Friday, August 30, 2013

Golden August (updated 9/1/13)

Please see updated field notes at the end. 
Along the Kayaderosseras Creek, the colors of late August are becoming softer, more muted.
Goldenrod is what you notice most, appearing frequently with the dusty pink Joe Pye weed and white boneset. These three plants fill the fields and roadsides and stream banks of upstate New York at this time of year.


There are over seventy species of goldenrod in the northeast, but my companions Thursday quickly identified this one, below, as the woods-dwelling Zigzag Goldenrod.

The Thursday Naturalists are a group that has evolved from ECOS, The Environmental Clearinghouse. It is a regional environmental organization founded in Schenectady (NY) in 1971.  ECOS offers classes and nature walks and shares information about volunteer opportunities connected to environmental issues.
There were eight of us this day, and we moved "at a botanist's pace" along newly cut trails in the Boice preserve in Milton.

In the woods, asters were plentiful. But since there are over fifty species of asters in these parts and I am a novice, I have trouble going beyond "aster". I believe this one, below, is Lowrie's Aster.

We also saw Wood and Calico asters. The photo below is Heart-leaved aster.    
We found Fleabane and ...
... Green-headed Coneflower, another member of the Aster family.  
 More exotic-looking flora was just around the bend. Here was Turtlehead coming into bloom. In my home garden, I have a pinkish/purple-ish version of this plant in abundance every fall.

Dodder, a parasitic vine, was in bloom. Dodder has no leaves and once established, no roots. It literally sucks nutrients from the stems of its host plants.

The orange blossoms of Spotted Jewelweed are so pretty. We also saw the yellow Pale Jewelweed, but in smaller numbers. Hummingbirds and butterflies like these plants.

We saw both wild and bur cucumber (below). Neither fruit is edible, but they sure were plentiful.

Bindweed is not blessed with a poetic name, nor is it well-loved, but I think these morning glory cousins are quite lovely. Along the Kayaderosseras, we found it in both pale lavender and white.

In a damp place at the edge of the woods, we found this beautiful Closed Gentian. One of my field guides says this is fairly common, but I have never noticed it before.

Near the Gentian were bright flashes of red Cardinal Flower. Cardinal Flowers are another plant that is popular with hummingbirds.
In early September, I will begin taking my first nature class at ECOS. The instructors will be some of the same learned folks I have been exploring woods and fields and swamps with this summer. I hope I will learn to be a more competent and confident and contributing member of the Thursday Naturalists. That is my goal, anyway!

“Weeds are flowers, too, once you get to know them.” Eeyore  (A.A. Milne)

Update 9/1/13: Ed Miller, who is one of the leaders of the Thursday Naturalists (AKA, the TNs) emailed these comments about this post:

Hi Barbara
re your blog. 
The TN  predates ECOS. Ruth and friends have been meeting since the late 40's- early 50s. I think more probably it was TN members who started ECOS.
The Aster with the heart shaped leaves is probably wood aster. The Aster called "heart leaved" (usually) has purple flowers.
Although we  saw Lowries Aster, I think the one shown is the Calico aster. 
I thank Ed for his corrections and clarifications. I am still proud that I can get as far as "aster". Give me forty more years of wandering the woods and I may then be able to pin it down with greater accuracy. Until then, go with what Ed says!
~ Barbara