Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Botanizing by Boat

For part of my vacation, I went paddling with my botany buddy Jackie and her friend Sue along Jackie's favorite part of the Hudson River in Glens Falls.

To really appreciate a paddle, one should take time to cruise the river (lake or pond) banks in slow motion, for only then can one really see the life along the river (lake or pond). In this case, it was the plant life. Jackie has been keeping track of what's blooming here, and when, for about fifteen years! Her knowledge of the local flora is astonishing; she practically knows each individual plant. You can tell, when you go botanizing with her, that she views these plants as long-time friends, and when one turns up missing, the loss is as palpable as it is for the loss of any human friend.

Some of the plants we encountered are old favories, like pickerelweed (Pontederia cordata)

and Common arrowhead (Sagittaria latifolia)

while others were entirely new for me:

Monkey flower (Mimulus ringens) - I love the name! Someone must've thought the flower looked like a monkey's face. Hm.

Golden hedge hyssop (Gratiola aurea) - a delightful little mat of a plant, growing along rocks at the water's edge. The golden trumpets really glow in the sunshine. Jackie's also seen clammy hedge hyssop (I love that name) along the river, but we didn't see any today.

Sweetflag, or calamus (Acorus calamus) - there are two patches of this plant growing along the river. Many native people used the plant for medicianl purposes. Jackie had me taste the flower head (that green spikey thing) - it has a definite piney taste to it. Not great, but then not as bad as some medicines I've had to choke down.

Jackie should be commended for the lengths to which she will go to eradicate invasives like purple loosestrife!

Two trees grow along here that seem out of place this far north:

Black Tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica)

and Sassafrass (Sassafrass albidum).

Thanks to some interesting geology and its affect on local microclimate, these typically more southern trees are able to survive along the river's banks. Unfortunately, the local beavers have for some reason taken exception to the tupelos and have made it their personal mission to girdle just about every single one! This is a shame, for they are beautiful trees, especially in the fall when their leaves burst into a flaming scarlet unmatched by any of our other native trees.

I was fascinated by the enormous snails we saw inhabiting just about every underwater rock and boulder in the still waters of the river's bays! There were so many of them (hundreds and hundreds...possibly thousands) that I began to wonder if they are an introduced species. Hm. Does anyone know?

We also encountered some skittish dragon- and damselflies.

This dragonfly may be a Blue Corporal (Libellula deplanata).

I think this one is a Widow Skimmer (Libellula luctuosa).

These might be Azure Bluets, members of the Pond Damselfly Family (Coenagrionidae).

It is difficult to photograph insects from a boat because both you and the insects are moving!

Oh, these are all shots from my new camera! I bought a Nikon D90 mere minutes before we started this canoe trip and I have been playing with it while on vacation these last two weeks. I need a lot of practice getting the light balance right. And because it doesn't have mostly plastic parts, it is a heavy camera, and therefore holding it still is a bit more difficult than it is with lighter cameras. Practice, practice, practice!

1 comment:

  1. What fun to repeat our paddle through your eyes and camera! I hope we can repeat such adventures in every season. Your camera works great, to judge by the wonderful photos. Glad you had a nice vacation, and I'm even gladder you're back posting your always-awaited blogs. I missed you.