Friday, July 1, 2011

Inspiration from Woodswalker

I have a mentor.  I don't know if she even knows that she is, because I've never even met her.  I just read her blog, every single time, and I learn so much from it.  Her name is Woodswalker, and this is her blog.  If you're interested in the natural world, her blog is a must.

A couple of days ago she featured Swamp Milkweed.  I immediately thought how I would love to see some.  The best chance I had, I figured, was the Thousand Acre Swamp, so, off I went.  It was a trip well worth making.  This preserve is owned by the Nature Conservancy.  It is a varied landscape, with over 500 acres, consisting of swamp, woodland and meadow.  But, it has always been called The Thousand Acre Swamp.  I remember my Dad telling of days in the Summer that he spent exploring the area.  He must have been a hardy soul, because this was in the days before bug spray, and the area teems with biting insects.

You walk in via a grassy path and soon begin to see signs of the swamp.

After quite a long walk along this path, you come to the primary focus of the preserve, a boardwalk across a large portion of the swamp itself.
There, I soon saw the first plant that I had trouble identifying.  Is it a sedge of some kind, or something else entirely?  I don't know, but what caught my eye is how grasslike it appeared, and the spikey seed pod that appears to be located right on the leaf itself, not on a seperate stem.
Per Woodswalker, this is, indeed, a sedge.
Up in a tree, a little brown songbird was singing.  He was too far away for me to be able to positively identify him beyond, possibly, some kind of Sparrow.  Can you see him there, in the branches?
On each side of the Boardwalk, Cattails grew thickly.  It's still early enough in the season that the male pollinator is still attached to the top of the female part, that we are all more familiar with.  Later in the season, that male part will fall off, leaving the female cattail to mature.
The Boardwalk doesn't go straight across the swamp, but, zigs and zags.  Imagine my surprise when I turned a corner and came upon this Great Blue Heron sitting on the railing.  He didn't appear too concerned about my presence and I was able to get several shots of him, all the while creeping closer and closer.  This is the best of them, even if I did cut off his feet.
Finally, I did get too close, and he flew off.  The second mystery plant, or tree, was just ahead.  This small, weedy tree didn't look too healthy, but it had lovely white flowers, reaching high towards the sun.  They looked like the flowers of Queen Anne's Lace.  I'm still trying to figure out what kind of tree this is.
I should have thought of this one.  Again, per Woodswalker, this is Common Elderberry.

And then, there, right by the side of the Boardwalk was the plant that I had come to try and find -- Swamp Milkweed.  The flower is still in the bud stage, but, you can see the bright pink promise of the beauty it will become.
After you leave the Boardwalk, you go through a wooded area.  There, entirely different plants grow.  Wild Leek, or Ramp flowers were everywhere.  This area is greatly underutilized, I was the only one there for the entire time I was exploring, and, in this case, it's definitely a good thing as many people love to dig and eat ramp.
Wild Basil grew there, also
And, this plant, which has me banging my head against the desk in frustration.  It's past flowering, which makes identification difficult.  The leaves look like Rue Anemone, but the seed is wrong.  Maybe some other kind of Anemone?
Per Woodswalker, this plant is Blue Cohosh.  See why I call this woman my mentor?
There was a bridge over a little stream that was slowing winding towards the swamp.
On the bridge, a raccoon had stopped to admire the view.  How do I know?  He left a marker behind.  Looks like he's finding lots of berries someplace along his way.
The path through the woods eventually leads you to a meadow, which I was all set to explore, until I noticed that the path there was terribly overgrown with poison ivy.  So, I turned back and headed for the car.  I hiked quickly along the return path, trying to build up my endurance.

As I got to the small open area that is just before the parking lot, I noticed something that I had overlooked on the way in.  Another kind of milkweed, Poke Milkweed, was growing beside the path.  It always surprises me that, no matter how closely I look, I always see something new, when I pass that way again.

And, this is not Poke Milkweed, but Apocynum cannabinum or Indian Hemp, but not the kind you smoke, which is what I thought of when Woodswalker told me what it was.  Sigh, can't keep an old hippie's mind off the weed (no I don't smoke any more, haven't since I got out of college.)
I stopped at the information kiosk on the way out.  There is a place there where you can record your observations, which I, faithfully, did.  I don't know whether to be glad or sorry that I didn't stop on my way in, because I saw where, in June, two different people had written that they had run into a hobo there, begging for money, and that, at least one time, he had a gun.  Now, I'm a little bit leary about going in there alone, again.  But, all's well that ends well, I guess.  I didn't see him, and I did see lots of things that I wouldn't have seen anywhere else.

So, thank you Woodswalker, for your inspiration, and for all the things that you have, inadvertently, taught me.


texwisgirl said...

oh, the hobo definitely puts a spoiler on that place!! dammit!

Woodswalker said...

What a sweetheart you are! Thanks for such kind words about my blog, Louise. I am so grateful to faithful readers like yourself. I had lots of mentors, myself, to help me learn many things about plants. I think I can help you with some that you found in the swamp. I believe that the bush with white flower clusters is Common Elderberry, your grasslike plant is indeed a sedge, what you thought might be Rue Anemone is Blue Cohosh, and what you thought was Poke Milkweed is Indian Hemp, a dogbane that is a milkweed relative.

Do be careful walking alone along public trails in out-of-the-way locations. Do you always carry a cellphone?

Horsin' Around said...

Yow! A gun, that's very scary!

The boardwalk looks very enticing. Great shot of the heron!

Leontien said...

hmmmmm yes that would look like a swamp allright!

Great shots! even the ones of the racoon poopie!


Tina said...

Love the pictures, well except one lol....

Madi and Mom said...

What a beautiful post inspired by a friend. We'll check out her blog.
If I had not known you wre in W. NY
I would have thought at swamp was on the coast of NC. It looks just like what you see in SC and NC coastal areas.
Your day lilies are stunning. I'm more familiar with the standard orange or yellow.

Thank you for your kind coomnets today too
We have a family wedding this weekend so things are a buzz. Our daughter and hubby arrive tomorrow.
We just finished giving the house a company is coming cleaning. We really don't get it that dirty here but there is a certain FELINE who likes to leave fur all about.
Hugs and Happy 4th.
Madi and Mom

Woodswalker said...

I need to correct something I said about Indian Hemp in my comment above. It does have milky sap, but it is not related to milkweed.

Jim said...

This was most enjoyable! Between the two of you, you are quite resourceful and knowledgeable.
\Did you get eaten alive? What do you use when you go into places like that?
It's funny if Ron and I went to that spot, the mosquitoes wouldn't go near him as long as I was with him!!! They love and enjoy me! lol

sophie...^5 said...

Jim is my bug repellent...hahahah...anyway...loved this informative post. Had no idea there were different kinds of milkweed. That hobo thing just adds to the uneasiness of life nowadays, right! You need a loud squealing horn or something to set off and scare the begeesus out of some unsuspecting hobo and that would be heard for miles away. Just an idea.

Vicki Lane said...

Such wonderful pictures! Your swamp reminds me of the Limberlost swamp as described in Gene Stratton Porter's FRECKLES and THE GIRL OF THE LIMBERLOST.

Terry said...

Louise, you might get this twice because my computer froze up while I was commenting. Anyway, your dad and my dad would have gotten along just fine. My dad loved to find turtles and salamanders.

It's such a shame we have to worry about people with guns.