Thursday, August 23, 2012

One Trail Twelve Times - August: A Study in Purple

A Monarch (Danaus plexippus) nectaring on Joe-pye-weed (Eupatorium dubium)
A Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) nectaring on New York ironweed (Vernonia noveboracensis)
August is the purple month, at least here in the preserve's meadows.  Deep purple New York ironweed, while just a bit past its prime, is still going strong, and soft magenta Joe-pye-weed is in its glory, much to the delight of butterflies and bumblebees.

I only had two walkers join me for August's exploration of the Beech Springs Trail last Sunday afternoon, August 19, but my companions were exactly the kind of folks I was hoping to draw for my monthly rambles because one was a wildflower devotee and the other was a  dedicated photographer eager to learn the identities of the plants he was photographing.  The afternoon was overcast and cool, and we enjoyed our 0.6-mile walk so much that we we out for over two hours.

The wet meadows are awash in New York ironweed...
...and Joe-pye-weed
New York ironweed and Virgin's-bower vine (Clematis virginiana)
Danger lurks amid the beauty
More purple...
Pink Wild Bean (Strophostyles umbellata)

Yellows are still common in the meadows, now dominated by several species of goldenrod (Solidago spp.)
Puzzling over the identity of a mint.
A leafhopper poorly camouflaged on wild strawberry (Fragaria virginiana)
Butterfly-weed (Asclepias tuberosa) on the dry upper slopes of the meadow
Red hips of multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora)...
...and large, orange hips of pasture rose (Rosa carolina or R. virginiana)
Halfway through out walk, we entered the mature oak and beech woodland sheltering the eponymous Beech Springs.  Because of the high white-tailed deer density, the understory is dominated by spicebush (Lindera benzoin), which the deer are reluctant to eat.  Nevertheless, the bushes provide lots of fatty fruit ready to fuel the southward songbird migration.
Ripe spicebush drupes
One of the Beech Spring runs
For the first time during this series of monthly walks, the banks of the three spring runs were bare.  The skunk cabbages (Symplocarpus foetidus) that had cloaked the banks since January were gone...or so they appeared until we got closer and saw that next year's plants were already emerging from the black organic muck.

Next year's skunk cabbage sprouts (and one of last year's decomposing fruiting bodies) in the spring run.
A hickory (Carya spp.) fruit partially stripped of its husk.  Perhaps a squirrel was interrupted by one of Red-tailed Hawks (Buteo jamaicensis) that regularly patrols the woods.
Once through the woods, we returned to dry meadows where common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) seed heads were ripening amid the goldenrods.

Galls of two sorts on goldenrod
Wild Potato-vine (Ipomoea pandurata)
The flowering dogwoods (Cornus florida) at the edge of the meadow were already showing distinct signs of the approaching autumn.

The final leg of the trail winds through an allee of huge, mature white pines (Pinus strobus) planted in the 1920s.  They've been there so long, they've laid down a thick duff of fine needles that supports all sorts of mushrooms.  I expect we'll see more variety next month, typically the best month for hunting for fungi.

Probably Yellow-ocher (or Firm) Russula (Russula ochroleuca)
The "one that got away":  my best image of the day might have been one of an Eastern garter snake curled up and snoozing on some dense meadow vegetation about three feet above the ground.  However, when I called my walking companions over to see the snake, it uncurled and slithered away.  I could have kicked myself for not taking a picture first.


John "By Stargoose And Hanglands" said...

Different plants and butterflies of course but the overall impression is very similar to our roadsides and meadows at this time of year, also a preponderance of purples - including incidentally Knapweeds which are native to these shores.

Scott said...

John: Plenty of (non-native) knapweed in bloom here, too; I didn't take a picture because I had included it with July's images. But, as I was assembling my images for this post, I thought to myself, "I should have taken a picture of knapweed, since it's purple, too!"

Carolyn H said...

Scott: You have lot of purples today. I'm feelnig rather purple-less at Roundtop at the moment. I would have enjoyed seeing all your color

packrat said...

I especially like the first two butterfly images, Scott. The transparent wings in the second pic are truly astounding.

Scott said...

Carolyn: You need to get out more...into overgrown meadows--for a purple fix!

Scott said...

Packrat: Those two butterflies were extraordinarily cooperative--or drunk on fermented nectar. I have literally dozens of images, especially of the swallowtail, though this one was the best, I believe. Thanks for your compliment.