Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Poking Around near Glens Falls - Part I - Orra Phelps Preserve

Monday was a day full of excitement. While my car was having an oil change and assorted work done, my friend Jackie picked me up for a day of botanizing. We had two goals, both destinations she's visited repeatedly in the last few days, so I'm glad she was willing to go yet again to show me her treasures.

First stop was the Orra Phelps Preserve. Dr. Orra Phelps was an amazing woman, who not only was pioneering in medicine as a woman, but also a phenomenal botanist and promoter of being outside and studying nature. The land that she owned near Glens falls is now a small preserve (18 acres), with some wonderful plants. I highly recommend her biography - wonderful, inspiring story.

Just down the road is the house where she lived. Apparently they are doing quite a bit of renovating - we suspect it's the foundation that is being fixed, although it looked like there was new construction out back, too.

We came primarily for one plant: fringed gentian (Gentianopsis crinita). It was a LOT taller than I thought it would be - do you see the blue flowers about two feet in front of Jackie, about 1.5-2' tall?

And here they are.

The Audubon wildflower field guide says these are the most beautiful of the gentians, and I am inclined to agree.

This beauty only opens in the sun, so it was a good thing the day was so bright. Jackie was telling me how last year the pines were encroaching on this little group of flowers - only six were to be found in 2009. The trees were cut, and now this little opening is just filled with the flowers.

Growing right next to them was a single plant of slender gerardia (Agalinis tenuifolia). Like so many of our native plants, I haven't found anything particularly interesting about this one - most references just give its stats (size, habitat, growth pattern, etc.)

We tromped around to a soggy spot to see narrow-leaved willow herb (Epilobian leptophyllum). Jackie is uncertain if this is actually narrow-leaved willow herb. For now, I will tentatively label it as such.

And some wonderful equisetums (horse tails).

Next we wandered down to the stream to see the great lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica). It looks like all the other lobelias, except that the flowers are huge!

Here Jackie shows the anther - it's the curved bit coming through the space between the two upper petals (on the left).

Here you can see it curving out of the back of the flower, arching down to the petals.

We also had a more common willow herb, although the exact species escapes me at the moment.

One of the Bidens was blooming nearby. I have the wrong field guide with me, which of course doesn't have this plant in it. Nice photos, but not great for real field ID.

Had a devil of a time trying to photograph the creek. There wasn't too much water in it, but what a great place to play as a child...or an adult!

Some of our other finds at Orra's was this wonderful Jack-in-the-pulpit, complete with fruit and leaves,

this wonderful feather (I have a feather field guide on order),

and this Indian cucumber root with THREE whole berries!

This had to be the oddest plant of the day: horse balm (Collinsonia canadensis). It's in the mint family, but it is a very strange flower. Had a wonderful lemony scent to it, much like lemon balm. Jackie speculated about the name: maybe people used to crush the herb and rub it on their horses to keep pesky flies at bay. Works for me!

Our final plant at Orra's was skunk cabbage. The new growth was already sprouting (skunk cabbage blooms in late winter).

What we came to see, though were the "fruits."

These have got to be in the "Weirdest Fruits" category. They feel like wood, and remind me of the carved wooden pineapples on the bed posts of two beds at my grandmother's house.

We had paddling to do next, so we bundled ourselves back into Jackie's car and headed for our next destination. (Coming Soon)

1 comment:

  1. Wasn't that the Lobelia that you wanted to add to your life list? You had a lovely visit, to a unique place. I have GOT to see some skunk cabbage seeds.