Friday, July 25, 2008

Weather and Wildflower Updates

We are now looking at over 6 inches of rain for July! What a change from two weeks ago! Things are well-soaked and I think everyone is happy to see the sunshine today (campers not the least).

All this rain has done wonders for our waterways. The Hudson is up, the lakes are filled. The emergent vegetation is currently submergent. But, as our keyboard specialist would say, it's all good.

I had another paddle program up Rich Lake this last week. Only two folks participated (most opted not to chance the rain), and we had a good time. Only a little rain fell, but not enough to make a difference. The highlight was the stunning mixed colors of the pickerelweed (Pontederia cordata) and swamp candles (Lysimachia terrestris) - purples and yellows. Vast expanses of them. Very attractive, indeed.

Cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis) was budding at that point, and with the sun out today I am sure it is now in bloom. Did you know that the cardinal flower is specially adapted (dare I use the "e" word and say it has evolved?) to be pollinated almost exclusively by the ruby-throated hummingbird? It has no landing platform, so insects have a difficult time getting nectar from it. It has instead a projection coming out from the top of the flower that contains the male part of the flower, upon which the pollen is located. As the hummer hovers before the flower, sticking its beak and head down into the nectaries, it hits its forehead against the stamen and gets dusted with pollen. Then, as it moves from flower to flower, whacking its head each time on the projecting parts, it transfers pollen from plant to plant. A nifty arrangement and one that has served both the plant and the bird well for centuries. If you get a chance to be near water during the next few weeks, looks for cardinal flowers and check out their architecture. If you are lucky, you might even see a hummingbird taking a meal at one.

We also saw swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) in bloom - just starting. Joe Pye weed (Eupatorium maculatum) should be starting to bloom soon, too. This is the season for the wetland flowers.

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