Along the Air Line... 2002 - August, Part 3
The Air Line Trail in Eastern Connecticut - Stan Malcolm Photos

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Stan Malcolm Photo



In late August, the trail has changed remarkably. Asters (Aster sp.) have made their first appearances.

Many of early August's wildflowers are past their peak, and those coming into bloom, like these Bluecurls (Trichostema dichotomum), are small and delicate.

Another inconspicuous flower is this pale blue Lobelia (Lobelia sp.) - in the same genus as the much larger, dramatic red Cardinal Flower.

I think of Forget-me-not (Myosotis scorpiodes) as a spring flower, but I found it blooming in late August beside Grayville Falls.

There's another small Beardtongue (Penstemon sp.) in bloom.

This is Hog-peanut (Amphicarpa bracteata), which I found only once on the trail - between Old Colchester Road and Grayville Road.

While Spotted Jewelweed (or Touch-me-not - Impatiens capensis) is two-toned bright orange, a single plant among the rest in Raymond Brook Marsh was cream colored with pink markings. While there is a Pale Jewelweed (Impatiens pallida), I don't think this is it - because the flower's spur is too long. Instead, I think it's a mutant form of I. capensis.

Broad-leaved Arrowhead (Saggitaria latifolia) is an emergent plant found in several places in Raymond Brook Marsh. Note the small Syrphid Flies (Family Syrphidae) hovering near the flowers. The Syrphids are all bee mimics.

The plant gets its name from the arrowhead-shaped leaves.

Pickerelweed (Pontederia cordata) is still in bloom.

Vines seem to be taking a more prominent role as Autumn approaches. This is Climbing Hempweed (Mikania scandens) with flowers superfically like Boneset or Joe-Pye-weed but forming a dense pale pink blanket over large areas of the marsh.

My best guess is Climbing False Buckwheat (Polygonum scandens). It reminds me of, and is closely related to, an ornamental vine my father grew, Silver-lace Vine.

Virgin's Bower, or Wild Clematis (Clematis virginiana), has gone to seed. The seed heads earn the plant another common name, Old-man's Beard.

Even more a harbinger of Fall than the Asters, the fruits of many plants are maturing - so much so that they dominate the color-scape over the remaining wildflowers.

I think these are Highbush Blueberries (Vaccinium corymbosum), not quite ripe. (Can anyone confirm, or set me straight?)

Gray Dogwood (Cornus racemosa).

American Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis). Looks like the birds got most of them before they had a chance to ripen.

Carrion-flower (Smilax herbacea) has set its globular clusters of purplish-blue berries.

Rose (Rosa sp.) hips are maturing.

As are the wild Grapes (Vitus sp.).

Recently, I noticed ripe Bayberries (Myrica pensylvanica). They must have been there for months but I missed them. Rub a couple of berries in your hand and smell the bayberry candle scent. (The gray-white color of the berries comes from the wax once used in candle-making.)

Several species of Sumac (Rhus sp.) are in fruit.

White Oak (Quercus alba) acorns are maturing.

Not a pretty sight, but worth an explanation. The vast webs enveloping the tips of branches are those of the Fall Webworm (Hyphantria cunea), the larva of a small white moth. They do far less damage than you might think because they are active so late in the season - shortly before the leaves would drop naturally. Call the caterpillars nature's pruning shears if you like. By contrast, the Tent Caterpillars (Malacosoma sp.) of spring attack young leaves, a significant loss. (Note too, by way of contrast, that Tent Caterpillars make their webs in the forks of branches, never at the tips.)

The webs afford some protection from birds: the larvae feed within the webs, expanding the nest to keep pace with their need for food.

One more look at summer on the trail.

This looks like Hobbit habitat. It was taken near Grayville Falls.

The morning after one of our rare summer showers, I caught the mist rising from the marsh.

A female Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) in a moment of tranquility before hunting season.

The sky in late afternoon.