Third Bloom of the Season!

Despite the current prolonged spell of cold nights, it was with great optimism today when I chose to head outside for a walk. I decided to explore the West Sky Natural Area in the Town of Clifton Park to continue my wildflower inventory along its trails.

This weekend’s warmer temperatures and longer patches of sunny skies helped to encourage this to bloom in a patch approximately 20 feet long containing scattered individuals.


Beaked Hazelnut is now in full bloom along this trail; every shrub is exhibiting open female and male flowers. In addition, Skunk Cabbage is just past the peak of its blooming season. Also, the leaves of several other species have finally begun to emerge, including Broad-leaved Dock, Catchweed Bedstraw, Marsh Marigold, and Pennsylvania Bittercress. Spring has finally begun to exhibit some plant life heralding its arrival.

Happy trails!


Second bloom of the season!

Despite today’s overcast skies, it felt like the middle of spring with mid-60s for temperatures. A great day for a walk to continue my wildflower inventory along the trails at West Sky Natural Area in the Town of Clifton Park.

Beaked Hazelnut

Nearly all of the Beaked Hazelnut shrubs along the trail exhibited female flowers (the fuchsia-colored ones shown above) either open or beginning to open. However, this particular shrub was the only one with male flowers (the dangling catkins, also shown above) that had opened and ready to release pollen. All other male catkins along the trail were tightly closed.

Probably by the end of next week, all Beaked Hazelnuts will be in full bloom and, likely, the American Hazelnut will begin blooming. While the female and male flowers appear identical on both species, the best way to tell the two species apart is a close examination of the ends of twigs. If hairless (or nearly so), like in the image above, then it is Beaked Hazelnut. If the end appears quite hairy, then it is American Hazelnut.

Happy trails!

Welcome to Spring!

The vernal equinox will occur at the middle of this week.

With longer days to come, the new season will begin heralding the emergence of a myriad of wildflowers and the unfurling of tree leaves throughout our area.

Common Shadbush – downy underside of emerging leaves
Emerging False Hellebore leaves

Consider these activities as part of your adventures this spring –

I have compiled four new wildflower field guides; you can view or download them here.  I hope they help you learn about wildflowers that can be viewed at some of our local nature preserves, parks and trails.

Lastly, I have scheduled numerous wildflower walks this year, including those listed above.  Please join me.

Happy trails!

My first bloom of the season!

Skunk Cabbage

Despite the occasional snowflake floating aimlessly through the air today, the intermittent sunshine and patches of snowless forest floor seemed to invite me out for a hike. I decided to visit West Sky Natural Area in the Town of Clifton Park where I am currently conducting a wildflower inventory along its trails. As I began to cross one of the wooden walkways that span a tiny stream in this natural area, I noticed a perfectly round bare spot surrounding a plant (shown above). This unique plant, our native Skunk Cabbage, had cleared that spot all by itself with the intent of getting an early start on the new growing season. Actually, Skunk Cabbage blooms first and then its leaves will emerge about the time that the flowers are withering and the plant sets fruit.

Skunk Cabbage closeup

Skunk Cabbage is able to clear away snow and ice through a process called thermogenesis, or the ability to metabolically generate heat. Temperature elevation in
Skunk Cabbage lasts for approximately two weeks. Skunk Cabbage has an underground stem that stores large quantities of starch. During heat production, starch is translocated to the flower where it is metabolized at a high rate, generating the heat.

I may celebrate my first bloom of the season with some corned beef and cabbage. Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone!

Happy trails!

A full slate of wildflower walks for 2019

Please join me for a wildflower walk in 2019.  This year, I will be conducting several series of wildflower walks with each featuring a unique theme.  Beginning on March 1 at Fox Preserve for the winter identification of invasive species, this variety of wildflower walks will continue until autumn, concluding on September 25 at 100 Acre Wood to view the last of the season’s woodland wildflowers in bloom.  Please view the Events page for details about each scheduled walk.

