A post script to our series on wildflower bloom dates: we’ve received a copy of a new book by Chestertown-based photographer Curtiss M. Austin called Adirondack Wildflower Portraits. Last year, over the course of a single spring-to-fall season, he photographed flowers within a mile of his home and organized 60 of them chronologically, by the date he found them in bloom. The book is more album and almanac than field guide, though Austin provides Latin names and a few facts about each species. It won’t help you key out a flower but it might surprise you. The photographer pays as much attention to the diminutive and ignored blooms of plants like common mullein, cow vetch and curly dock as he does to blue flag irises and day lilies. “Many wildflowers are very small, but close-up they are just as interesting and beautiful as larger flowers,” he writes.
The 130-page 8″ x 8″ paperback will be available soon at Amazon.com and at Austin’s website for $19.95.
Photograph of crooked-stemmed aster taken September 22, 2008 by Curtiss M. Austin, from Adirondack Wildflower Portraits
Ed Miller, an enthusiastic naturalist from Rexford, likes to say he has a special fondness for late bloomers, being a bit of one himself. After retiring from work as an engineer at GE, he threw himself into another life, of paddling, botanizing and exploring.
Now that August is in full swelter Adirondack late bloomers are showing their colors. Following are Adirondack Upland Flora’s median bloom dates for 2,000-foot elevations in August and September (The book, by then Paul Smith’s College professor Dr. Michael Kudish, was published in 1992.) August 1 Green woodland orchid August 3 Meadowsweet, pickerel weed, elliptical St. Johnswort August 4 Sundews and pondweed August 5 Skullcap and water lobelia August 12 Swamp loosestrife and steeplebush August 15 Bog goldenrod August 17 Closed gentian August 18 Eel grass and bugleweed August 22 Large-leaved goldenrod, jointweed, claspingleaf pondweed August 23 Water milfoil August 25 Rough bedstraw and northern willow herb August 26 Joe pye weed; red maple leave turning red on dying branches and stressed trees August 29 Marsh bellflower August 30 Water smartweed, mint and swamp beggars-ticks September 1 Most goldenrods and asters September 4 Clearstem September 11 Panicled aster September 14 Autumn ladies’ tresses
Not many people have seen it, but early August is when the rare Prenanthes bootii (alpine rattlesnakeroot) blooms on a few high Adirondack summits. Mid-August is the time to look on mountaintops for flowering mountain sandwort, three-toothed cinquefoil, closed (or maybe narrow-leaved) gentian and sheep laurel; those species that also grow at lower elevations bloom later on the cold summits.
Hall of Fame pitcher Christy Mathewson noted these flowers around Saranac Lake August 5-12, 1922: Rattlesnake plantain, white avens, agrimony, purslane, ladies thumb, common mallow, climbing false buckwheat, husk tomato, chamomile, Oswego tea, large purple-fringed orchis, hog peanut, climbing bittersweet, waxwork, tall coneflower, mayapple, boneset, peppermint, burdock, teasel, bergamot, cardinal flower, fringed loosestrife, sow thistle, milkwort, thimble weed, Indian tobacco, butterfly weed, English plantain.
This concludes our series on bloom dates for this season, sadly. (Past bloom posts can be seen here, here and here.)
When the editors of Adirondack Almanack asked me to take over Ellen Rathbone’s garden columns while Ellen is on vacation, I couldn’t help thinking, they have got to be kidding! Me, write a garden column? I guess they don’t know that I’m more of an anti-gardener. Not anti in the sense of “against” (I love other people’s gardens), but in the sense of “antithesis of.” In short, I’m a weed-loving wildflower nerd who will risk drowning and broken bones and heart attacks and Lyme disease pursuing additions to my wildflower “life list,” but I faint at the thought of cultivating the plot behind my house. » Continue Reading.
Baseball and blooms are both in full season, so we’ll let Christy Mathewson field the July wildflower date observations (May and June lists here and here).
