitches.

Further into this enchanted bog, we saw witches' brooms. Witches’ broom is actually a disease of highbush blueberries caused by a rust fungus.
The diseased plants grow these broom-like masses of shoots, which then wither to twigs.

There were also many healthy and heavily laden blueberry bushes and we all helped ourselves as we bushwhacked our way along.

Mountain holly was here, too, although I did not sample these berries,

And here below was sundew, a carnivorous plant. Would I ever have noticed this on my own? I fear not.

Here was Labrador tea, a friendlier plant, which I am told makes a pleasant, spicy drink if picked before it flowers.

Now, here at last, below, was what I had hoped to see today: a native orchid. This one is the green wood orchid. Until recently, I did not know that there are about 60 species of orchids that are native to New York. Again, on my own, I would have walked right by it. (Those leaves in the photo are not part of the orchid.)

There were pitcher plants aplenty, many in bloom. This, too, is a carnivorous plant. 

The flower hangs downward but when I looked below, the fruit of the plant was already formed.

We finally reached the shore of the lake, where lovely water lilies continued the fairy tale feel of the place.

Walking back, we saw buttonbush ...

... and meadow sweet...

... and the large tropical-looking leaves of green arrow arum.

Emerging from the bog, all I could think was, Where are we going next week?

Fritillary butterfly