Monday, June 29, 2015

The Ice Meadows ( a belated post)

I have been hearing about the Ice Meadows along the upper Hudson River for some time, but on June 18, I finally had the opportunity to visit a portion of this unique habitat. This area is partly protected by the Hudson River Shoreline Preserve.  What makes the Ice Meadows so special are the plants that can be found there, some of which are quite rare. You can read more about this unusual microclimate habitat at the links I have listed at the end of this post.

I am far from an expert so I was very lucky that my first trip to the Ice Meadows was in the company of some pretty extraordinary amateur botanists, the Thursday Naturalists. If I have misidentified anything here, I know that one of them will be quick to help me with a correction, which I will welcome.
I will give my hoped-for editors an opportunity right up front. I know that this is a species of Potentilla/cinquefoil, but I didn't get a chance to key it out in the field. I think this is Tall Cinquefoil. There are rather a large number of species of potentillas, so I would be happy to be corrected if I got this wrong.

Here above is Frostweed, a simple yellow flower in summer. When this plant becomes really interesting is on the cusp of winter. Check out Saratoga Woods and Waterways for photos and descriptions of  Frostweed's unusual ability to "grow" ice curls, come November.
This delicate blue-violet beauty is Harebell. Please also notice the rocks behind it, and those in the photo of Racemed milkwort (Polygala polygama) below. The terrain along the Ice Meadows is not for the weak-ankled.
There are no neatly-kept trails to follow when one explores the Ice Meadows. Cobbled stones, tumbled boulders, muddy pools and marshy rivulets abound.
But despite their senior ages, my companions this day nimbly navigated the shoreline, always keeping a sharp look-out for the rare plants we had come to see.
Here above, our leader this day, Ed Miller (age 90, truly) is on his hands and knees to examine a plant with a hand lens. Please look at what he had to climb over to get there. The Thursday Naturalists themselves are as amazing and worthy of admiration as the rare plants they study.
Sticky Tofieldia.

Whorled Loosestrife
New York State is home to more than fifty varieties of native orchids. We were lucky enough to find three of them this day.

The first was this tiny Spiranthes lucida, commonly called Shining Ladies' Tresses.

This beauty is Rose Pagonia. We spotted several small patches of these along the river. 
The final orchid of the day was a Tubercled orchid. Should you be inclined to go looking for orchids, please do not pick them. All New York State orchid species are on the state protected list. It is a violation for anyone to remove or damage an orchid that is on state land. So please walk carefully.

My companions think this was a Carolina rose. I will have to see if this is a plant that I can order from a native plant nursery. One of our new baby twin grandchildren is named Caroline and she was born in North Carolina. This flower would be a great addition to my "Children's Garden" where I try to have a a flowering plant for each of my three now-grown children and five grandchildren. I still need to think of something for new baby boy Samuel. Any ideas?

Bladderwort, above, was one of at least three carnivorous plants that were spotted this day.
There was also this one: spatulate-leaved sundew and ...
... this one, Round-leafed sundew.

These are not lost troll dolls, but a cluster of Alpine Bulrush, a member of the Sedge family.

I took dozens more photos of many of the lovely and unusual plants we saw on this trip along the upper Hudson, but I think you've got the idea: this is a very special place. If you go, (1) please expect to get wet feet; (2) bring sunscreen. There is no shade along the meadows. And (3) walk carefully and use your eyes. There is magic here.

You can find much more information about the Ice Meadows at online sites such as these, below:


Saturday, June 27, 2015

Tis the Season for Garden Tours

Earlier this week, my friends John and Marie invited me to tag along with the Saratoga Master Gardeners to tour Rosewood Gardens in West Charlton, NY. Rosewood is both the home and the site of  a commercial nursery owned by Paul and Joanne Strevy. 

