Flora 'n' fauna

A dreamer among groundhogs, skygazing, May 2010.

New Jersey Audubon Society
Audubon Society on Palisades Interstate Park
Native Plant Society of New Jersey
Local and regional plant photographs from a former Lamonter

"Though April showers
may come your way,
they bring the flowers
that bloom in May.

Wild Geranium (Geranium maculatum), blooming in many locations along the HHD.
Photo made 7 May 2010.

Eagle eyes... and feathers

Turning lazy circles in the sky over the Alpine BB traffic circle, a juvenile Bald Eagle was observed on the morning of Oct 20, 2009. Eagles are big, and this bird cast an impressive shadow when it passed near the sun. Bald Eagles do not get the classic adult plumage, with white head and tail, until they are about five years old. Juveniles like this one show mottled white on the underside.

Weed or wildflower?

Here we have a different member of the Asteraceae, also populating
that small, forlorn (and as we now know, ruderal) strip of land near the west end of the GWB north walkway. Our tentative ID is Heath Aster (Symphyotrichum ericoides), considered an "important nectar source for Monarch butterflies" as well as other insects. The flowers are small, the plant itself easy to miss amid the rubble (which contributes the purple accent at center right in the photo).

Ruderal redux

Observed not far from the Linaria described below,
Asiatic dayflower (Commelina communis) is also a plant of disturbed sites. Named by Linnaeus, this species was used in a study of floral guides, the visual and olfactory cues deployed by plants to attract and direct pollinators.  

Life in the fast lane II

On a sunny morning in early October, some shaded areas of the HHD were littered with earthworms, to the point that one had to steer carefully to avoid them. This specimen was actively moving along, from left to right as seen here. The road surface is not an ideal place to be an earthworm, for many reasons.

In case you'd forgotten, here's a review of
earthworm anatomy. This is almost certainly a non-native species.

Who's disturbed?

This specimen of
Common Toadflax or Yellow Toadflax (Linaria vulgaris), was observed growing out of a seam in the concrete near one of the stairways that give the north walkway its delightful character. It is common in disturbed areas -- roadsides, construction sites, etc. Certain plants are well-adapted to such ruderal sites, of which there are plenty in any self-respecting urban environment. The beautiful Fireweed, which turns a brilliant red in autumn, is also such a plant. It is actually so named not because of its fiery color, but because it rapidly colonizes burned areas.

Life in the fast lane

An unusual sighting for the HHD, this 10-inch Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina) was discovered sitting stone still in the southbound lane on the morning of Sep 14, 2009. It was far from the nearest stream, and how it had gotten onto the roadway was unclear, since it didn't seem to be en route to (or from) anywhere. The photo was made somewhat in haste, so it's not a great snap... But one can make out those beady little eyes, looking upward with a mixture of apprehension and... well, maybe better not to anthropomorphize. Only the turtle knows what it was thinking.

Coming soon to a location near you

Shoulder of the HHD covered by Mile-a-minute weed (Persicaria perfoliata). This "Kudzu of the north" is one of six species targeted by the Invasive Plant Council of New York State, and is a focus of concern in the lower Hudson valley. In early September 2009, the plant was growing in pockets along a mile-long stretch of the HHD, between the Alpine Boat Basin traffic circle and the bridge at Greenbrook falls; during the summer of 2010 many of these areas were sprayed, but the plant was not entirely eradicated and is starting to recover (as of summer 2011). Update: Recovery has continued, and the plant has again become widespread along this stretch of the HHD (summer 2012).

It could be worse: Here's Kudzu of the South eating real estate.

Nature, green in tooth and claw

This bucolic-looking morning scene actually depicts a life-and-death struggle, played out in the slow-motion world of plant growth. It shows incipient contact between enroaching Mile-a-minute, at left, and indigenous Jewelweed, with its orange blooms (both are mentioned elsewhere on this page). The invader is armed with backward-pointing barbs along the stem and on the lower surfaces of leaves, enabling it to climb over objects in its path. We don't wish to speculate about the outcome of the contest shown here...

Dept of Evolutionary Biology

Photo shows rear end of a bee, pollen baskets loaded, climbing into a Jewelweed flower (Impatiens capensis) in search of nectar. Jewelweed, a.k.a. Touch-me-not, is common along the side of the HHD (mostly the orange form shown here, but occasionally also a yellow variant), and is blooming as we write, in early September. Blooms were profuse at this particular site, it was a warm, sunny morning and bees were busily buzzing. The nectar is situated deep in the flower, requiring that the bee crawl almost completely inside. In doing so, it invariably aligns itself so that the pollen-bearing stamens brush against its back. (This is visible in the picture).  Apparently the geometry of the flower induces the desired alignment of the bee. Jewelweed is also pollinated by hummingbirds, providing a laboratory for the study of multiple adaptation. More on Jewelweed-pollinator coevolution here.

Not your friend

Here is a nice example of Poison Ivy (Rhus toxicodendron) growing along the HHD. It is a common plant throughout the northeast. The irritant that gives the plant its name is called urushiol. Don't touch!

A hit song titled Poison Ivy was written by the team of Leiber and Stoller, and recorded by the Coasters in 1959. The song is not about a plant, however, but a woman. You'll have to do your own research to learn more -- this is a family site.

Apparently not a beetle...

Left: A leaf-footed bug, member of the order Hemiptera, sighted at the Englewood Boat Basin.

Meanwhile, some facts about beetles:

Quiz: Name the plant at right. (Specimens can be found along the HHD.) This individual was almost 2 m high; some reach 10 m, with leaves half a meter across. So what is it?