The following notes are verbatim from a hand-written list compiled by the pitcher in 1922, when the charter Hall-of-Famer was in Saranac Lake trying to recover from tuberculosis. He died there in 1925. July 2 Water Avens Yarrow or Sneezewort (White Rays, also Pink Rays!!!!!) Common Milkweed Indian Poke or False Hellebore Purple Flowering Raspberry Fireweed; Great Willow Herb July 4 Cow Parsnip July 5 Common Elder Yellow Avens or Field Avens July 12 Great Mullein Meadowsweet St. Johnswort (Hypericum perforatum) Bull Thistle Common Parsnip yellow July 15 Day Lily (H. fulva) July 16 Water Lily: Water Nymph Maiden Pink (D. Deltoides) Yellow Loosestrife (Lysmachia terrictris) July 17 Canada Thistle Early Goldenrod (S. juncea) Loosestrife (in swamp) (Lysimachia stricta?) Broad-leaved Arrow Head Joe Pye Weed Shinleaf Daisy Fleabane? Lance-leaved Goldenrod Hardhack: Steeple Bush (S. tomentosa) Chicory? Asparagus July 20 Catnip Blue Vervain Bellflower (C. rapunculoides, Linn) Tansy, Bitter Buttons Elecampane Bouncing Bet July 22 Pickerel Weed (P. cordata) Narrow-leaved Arrow Head Ladies Tresses Jewel-weed: Spotted Touch-me-not Monkey Flower July 22 Blue Aster (A. sagittifolius?) Potato (Irish) Lettuce (L. interfrifolia? purplish) Turtlehead (C. glebra) July 24 Water parsnip Golden Ragwort – Squaweed Smaller Purple-fringed Orchis Monkey Flower (M. Ringens) Ladies Tresses (S. ceruns) July 26 Dalibarda (D. repens) Fetid Currant Pipsissewa or Princess Pine Common Evening Primrose (Oe. biennis?) July 31 Bedstraw (Galium triflorum) Mad-dog Skullcap (S. lateriflora) White Aster (A. acummatus and umbelatus) August 1 Bedstraw (G. asprillum) Bottle Gentian Wild Cucumber, Wild Balsam Apple August 3 Skullcap (S. galericulata) Bladderwort (U. vulgaris) August 4 Climbing false buckwheat
Some of the common plant names Mathewson noted have faded from use in this region (hardhack, sneezwort, wild balsam apple). My posthumous crush on this guy deepens every time I look at his list. His excitement over pink rays in the yarrow (!!!!!) and uncertainty over a species of primrose (?) are endearing. It’s hard to imagine a contemporary pro athlete taking such careful notice of the natural world.
Photo: Christy Mathewson attends a town league game in Saranac Lake, 1920s. Courtesy of Historic Saranac Lake.
It’s a fresh new month and time for an update to our bloom-dates table. But first, my friend Gerry Rising, Nature Watch columnist for the Buffalo News, reports that phenologists are asking regular jamokes to share their observations of trees and wildflowers. You can become a citizen scientist by noticing when chokecherries or even dandelions bloom in your back yard.
Two Web sites collect this information: the National Phenology Network and Cornell University’s Project Budbreak. Plant and animal life cycles can be susceptible to climate variations, so phenologists (the people who study seasonal patterns) are interested in your observations.
Following are median bloom dates for June from Mike Kudish’s Adirondack Upland Flora. Mike says the dates are most accurate for 1,500-to-2,000-foot elevations (the “Adirondack upland”). June 1: Jack-in-the-pulpit, chokecherry, Solomon’s plumes June 2: Low sweet blueberry June 3: Wild sarsaparilla June 5: Clintonia, bog rosemary June 6: Bunchberry and white baneberry June 7: Canada mayflower and bog laurel June 9: Starflower and black chokeberry June 10: Fringed polygala, three-leaved false Solomon’s seal, nannyberry June 12: Labrador tea, Indian cucumber, small cranberry June 13: Pink lady’s slipper June 14: Hooked buttercup (Earliest sunrise, 5:13 a.m.) June 15: Blue-eyed grass June 17: Wild raisin, common cinquefoil June 20: Sheep laurel (June 20-23: Longest days of the year, 15 hours, 41 minutes) June 26: Bush honeysuckle and tall meadow rue June 27: Wild iris June 29: Wood sorrel
The late naturalist Greenleaf Chase made a list for the Nature Conservancy of rare blooms on some of its Adirondack protection sites. On alpine summits he found Lapland rosebay aflower in early June, Diapensia, Labrador tea, bog laurel and mountain sandwort in late June. Greenie would visit the Clintonville pine barrens in early June to see Ceanothus herbacea (prairie redroot). Viola novae-angliae (New England blue violet) also flowers in early June on the Hudson River ice meadows near North Creek; Listera auriculata (a native orchid called auricled twayblade) blooms there in late June.
Lastly is a list of plants that amateur botanist and hall-of-fame pitcher Christy Mathewson identified around Saranac Lake in June 1922: wild carrot, bunchberry, mountain laurel?, sheep laurel, wintergreen, trailing arbutus, labrador tea, star flower, moss pink, forget-me-not, heal-all, ground ivy, bluets, ox-eye daisy, dandelion, hawkweed, Canada hawkweed, spring beauty, yellow pond lily, live-for-ever, horsetails, blueberry, twin flower, red berry elderberry, hop clover, harebell, yellow wood sorrel, sundrop, dewberry, wild red raspberry.
Boys, take note: being good at sports is nice. Being good at sports and knowing your wildflowers? That’s hot. Special thanks to Adirondack Daily Enterprise columnist Howard Riley for finding Mathewson’s handwritten list in the Saranac Lake Free Library archives and sending me a copy.
