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) 

Monday, June 25, 2012

I Have a Garden

June 21, 2012 Hudson River Ice Meadows

And then for my afternoon walks
I have a garden,
larger than any artificial garden
that I have read of
and far more attractive to me,
- mile after mile of embowered walks,
such as no nobleman’s grounds can boast …
    HDT Journal, June 20, 1850

Another bonus of having this week off :  I can go rambling with the Thursday Naturalists this week, and not have to leave after just an hour or so.
And to make it even easier, the group happens to be travelling up to my neck of the woods, or in this case, neck of the river.

Jackie and I walk with them whenever we are able, since their collective plant knowledge is so vast (plus they are fun to be with.) So we are meeting them here today to spend some sunny hours in a botanical wonderland.

The garden we are walking in today is none other than the Ice Meadows, which is a botanically unique environment that runs along both banks of the Hudson River, just north of Warrensburg.

We begin on the west bank, on land owned by the Nature Conservancy.
As you head toward the river’s edge, it’s impossible to walk more than ten feet without seeing something interesting, botanically speaking.

Like Shining Ladies’ Tresses.

And Tuberculed Orchis.

If you look closely you can see the telltale bump on the lower petal.

Or Rose Pogonia, a delicate and stylish little orchid.
The Audrey Hepburn of the flower world.

Or Racemed Milkwort, one of several flowers that I can add to my “life list” on this day.

Here’s another one you don't see just anywhere:
Dwarf St. Johnswort, opening up her petals in a sleepy yawn.

You can see the relative size of these little wonders, and know why most serious botanizers carry a magnifying loupe.

Even common plants can appear different here -- smaller or stunted by the harsh effects of the winter ice which piles up in this section of the river.

Oh, ice !
I wish I had some now.
Sweat is trickling down my brow as I bend low to admire a tiny sundew, currently in bloom. It too seems adorned with beads of sweat, but these sticky beads are how this carnivorous plant catches its insect prey.

One might suppose that in the middle of our current heat wave, the TNs might have cancelled this trip, or stayed indoors heeding the Official Warnings for Delicate Persons. Not this bunch !
(Pouring rain does not deter them, either, as I found out the last time I walked with them at Moreau Lake.)

We cope with the heat, each in our own way.

Nevertheless, several hours in the sun, with temperatures near 90 degrees, is wilting.

At lunchtime, Ed wisely leads us to Snake Rock. There we are able to sit in the shade, feel the breeze coming down the valley, and admire the upriver view.
No lunch I could pack can beat the taste of ripe, sun-warmed blueberries.

After lunch, it’s time for more exploring, despite the heat. It’s so nice to have the afternoon free.
I join Jackie and Win as they drive over to the east side of this part of the river.

We find some of the same flowers, some of them rarities, on this side as well.
Such as Sticky Tofieldia.

Here the rocks, veined with marble, wriggle down into the river.

And butterflies, much smarter than us, catch a moment of shade.

Jackie leads us to a spot in the pines, and like a proud gardener,
shows us a flower she found in a visit here earlier this week: one-flowered pyrola.

Its nodding white flowers are stars strewn all over the forest floor.

No artificial garden can compare!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Same Delight As Ever

June 20, 2012
Mud Pond, Moreau Lake State Park

In all my rambles I have seen no landscape
which can make me forget Fair Haven.
I sit still on its Cliff in a new spring day,
and look over the awakening woods and the river,
and hear the new birds sing,
with the same delight as ever.
It is as sweet a mystery to me as ever,
what this world is.
    HDT Journal, June 21, 1853

This is Solstice Day, which also happens to be
the third anniversary of the Water-Lily blog.
I’m on vacation this week, and it’s a joy to go a-walking
and be able to linger all I want.
Today being the Longest Day of the Year,
I headed for my own favorite place, Mud Pond.
Such a lowly name for such a beautiful place.

I did my usual circle ‘round the Pond.
(This usually takes me about two hours, since I stop to look at everything)
Today I took things really slow, and
Got my Saunter on !
So the circuit took about four hours, and I  even cut things short due to the sweltering heat of the day.
Along the way, I did have some errands.
I searched along the Powerline Easement for Wood Lilies - found but  a few. (more on that later)

The deerflies have been absolutely fierce in this dry sandy area.
I am pleased to report that Tred-Not Deerfly Patches TM
(a treasured gift from Jackie) really do work.

[It’s pretty gross to hear these little terrors buzzing their last on the back of your hat, but after suffering their bites the last time I was here -- it’s them or me!]
Then, on to a certain spot to check if the Rattlesnake Plantain was going to flower this year.
Oh boy, was it ! Many slender green spikes glowed in the morning sunlight.
It is a good year for Goodyera.

While I was on my knees photographing a pippsissewa flower, suddenly I heard footsteps, and looked up, startled -- to see a human (whew) –  but it was only Laurie! (double whew).
She’s been walking this trail since … well, since before it was a trail.
There was time enough to chat and walk a little way together, in this place we both love.
That was the only other person I saw there today.

I avoided being out in the direct sun, and when it got really hot, even in the shade, a light breeze filtered through the leaves, and kept most bugs away.
It was so hot that even the rocks were sweating.

My chores done, it was time to do what I came here for.
Several spots were perfect for “just sitting:” 
-- At the north end of the pond, where dragonflies fought

and damselflies quite literally, hooked up

-- Along the sandy bank above the beaver lodge, where the field of lilies extended all across the pond.

And on Checkerberry Hill at the south end of the pond, where I ate my lunch and took in the sights.

(be sure to right-click on this handsome fellow :)

As I sat there quietly near the water's edge,
I almost got run over by a family of geese.

They swam along the shore, coming  so close that I got nervous.
The usually-wary parents acted as if they didn’t see me, and who knew how they would take such a surprise?
Finally I did a slow wave, and after a head-wagging double-take, 
they veered offshore with threatening grunts.

You only need sit still long enough
in some attractive spot in the woods
that all its inhabitants may exhibit themselves
to you by turns.