 Joanne was our tour guide and we started at the front of their home at their shade garden.
 The day was warm and the varying textures and shades of green felt restful and inviting.
Joanne's real love is roses and their website says that they have "the largest selection of David Austin English roses in the Capital District."
There were roses of all shapes and colors and Joanne chatted knowledgeably about how she chooses, plants, and nurtures her own collection.
The grounds of the home and nursery are lovely and offer several inviting places to sit and admire the view.
 The Strevys also sell "cottage perennials" and they had a number of well-tended display beds.

My own peonies have gone by, but the Rosewood peonies were still in full glory. Joanne told us that she lengthens their bloom season by covering them with plastic tablecloths whenever it rains. Hmm.

 Rosewood Gardens is open to the public on Thursdays through Saturdays, from 9 to 6. They are located on Route 67, about nine miles west of Ballston Spa. Check out their website for more information  here. 


Saturday, June 6, 2015

Skidmore's North Woods

After a long absence (on my part) I was finally able to get back into the woods this week with the Thursday Naturalists, that venerable group of wise and wonderful folks who know so much about wild places. Our destination was Skidmore College's North Woods, a 150 acre treasure that the college graciously shares with the community.

This week, we were very much missing Jackie Donnelly, who I first came to know through her wonderful blog, Saratoga Woods and Waterways.  Jackie had an unfortunate mishap at a granddaughter's college graduation last week, which has put her out of commission for a while. I wish her a speedy recovery.

Before we had gotten into the woods proper, there were familiar June wildflowers and fruits to see under the power lines that run past the parking lot. I have always had a soft spot for the common daisy (above.) I even have a small white dog named Daisy.  And there were abundant wild strawberries, warm and ripe from the sun, not yet all snapped up by birds. So sweet!

Along the path, someone spotted Orange-fruited Horse Gentian (Triosteum aurantiacum) also called
Wild Coffee.

 I don't remember having seen this is bloom before.

 There were  wild geraniums in the shadier spots, and on into the woods.

 We saw Pussytoes, or Early Everlastings, above, although I am not sure which variety these are. There are several kinds.

Still in the field, there were plenty of common milkweed plants. On this one, a ladybug was well-snuggled in, perhaps dining on aphids.

A little later, in the woods, we saw another variety of milkweed, the Four-leaved milkweed. Read more about this on Jackie's blog, here.

This is a season where the woodland plants move toward greens and whites. The forest canopy has filled in and less sun reaches the forest floor. Paler colors are here now, than one might find in earlier spring.
False Solomon's Seal or Wild Spikenard.

Maple-leaved Viburnum

Ferns and fern-like plants shine in this shadier season. Here, above, is a maidenhair fern, one of my favorites.
Rattlesnake fern

This plant, above and below, is not a fern, although it looks like one. This is Wood Betony, whose flower, below, has just gone by.
The woods here were dim, so I had to use my flash. The flower color is not quite this yellowy just now.

There are often odd-looking things in the forest. No one with us this day could identify the fungus, above, but Ruth took a small piece home to try to find its name.

Near the mystery fungus, I spotted this parasitic plant with the decidedly un-poetic name: broom rape, or squaw root.

Many woodland wildflowers that have passed their blooming season are now in fruit.
Blue Cohosh, above, has berry-like fruits which will be blue when fully ripe. 

Large-flowered Bellwort, also in fruit.

Blood root. Note its seed pod on the lower right, pointing up

Our leader this day, Ed Miller, was most eager for us to see the fairly rare Green Violet (Hybanthus concolor). They do not look at all like the common purple violets you may have picked as a child.

The greenish-white flowers have passed, but when I bent closer to photograph its fruit, I met a delicate spider basking on a leaf.

These "witch's hats" on the leaves of witch hazel shrubs are caused by aphids.

A tiny red eft was one of the few spots of color on the forest floor this June morning.

Thank you to Jackie Donnelly for helping me to identify the Blue Cohosh and the Large-flowered Bellwort. I learn from her even when she is confined to quarters!

Gosh it was fun to be back in the woods. I hope it won't be so long between outings again.