Summer. The word conjures up images of the outdoors: sunshine, trees, beaches, birds, flowers. It is THE time to go beyond your door and explore the natural world. There are so many options that, as Calvin noted in the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip, “The days are just packed.” Here are three summer activities on my “to-do” list this year.
1. Orchid Hunting. Orchids are wonderfully strange wildflowers that hide out in many Adirondack wetlands. Some are in bogs (Ferd’s Bog, near Inlet, is famous for its white-fringed orchids), some are in roadside ditches (like the smaller purple fringed orchids I found last year near home and the green wood orchid I tracked down along the road to Tahawus). But I’ve also found ladies tresses on a dry roadside bank! The best time to go orchid hunting (and this is visual “hunting” – orchids are all protected by law, so do not collect or pick them) is mid-July through early August. Visit a wetland or roadside ditch near you, or go for a drive to a public wetland, like the Boreal Life Trail at the Paul Smiths VIC (white fringed orchids, rose pogonia, and grass pinks await you there, although the latter two are at their best late June into early July). I recommend taking along Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide to help you identify your discoveries. » Continue Reading.
At MFO training, agro-forestry expert Bob Beyfuss talked about income opportunities for forest owners that don’t include logging. Here are a few things folks can do according to Bob:
Recreation: hunting leases, cabins, and cottages for various seasons. Take a look at www.aplacetohunt.net and www.woodlandowners.org. Silvapasture is leasing for grazing or browsing. Although now somewhat limited for elk and deer due to Chronic Wasting Disease and it’s not for sheep or cattle (they cause too much forest damage), there are opportunities for goats. Goats love burdock, beech, and especially poison ivy. They still may need to be fed if they are grazing in strictly forested lands.
Maple syrup production – I’ve already covered that here.
Ginseng, goldenseal, bloodroot, black cohosh, ramp/wild leeks, and fiddleheads are just a few of the botanicals that can be managed on forest lands for profit. Contrary to popular belief, while nothing can be taken from state land, only ginseng and goldenseal are regulated on private land. Old ginseng can sell for $1,700 a pound. Other opportunities include native ornamental plants like foam flower, maidenhead fern, and a lot more. In 1900, there were 5,000 ginseng farms in New York State and New York was the leading producer.
Mushrooms: chanterelles and morelles can be gathered, but oysters and shitakes can be grown at home (shitakes can bring $16 a pound).
Elsewhere in the Northeast, wildflowers are tentatively testing the air, while in the Adirondacks it’s still ski season. It won’t be long, though, till coltsfoot raises its fuzzy yellow head along roadsides.
Two of this region’s most-observant botanists made a study of when each native flower reappears in spring. The late Greenleaf Chase retired from the Department of Environmental Conservation but never tired of guiding friends to see rare blooms in rare places. Professor Mike Kudish, formerly of Paul Smith’s College, created a bloom-date chart for his book Adirondack Upland Flora. And in case you think botany effete, consider that original Hall-of-Fame pitcher Christy Mathewson kept a list of flowers he found around Saranac Lake in the summer of 1922, when he was there to recover from tuberculosis. (An excerpt: “June 24, 1922: Musk Mallow, Pink Petals also White Petals!!!!”)
Starting with the vernal equinox tomorrow, daylight increases at its fastest rate, Kudish writes. The ground begins to thaw. Around April 5 the mean daily temperature begins to rise above freezing.
Here are Adirondack Upland Flora’s first median flowering dates (at elevations of 1,500 to 2,000 feet; if you live at lower elevations expect to see blooms sooner):
May 2: Trout lily, red maple May 3: Spring beauty May 4: Trailing arbutus May 5: Dutchman’s breeches and squirrel corn May 6: Round-leaved violet May 7: Sweet gale May 8: Sweet white violet May 9: Painted trillium May 10: Strawberry May 11: Bartram’s serviceberry May 12: Purple trillium May 14: Leatherleaf May 15: Blue violet, early saxifrage, Canada honeysuckle, kidneyleaf buttercup; most hardwoods begin to leaf out rapidly May 17: Marsh marigold and sugar maple May 19: Bellwort May 20: Goldthread and toothwort May 21: Canada violet and serviceberry May 22: Witchhobble, downy yellow violet, red cherry (Christy Matthewson reported witchhobble blooms in April) May 23: Dwarf ginseng May 25: Red elderberry May 30: Foamflower May 31: Pussytoes
Shortly before he died in the early 1990s Greenie Chase made flower-finding notes for Kathy Regan, when she was staff biologist at the Nature Conservancy’s Adirondack Chapter. In late May, he suggested, visit Valcour Island to see ram’s head ladyslipper and look on alpine summits for lapland rosebay.
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