Combined, the 20 different walks will occur at five different locations to address these themes:

  1. invasive species identification walks;
  2. ephemeral spring wildflowers; and
  3. woodland wildflowers.

Japanese Barberry

Invasive Species Identification Walks:  Invasive species are non-native species that can cause harm to the environment, the economy, or to human health.  Invasives com from all around the world and are one of the greatest threats to New York’s biodiversity.  Invasive species may cause or contribute to:

  • habitat degradation or loss;
  • loss of native fish, wildlife and tree species;
  • loss of recreational opportunities and income; or
  • crop damage and diseases in humans and livestock.

This series of two walks (one in March and one in July) – both conducted at Fox Preserve – will focus on how to identify invasive species of plants.

Garlic Mustard

Dwarf Ginseng

Ephemeral Spring Wildflower Walks:  Spring ephemeral wildflowers are native perennial woodland plants that sprout from the ground early each spring, quickly bloom and seed before the canopy trees overhead leaf out.  Once the forest floor is deep in shade, the leaves wither away leaving just the roots, rhizomes and bulbs underground.  It allows them to take advantage of the full sunlight levels reaching the forest floor during early spring.  A separate series of three walks each will occur every two weeks beginning in early April at two different locations:  Shenantaha Creek Park and Steinmetz Woods.

Yellow Trout Lily

Wake Robin (purple form)

Woodland Wildflower Walks:  Deciduous forests cover much of the eastern United States. Our forests typically have several vertical layers of vegetation, including a dense, upper canopy of mature trees; a subcanopy of smaller or immature trees; and an understory of shrubs and low-growing herbaceous plants. Many woodland wildflowers, called spring ephemerals, bloom before the trees have leafed out; other species, which can tolerate partial or complete shade, flower later.  A separate series of walks will occur at two different locations:  five walks (between April and August) will be conducted at Dwaas Kill Nature Preserve and seven walks (between March and September) will be conducted at 100 Acre Wood.

Indian Pipe

I hope you’ll join me.  Happy trails!

A New Year’s Tradition

New Year’s traditions may be any of a wide variety of activities.  On this New Year’s Day, I continued one of mine.  I returned to Woodcock Preserve for what has become nearly an annual visit to start my New Year.  And, for some of those visits, I am greeted by one of its residents – an ever watchful Barred Owl.

Barred Owl near first intersection of White Trail and Yellow Trail at Woodcock Preserve.

View a past post regarding our prior New Year’s greeting to one another.

Read about these impressive birds.  The males have begun their annual courtship ritual of calls.  I heard one behind our home late Saturday afternoon.

May your 2019 see the continuation of traditions important to you and may you begin anew a few others.

Wishing you all a very Happy New Year!

Happy trails!

A (temporary) White Christmas

Today’s fresh snow beckoned me to go search for some wintry Christmas scenes, even if in miniature – and fleetingly temporary.

I first visited Dwaas Kill Nature Preserve in the Town of Clifton Park.  After strolling along the Long Kill Loop (orange trail), I wandered along the green spur trail and found this view of the Dwaas Kill.

During my outing, I observed these little scenes, each of which helped me see that – at least briefly this morning – we were indeed enjoying a White Christmas (eve) –

Speckled Alder “cone” (female catkin)

Snow on Eastern White Pine – look closely for individual flakes

Pipsissewa with dried flower stalk

Eastern Hemlock

“Forest” of moss sporophytes

Princess Pine (Lycopodium obscurum)

I then visited Ushers Road State Forest, located in the Towns of Halfmoon and Clifton Park.  Slowly walking through the hemlock grove, …

Eastern Hemlock grove

… I continued by search of more miniature scenes before the snow cover disappeared in the sunshine that was now shining surprisingly brightly and uninterrupted.  Alas, the snow was quickly disappearing from sight!  But, I did get these few glimpses before the forest floor returned to its late autumn carpet of a myriad of brown hues.

Eastern Hemlock

Fruit of Asiatic Bittersweet

Princess Pine (Lycopodium obscurum)

Fruit of Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens)

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good “White Christmas” Eve!