Saturday, June 30, 2012

Two Lilies

June 21, 2012Mud Pond, Moreau Lake State Park

Found two lilies open
    in the very shallow inlet of the meadow.
Exquisitely beautiful,
    and unlike anything else that we have,
is the first white lily just expanded …
perfectly fresh and pure,
    before the insects have discovered it.
How admirable its purity!
How innocently sweet its fragrance! …
It is remarkable that those flowers
which are most emblematical of purity
should grow in the mud.
   HDT Journal, June 20, 1853

Yes, the Water-Lilies dazzle when they appear on our ponds.
They seem to have an inner light of their own. I just can’t resist taking a portrait of almost every one I see.

There is a second type of lily that is dear to me,
one I never saw before a few years ago.
That is our native Wood Lily (Lilium philadelphicum.)

It’s a deep red-orange, to match the heats of summer.
It too embodies innocence, as it trustingly turns a freckled face skyward.

They grow not in mud, but in similarly marginalized places.
I have found them most often in the dry sandy clearings under powerlines.

There are two powerline easements running through Moreau Lake State Park. One is halfway up the mountain, originating at Spier Falls Dam;
and one passes along the north edge of Mud Pond.

The powerline is an intrusion, not unlike the railroad line which runs along one edge of Walden Pond. In his journals, Thoreau describes the noisy, smoke-belching trains as they hurl passengers to their destinations at the ungodly speed of thirty miles per hour.
At times, he complains about it, but he also took advantage of the right-of-way as a shortcut on his walks into town,
and did some botanizing along the way.

In today’s world we too have our “essential needs” and electricity seems to be one of them. One might as well follow Henry’s example, and use the opportunity to see some plants and critters who prefer this open sort of habitat. It’s a great place for dragonflies, and interesting bugs of all sorts too.

Last summer, Jackie and I counted at least 80 wood-lilies growing in the short Mud Pond section alone!

Then in late fall, the power company did some long-overdue maintenance here. They needed to replace some poles. Unfortunately, the also apparently needed to mow a swath that was about 70 feet wide, too. By that time of year, the wood-lilies were past flowering, and being bulbs, would hopefully recover. But gone were the hazel shrubs (and the yellowthroats who nested therein), the scrub oaks, and anything else over 4 inches tall.
Winter came.
 When June rolled round again, we went a-searching for the return of the wood lilies. It’s always a thrill to see any perennial coming back to life.
This sort of thing is my true calendar of the year.

What’s not so thrilling is that the easement looked empty and sterile,
and I could only find about two dozen lilies up and in bloom.
What happened?

By the looks of some of the other plants who re-sprouted from the cut zone, it looks like some herbicide was dispersed here very recently.
Defoliation at its finest!

So far, the dragonflies are still here, but they have a lot fewer perches to cling to. And they don’t look too happy…
OK, here's a contest for all you Dragonfly Lip-Readers out there:
What is he saying? (enlarge to full-screen size for best view) 


  1. How amazing that you captured that dragonfly's mouth movements! I wonder if it was chewing on something, or just letting cool air inside.

  2. Enjoyed your post. Water lilies . . . yes, so gorgeous! I love photographing American Lotus also. All things wetland are dear to me. Thanks for sharing!